Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pumps his fist at rally in Panama City, Fla. on Oct. 11, 2016. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP via CP)Anyone wondering why evangelical voters have stuck by Donald Trump will find answers here.
'He's born-again now'Susan Priest says she heard it on a conference call this week with fellow churchgoers. Apparently, Trump found faith last year. And that's why she won't bother watching the video. "He's born-again now. He's a Christian," said the Maryland resident. "We consider the things he did in his past now forgiven — like our sins are forgiven. "He's not the same person." A vast majority of evangelical Christians support Trump. Yet the cultural cleavages of this election appear among Christians, too. Trump is dominant among white evangelicals — a poll this month by the Public Religion Research Institute said it was 69 per cent for him, and 19 per cent for Clinton. Among non-white Christians, Clinton led by 56 percentage points.
Son of legendary preacher holds rallyThat culture clash permeated this week's event in downtown Annapolis, Md., where Franklin Graham, the son of legendary preacher Billy Graham, held his latest prayer rally during a 50-state election tour. The messages sounded like Trump's nostalgic nationalism. The country song that played as Graham approached the stage, "In America," refers to an eagle flying slow, the stars-and-stripes flying low, and the scourge of ISIL. People waved flags, as the singer saluted the troops. When he mentioned his support for the police, Graham got an especially loud reaction. He urged the faithful to defend their traditions. That means leaving the Ten Commandments up on school walls, even if it offends people: "Good. Let it offend them," he said. It means singing, "The Pledge of Allegiance," in the morning. It means telling Muslims and Buddhists where you stand: "Muhammad didn't die for your sins. Buddha didn't die for your sins. Only one — and that is Jesus Christ." A man in the crowd responded, "Yes, he did."
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'The very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool'One writer for, "Christianity Today," criticized both candidates this week. But he reserved particular venom for Trump, in a piece titled, "Speak Truth to Trump: Evangelicals... should not be silent about Donald Trump's blatant immorality.'' He said no public figure exhibits such idolatry, greed, sexual immorality, and pride. "He is, in short, the very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool," said the magazine's editorial director, Andy Crouch. ''Enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbours ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord. They see that some of us are so self-interested, and so self-protective, that we will ally ourselves with someone who violates all that is sacred to us." Another writer at the magazine predicted: "(This is) the last spasm of energy from the Religious Right before its overdue death.”
"Hillary is absolutely unacceptable. She's willing to see any child murdered."A historian who's written four books on the history of religion in U.S. politics says this election is the culmination of a movement that started in the 1970s. Faith leaders like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson organized a cultural counter-revolution against changes of the 1960s, said Franklin Lambert of Purdue University. Over time the religious right, he said, became less "religious" than ''right'': ''So, pardon the pun, politics 'trumps' religion.'' So Trump wins votes even from the wary. At Tuesday's rally, Sharon McCall said she used to change the channel when Trump was on TV — that's how much she disliked him. She supported Ben Carson in the primaries. But she believes Trump will keep his promise to appoint conservative Supreme Court judges. As for that old video, she didn't sweat it.
Not sweating the video''That's just a hit job,'' McCall said. Priest is also preoccupied with the court. She's desperate for justices who will stop abortion. She believes so passionately in the issue that she was once arrested for a sit-in outside a clinic. Trump has vowed to appoint conservative judges. If conservatives doubted his sincerity, he attempted to mollify their skepticism earlier this year by releasing a list of his possible court picks. A few months later, he released a second list. It's still better than what his liberal opponent offers, Priest said. ''Hillary is absolutely unacceptable. She's willing to see any child murdered." She illustrated her point by citing a relative: ''(He says), I'm voting for Trump even if he shoots somebody. Because he's not Hillary.''