Politics

Trump’s most powerful evangelical supporters are turning on him as he mounts new campaign

Robert Jeffress and Donald Trump
Donald Trump with anti-gay pastor Robert Jeffress at a 2016 rally.Photo: Screenshot/Twitter @DanScavino

The Evangelical Christian leaders who once salivated over former President Donald Trump have largely abandoned him just days after he announced his third presidential run.

An estimated 81 percent of white Evangelical Christians voted for Trump in 2016 even though he was a lying, twice-divorced man with numerous sexual assault accusations against him and a long history of not paying people who worked for him.

“He used us to win the White House,” said Mike Evans, an evangelical leader who helped Trump win in 2016. Evans said Christian voters hoped Trump would appoint judges to help overturn abortion rights in the country, and Trump delivered.

However, Evans said that Christians began “glorifying” Trump like “an idol.” Evans recently said that “Donald Trump does not personify biblical values” and that evangelicals may not support him in 2024.

“All of us knew that Trump had character flaws, but we considered our relationship with him transactional,” Evans told The Washington Post. “We had to close our mouths and eyes when he said things that horrified us. I cannot do that anymore…. Donald Trump can’t save America. He can’t even save himself.”

Robert Jeffress — a Baptist megachurch pastor and Christian Nationalist who says all gay men want to molest children and who posed for a 2017 pic with Trump in the Oval Office — said in 2016 that he supported Trump’s policies, not his lifestyle. At the time, he told Christians that not supporting Trump made them “spineless morons.”

But now, Jeffress may have become one of those morons. He has held off on championing Trump’s new run for now, recently telling Newsweek that Trump’s latest campaign has set the Republican Party “headed toward a civil war that I have no desire or need to be part of.”

“Donald Trump was a great president, and if he becomes the GOP nominee in 2024 I will happily support him,” he told the publication — hardly a ringing endorsement for a man he once called the “most pro-religious liberty president” the U.S. has ever had.

James Robison, president of the Christian group Life Outreach International, once served as Trump’s spiritual adviser. But in a Wednesday night speech to the anti-gay National Association of Christian Lawmakers, Robinson sounded more like Trump’s chief religious critic.

“If Mr. Trump can’t stop his little petty issues, how does he expect people to stop major issues?” Robison told the crowd.

Robison and his group have a rabidly anti-LGBTQ agenda. He himself has compared gay marriage to pedophilia – an increasingly mainstream Republican opinion – and has also said that “Satan himself” and “demonic forces” are behind the push for marriage equality.

Robison claimed he told Trump, “Sir, you act like a little elementary schoolchild and you shoot yourself in the foot every morning you get up and open your mouth!…. The more you keep your mouth closed, the more successful you’re gonna be!”

“It’s time for us to get together and pray and stop trying to destroy each other, and I make that loud and clearly heard to Mr. Trump!” Robinson said in his association speech. “We’ve got to quit amputating each other, slicing each other, and come together in supernatural unity that Jesus Christ prayed for!”

Conservative evangelical commentator Everett Piper — a man who compares LGBTQ people to Islamic terrorists — was far more succinct in his Washington Times op-ed.

“The take-home of this past week is simple: Donald Trump has to go,” Piper wrote of Republicans’ underwhelming performance in the recent midterm elections. “If he’s our nominee in 2024, we will get destroyed.”

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