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Donald Trump moves to win over wavering evangelical Christians

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters as he arrives to appear with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at a fundraising event in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, U.S., on May 19, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Mike Segar

(RNS) Donald Trump is moving quickly to rally the evangelical base of the Republican Party as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee pivots toward a general election contest where the conservative Christian vote will be crucial to his chances for winning the White House.

The brash New York real estate developer has been reviled by many evangelical Christian leaders but he retains a significant appeal with grass-roots evangelicals and is increasingly winning over some leading conservative Christian activists.

The latest sign of that rapprochement emerged on Monday (May 23) with word that Trump will address a major Washington conference of conservative Christians on June 10.

David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network reported that Trump will speak to the “Road to Majority” conference, which is sponsored by the Faith & Freedom Coalition — run by the former head of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed — and Concerned Women for America, a stalwart organization of the religious right.

The event is billed as “the premier event for people of faith and conservative activists” and it will feature a host of big name evangelical leaders and politicians.

“This will be an opportunity for Trump to try and convince skeptical evangelicals to get on board the, ‘Trump Train.’ He still has work to do despite a good showing with evangelicals during the primaries,” Brody wrote.

On Friday, Time magazine also broke the news that Trump is planning a closed-door meeting in New York in the coming weeks with some 400 social conservatives in an effort to gain or solidify their support.

“We are looking for a way forward,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Time’s Elizabeth Dias. “The main thing here is this is to have a conversation.”

Trump also sent a video message over the weekend to a conference of Latino evangelical leaders meeting in California. The meeting was organized by Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

As Brody wrote in an analysis of the Republican’s chances, “with the GOP presidential nomination pretty much in the bag, Trump can ill afford to think his work with evangelicals is over.”

“Skeptical evangelicals need to get to a more comfortable place. If they do, he’ll have their support,” Brody wrote.


About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.


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  • “Donald Trump moves to win over wavering evangelical Christians”

    Well, we know what that means . . . a big increase in the frequency and intensity of persecutory speech.

  • That, and the promise to fund private church schools with tax dollars. And he might try to convince them that he has confessed his personal sins to God, and has had a genuine conversion experience… but to convincingly pull that off, Trump would need to show some genuine humility. Not sure he is capable of that.

  • As an Evangelical Christian, I will not be voting for Trump. Of all the issues that Evangelical’s strive for and support, tax dollar funding for private church schools isn’t one of them. It ranks exactly zero on the change list that would induce us as a group to embrace Trump.

  • It looks like more Christians are going to have to choose which is more important, this world or the next. I suspect that when asked to justify voting for Trump at the FInal Judgment, “the alternative was worse” won’t cut it any more than “I was just following orders.”

  • This is how evangelicals show their true selves, and religion plays no role. In the meantime, real, believing evangelicals are stuck in the same spot as real, believing Muslims. A select group of power grabbers are seen as representative of their faith. They’re all painted with the same ugly colors.

    President Jimmy Carter is trying to create a space for those true believing Baptists. He’s working on creating a coalition of Baptists. They’re chiefly focused on race, but there is likely room for others. The NY Times has the story:

  • “I was just following orders.” has always served their purpose before.

    Only they say:
    “I am just following scripture”

    “I am doing God’s will”

    “Only True Christians are willing to do this”

  • Re: “In the meantime, real, believing evangelicals are stuck in the same spot as real, believing Muslims. A select group of power grabbers are seen as representative of their faith.”

    This is another variation on the old “a tiny minority is making an entire, vast collective look bad” complaint. It makes a bit of sense … but ultimately, it’s a hollow complaint. If, in fact, a small but powerful fraction of fierce-&-militant evangelicals has stolen the limelight and made many millions of other, presumably-much-more-reasonable evangelicals look bad, there’s an easy solution for that presumed majority of reasonable evangelicals: Take on the militants directly. Confront them. Shut them up. Close them down. Marginalize them, or better yet, silence them.

    No, I’m not advocating using violence or force against them! What I am saying is that it should be trivial for a vast majority of many millions of presumably-reasonable evangelicals to basically overwhelm a small number of militants and crowd them right out of existence. Sheer numbers ought to dictate this isn’t a difficult task. Yes, it will take courage — lots of it. But it can be done. All that has to happen is for this presumably-reasonable evangelicals to get off their behinds and just do it already.

    That is … IF they really are the “reasonable” types that are claimed, and if they really want the militant minority shut down and relegated to the dustbin of history. My own assessment of them is, they don’t want to. They like the militants raging and fuming all over the place. The militants’ wild antics don’t really bother them all that much. They certainly aren’t going to confront them.

    I suppose the presumably-much-more-reasonable evangelicals could prove me wrong on this point. I suppose they might somehow find the courage to stop the militants among their number, discipline them, correct them, and cast them away. It COULD happen. But I sure as hell am not going to hold my breath waiting for it. And as for the likes of Jimmy Carter doing it … ? Are you kidding me? Jimmy Carter? Confronting militants? Shutting them down? Seriously!?

  • Did you take a look at the website I linked to? That will tell you about what President Carter is doing. Then you’ll have a better idea what he’s doing regarding the “militant” evangelicals,

  • I saw the article and am not impressed. It doesn’t involve confrontation of the racists. I see him trying “outreach” methods, trying to link up black and white Baptist congregations. The racists aren’t going to have anything to do with that, though, so they’ll be untouched by it.

    As a rule, attempting to involve extremists in “outreach” efforts like this, never works. They don’t bite. What’s needed is confrontation, discipline, and if needed, marginalization. Carter is attempting none of those things. Not a single one.

  • There’s a difference between having a moral code one lives by, whether that code be theologically or philosophically informed (or more usually both), and blindly following orders.

  • A “moral code” based on arbitrary and unquestioned authority is the same whether it be theological or political in nature. It means one takes to adherence to a code over facing the actual moral implications of one’s actions and their impact on others. Blindly following orders is still blindly following orders.

  • Sure, blindly following orders is blindly following orders. Which is precisely what those Christians that refuse to jump on the Trump bandwagon AREN’T doing.

  • I think they just didn’t like the choice of bandwagons. Many of them supported every other candidate with Dominionist credentials. People just as authoritarian and hapless as Trump.

    The problem being they overestimated their voting power. Candidates who appealed to evangelicals tended to run amateurish campaigns, lacked funds or lacked appeal outside of that group. Same was true for “Fiscal conservatives” as well.

    Over the last 10 years Republicans have been cultivating a cretinous voting bloc. A group unabashedly bigoted prone to orchestrated hysteria, ignorant and self entitled. Trump simply hijacked that group from more seasoned politicians. If not him, it would be someone else.

  • Are you sure you didn’t mean Democrats instead of Republicans in your last paragraph? From the idiocy coming out of the college campuses these days it certainly sounds like you should be.

    But to the actual subject of the article, even not liking the choice of bandwagons requires judging the quality of said bandwagons — meaning making a comparison and judging between them. Which is the exact opposite of blindly following orders.

  • So this means you are not voting in the general election or voting for Empress Clinton?

    Somehow I don’t see that happening among evangelicals. In a few months I think they will be supporting Trump en masse.

  • Trumps current moves towards the most virulent members of the antigay industry will be welcome to those. It will all just go to show that notions of morality are the furthest things from their minds. Four times bankrupt trump shows that theft pays. Three times married and self-proclaimed adulterous trump will show their whining about marriage means nothing. 2 Corinthians trump will demonstrate that belief really isn’t what they are concerned about, but power, money, and dominion.

  • I think you have hit the nail on the head. They really do appreciate the efforts of the extreme fringe. They don’t have to exert themselves, and yet, they reap all of the rewards.

    It’s like when an evangelical tells me they love me as a gay man, but simply hate my sin. Just like gawdamighty himself, they are. My usual response is, “of course! that just allows other people to do the hating, while your hands stay clean. You just get to follow along.”

    Much more like Pontus Pilate than God, but the irony is beyond them.

  • I might vote for the Constitution Party nominee, but I don’t know much about him and have a few issues with the party platform. Voting Libertarian is probably out, after Johnson stated that a Jewish baker should be forced to bake a Nazi cake in order to protect religious liberty. I could vote “none of the above,” my state actually has a line for that.

    And you might well be right about what evangelicals will do, it’s when the situation is bleakest that temptation is strongest.

  • “Voting Libertarian is probably out, after Johnson stated that a Jewish
    baker should be forced to bake a Nazi cake in order to protect religious

    I would avoid voting for someone who says that simply on the basis of being a boneheaded analogy. That and I have little respect for what passes for Libertarian positions these days. Too much Ayn Rand, not enough James Madison.

  • Re: “‘that just allows other people to do the hating, while your hands stay clean. You just get to follow along.'”

    Indeed! And those “followers” (aka “do-nothing” types) are the problem. As Edmund Burke put it so aptly: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    The supposedly-reasonable Christian majority in this country has done EXACTLY that, for decades now: They’ve done nothing. Instead of sniveling that the extremists make them look bad, they need to grow a pair and rein them in, for once.

  • They have done a bit, even unto complaining loudly. But it has been lost in the din of the religious extremists. MAny, but not all NALT Christians, seem far more concerned with maintaining their images of themselves as nice people who don’t do battle with other Christians, and like the Methodists, are far more concerned with church unity than doing what they know to be right.

    not all, but enough of them, have remained silent. I exclude UCC and Unitarians.

  • Re: “They have done a bit, even unto complaining loudly.”

    Sorry but no. I’m not even giving them that much. In fact what they have done is to support the militants. For example, they elected them to a majority in both houses of Congress, and put them in control of the majority of statehouses. So no, they have NOT in fact “done a bit.” They have, instead, done the opposite.

  • TRUMP is the embodiment of the wealth, arrogance, greed and lack of compassion. His 3,500 law suits, his $0 tax payments, his racism, his lies, his HUBRIS.
    Christ said to the rich man: Give up your worldly possessions, take the cross and follow me. I don’t see Trump doing this. The bible tells us : Mark 10:25
    It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
    Even the Pope said: “TRUMP IS NOT CHRISTIAN