Donald Trump isn’t just leading the opinion polls among likely Republican voters, he’s also now leading among evangelical Christians in Iowa, in South Carolina, and in some national polls.
It certainly can’t be his Christianity. Despite recent protestations, he doesn’t have much of that. Consider the following:
- He’s on his third marriage.
- He runs the Miss World contest.
- He boasts continuously about his self-made-ness.
- He can’t name a favorite Bible verse.
- He says he doesn’t ask God for forgiveness.
- He takes communion because it makes him feel cleaner.
- He says he’s a church-goer but his church says he’s not an active member.
- He regularly insults people who disagree with him.
- He is rude towards women and minorities.
- “He personifies greed, embodies pride, radiates lust.”
As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, put it, “I don’t see someone interested in serving God. I see someone interested in being God.”
On top of all that, many of the other candidates say they are evangelicals.
Why? Why? Why?
So why the increasing levels of support for Trump while “evangelical” candidates are sinking? Columnists of every stripe and hue are struggling to answer this question, (just Google “Evangelicals and Trump” to sample the media disarray on the question).
In a previous article I wrote about how much of his support is coming from Republicans who have come to despise the political class. As Peggy Noonan put it recently: “His rise is not due to his supporter’s anger at government. It is a gesture of contempt for government, for the men and women in Congress, the White House, the agencies.”
Many evangelicals can be found among that group. But anti-politician feeling can’t explain all of Trump’s support. In talking to people over the last week or so, I’ve heard some Christians express an additional thought, and that’s anti-media sentiment. As one woman put it to me, “People are fed up with journalists choosing our candidates and presidents.”
That might explain why Trump’s support surged even after he feuded with the popular conservative journalist, Megyn Kelly. It also explains why the more the media hammer Trump, the more his support grows. People want to send a message not just to the politicians but to the media that it’s “we the people” who choose our leaders not “you the media.” People are sick and tired of the media spinning, the utter dishonesty of so many journalists, the bias, the prejudice, and so on, and want to communicate how much they despise their opinions and practices.
Honesty or Hypocrisy
But are Christians really going to support a non-Christian when there are Christian alternatives? Some Christians are saying, “Well, every President for the last 20 years has said ‘I’m a Christian” and where did that get us?” Maybe it’s better to have someone who doesn’t pretend to be a Christian but who is not afraid of the media, who is not in it for personal enrichment, who is competent, and who is able to get things done. Someone who just does what he says he will do. Better honesty than hypocrisy.
I get the increasing impression that Christians are prepared to risk sacrificing some previously important priorities for the greater end of striking a hopefully fatal blow to the almost omnipotent political and media establishment. It’s a big risk, but people, especially the middle class, have been driven to desperation by the Republicans giving their money to big business, by the Democrats giving their money to big welfare, and by journalists who have got way too big for their screens.
To put it simply, Christians, like much of the general population, are fed up with the lies and falsehoods of politicians and the media, and they want a clear out. Trump is their way of saying to all of them at once, “You’re fired!”
Christians may disagree with many of Trump’s views and values. But they do like his truthfulness. In some ways, it’s the most basic value of all; without it, our whole society falls apart, as we are seeing.
As long as Trump tells the truth, and remains the WYSIWYG candidate, Christians are going to support him, even if they disagree with many of his views. As Kylie sang, “Better the devil you know.”