Religion expert and podcaster Amy Sullivan addressed President Donald Trump's mock-state dinner for evangelical leaders during an MSNBC interview Monday.
MSNBC host Chris Hayes explained that given Trump is slowly sinking into the quicksand of scandal, bringing those most ardent supporters is key to shoring up his base. He noted that despite the Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen convictions as well as payouts for affairs, evangelical support has not faltered.
"That's done nothing to shatter the conviction of evangelical Christians, who seem incredibly clear-eyed about the pact they've made with the president," Hayes said.
He played a clip of Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, a close Trump ally. During a Christian Broadcast News interview, Jeffress said that regardless of Trump's failings he's a smart man who will always appoint far-right conservatives.
Hayes said he found the admission "striking because it is so clear-eyed and so honest about what exactly the nature of this political pact is."
Sullivan agreed, noting that evangelicals are up-front about their relationship with Trump being transactional and not about "personal moral character." She noted it might cause "whiplash" for those who remember in 1998 when the evangelical community attacked President Bill Clinton for the moral failing of his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
"Then we heard a lot about how important it was to have moral leadership and how we couldn't as a country stand for having a president who had anything less than the most sterling moral character. But this is another time and this is another political party evangelicals are working with," she continued.
She went on to explain that, other than the transactional Christians, other evangelicals fall into two classes of people doing "theological gymnastics" to justify their support for Trump. The first group, she explained, are people who said that The Bible is filled with stories about God using an imperfect person to deliver important things to care for others.
There's a second school of thought from evangelicals, that they can lead Trump to God so that he can become an actual Christian. She called it something of a quest for some who want to "land the white whale."
Watch the full discussion below: