In an email to me, Ralph Reed, the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, heaped praise on Trump for his visit: “His presence sent the twin message that our streets and cities do not belong to rioters and domestic terrorists, and that the ultimate answer to what ails our country can be found in the repentance, redemption, and forgiveness of the Christian faith.”

Andrew Whitehead, a sociologist at Clemson University, has argued that Trump’s religious base can best be understood through the lens of Christian nationalism. In his research, Whitehead has found that white Protestants who believe most strongly that Christianity should hold a privileged place in America’s public square are more likely than others to agree with statements such as “We must crack down on troublemakers to save our moral standards and keep law and order” and “Police officers shoot blacks more often because they are more violent than whites.”

Whitehead told me in an interview that Christian nationalism is often not really about theology (and thus can’t be ascribed to all conservative churchgoers): “It’s about identity, enforcing hierarchy, and order.”…

To Trump, the Bible and the church are not symbols of faith; they are weapons of culture war. And to many of his Christian supporters watching at home, the pandering wasn’t an act of inauthenticity; it was a sign of allegiance—and shared dominance.