Conservative columnist rips 'Trump evangelicals' for co-opting the GOP: 'They've sold their souls'
Donald Trump in Cleveland prayer huddle -- (YouTube screen grab)

In the wake of President Donald Trump's scandal involving payouts for an alleged relationship with a porn star, a conservative columnist slammed "Trump evangelicals" for selling out their souls in favor of politics.

"With their reactions to the Roy Moore candidacy and the Stormy Daniels scandal, the Trump evangelicals have scaled the heights of hypocrisy to the summit," Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote in an op-ed published Monday evening.

"Family-values conservatives who dismiss credible accusations of sexual abuse and wink at hush money for a porn star have ceased to represent family values in any meaningful sense. They have made a national joke of moral standards that were once, presumably, deeply held," he continued. "At least when a Democrat violated them."

Gerson, who also penned a cover story for this month's issue of the Atlantic opining on evangelicals becoming "an anxious minority seeking political protection" from the president, argued that "[fundamentalists'] deeper issue is the distinctly non-Christian substance of President Trump’s values."

"Trump’s nasty mash-up of the power of positive thinking, the Playboy philosophy and the will to power is a naturally poor fit for religious conservatives," he wrote. "Or so one would have thought."

"Trump evangelicals defend their support for the president in the pose of political realists," Gerson continued. "A president, they argue, is not a pastor. A certain amount of compromise is necessary to get conservative judges and more favorable treatment of Christian institutions. This is the way of the world."

Indeed, Pastor Robert Jeffress, one of the president's faith advisers, declared on Fox News that Trump's alleged relationship with Daniels is "totally irrelevant" despite it being against his own beliefs and those he preaches from the pulpit of his Dallas megachurch.

"I‘m his friend,” Jeffress said during his interview. "I will never walk away.”

Evangelicals' staunch defense of the president, Gerson wrote, will eventually come back to haunt them.

"Identifying evangelicalism with Trump’s ethno-populism may have some short-term benefits," he wrote. "But public influence eventually depends on the persuasiveness of public arguments. And close ties to Trump will eventually be disastrous to causes that evangelicals care about."

"Pro-life arguments are discredited by an association with misogyny," Gerson continued. "Arguments for religious liberty are discredited by association with anti-Muslim bias. Arguments for family values are discredited by nativist disdain for migrant families."

"The damage radiates further," he concluded. "Trump evangelicals are blessing the destruction of public norms on civility, decency and the importance of public character."