Politically incorrect: Trump's achievements on faith and freedom

Why some Christians supported the ex-president

Eternity is committed to publishing a wide range of viewpoints from within orthodox Christianity, and here is an example. In this opinion piece, Greg Bondar – the NSW/ACT Director of Family Voice, and a former Ministerial Senior Adviser in the first term of the Howard Government – points to positive developments made by the Trump Administration. While we have published extensively on a major failure of the Trump administration – the Capitol riot – this opinion piece sets out a case that Trump did some good things. It is clearly not intended as a balanced assessment of the good and bad of the entire Trump era. John Sandeman

Welcome Mr Biden, Farewell Mr Trump.

Joe Biden, now the 46th president of the US, delivered a solemn inaugural address on Wednesday, 20 January. Mr Biden made a plea for unity and called to “end this uncivil war”, adding that “democracy has prevailed”. He said “unity is the path forward” in his inaugural address. Really?

This is nothing short of hypocrisy. Where was the call from Mr Biden for “unity” when Donald Trump was president, when BLM rioters burned buildings, when Big Tech took away free speech from Trump, and when there was unjust and relentless political and personal persecution by the media of both Trump and his government? [Note: Reuters fact check shows that Biden did condemn violence}

As a conservative Christian, and to my political recollection, no president in recent memory – including Ronald Reagan – has done as much to defend innocent unborn children as President Trump. And no president in recent memory has done as much to defend our freedoms of speech and religion as President Trump. Promises made, promises kept.

On the issue of Life, President Trump has accomplished the following among many others:

• Appointed three Supreme Court justices, including Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch, who all appear to hold pro-life values.

• Reinstituted the Mexico City Policy – preventing American aid from funding abortion and the promotion of abortion, and

• Signed legislation to empower states to defund Planned Parenthood.

On the issues of faith and freedom, President Trump has:

• Lifted the Obama administration’s contraception mandate that required religious employers, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, to participate in the provision of contraceptives and abortifacients, and

• Issued an Executive Order on “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty”, granting churches more freedom to speak about political issues and elections.

So many conservatives are now thanking President Trump for fighting hard to defend life, faith and freedom. His legacy will live on long after he has left office, and Christians should applaud his courage and foresight to fight for these most vital of moral issues.

Christians should also reflect and acknowledge President Trump for doing his best, despite opposition from the media and the Democrats, to protect life, faith and freedom over the last four years.

So, why and how did the USA elect the wrong person — both in 1976 and again in 2020? The exact reason for this was the focused public voter reaction on a single and very specific set of circumstances, rather than as an endorsement of a generalised political agenda.

Specifically, in 1976, it was the collective negative reaction to the Watergate scandal, the resignation of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford’s pardon of Nixon. The earlier resignation of Nixon’s Vice President Spiro Agnew — as part of a separate scandal — also contributed. Result? A single negative issue set, and Mr. Carter was elected.

In 2020, USA was — and still is — amid a pandemic that has killed millions worldwide and hundreds of thousands of Americans. As such, it was understandably the most central and single significant issue of the election, and it alone, primarily, determined its outcome — ergo Mr. Biden.

Doubt this? Just consider this very specific question: Had there been no COVID-19 pandemic — none at all — who would have won the 2020 election? Answer: Donald Trump by a huge landslide, as he was the architect of the most significant short-term economic prosperity in USA’s recent history; the media failed to report this (deliberately) and still refuses to acknowledge.

After the election, Trump delivered.

The reality of Trump’s economic wins include improved employment and income statistics for all aspects and sectors of the economy — especially workers and more especially women, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and the other measurable demographic groups.

So, what about “spiritual politics”, given the end of the pro-Christian presidency of Donald Trump? No president in American history has so overtly devoted himself to appealing to evangelical Christians as Trump – but it wasn’t enough. In the iconography of Trump’s presidency, the place of religion can be captured in two photographs. There’s the one of him hefting a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church across Lafayette Park from the White House, during the George Floyd protests on June 1, 2020. Then there’s the images of “Jesus 2020” and similar banners waved during what has been called Insurrection Day, January 6, 2021.

To repeat, no president in American history has so overtly, by word and by deed, devoted himself to appealing to evangelical Christians as Trump. And never have Christians — that is, the subset he’s assiduously appealed to — responded with such devotion.

We identify that subset as ‘white evangelicals’ who constitute a quarter of the national electorate and who vote Republican by margins of 3 or 4-to-1, according to election surveys. But it’s important to understand that the surveys do not create this religious grouping by identifying and collecting people according to their evangelical denominations — Baptists, Pentecostals, and the like — and grouping them with non-denominational Christians who, by and large, belong in the evangelical fold. They simply cross-tabulate those who say they’re white and those who say they’re ‘evangelical or born again’.

These days, research from Christianity Today says that 40 per cent of mainline Protestants and 28 per ent of Catholics say they’re born again. In other words, a lot of ‘evangelical Christians’ are not evangelicals in the way religious scholars or, even, many laypeople understand the term. A more accurate term for ‘white evangelicals’ as a political bloc would be ‘white conservative Christians’. Which is not to say that Trump didn’t focus most of his attention on actual evangelicals.

This points to a central tragedy in American life – racial division. Black Christians (in the polling, Black Christians appear as one group, but are largely evangelical in belief) voted Biden by a large margin. There is a good deal of mutual incomprehension between these two groups regarding their politics. There is not one evangelical Christian agenda in the US.

Trump proclaimed himself pro-life and said he’d appoint justices who would overturn the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade abortion decision.

He also appointed an evangelical advisory board comprising 25 prominent pastors and political operatives on the religious right. So, despite Trump’s obvious moral shortcomings and lack of personal piety (personal view), ‘white evangelicals’ turned out in droves and gave him 80 per cent of their vote — as high a proportion as they’d ever given a presidential candidate.

After the election, Trump delivered. He reinstated the so-called Mexico City policy, barring federal funding for international family planning agencies that so much as discussed abortion. Going beyond previous Republican presidents, he extended the policy to cover all global health organisations.

Trump embraced religious conservatives’ maximalist religious liberty campaign …

Keeping his promises from the campaign trail, he banned travel from several majority-Muslim countries in a series of executive orders ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court. He appointed three Supreme Court justices who seemed disposed to overturn Roe v. Wade. He relocated the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and abandoned long-standing US opposition to Israeli settlements on the West Bank — more to appeal to evangelicals than to American Jews.

Uninterested in the substance of the Bush-Obama faith-based initiative, he reversed former President Barack Obama’s requirement that government-funded religious social service providers refer to alternative providers clients who requested it.

Trump embraced religious conservatives’ maximalist religious liberty campaign, allowing employers with religious or moral objections to be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to provide women with contraceptive services. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he demanded that governors cease restricting in-person religious services.

To be fair, these actions were not designed solely for evangelicals. The anti-abortion and religious liberty measures also had a specifically Catholic audience in mind. Lest they miss the point, Trump visited the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington one day after hefting the Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal. Trump’s unstinting appeal to white conservative Christians created a degree of religious enthusiasm that was unprecedented in American political history, as suggested by the display of Christian symbols and prayer outside and inside the Capitol on January 6.

But in the end, it wasn’t enough.

According to this year’s problematic exit polling, his support among ‘white evangelicals’ dropped to 76 per cent (CNN Politics), even as their proportion of the total vote rose from 26 per cent to 28% per cent.

At best, Trump’s pro-Christian presidency at most enabled white conservative Christians to hold their own in the biggest election turnout in a century. However, its largest impact was on those most removed from the Christian agenda, whose turnout in support of Biden it boosted enormously.

As for Biden, I am predicting he will fail, and voters will quickly realise that they screwed up given that the now President is a consummate self-promoter – a view even held by some Democrats. This is not a ‘dire prediction’ because the USA will recover from Joe Biden’s more generalised failure as a president, but it could be quite a painful process for the USA to get back on the political track they had become very comfortable with.

The reason Mr. Biden will fail so soon is that many more millions who voted for him will realise — and quickly — that they made a mistake, a political mea culpa. In some ways, it will be a similar reaction to the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976, when many of his voters quickly realised they had screwed up.

As for Mr Biden’s hypocrisy to call for “unity”, we should at least refer to Biblical guidance. Paul’s word to the conflicted Corinthian congregation is God’s word to us today: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

When we have “the same mind and the same judgment”, we can heal our divisions and face our future with hope. Let us pray and hope Americans work to this end for the glory of our Lord, not merely for the glory of Mr Biden.

Greg Bondar serves as the NSW/ACT State Director of FamilyVoice Australia. He has been working as a Senior Executive within the not-for-profit, government, and vorporate sector for more than 30 years. Greg was formerly the Federal and NSW State Director for the Christian Democratic Party of Australia (Fred Nile Group), where he oversaw the 2016 federal elections and various by-elections. He was also a Senior Adviser to the Minister for Transport and Regional Development in the first term of the Howard Government. 

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