'Jesus Sat With Sinners, So He's Going to Sit With Trump'

Support for former president remains with evangelicals, other Christian conservatives
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 18, 2024 11:30 AM CDT
'Jesus Sat With Sinners, So He's Going to Sit With Trump'
Jody Picagli, a lifelong Catholic, stands for a portrait at a campaign rally for former president Donald Trump in Vandalia, Ohio, on March 16.   (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

As Donald Trump increasingly infuses his campaign with Christian trappings while coasting to a third Republican presidential nomination, his support is as strong as ever among evangelicals and other conservative Christians. "Trump supports Jesus, and without Jesus, America will fall," said Kimberly Vaughn of Florence, Kentucky, as she joined other supporters of the former president entering a campaign rally near Dayton, Ohio. Many of the T-shirts and hats that were worn and sold at the rally in March proclaimed religious slogans such as "Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president" and "God, Guns, and Trump." One man's shirt declared, "Make America Godly Again," with the image of a luminous Jesus putting his supportive hands on Trump's shoulders. Many attendees said in interviews they believed Trump shared their Christian faith and values.

Several cited their opposition to abortion and LGBTQ+ rights, particularly to transgender expressions. Nobody voiced concern about Trump's past conduct or his present indictments on criminal charges, including allegations that he tried to hide hush money payments to a porn actor during his 2016 campaign. Supporters saw Trump as representing a religion of second chances. And for many, Trump is a champion of Christianity and patriotism. "I believe he believes in God and our military men and women, in our country, in America," said Tammy Houston of New Lexington, Ohio. In many ways, this is a familiar story. About 8 in 10 white evangelical Christians supported Trump in 2020, according to AP VoteCast, and Pew Research Center's validated voter survey found that a similar share supported him in 2016.

But this is a new campaign, and that support has remained durable—even though Republican voters in the early primaries had several openly conservative Christian candidates to choose from, none of whom faced the legal troubles and misconduct allegations that Trump does. In the Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina Republican primary contests earlier this year, Trump won between 55% and 69% of white evangelical voters, per AP VoteCast. At the Ohio rally, several attendees cited their belief that Trump has followed the Christian path of repenting and starting a new life. "We've all come from sinning. Jesus sat with sinners, so he's going to sit with Trump," Vaughn said. "It's not about where Trump came from, it's about where he's going and where he's trying to take us."

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Caleb Cinnamon, 37, of Dayton, identified as a Christian and said opposing abortion is a top priority. Christian supporters of Trump also cite nonreligious issues—from foreign policy and immigration to gas prices and inflation. Some Trump supporters voice hope for a more Christian America. Thomas Isbell of Greensboro, North Carolina, who has set up vending booths for years at Trump rallies around the country, said his "God, Guns, and Trump" shirts are a top seller. "It's a Christian country," he said, adding that if he were president, he would only allow public worship by Christians. "We're not going to set up a temple to no other gods in our land," he said. More here.

(More Donald Trump stories.)

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