Why did Falwell support Trump
Trump and the EvangelicalsIn case of doubt, for the pragmatic instead of the devout candidate
At first glance, it seems like a contradiction. The secular biography of Republican Donald Trump and the biblical right-wing conservative values of the evangelicals. But in some southern states he was able to win over these electorate.
"I think many evangelicals have come to the conclusion that we cannot rely on the state to maintain traditional biblical values. So the state should simply solve practical problems like immigration, the economy, and national security. And if that's just what we want, then we don't need a spiritual superman in the White House. And that's why many evangelical Christians are open to a secular candidate like Donald Trump. "
The candidate chose the forum carefully. In Iowa, Evangelical Christians make up 40 percent of the Republican electorate, so they are an extremely important group of voters for any candidate. Before the Iowa primary elections in late January, Donald Trump gave a speech at one of the largest evangelical universities in the United States, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Many students laughed because Donald Trump obviously didn't know the correct way of quoting from the Bible. In general, the candidate does not really fit in with the otherwise very rigid sexual morality of American evangelical Christians: Trump is married for the third time, has previously boasted of extramarital affairs, and until 15 years ago was a clear advocate of the right to abortion. Trump is not a natural candidate for evangelical lifestyles - on the contrary.
Trump left Cruz behind in some southern states
Most observers were all the more surprised when it turned out that Trump was outpacing his right-wing religious competitor Ted Cruz among evangelical voters in some southern states, or at least was able to win a substantial proportion of those votes.
While some evangelical pastors support Trump, such as television pastor and director of Liberty University Jerry Falwell, Jr., many conservative Christians turn up their noses at Trump's attacks against women and minorities, his outspoken calls for violence against protesters, and his brutal language.
Peter Wehner is a researcher at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC and has worked as a speechwriter on three Republican administrations.
"When Bill Clinton was president, moral integrity was high on the evangelicals' list of priorities. They attacked Clinton for believing he was morally failing. And now we have a morally degenerate politician like Trump, and many evangelicals support him. Me call that double standards. "
How can the contradiction between the very secular biography of Donald Trump and the success in the right-wing conservative religious camp be explained?
Two political archetypes of evangelicals
Robert Jeffress is the pastor of a Texas Evangelical Congregation, the First Baptist Church of Dallas. In his view, there are two political archetypes among evangelical voters.
"The evangelicals are divided between idealists and pragmatists. The idealists support Ted Cruz and hope that with a strong Christian in the White House, the Judeo-Christian values could be revived in the USA. The pragmatists say that we would like to have a faith-based candidate, but the US has moved too far to the left for that, so let's put someone up who can be elected as much as possible. And they mostly choose Trump. "
Perhaps behind this is the insight that evangelicals are no longer such a political power as they were in the 1980s. Perhaps the political identity of evangelicals today is less religious than cultural, says Albert Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
"We evangelicals have always trusted that there are many millions of us. And now we must face the fact that by strictly theological definition there are fewer of us than we thought."
Evangelicals are political pragmatists
But that's not entirely new. In the 1980 presidential election, evangelical minister Jerry Falwell, Jr.'s father, and with him many others, not President Carter, chose to support a practicing evangelical Christian. But a divorced Hollywood actor named Ronald Reagan, whose wife did astrology.
Evangelical Christians are usually politically pragmatic too, says Pastor Robert Jeffress.
"I believe many evangelicals have come to the conclusion that we cannot rely on the state to maintain traditional biblical values. So the state should simply solve practical problems like immigration, the economy, and national security. And if that's just what we want, then we don't need a spiritual superman in the White House. And that's why many evangelical Christians are open to a secular candidate like Donald Trump. "
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