How can evangelicals stomach Donald Trump’s personal life? CNN’s Alisyn Camerota does some field testing for Democrats’ 2018 messaging with Stephen Strang, founder of Charisma Magazine and author of the presidential apologetic God and Donald Trump, pressing him to explain how he tolerates Trump’s serial infidelities. Can evangelicals support such a sinner as the head of a God-fearing nation, and doesn’t Trump have to confess his sins to receive God’s forgiveness? Well, yeah, but …
CNN host Alisyn Camerota on Wednesday confronted the author of “God and Donald Trump,” questioning how he could continue to back President Trump amid reports of “infidelity.”
Camerota during an interview on CNN asked Stephen Strang, the founder of Charisma Magazine, how evangelicals were able to overlook “reports of infidelity and other things to support President Trump.” …
“In order to receive forgiveness, don’t you have to confess to your sins?” Camerota asked. “Isn’t that a tenant of the Bible? I mean don’t you have to own up to these things? You know, Donald Trump famously said he’s never asked God for forgiveness.”
Allow me a time out for a rhetorical pet peeve. A tenant of the Bible would be someone renting out space in it. The Bible and religious beliefs have tenets, not tenants. This mistake pops up more often in the media, and given that we’re about to enter into a long season of Stormy weather, maybe a refresher course on the difference would be helpful.
At any rate, Camerota might be right politically, although so far the evidence on that suggests that denial and silence works a lot better — and not just from Donald Trump. When it comes to faith, however, Camerota misses a key point, even if she’s mainly correct on the challenge to evangelical supporters of Trump, one which Strang fills in for her.
“Well, I’m glad that you’re quoting the Bible,” Strang replies with a laugh. “But I think the issue is here [is] that’s between him and God.” It’s not up to others to judge that relationship from the outside, Strang in effect insists, and that their job is to judge the policies. “He supports the kinds of policies that we think are important,” Strang continues, especially Trump’s focus on religious liberty and his appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
Camerota remained unimpressed. “Isn’t that a little bit like saying, ‘Gosh, I really like Harvey Weinstein’s movies, so I’m going to overlook what I know to be true about Harvey Weinstein and I’m going to support him and give him money for his movies?'” It’s not an unfair question, and Strang digs himself a hole when he tries attacking Hillary Clinton in an ill-advised fit of whataboutism, which opens up a whole new line of questioning for Camerota. Using the Clintons as a standard makes Camerota’s point about hypocrisy all the more effective.
Chris Cuomo tries laying into Rick Santorum on the same charge, saying that evangelicals are “choosing policy over piety all of a sudden.” Cuomo accuses Santorum of being a hypocrite on this, but Santorum parries it much more effectively than Strang does, reminding Cuomo that Clinton didn’t get impeached for having affairs but for committing perjury and obstruction of justice to hide them. That, Santorum notes, has its own parallels to the present and its not quite honest for Cuomo to elide those either. By the time Santorum gets around to reminding Cuomo that the 2016 election featured a binary choice between two “flawed candidates on many levels” and that’s it’s not irrational nor hypocritical to choose the one who backs your preferred policies, the game is largely over.