Ryan Helfenbein: Former Never Trump Evangelicals Unite Behind Trump

US President Donald Trump (C) stands in a prayer circle during a meeting with African-American leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 27, 2020. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

Evangelical support for President Donald J. Trump is the strongest it has ever been – even bringing into the cause evangelicals who aligned with the “Never Trump” faction four years ago.

Much has changed since 2016. In just a few short years, the United States has seen a significant remaking of the federal judiciary, a surging economy (before COVID-19), and the continued reshaping of the Republican and Democratic parties along demographic and ideological divides.

On Tuesday night, Dr. Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary made national headlines by stating in clear terms that he will support the 2020 re-election of President Donald J. Trump. The comments were made during a livestream of the biannual conference, Together for the Gospel.

Mohler explained his position reflected his “final calculation” of response to the outrageous stances of the left: their antagonism to Biblical Christianity, support for the transgender revolution, limitless abortion advocacy, and view of the role and purpose of government. 

Mohler acknowledged that he has learned much from the aftermath of the 2016 election, which presented him the most difficult electoral choice in his lifetime. But the general election is not the appropriate opportunity to “choose the candidate.” Instead, it is “the opportunity to elect one of these two candidates presented to me.” In his words: “We are basically in a situation where it’s almost like voting in a parliamentary system” – “it comes down to the position articulated by the party” rather than candidate alone. 

The most significant moment from the Q&A came when Dr. Mohler said President Trump “has been more consistent [of any President] on pro-life decisions.” He said the President has “been more consistent than any Republican, certainly in the quality of appointments he’s made to the federal judiciary, which will far outlive any presidency.”

While that endorsement signals a major shift within the Southern Baptist Convention of an executive head at the largest theological seminary, Dr. Mohler joins other evangelical leaders who have already voiced their support of the President, including Franklin Graham, Ronnie Floyd, Eric Metaxas, and Jerry Falwell, Jr. – to name only a few.

Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of Liberty University, was the first major figure in the evangelical world to  endorse Trump in January 2016 before the Republican Primary in Iowa. Many other evangelical leaders came on board once Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination in July 2016.

Franklin Graham, CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, made headlines in 2019 when telling conservative media, “I think God was behind the last election.” Graham touted Trump’s many accomplishments that included keeping his promises in judicial appointments, being a strong pro-life advocate, and defending religious liberty.

Eric Metaxas drew fire from many evangelicals in 2016 by also coming out in support of Trump. He reaffirmed his support for the President earlier this year in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Another breaking story came this week when Kanye West, who has expanded his repertoire into Gospel music and services, made it clear that he would be voting for Trump in 2020. While West has been very vocal in his newfound Christian observance, he is not shying away from voicing his opinion. He said, “Now, it’s like, because I’m Christian, I don’t even have an opinion anymore? I’m Christian, and I still have an opinion,” he says. “But my opinion is based on the Word.”

So, what are evangelicals to make of these endorsements, and why do they matter in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic?

It’s time for evangelicals to unite and strengthen the things that remain in our country, especially in the present cultural and political battle. Dr. Mohler articulated clearly that the current political platforms of the two major parties are in such opposition and so divisive that, for a person with a consistent worldview, there is no equivocation between either party. 

To most evangelicals’ surprise, the former playboy billionaire and New Yorker now represents a firm ideological alignment with the Judeo-Christian underpinning of our nation and the constitutional vision upon which it was founded. He has earned this new reputation just as he did the former.

And for any Christian who takes the pro-life cause seriously, there is no questioning Donald Trump’s commitment. Add to that the necessary defenses of religious liberty, traditional values, school choice, economic freedom, and national security – and you have, for evangelicals, what amounts to a choice that is impossible not to make.

Today, the anti-Trump hatred on the left is no longer about his past moral failings or his public persona. It has instead become synonymous with contempt for the conservative movement he now represents.

Trump is the effigy of the left for freedom-loving people everywhere. Evangelicals would be wise to take notice at a moment when the weight of the 2020 election is almost incalculable. 

So, for all the evangelical Christians who once vowed “never Trump,” it’s time to come together and bury differences to defend freedom. We must stand firm in our faith and in solidarity with one another, for the sake of our neighbors, our children, and the future of American liberty.

The outcome of the 2020 election will not only define us as a nation, but also as a moral and religious people. At no time has our vote carried more weight in defense of faith and liberty than it does right now.

Ryan Helfenbein is the Vice President of Communications and Public Engagement at Liberty University and Executive Director of the Falkirk Center for Faith & Liberty.

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