As of the close of the first week of the new year, Donald Trump’s average approval rating, as measured by FiveThirtyEight, stands at 38.2 percent–easily the lowest of any newly-elected president at this early stage of his presidency.
But Trump is lucky to even be that high. From the looks of it, one big reason that he hasn’t completely cratered is that the religious right is still solidly behind him. However, it looks like their effort to convince evangelicals to continue to bow down to Trump isn’t working as well. At last report, 61 percent of white evangelicals approved of Trump’s performance. That looks impressive–until you consider that earlier polls found Trump had well over 70 percent support among white evangelicals, and a whopping 81 percent of them voted for Trump.
One of Trump’s most ardent religious right supporters has a theory about the 39 percent of white evangelicals who don’t warmly support Trump–they’re forgetting the truth of the Bible.
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, isn’t quite in the same league as the likes of other Trump-worshiping pastors like Rick Joyner, Lance Wallnau, Jim Bakker, and Paula White. But he’s pretty close. In 2016, for instance, he strongly hinted that if he had to choose between Trump and a candidate who espoused the ideals expressed in the Sermon on the Mount, he’d vote for Trump. He was a very early and very loud supporter of Trump, and is one of Trump’s closest advisers on faith matters.
Just how close Jeffress still is to Trump was amply demonstrated in an interview with American Family Radio lunchtime host Janet Mefferd on Wednesday. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Mefferd was troubled by a number of articles in magazines and newspapers calling out conservative evangelicals who are still supporting Trump. She wondered why none of them spoke with Jeffress, who was “the one person I wanted to hear from” about evangelicals and Trump.
Jeffress mused that there was indeed a “divide” among evangelicals–one that has existed for some time, but has only now been “exposed” by Trump.
“It’s been a growing divide, Janet, between evangelicals who take the Bible seriously and those who don’t. I call them the ‘evangelical elite’—the ‘Christianity of the day’ crowd. And here’s where it comes down to—think about this. President Trump is the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-Israel president in history. So why do we have this resistance among the evangelical elite while the mass of evangelicals in the pews support him? And what it comes down to is the evangelical elite really don’t embrace these values.”
Jeffress went on to slam the “evangelical elite” for being more concerned about protecting Dreamers than ending abortion, and claimed they were on the wrong side of the Palestinian debate for being more concerned about the plight of Palestinians when the Jews have a right to the land “God gave them.” He also mused that this same elite wants to make Christian bakers make cakes for LGBT weddings.
No, Robert. You’re missing the point. A lot of evangelicals who oppose Trump–including this one–are rightly concerned about the almost daily outrages coming from this White House. Is rolling abortion really worth having a president who retweets violent and hateful GIFs? Is protecting “religious liberty” really worth having a president whose mental stability seems questionable at best on some occasions?
No cause is so important that basic standards of decency have to be thrown out the window in order to further them. If you believe that a cause is that important, that cause has become a golden calf.
One has to wonder–is Jeffress even paying attention to Trump’s Twitter feed? If he did, perhaps he wouldn’t be as willing to suggest that evangelicals who oppose Trump are forgetting their faith.
(featured image courtesy Gage Skidmore, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)