In a sane world, Donald Trump would be circling the drain two months into 2019. His average approval rating, as calculated by FiveThirtyEight, stands at 40 percent. But Trump is lucky to be doing even that well. One of the few things keeping him above water is that the religious right has peddled a false narrative to the nation’s evangelicals. The nation’s so-called moral guardians have worked overtime to convince their followers that there’s a spiritual dimension to Trump’s presidency–even in the face of the almost daily outrages coming from this White House.
Part of that narrative centers around the notion that God hacked the election for Trump, not Russia. We got a lovely example of this last week. The second-highest ranking evangelical in the West Wing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, raised eyebrows when she told CBN News that she believed God wanted Trump in the White House. Watch here.
When CBN political analyst David Brody asked Sanders if she thought Trump was in office “for such a time as this,” Sanders didn’t hesitate.
I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that He wanted Donald Trump to become president. That’s why he’s there and I think he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about.
Not surprisingly, this comment drew a lot of hackles. Former Estonian president Toomas Henrik Ilves, for instance, found this notion laughable in light of mounting evidence that Russia had a thumb on the scale for Trump.
Moreover, it’s only fair to ask whether God would honor a president who finds it at all acceptable to share hateful and violent memes on Twitter and openly revel in degrading women.
But according to Trump’s principal spiritual adviser, Paula White, that shouldn’t really matter. In a column for CBN News, White told her rather receptive audience that while Trump’s critics got a hoot out of Sanders’ suggestion, “the joke is actually on them.”
White, who also chairs Trump’s evangelical advisory board, ticked off a list the “numerous initiatives” on Trump’s part that should warm the hearts of people of faith. For instance, his Justice Department has taken steps to ensure that its legal work “does not infringe on religious freedoms.” The Department of Health and Human Services has created a stand-alone division focused on religious rights. Trump himself has attended the last three National Prayer Breakfasts.
But most importantly of all in White’s eyes, Trump has been “a steadfast ally of the pro-life movement.” She reminded her followers that Trump has condemned “the inexcusable murder of innocent babies.” All things considered, White proclaimed that Trump has been “a beacon of hope” after “eight years of darkness” under Barack Obama.
Let’s assume that Trump really has been a “beacon of hope” for people of faith. But at what price? Does White expect us to ignore the mounting evidence that Trump at the very least fostered an environment in which his campaign aides believed it was remotely acceptable to solicit help from Russia? Or his penchant for sharing hateful and violent memes on Twitter? Or reveling in degrading women? And on, and on, and on.
One can only conclude that in their zeal to get us to look at things from a “spiritual perspective,” White and her friends are going down the same dark path that led the Boston FBI to take Whitey Bulger on as an informant. Yes, partly due to his efforts, the FBI was able to cut the Boston branch of the Mafia down to size. But the price was astronomical–willfully turning a blind eye to Bulger’s own rampage of crime, in which he turned South Boston into a cesspool of drugs, terror and murder. The result was one of the biggest black eyes in the FBI’s history that isn’t related to J. Edgar Hoover–and that shiner may not fade away for a long time.
Likewise, it seems the religious right is expecting Americans to ignore Trump’s outrages because of all the nuggets he has dropped for them. If so, it doesn’t seem to be working as well. A recent NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll pegged Trump’s support among evangelicals at 66 percent. That looks impressive–until you consider that 81 percent of evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016, and most polls over the last two years have pegged his evangelical support in the 70s.
If this is any indication, an increasing number of evangelicals aren’t as willing to merely look at things from a spiritual perspective as White and friends would like. And as more of them open their eyes, the ground will shift out from under Trump’s feet even more rapidly.
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