Jeffress didn’t think so, but not for the reasons I would have guessed. “As a Christian, I believe that regardless of what happens in Washington, D.C., that the general trajectory of evangelicalism is going to be downward until Christ returns,” he explained. “If you read the scripture, it’s not: Things get better and better and more evangelical-friendly or Christian-friendly; it is, they get worse and more hostile as the culture does. … I think most Christians I know see the election of Donald Trump as maybe a respite, a pause in that. Perhaps to give Christians the ability and freedom more to share the gospel of Christ with people before the ultimate end occurs and the Lord returns.”
It was strange to think of Trump as a bulwark against precipitous moral decline. After all, he appears to have presided over a more rapid coarsening of news and discourse than the average candidate. Even if you count modern history as a story of dissolution and degeneracy, few, if any, other world leaders have launched as many headlines containing censored versions of the word pussy.
But Jeffress didn’t see Trump pausing the disintegration of evangelical fortunes by way of personal virtue — or even cultural transformation. He spoke instead of “accommodation,” perhaps alluding to the kind of protections announced only a few weeks after our talk by Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services, which safeguards the jobs of health-care workers who object to participating in certain procedures for religious reasons. Rather than renewing a culture in peril, in other words, Jeffress seemed to view Trump as someone who might carve out a temporary, provisional space for evangelicals to manage their affairs.