Our country’s most prominent evangelicals – those arbiters of godliness who tell us who to love, how to pray, and how to live – continue to show robust support for a serial adulterer who has been divorced twice, fathered at least one child out of wedlock, paid hush money to a girlfriend, and has, shall we say, a tenuous grasp of virtuous behavior.
The preachers still venerate President Trump, even after Stormy Daniels blasted a hole in their moral code and tested how far they can stretch their hypocrisy.
As it turned out, they go as far as any other Trump apologist in this burlesque comic opera.
L’Affaire Stormy would be a five-alarm inferno for any other president, but in the Trump White House it is routine sleaze, leaving the porn factor aside. And it would have been forgotten were it not for a Wall Street Journal report that revealed a $130,000 payoff by Trump’s attorney to Daniels in October 2016, which may have violated election law.
But it didn’t register on the moral barometers of evangelical leaders.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said, “We kind of gave him an, ‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here.'”
Robert Jeffress, pastor of the powerful First Baptist Church in Dallas, assured Fox News that “Evangelicals know they are not compromising their beliefs in order to support this great president.”
Franklin Graham affirmed that “while he is not President Perfect,” Trump does have “a concern for Christian values.”
Jerry Falwell Jr. said, “We all need Christ’s forgiveness, and that’s why evangelicals are so quick to forgive Donald Trump when he asked for forgiveness for things that happened 10, 15 years ago.”
All that must be of great comfort to Melania Trump.
No one said there wouldn’t be moral ambiguity in the Age of Trump, but these men lost their gag reflex long ago.
When Trump showed moral cowardice after Charlottesville by refusing to condemn Neo-Nazis, Falwell called the president’s words “bold” and “truthful.”
When Trump flaunted his racism in his characterization of Haiti and African nations, Jeffress said, “President Trump is right on target in his sentiment.”
When Trump gave his support of an accused pedophile’s candidacy in Alabama, they all fell in line, as Roy Jones had 80 percent white evangelical support.
Then came Stormy.
And Jesus Wept.
Michael Gerson of The Atlantic, an evangelical conservative, believes the term ‘evangelical’ has been defiled, and that party identity has obliterated moral conviction.
“This is not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption,” he wrote. “Blinded by political tribalism and hatred for their political opponents, these leaders can’t see how they are undermining the causes to which they once dedicated their lives.”
Peter Wehner, who served three GOP presidents, wrote: “What bothers me is that to a watching world, they see these self-proclaimed evangelical leaders speaking and they think, ‘Is this what it represents? Is this what it means?’ There is so much hypocrisy here.”
This is not to condemn all evangelicals, notably those who believe moral values must instruct the positions we embrace, such as economic justice or human rights. Some are horrified by their preachers’ capitulation; their overall support of Trump has fallen from 78 to 61 since Feb. 2017.
But they have fallen behind faith leaders who pretend their values are under attack by the menace of amoral secular elitists, and that has been exploited to great effect by Trump.
Once again, their authority has been reduced to a great moral mush of sophistry and rationalizations, immortalizing them as political mercenaries who buttressed a presidential parody every time he was caught with his pants down. Sad.