With the War on Christmas™ behind them and the president’s impending war with Iran conveniently ignored, a large group of evangelical conservatives gathered on the first Friday of the year of our lord twenty twenty to vouch for the re-election bid of one Donald J. Trump. Calling themselves “Evangelicals For Trump,” this coalition of rabidly anti-LGBTQ voices made the case for why the thrice married, porn star-paying-off, stone-casting, kid-caging, family-separating, false-witness-bearer who became president is not only a good leader who is deserving of office, but is also a very godly man who is fulfilling a moral duty every time he steps in the Oval.
The lineup was a veritable who’s who of anti-LGBTQ activists. There was Tony Perkins, who has turned slurring the LGBTQ community into a crude performance art. You also had James Dobson, the longtime movement leader who compares the “immoral behavior” of LGBTQ people to pedophiles and alcoholics. Michelle “homosexuality is part of Satan, I think” Bachmann was also on hand, as was Robert “gays are filthy” Jeffress. Jim Garlow, who believes having gay parents is akin to losing your parents on 9/11, also made the trip down to Miami for the launch. And so on and so forth. A full class photo can be seen here.
Pick any one and you have an overwhelming chance of choosing someone who has said a completely awful thing about an LGBTQ person. These are the people who this president believes can, should, and will prevail him to a 2020 victory.
Now, you may be wondering why these men and women who have devoted themselves to serving “their Lord, their God” would so proudly and unapologetically stand with a leader who doesn’t seem to have any church affiliations to speak of and whose daily behavior is so out of line that evangelical magazine Christianity Today recently called for him to be removed from office. For some insight, you can turn to the January 6 edition of the daily radio show of “Evangelicals For Trump’s” Tony Perkins. On the episode, Tony hosted fellow coalition member Greg Laurie, and the two anti-LGBTQ activists agreed that they too are troubled by some of the things the president says and tweets. However, they agreed he deserves their support because he “humbles himself and asks to receive prayer” and because he “allows people to pray unscripted for him in public.” They both agreed that when “he knows he’s among friends, it’s a different front.”
But isn’t the whole point of evangelical Christianity to be a godly person in every facet of your life? Aren’t you supposed to humble yourself in public and in private? Isn’t consistent stewardship to the tenants of the Bible one of the chief requirements of this lifestyle choice? And isn’t this standard, so clearly born out of political convenience rather than evangelical bona fides, the height of hypocrisy, even for a movement that has been defined by it since its inception?
The answer: Of course it is, which is what makes this coalition so cynical. It is an assemblage of people who are willing to put aside their purported beliefs and truisms in hopes of passing laws that do their bidding, installing judges that will side with their cause, and earning access to the executive branch of government. And let’s be doubly clear: overturning current and preventing further LGBTQ acceptance is a major reason why they are aligning themselves in this way. It doesn’t matter if they talk more about reproductive rights and so-called “religious freedom.” Underlying, and indeed buoying, this entire “Evangelicals For Trump” effort is a desire to dismantle every positive gain that the LGBTQ community has experienced in the past few decades. Obergefell? Most every one of these men and women surrounding the president in the above photo would like to see it gone. Transgender military ban? They all cite it as a reason to like the guy. Adoption rights, hate crimes protections, employment nondiscrimination–take your pick. These activists are not only hoping that a second Trump term will see the elimination of it all, but they are expecting it.
And considering the way this often petulant president operates, who can blame them? He clearly aligns himself with whatever friends he can find, something that is especially true in his newly impeached status. It has been said that he listens to and sides with the last person who talks to him, so these “Evangelicals for Trump” want to make sure that one of them has his ear as often as possible. They are putting all their eggs in his basket, and they expect a major return on their investment–and they might just get it. One can easily see him overturning a crucial civil right just because “Nervous Nancy” or “Crooked Hillary” support it while his big evangelical buddies oppose it. He’s sort of redefined what it means to petty.
Which is exactly why we can’t afford to be petty with our concern. While the men and women pictured above are supporting this administration for political convenience, in order to accomplish their misbegotten goals, they are going to have to dupe millions of evangelicals across the country to do the same. We must be equally vigilant about asking not who or what these politically-motivated evangelicals are for, but rather what this president is for. Is he really operating in the interest of moral and values and all that evangelical Christians are supposed to hold dear? Or is he the biggest false prophet to come along in several generations?
Jeremy Hooper is a longtime researcher and strategist, with a particular focus on the anti-LGBTQ religious right. His work has been featured in press outlets across the globe, and has been used by numerous political campaigns. From 2004 to 2015 he ran the popular blog Good As You, and wrote a well-received book on his own LGBTQ rights journey. He lives in NYC with his husband and daughter.