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WASHINGTON -- "There has never been anyone who has defended us and who has fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump. No one!"

This recent statement by religious right activist Ralph Reed is objectively true, at least when it comes to sloppy kisses for the president.

Considered purely as a political transaction, religious conservatives have gotten two appointments to the Supreme Court who set their hearts aflutter.

Michael Gerson mug

Michael Gerson

They, in return, have shifted from the language of political realism to the language of love.

Trump has not gone back on the conservative promises of his 2016 campaign. More than that, he has not let up in his attacks on liberal elites who disdain religious conservatives. Reed is correct that Trump has "defended us" and "fought for us."

But this language itself should raise warning signs.

Is this really how most conservative Christians view the political enterprise -- as the vindication of their own interests rather than the good of the whole?

Were Christian political activists of the 19th century -- such as William Wilberforce, Frederick Douglass, Charles Finney and Harriet Beecher Stowe -- primarily concerned with the respect accorded to their own religious community?

No, they were known for taking the side of the oppressed and vulnerable.

It now seems like a different world. Maybe even a different conception of God.

Religious conservatives are now firmly allied in the public mind with a leader who practices the politics of exclusion.

And there is every indication that this community will hold Trump in an ever-tighter embrace.

Even if the Democratic nominee is Joe Biden, the process of securing that nomination will push him further to the left on social issues (which he demonstrated in his about-face support for federal funding of abortion). This will make the contrast between Trump and his eventual opponent all the more dramatic on social issues.

A lot of attention has been given to the risks to the GOP (at the national level) of placing all their electoral bets on white voters who resent and fear a morally and ethnically changing country. In 2008, white Christians constituted 54% of the population. By 2014, that figure was more like 47%. And the slide continues. Republicans seem doomed to ride a retreating wave.

There is also, however, much to be said about the risk to evangelicalism.

Evangelical Christians are tying themselves to an institution -- the GOP -- that is actively alienating college-educated voters, minority voters and younger voters.

Evangelicals are thus entrenching a public perception that their movement consists of old, white Christians who want to restore lost social status through political power. Maybe this is because the perception is often accurate.

But there is no strategy of Christian evangelism that would take the Republican political strategy as a model. There is no conception of the Great Commission that would present Hispanic migrants as villains, or encourage millennials to continue their flight from religious association. (Around 36% of people aged 18 to 34 never attend religious services -- a percentage that has roughly doubled since 2004.)

The moral consequences of being a loyal part of Trump's political coalition come into ever-sharper focus.

During the 2016 presidential election, evangelicals could comfort themselves that it was possible -- just possible -- for Trump to grow in office and become something greater than the sum of his tweets.

Doesn't someone whom James Dobson called a "baby Christian" deserve a chance to grow up? Isn't that the essence of grace?

This argument was a small fig leaf when it was made. Now evangelicals are naked before the world.

Trump's cruelty (see the treatment of migrant children), his bigotry (see Charlottesville), his obstruction of justice (see any fair reading of the Mueller report), his vanity (see any time he speaks in public), his serial deception (also see any time he speaks in public) have become more pronounced and unrepentant over time. Can there be any question that reelection would result in Trump unbound?

At the same time, some evangelical leaders have become more effusive in their praise of the president. More willing to defend the indefensible on his behalf. More dismissive of the importance of character in public life.

In the process, evangelical leaders have placed themselves -- uncritically, with open eyes -- into a political coalition that is inspired by ethnic nationalism. Such are the occupational hazards of calling good evil, and evil good.

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Michael Gerson's email address is michaelgerson@washpost.com.

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(21) comments

johnnybragatti

Exlax-too2 doesn't have a wife . Pretty obvious.,especially for a geezer, of whom never made it very far in life.

new2Lax

By the responding posts, I see I won again. There’s no stopping the Trumpster and I.

oldhomey

Wow! Mrs. new2 should remove the glue in new2's desk drawer. He seems to be sniffing it to excess today, giving him ridiculously grandiose fantasies about himself. I am willing to bet he is about as devout a Christian as Donald Trump.

martian2

goes to show you how much of a narcissist newt is. "No stopping the Trump and I." He can't be serious, just trying to stir the pot, and delve into his fantasy world of a bromance between him and the president. Newt must be jealous of Nk's Kim, see how the two are in love as Trump put it.

PhysicsIsFun

In your dreams crazy man.

johnnybragatti

If you want your Trump-Humper you can keep your Trump-Humper? Now that"s a deal Exlax2. !

oldhomey

It is not just the evangelicals who subscribe to this same, sick sense of reasoning about Trump. Take this observation from the Gerson column: "At the same time, some evangelical leaders have become more effusive in their praise of the president. More willing to defend the indefensible on his behalf. More dismissive of the importance of character in public life. "In the process, evangelical leaders have placed themselves -- uncritically, with open eyes -- into a political coalition that is inspired by ethnic nationalism. Such are the occupational hazards of calling good evil, and evil good." We have a lot of pro-Trump posters who sound exactly like what Gerson has described. D? Do you want to weigh in? You fit the mold perfectly for what he is saying, and you apparently are not an evangelical

new2Lax

The Evangelists unlike Democrats realize it is an imperfect world and always has been, forgive the transgressors, turn the other cheek, look for good in all. Democrats like most of these women’s support groups does not include conservative women, they are never supported, same can be said for the ACLU, the ACLU protects rights but only if your on the left. Democrats want free speech but only if it’s okayed by them, other than that, shut them down.

oldhomey

Why, gosh, new2, with your own fractured English you have described the world exactly as you see it! Have you suffered from myopia all your life?

martian2

foxs news newt is way off the rails on this one, as usual. Those evangelicals are no longer a religious movement or organization, far from it. They are now a political movement hell bent on supporting an unrepentant three times divorced sexual predator in order to get their way in the courts. Never you mind his acts of destroying our planet, his personal attacks on his enemies, his disparaging remarks on pow's, his making fun antics of the handicapped, they want abortion totally outlawed no matter if they have to kiss satan's arse to get it done. Time to change the tax laws and make them pay for being a political organization.

new2Lax

I think you will be waiting some time before you see Democrats anywhere near power and good god, after seeing these folks in the debate, you will thank your lucky stars going forward. Talk about jokers and there’s 24 of them. All are Socialists and that’s not going to fly in the USA.

new2Lax

I think there is a greater moral consequence trying to destroy a duly elected President. A moral compass is not how we judged any Democrat candidate or President it just became mainstream. Republicans always paid a steep price for running for office, this has changed with Trump. He will not let the left and the media off the hook and it seems like a rebirth of the country is taking place. I have never seen any recent President transform a country and their policies like Trump, the man is not only intelligent but fearless and the country is the beneficiary. If Trump does not win by a landslide victory, Democrats surely relied on the Russians.

PhysicsIsFun

Well this is what a steady diet of Fox News and AM hate radio gets you. When the a corrupt, deceitful, unqualified, narcissistic, sex predator is seen as a fantastic president, you know there is some major cognitive dissonance going on. Duly elected is a stretch. The idea that if a Democrat beats Trump it is because of Russian meddling denies reality. I agree Trump is transforming our country, but not in a good way.

new2Lax

Of course you wouldn’t think the country is being transformed and in a good way, you are a partisan Democrat and your party lost the most humiliating election in Presidential history. Let me say this, and you will never get over it, it’s just that simple. Anyone with a lick of sense can see a positive transformation by almost every measure but it is a total waste of my time and yours to show you, it wouldn’t even matter. It’s one of the most embarrassing moments for the left and it is twice as embarrassing for the media but one thing for sure, the parade will continue. You are correct with the meddling of Russians and getting anyone elected, it just can’t happen. I assume you think Trump is not our President and for your peace of mind, keep believing that.

PhysicsIsFun

Yes I tend to support more Democrats than Republicans, but not because I'm some party loyalist. It's because Republicans, as exemplified by their corrupt president, is a party that is devoid of ethics, rationality, truth, and reason. You and they are h*ll bent on trashing our country.

oldhomey

Not only what he got from Fox and hate radio, Physics. As wrong as the sentiments are in the 10:51am new2 post, it is relatively well-written, clear and concise in conveying its message. In other words, it apparently is something he picked off of the internet and is pasting here as his own. Or his wife or somebody else wrote it for him.

new2Lax

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Does not include any Republican.

johnnybragatti

You are a liar Exlax ,just like t-rump. You know you are , that is what is really funny .

new2Lax

I bet you think, just about everything you say you believe. I don’t believe you. I thought people were going to be able to keep their insurance plan and doctor, was that a lie or not. I think it was, you do not.

johnnybragatti

No one believes . You claim that the Orange Bast__d has never lied. I kinda think he probably has. Then again, I ain"t as old as you ,nor am I as decrepit. Your "baked brains" are showing, more on every perverted post. Why not give us a break.???

oldhomey

Yes, I think even with your fractured English, new2, you have perfectly captured the true, underlying meaning of what Jesus said. It takes a real Christian like you to lead us all to the simple, basic truths.

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