Why Are Evangelicals Supporting Donald Trump?

Last evening I watched the South Carolina Republican Primary returns with a heavy heart. For the record, I am a registered Republican and about as conservative as they come. But more than that, I am a disciple of Jesus and a man who strives to put loyalty to the Kingdom of God ahead of all other personal and political alliances. From my perspective, Senator Ted Cruz is the man most qualified as both a Christian and a conservative to serve as the next president of the United States. And so it was with disappointment that I watched as Mr. Cruz finished in a statistical tie for second place with Senator Marco Rubio, also a fine man.

However, the most surprising news of the evening is not that two conservative, outspoken Christians couldn’t pull off a win over maverick Donald Trump in heavily evangelical, conservative South Carolina; rather it is the reality that evangelicals broke for Trump over Cruz despite the latter’s aggressive targeting of the evangelical vote, and given the fact that evangelicals clearly side with Cruz when it comes to shared values. Consider the exit poll data compiled by Fox News:

  • 72% of voters polled consider themselves born again or evangelical
  • 76% of voters said that it was important to them that a candidate shared their values
  • Only 37% said that shared values was the most important thing in determining their vote. In second place, 31% said “can bring needed change” mattered most.
  • Voters gave Cruz a clear edge when asked which candidate shares their values and religious beliefs
  • A whopping 97% said that they are worried about the Nation’s economy
  • 92% said they are angry or dissatisfied with how the Federal Government is working
  • 32% said that when asked what the single most important issue is, terrorism tops the list
  • 45% said that Trump would best handle the economy
  • 78% said that Donald Trump tells it like it is. (We could call this a form of honesty.)
  • Finally, Cruz and Trump are tied or nearly tied as to who would best handle an international crisis, as well as who would best handle replacing the late Justice Scalia.

What can we glean from the information above? First and foremost it is clear that evangelicals are not voting for a candidate primarily based on shared values. If they were, Ted Cruz would have been the clear winner. Three quarters of those polled said that while shared values were important to them, only 37% actually made values the primary criteria for making a choice when casting their vote. It is also clear that anger with the Federal government, anxiety over the economy, and combating terrorism are the three overarching themes on the minds of voters.

So why is it that evangelicals are supporting Donald Trump when they have two other high-ranking candidates to choose from who exemplify Christian values to a far greater degree? After all, both the testimony of Scripture and Trump’s own words demonstrate that he is a serial fornicator and adulterer, arrogant and prideful, unrepentant, and a nominal religious person and not a biblical Christian by any measure. How can evangelicals support such a person? I believe there are several obvious answers.

The first reason for evangelical  support for Trump is that like him, there are many evangelicals who are nominal religious people who are a very long way from being able to claim they are disciples of Christ, using Scriptural parameters to examine the fruit of their lives. It is important to understand that the polling did not make a distinction between born-again, and evangelical voters. I suspect that of the 76% who said that shared values were important to them, the 37% who actually made values the determining factor for their choice are mostly the born-again voters. It is both understandable and predictable that nominal Sunday-go-to-church evangelicals, many of whom belong to liberal denominations that embrace all manner of unbiblical and sinful social positions, would support someone with Trump’s morals and not find anything contradictory about it. So it is important to understand that “evangelical” has more of a religious meaning than necessarily indicating a lover of Jesus who makes Kingdom principles an absolute standard for life decisions.

Secondly, while Trump and Cruz are tied on who would best replace the late Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia and nearly tied on who would best handle an international crisis, Trump comes out way ahead on three critical issues: Honesty (“telling it like it is”), best handling the broken economy, and best at bringing needed change. This tells me that evangelicals would rather have someone whom they perceive will give them straight talk, keep their finances intact, and bring true change to Washington, even if that person lives in such a way as to violate their personal sense of character. In other words, they will support an adulterer who they believe will make life safer, make them  more financially secure, and who will get liberals and RINOs in Washington out of their lives and businesses. Like it or not, these conclusions are difficult to reject based on the polling facts.

Unlike many of my fellow conservative Christian friends, I am not convinced that a Trump presidency would be a guaranteed disaster, nor am I convinced that Trump could not beat Clinton or Sanders. Remember that the same voices who are loudly declaring Trump unelectable are the same ones who loudly predicted his early demise in the primaries and caucuses. While I am not a Trump supporter and count myself as staunchly among those who put biblical values at the top of my list when considering political candidates, I would vote for Trump if he wins the Republican nomination and runs against a Democrat Socialist. I will not participate in any boycott of the election with so much at stake, and not voting for Trump is a vote FOR Clinton or Sanders.

I can think of two possible scenarios for why God, Who clearly indicates in Scripture that He sets up leaders and removes leaders, might set Donald Trump in the office of President:

1. I have long held the opinion that Obama was placed in office as a judgment from God because of the deep sin and apostasy of America. America is not Israel and I believe it is an error to make direct parallels between God’s covenant people and America; however it is clear that America is a special nation founded on Judaeo-Christian principles, and I believe that God’s dealings with Israel indicate in principle how He deals with any nation. Giving an unrepentant nation over to wicked leadership is a common biblical theme.

Let us remember that most of us considered Obama to be a bad joke and completely unelectable when he first appeared on the scene. The 2008 election of a mixed race, hard left-wing ideologue with a Muslim name, with no experience other than being a “community organizer” who refused to release his college transcripts, to the presidency of the United States illustrated that God can put anyone into office; the fact that Obama was reelected after a disastrous first term shows that God can and will keep a leader in place until His purposes are served. I am on record as saying that we aren’t guaranteed an end to the Obama presidency in January of 2017. Obama could very well use a crisis, real or intentionally set into motion, to declare Martial Law and suspend elections if he feels his legacy is being threatened by a clear Republican win in November. At this point, with all he has done, only the naïve would insist that such a thing could not take place.

What does this have to do with Trump? It is possible that God has heard the cries of the American people for deliverance from the soft left-wing tyranny of the Obama administration, but the cries are not for God and His leadership over our nation. There is no real national sense of repentance despite the repeated call for such from spiritual leaders such as Franklin Graham. So maybe God is going to replace a left-wing disaster with a right-wing disaster until the American people stop looking to political leaders and cry out to Him and Him only. The only hope for America is a national awakening and a return to biblical principles of righteousness. This is one possibility for a Trump presidency.

2. It is also possible that God is going to use Trump to do the one thing he may be best suited for: restoring some semblance of normalcy to the economy. Trump is correct when he says that China, Japan, and Mexico are eating us alive with trade deficits. He is a proven deal maker and successful business man, and he has the personality to negotiate wins for the US economy in a complicated global network. But does God really care about how well a sinful, apostate nation is doing economically? The obvious answer is no. In fact, economic collapse is often mentioned in Scripture as part of God’s judgment against a nation. (See Isaiah 19 for one example.) However, God always cares for His people, His faithful remnant.

I believe that the story of Joseph in Egypt, and his prophetic dream of the seven years of prosperity followed by the seven years of great famine, may be a type and shadow of the coming tribulation spoken of by the prophets and detailed in the book of Revelation. You may recall that Joseph instructed the Pharaoh to store up food and supplies during the seven years of plenty so as to survive the coming seven years of famine. Jesus even asked a riddle of His disciples, saying, “Who then is that faithful servant, whom his Lord will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?”  (Luke 12:42) The answer, of course, was Joseph.

It is possible that God will use Trump to temporarily rebound the US economy so that the “Josephs” in the Body of Christ can use that season to store up for the coming famine. I am not a prepper per say, but I think it is religious foolishness to know from the Lord that a period of time is coming where we will not be able to buy and sell as normal, and then do nothing while claiming that “the Lord will take care of us when the time comes.” The wise will use Godly wisdom to prepare for those days and it will be nearly impossible to do much if the economy remains in the basement or even worse.

To be clear, I am not prophesying these things or giving a “word from the Lord” about them. I am simply laboring to know God’s heart and walk in His purposes during these increasingly difficult times. Both of the possible scenarios given above make sense to me. The bottom line is that, like Barack Obama, Donald Trump is a person who is breaking every rule of conventional thinking and is only gaining from it. I suggest that it is so bizarre and unexplainable that it is God’s doing, much like the loss of a true conservative champion from the Supreme Court just as the elections are gaining steam. Let us pray that God will help the Church to have wisdom during this election, and that the Church will accept God’s leadership no matter how it may differ from our own perspective. Ultimately, it is the coming Kingdom and God’s Divine purposes for the end of this age that matter most, and these should be our priorities also.