Can be loyal to Trump

US midterm electionsLoyal to Trump and morally flexible

In late September in Washington DC. For two and a half days, evangelical right-wing conservatives meet in the American capital for the so-called "Value Voters Summit," the national summit of the self-proclaimed "value voters". The organizer is the Family Research Council, a think tank of the religious right, which, according to its own account, is committed to the Christian values ​​of marriage and the protection of unborn life. Civil rights organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, however, classify the facility as inflammatory, mainly because of its false and defamatory propaganda against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals.

For the past three years, Donald Trump had crowned the conference with his attendance.

"We are stopping cold the attacks ..." he had promised. "We are now stopping the attacks on Judeo-Christian values", he announced to the cheering audience, "We say Merry Christmas again!"

"Christian, Republican, American - in that order"

This time Trump skips the meeting. Instead, he sends his runner-up, Mike Pence. A hardliner evangelical who likes to say of himself, "I'm a Christian, a Republican, an American - in that order." So now too:

"I am a Christian, a Republican, and an American, in that order."

Trump's appearance no longer seems necessary anyway: in August, he and his wife invited around a hundred handpicked evangelicals to the White House, including several cabinet members and his informal "Evangelical Advisory Board", 24 mostly older, fundamentalist pastors from the south of the country, who enjoy direct access to the President and advise him regularly.

The official reception was at the Center of Power in honor of the country's evangelical leadership. After the media people had withdrawn and the doors closed, Trump quickly got to the real reason for this evening: He warned that the Republicans would fail in the upcoming midterm elections and painted the consequences in the darkest colors: "I can only ask you to get all of your people to vote. If they don't, we have two bad years ahead of us. "

"Evangelicals are still enthusiastically supporting Donald Trump," announced Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church, a mega-church in Dallas, Texas, and one of Trump's religious advisors on Fox TV: "The evening was almost a bit of an election rally .

Trump's religious advisory group

And so this summit meeting of the archconservatives in the American capital is like a single, major election campaign event: "You, America's values ​​voters, can determine the course of this country and whether it will be strong, preserve our constitution and ours Honor God the Creator, "warns Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, and also a member of Trump's religious advisory group.

"You have to understand: we are at war," belts Brigitte Gabriel, a Christian from Lebanon, into the hall and calls for joining her "ACT for America". The anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant organization is considered the largest of its kind.

Mike Pompeo, Trump's evangelical foreign minister, is one of its supporters. He also has his appearance at this conference. So did Mitch McDonnell, the Baptist and Republican majority leader in the Senate. His assurance that Brett Kavanaugh, who has come under great pressure, will soon sit in the country's Supreme Court, tears the predominantly white, older audience from their chairs. When Vice President Mike Pence promises to finish building the wall that has been started along the Mexican border, the hall chants: "Build the wall! Build the wall!"

Billy Graham's son is delighted

81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump two years ago. A billionaire married for the third time and six-time bankrupt, who with his "Trump University" cheated thousands of graduates of their money, in the election campaign denigrated Mexican immigrants as criminals and drug dealers and Muslims as terrorists, who publicly made fun of a disabled person who mocked the Islamic parents of a fallen US soldier and boasted that they could kiss women without being asked and reach between the legs.

Many of those who helped him to victory now publicly praised Trump's election as God's will. For example Franklin Graham, scion of the legendary revival preacher Billy Graham.

Even now, with Trump's popularity hovering around 40 percent in the general population, white evangelicals remain practically unchanged as his most loyal constituency. - The first half of his term in office was marked by even more scandals and controversy than his election campaign.

How can it be explained that pious Christians who allegedly live strictly according to the wording of the Bible still support a man who has violated at least three of the ten commandments, loves himself more than his neighbors and loves his nature and values ​​completely? Contradict all that is sacred to evangelicals?

"Evangelicals have a reputation for being morally and theologically dogmatic. Donald Trump's unreserved support, however, suggests that they are remarkably flexible about morals," said Randall Balmer, professor of history at prestigious Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. Balmer is evangelical himself. And he is considered to be one of the most respected and best experts on his religious community in the USA. - When he was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, the historian relates, divorce was still taboo for evangelicals. Anyone who dared to do so risked being thrown out of the community or at least marginalized.

"That changed in 1980 when evangelicals turned their backs on Jimmy Carter, one of their own people, a good family man and Sunday school teacher in a southern Baptist church. Instead, they chose the divorced and second-married Ronald Reagan. They did so in good part, because Reagan was against abortion at the time and Carter was not, but if you study the historical records of the time, and I have done so intensely, you see, Carter had a much longer and more consistent line against abortion than Reagen, who was Governor of California Signed the country's most liberal abortion law in 1967. That was the beginning of the slippery path the evangelicals got on. In 2016, they did not support a candidate who was not married for the second but for the third time down, for example, the idea of ​​honesty and personal integrity. "

Christmas instead of Xmas

White evangelicals did not see Trump as one of the conventional candidates they had supported in the previous decades, explains Neil J. Young, an independent New York historian and publicist who writes on religion and politics:

"Trump promised you he would bring them back to power. And he seemed determined to do so. Promises like," We'll say 'Merry Christmas' again "may seem like trifles. But for white evangelicals they were of enormous symbolic value Trump gave them great political assurances. And so they decided: it was worth a deal ”.

The top priority in this pact: the composition of the Supreme Court, the highest court in the country:

"Even during the election campaign, this was always the most important topic. With Trump in the Oval Office, white evangelicals were given the opportunity to move the US Supreme Court to the right. With this they hoped to make the right to abortion more difficult, and perhaps even to reverse it overturn same-sex marriage. "

With the appointment of Neil Gorsuch last year and Brett Kavanaugh a month ago, the evangelical hawk's most important goal has already been fulfilled in the first half of Trump's tenure. Both judges were their avowed favorites. And they moved heaven and earth to urge reluctant Senate Republicans to vote for a man who remains highly controversial over allegations of sexual violence.

"Good has triumphed over evil!" Said the southern Baptist preacher Jeffress triumphantly on Fox TV shortly after Kavanaugh was sworn in. "We will look back on this judge election for decades and realize: this was a cultural turning point!"