While many Americans rightly chalked up Trump’s unlikely election to the technicalities of the Electoral College, Trump’s religious backers saw the hand of Providence at work. By imagining Trump’s win as miraculous, white evangelicals could self-justify their controversial support for the thrice-married casino magnate who openly bragged about sexual assault and once declared he’d never needed to ask for God’s forgiveness. God picks imperfect people, after all — even those who don’t realize their own imperfection.

That self-rationalization for voting for Trump, however, has given way to a sort of self-absolution for continuing to support him in light of his myriad imperfections in office, not least his debased character and rampant illegalities. That’s why we’re likely to hear a whole lot more of the “chosen by God” talk as the 2020 election nears. If God chose Trump, who are we to turn from him now?

Beyond the election, the divine defense of Trump shapes GOP politics more broadly, characterizing Trump not as a moral actor, but instead as a divinely-sanctioned despot who can do whatever he wants. Republicans’ stunning abnegation of the law and the Constitution during the Trump presidency makes sense if that’s the understanding of how he got into office and what he can do while there. Promoting Trump as God’s choice to lead America helps normalize the outrageous insistence that Trump is above the law.