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Trump has ‘reshaped’ the evangelical movement into an ‘image of himself’: Columnist

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Pastor Robert Jeffress (left) and President Donald Trump (right). Image via Jeffress' Twitter.

On Monday, columnist Michael Gerson wrote for the Washington Post that in cutting a devil’s bargain to support President Donald Trump in return for their political agenda, right-wing evangelicals have let their culture and identity be co-opted by Trumpism — saying that “evangelicals have been reshaped into the image of Trump himself.”

“The story of Noah is an odd curricular choice for young children. Fresh off the boat, according to the biblical account, he plants a vineyard, gets drunk and lies naked in his tent. This is a source of consternation to Noah’s sons, who don’t want to see the dark side, much less the backside, of their father. So they cover him with a handy duvet,” wrote Gerson. “I thought of drunk, naked Noah while reading the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2019 American Values Survey. In the PRRI survey’s pages, white evangelical Protestants (WEPs) are fully disrobed. And it is an embarrassing sight.”

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The poll, Gerson noted, showed a “cultlike” devotion to Trump’s presidency among these evangelicals.

“For many followers, Trump has defined an alternative, insular universe of facts and values that only marginally resembles our own,” wrote Gerson. “According to the PRRI poll, nearly two-thirds of WEPs deny that Trump has damaged the dignity of his office. Ponder that a moment. Well over half of this group is willing to deny a blindingly obvious, entirely irrefutable, manifestly clear reality because it is perceived as being critical of their leader. Forty-seven percent of WEPs say that Trump’s behavior makes no difference to their support. Thirty-one percent say there is almost nothing that Trump could do to forfeit their approval. This is preemptive permission for any violation of the moral law or the constitutional order. It is not support; it is obeisance.”

Perhaps most stunning of all, Gerson continued, “An extraordinary 99 percent of WEPs oppose the impeachment and removal of the president — which probably puts me in the smallest political minority I have ever had the honor of occupying.”

As Gerson noted, there is a bright spot: Younger evangelicals have substantially different political views from the previous generation. “About two-thirds of young white evangelicals believe that immigrants strengthen the country. Their approval of Trump is significantly lower. Time will work in favor of sanity.”

“But we should not underestimate the cultural trauma that many leaders of the religious right have inflicted,” concluded Gerson. “It is in the order of things that a younger generation should challenge the views and values of its parents. It is a source of cynicism and social disruption when an older generation betrays civilizing values in full sight of its children. Many evangelical leaders now lie drunk, naked and exposed.”

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