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Conservative Christian women confront their doubts on Trump

Donald Trump addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road To Majority" conference in Washington, D.C., on June 10, 2016. RNS photo by Cathy Lynn Grossman

WASHINGTON (RNS) The prospect of choosing between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for president is driving Veronica Mahaffy straight to prayer.

To this lifelong conservative Christian and Republican voter, he’s a “mocker” — the kind of arrogant, heedless man who’s condemned in the Bible — and he’s “corrupt.”

Trump did not change her mind with his address Friday (June 10) to 1,200 people including Mahaffy, a Pennsylvania retiree who came here for the three-day Road to Majority gathering of the Faith & Freedom Coalition and the Concerned Women for America.

He certainly tried.

Trump came to the podium with opening words of gratitude. “We’ve done very well with all the evangelicals,” he said, adding “I happen to be Presbyterian. There’s about three of you out there.”

He named key evangelical endorsers such as Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, and Dallas megapastor Robert Jeffress.

Trump’s calm and careful speech (with a teleprompter) was focused on “our shared values.” He drew applause with pledges upholding the sanctity of life and marriage as “the building block of happiness and success.

“It’s more important than the money,” said the thrice-married billionaire.

The crowd clapped and flashed cell phone cameras as he whacked “crooked Hillary” who, he said, refuses to even say the words “radical Islamic terrorism” — a phrase he repeated at least five times. “This alone makes her unfit to be president.”

A handful of young women protesters calling out anti-Trump slogans were quickly muscled out of the room. While the crowd shouted, “Trump! Trump!” and “USA,” Trump just shook his head, saying, “So sad. So sad,” and dismissing them as “professional agitators.”

Mindful perhaps of GOP critics alarmed by his inflammatory rhetoric on race and ethnicity, Trump said a Clinton presidency would “be a crushing blow to poor people. And she will send blacks and Hispanics turmoil and even worse, despair.”

But his policies on judicial appointments, trade, education and families would restore the luster of faith and respect in our culture, said Trump. “Together we will chart a new optimistic course for America.”

Penny Nance, president of the conservative Christian Concerned Women for America, will work to elect Donald Trump -- while still holding some grave reservations. Photo by Cathy Lynn Grossman

Penny Nance, president of the conservative Christian Concerned Women for America, will work to elect Donald Trump — while still holding some grave reservations. RNS photo by Cathy Lynn Grossman

Before Friday’s event, CWA president and onetime Ted Cruz supporter, Penny Nance already had swallowed hard and reluctantly endorsed Trump despite his personal history — a history at odds with most of the biblical principles at the core of the women’s public policy group for 35 years.

“It’s hard.” Nance said. She was appalled that Trump did not step up immediately to support bills blocking transgender access to public restrooms, telling Breitbart News, “conservatives are right to question Donald Trump’s judgment. … His instincts are wrong on our core values.”

Nance has a visceral disrespect for Clinton so there’s no left turn in her future. But she also said Friday afternoon, “I’m am not laboring under any delusion that Trump’s a Bible-banging evangelical.”

She respects those Republican primary voters who chose him. Still, Nance said Friday afternoon, “My worst nightmare” is that after all the passionate volunteer efforts of conservative women to deliver the vote this fall, “we wake up one morning and discover it was all a ruse.”

The focus now for CWA is, as it was from the beginning, to bring the nation back to biblical principles no matter who is elected. Nance acknowledged that in more than three decades, society has become markedly “less religious than ever before.” But she said, “I’m blessed to work with women who are not a bit cowed by this challenge.”

RELATED STORY: Southern Baptist leader: Donald Trump a ‘lost’ soul who must repent

Trump has been all over the map on core issues for the CWA, including opposition to abortion. The Washington Post calculated that he took five different positions on abortion in three days this spring.

At the height of the outcry over fetal tissue donations and Planned Parenthood, Trump praised the good work done by Planned Parenthood and would not commit to calling for it to be defunded.

Friday morning’s speakers at the Road to Majority gathering were front-loaded with members of Congress who raised amens from the audience with calls to “save this country.” U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R- N.C., urged them not to let the race turn on
“personality” or stay home discouraged and leave the election to “the Philistines.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., recited a litany of what the GOP majority has accomplished — and what Obama vetoed. But he never named Trump. Neither did most of the speakers. Their pitch: Only a new president stands between hope and the death of American freedom at the hands of Democrats.

Faith & Freedom organizer Ralph Reed did mention the presumptive nominee and made clear that perfection was not the standard for judgment: “We are not looking for a political messiah. We already have a messiah.”

“We serve a mighty God who uses imperfect people to achieve his perfect will,” he said.

RELATED STORIES: Religion News Service Five Faith Facts series

Outside the Omni Shorham Hotel, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good held a news conference to denounce Trump as “a total affront to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The Faith in Public Life Action Fund released a video Thursday with author Max Lucado, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, and Gabriel Salguero, founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, urging Trump to seek God’s forgiveness for his “racist, sexist and xenophobic rhetoric.”

Veronica Mahaffy, who hangs up on Trump campaign robocalls, is not holding her breath.

Veronica Mahaffy is one of many conservative Christian women who struggle with the prospect of voting for Donald Trump. Photo By Cathy Lynn Grossman

Veronica Mahaffy is one of many conservative Christian women who struggle with the prospect of voting for Donald Trump. RNS photo By Cathy Lynn Grossman

“He doesn’t love God more than money,” said Mahaffy, 74, a retired nurse anesthesist who traveled with her husband from Chadds Ford, Pa.

“I don’t think he even believes in God,” she said.

On the other hand, nothing could make her vote for Clinton — no matter that the former secretary of state is a lifelong churchgoing, Bible-reading Methodist. Mahaffy said Clinton’s actions and policies don’t align with Scripture as she reads it.

Friday, Trump’s speech didn’t bring either Mahaffy on board — yet.

Come Election Day, confronted with the choice, Veronica Mahaffy said, “I am going to pray and ask God for wisdom.”


About the author

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman specializes in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics. She also writes frequently on biomedical ethics and end-of-life-issues


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  • It’s safe to say any pretension of values coming from Christian conservatives is a joke by now. They can’t even pretend it’s important any more. So long as there is still a path to political power open to all them, they will do or say anything.

  • No she didn’t. You have a source for that besides WND or Breitbart site?

    Some Catholics and Christians have said they hate religious freedom. But I can see how they can spin reaction against that into something personal about them.

  • ….As Obama and HILLARY have openly done for eight years, plus four more years if she is elected. Those are the politicians you like, Spuddie.

  • It appears that god has abandoned the republican party and the only active christian candidate is lefty hillary. What a quandry-no candidate to do their (right-wing christians) bidding.

  • Democrats can and should be real Christians too, but all you’re offering are Obama and Obama’s protege. Nothing but MESS with those two !!!!

  • The good news for Christian women is that Donald Trump is a narcissist and not a psychopath like that prohibitionist and defender of “Protestant womanhood”. David Curtiss “Steve” Stephenson (August 21, 1891 – June 28, 1966) was tried in 1925 for rape and murder. He took bites out of his prey’s living flesh. A psychopath and a Republican with his eyes set on the White House. Psychopaths prey on those they pretend to pray with. That is why Christian conservatism has a psychopath infestation. They are repelled by the thoughtful discourse of liberalism. Psychopaths flourish in the toxic discourse of Christian conservatism.

  • They BOTH do, if you watch their national conventions on TV. Nobody wants to be left out.

    But Democrat values are based on secularism and Obama’s “Evolving Beliefs”,,, and away from God (you saw how the Democrats even tried to totally remove the word “God” from their national platform last time).

    So at least the Republicans haven’t gone STONE CRAZY like the Democrats have !!!

  • Secularism is a good belief. Vital to a democracy. As it is the cornerstone of religious freedom.

    Theocratic notions, not so much.

  • Republican Party Values

    Business Insider says Donald Trump has flip-flopped on whether U.S. wages, including the $7.50 federal minimum wage, are too high:
    — see the BusinessInsider-dot-com article, “Donald Trump doubles down: ‘Our wages are too high’ ”

    The Washington Post says Mr. Trump has also flip-flopped on whether he supports the H-1B visa program, which imports non-U.S. citizens to take high-paying jobs, instead of having them train Americans to do that work:
    — see the WashingtonPost-dot-com article, “Donald Trump flip-flops, then flips and flops more on H-1B visas”

    Even the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute says the presumptuous Republican presidential candidate profits from offshoring U.S. jobs:
    — see the AEI-dot-org article, “Donald Trump’s hypocrisy on trade: he outsources and invests globally, but doesn’t want Ford to do the same?”

    And to top it off, the Huffington Post says Trump (along with Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan) wants to eliminate(!) Social Security:
    — see the HuffingtonPost-dot-com article, “Trump and Ryan Agree: Let’s Dismantle Social Security”

    It “pays” to know whom you’re voting for this November.

  • I think that the conservative Christian Values are not the core values of their Savior. As Gandhi said–I like your Jesus, it is Christians that I can’t stand–or something close to that.

  • I understand how strong the temptation to turn to expediency can be in desperate times, but it’s still sad to see.