Berliner Tageblatt - 'Barbarians at the gates': US evangelicals back Trump as their defender

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'Barbarians at the gates': US evangelicals back Trump as their defender
'Barbarians at the gates': US evangelicals back Trump as their defender / Photo: © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

'Barbarians at the gates': US evangelicals back Trump as their defender

As a casino-owning playboy who has been married three times and faced multiple sexual misconduct allegations over the years, Donald Trump is an unlikely role model for America's evangelical Christians.

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But a huge number of these devoutly religious people believe not only that he is the best choice for president this November, but increasingly that he was chosen by God to save America from sliding into damnation.

Not a bad rep for a man who plays golf on Sundays.

And he'll have the ears of evangelicals on Thursday, when he addresses a group of religious broadcasters.

In 2015, when Trump rode his golden escalator into the presidential race, he seemingly had little to offer the country's religious right.

But over time he secured what many thought was a wary transactional support, with the offer to appoint anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court, a possible chance to remove the single biggest thorn for right-wing Christians.

When America went to the polls in 2016, 77 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, according to Pew Research.

Three new Supreme Court justices later, that support had grown to 84 percent by the 2020 election.

But with the federal right to abortion overturned when the Trump-packed Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in 2022, what does this voting bloc still see in a man who looks uncomfortable when people pray, and has floundered when asked to name his favorite biblical verse?

Tim Alberta, who has written extensively on the evangelical right and its support for Trump, says the community fears it is under mortal siege in a country that is far less white, far less religious and much more tolerant of different lifestyles than in decades past.

"If you consider the fact that the culture wars have swung so sharply against them, and that the country is changing so dramatically in such a short period of time, you start to understand why there is this fear, this anxiety," he said during a round of interviews to promote his book "The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory."

"If you believe that the Barbarians are at the gates, then you think to yourself: 'Maybe we need a Barbarian to protect us.' That's the evangelical relationship with Donald Trump in a nutshell."

- 'He understands them' -

For this group, who account for just 14.5 percent of the population but 28 percent of voters, it doesn't matter that Trump is not religious.

They feel he is on their side.

"I can say, from all of the people I meet with and talk to, and from personal experience even in my own family with lifelong Democrats, Trump has this appeal," said Troy Miller, president of National Religious Broadcasters, who has invited Trump to speak to the body Thursday.

"People feel he understands them. Even though some of his life stuff doesn't fit into their personal lifestyle or morality, they still feel like he gets them," he told USA Today.

To an outside observer, it is notable that the non-religious Trump is far and away preferred over alternatives who are church-going Christians. Joe Biden is a practicing Catholic but, Pew Research found, attracts just 14 percent support among white evangelicals.

Even Republicans within the evangelical fold lose out in head-to-head match-ups against Trump. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina have both fallen by the wayside in the party's primary process -- and now back Trump.

For Alberta, this fervent support has its roots in a Christian nationalism that has conflated biblical notions of heaven with the very idea of America.

"There are millions of people in this country who truly believe deep down in their bones that America is not just another nation; that America is a covenant nation, that it is a nation that is in a special relationship with God," he said.

Therefore fighting for America is fighting for God, Alberta said.

"And this guy, Donald Trump, who shares none of your values... he's willing to go to war for you. He's willing to fight for you," he added.

"In fact, I would even say he's willing to fight for you in ways that no good Christian ever would."

Y.Bouchard--BTB