Most evangelical Christians did not support Donald Trump when he announced he was running for president in 2015. Why should they have? He had made a fortune in gambling. He was thrice married, and he was known to use some pretty salty language at times—hardly the model politician the religious right could enthusiastically support.
But, as it turned out, says Stephen E. Strang, an award-winning journalist and author of the new book God and Donald Trump, most evangelicals did get behind him in the 2016 election, giving Trump 82 percent of the evangelical vote—reportedly the highest percentage ever.
"Since then, his support from the Christian community has only increased," Strang wrote in a new op-ed originally published in The Hill. "When others part company with him over his latest outlandish tweet, the president has discovered that the evangelicals stick with him. And it's well documented that loyalty is very important to this president. In fact, it seems likely that President Trump will again garner most of the evangelical vote when the 2020 election rolls around. Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon made headlines recently when he predicted Trump will receive 400 electoral votes in 2020—a boast that no longer seems so unreasonable. Even the Never-Trumpers who howled loudest about Trump's tactics in the 2016 election are coming around: they can see that the president is, slowly but surely, making good on his promises."
How and why evangelicals made the migration to Trump was the main reason Strang began following the campaign, he said.
"There was an untold story that needed to be on the record," Strang added. "Many leaders in the faith community would have supported any candidate but Hillary Clinton, who promised to accelerate the lurch toward globalism the country had been on since midway through the Bush years. Hillary dismissed conservatives as 'a basket of deplorables' during the campaign and advocated policies the faith community could never support."
Donald Trump did the opposite, Strang said. Even before he ran, Trump reached out to evangelicals, and he surrounded himself with Christian leaders such as James Robison, Cleveland pastor Darrell Scott, Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress and others.
"Equally important," Strang noted, "he kept his promise to appoint a conservative Supreme Court justice. He has championed religious liberty in the face of LGBT advocates who want not only to silence but to punish anyone who, for religious purposes, does not back their radical redefinition of marriage."
In The Hill op-ed, Strang observed that even though Trump had often said he was not interested in running for public office, his demeanor began changing about 10 years ago.
"He cleaned up his act and became more serious about his public persona, and he began showing greater interest in religious faith," Strang wrote. "He was watching televangelists such as Paula White Cain and Dr. David Jeremiah. He invited a group of pastors 'who know how to pray' to meet with him at Trump Tower and pray about whether or not he should run in 2012. These leaders would eventually become his earliest supporters when he decided to enter the race in 2015. These were also the core of what is now called the President's Faith Advisory Council."
Read Strang's entire op-ed in The Hill here.
In God and Donald Trump, Strang gives an inside look at the journey to the Trump White House through firsthand interviews and perspectives from those who were intimately involved. Strang is an award-winning journalist and successful businessman who began his career as a newspaper reporter at the Orlando Sentinel. He later founded a Christian publishing house and media company while interviewing and writing about nearly every Christian leader in the country over the past four decades.
God and Donald Trump is published by Frontline, an imprint of Charisma House, which has published books that challenge, encourage, teach and equip Christians, including 14 New York Times best-sellers.