Four years ago, 81% of evangelical voters voted for then-Republican candidate Donald Trump, and millions of them are preparing to repeat the same voting pattern during the upcoming November elections.
President Trump enjoys strong support from conservative evangelicals despite his differences in behavior and morals from them, and this support was not affected by the Democrats’ campaigns against Trump, nor even by the negative testimonies provided by senior officials who worked with him in the White House.
To find out the reasons for this strong support, Al-Jazeera Net interviewed the historian Christine de Maes, a specialist in the relationship of American Christian currents with political affairs, and she is currently studying at Cavin University, one of the most important Christian universities in the United States.
This is the text of the interview:
Why does President Donald Trump enjoy overwhelming support among evangelical voters?
White evangelical support for President Trump has baffled many observers. Evangelicals have long associated themselves as protectors of “family and family values,” and have considered themselves the “moral majority,” but Trump is hardly a model for these moral or family values.
It seems to many that the relationship was traditional utilitarianism. Trump will appoint conservative judges in various courts, especially the Supreme Court, defend their “religious freedom” and advance their interests, and in return they will support him.
Talk touches the real thing, but describing this relationship as a mere benefit is some simplification, as there is wide participation in the values and policies that unite conservative white evangelicals with the positions of President Trump on a wide range of issues, including:
– Law enforcement and border security support.
– Opposing the “Black Lives Matter” protests.
Beware of immigrants.
On these issues, their views coincide with the views of the current administration. Like Trump, evangelicals believe in a Christian nationalist understanding of American greatness.
For decades, white evangelicals have taken it upon themselves to restore American greatness, and have looked to powerful leaders who are not afraid to use military force or harsh political tools to achieve order and security.
This came after feeling increasingly marginalized during the era of former President Barack Obama, as many of them were looking for a strong man who could protect their interests and expand their power by any means necessary, and Trump promised to achieve this.
Do you think that white evangelicals’ support for President Trump is declining compared to their support in the 2016 elections? Why?
The polls aren’t consistent on this issue, but when I speak to evangelicals across the country, including many in swing states, they don’t see any significant change on the ground.
Evangelicals who did not vote for Trump in 2016 will oppose him in 2020, but the matter differs between his supporters, as many evangelicals who voted for him four years ago are very happy to fulfill his promises in various ways.
How does what we know from President Trump’s personal life and morals not alienate religious evangelical voters from him?
Many conservative evangelists believe that patriarchal leadership is part of God’s plan for mankind, and many have come to believe that coarse manhood, fueled by testosterone, is their primary requirement to exercise that leadership in an insidious world.
This aggressive driving may come with some side effects, but that can be forgiven, because the roughness that makes men categorize dangerous also makes them heroes.
Many evangelicals say they would not choose Trump to become a pastor or a schoolteacher, explaining that they are looking for a ragged, aggressive leader who would protect their interests and expand their power.
Where does Trump stand on the moral and social policy issues of concern to evangelical Christians that the Bible clearly talks about?
The Bible clearly speaks of welcoming the stranger, loving our neighbors as we love ourselves, and loving our enemies.
The Trump administration appears to be actively undermining these values, along with efforts toward racial justice that many Christians believe is a religious imperative.
However, many evangelicals see that Trump’s opposition to abortion, and his defense of religious freedom (for Christians), is an indication that he promotes evangelical values as mentioned in the Bible, so there are deep divisions within American Christian communities, and even among evangelicals themselves, over whether Trump supports or undermines the values of the Bible.
How do evangelicals view Trump’s policy toward the Middle East, Israel, and the Palestinian issue?
There is a strong presence of Islamophobia among the conservative white evangelical currents, which multiplied after the terrorist attacks of September 11, in addition to a long history of Christian Zionism, and many evangelicals believe that Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a sign that he is carrying out the divine will.
* According to a recent study by the Pew Research Foundation; 58% of Protestants are more likely to vote for Trump, yet the figure rises to 82% with evangelicals … How do you explain the differences between Protestants and Evangelicals regarding the vote for Trump?
Many American Protestants, especially non-white Christians, understand the social implications of their faith in very different ways than white evangelicals.
Instead of embracing Christian nationalism, black Protestants are more likely to benefit from the tradition of prophetic Christianity, lament past injustices, and seek to broaden the cause of freedom to include marginalized groups.
Conservative evangelicals are widely embracing the “us versus them” principle, and this principle has become a justification for their positions in support of Trump and his policies.
Is Trump very popular with older and younger evangelicals alike?
Trump is more popular with older evangelicals, as many younger evangelicals are more progressive on issues such as gay and transgender rights, immigration reform, environmental issues, and more cautious about culture warfare policies in general.
However, younger evangelicals are also less involved in political activities such as voting.
How do evangelical women view President Trump?
This is different. Some evangelical women are terrified of Trump and the evangelical support for Trump, and a few prominent women, such as Beth Moore and Jane Hatmaker, have expressed their opposition and disappointment to their Christian colleagues, but many white evangelicals believe that Trump will advance the interests of American Christianity. They are happy to support him.
How important is it for conservative Christians to have a new candidate for Trump in the Supreme Court to succeed the late Judge Ruth Ginsburg before the November elections?
This is very important for conservative Christians, both in terms of specific issues such as abortion and religious freedom or in terms of broader efforts to consolidate their power at the highest possible levels.