Comment: Evangelical support for Donald Trump after criminal charges. Read a selection of views

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Donald Trump is due to appear at a federal court house in Washington DC today (Thursday 3 August), facing charges related to the uprising on Capitol Hill in January 2021. They include conspiracy to defraud the US, tampering with a witness and conspiracy against the rights of citizens.

This is the third criminal case he faces and is regarded as the most serious so far. Yet his public support is unwavering, with his lead even growing after the indictments, to almost 40 points above his nearest rival.

One of his key group of supporters is white evangelicals, 83 per cent of whom voted for him in 2016. Their placards with Bible verses can still be seen at Trump’s rallies. But some evangelical leaders are speaking out, challenging others to reconsider their support.

Listed is a selection of comment showing the turmoil among Christians trying to make sense of the latest Trump story.

Robert Jeffress, evangelical pastor from Dallas:

Trump’s evangelical supporters include Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed; Paula White; evangelist Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress, pastor of an evangelical megachurch in Dallas.  His is the only voice heard in Trump’s support after indictments were laid. He was interviewed two weeks ago by the Associated Press and is sticking by Trump, telling the agency: “Conservative Christians continue to overwhelmingly support Donald Trump because of his biblical policies, not his personal piety. They are smart enough to know the difference between choosing a president and choosing a pastor”.

Russell Moore, Editor Christianity Today

Russell Moore, editor of Christianity Today, an evangelical publication started by Billy Graham and based in the USA, gave an  interview to Semafor after two indictments were laid, describing the despair of some evangelicals over the state of American Christianity. He said: “I don’t endorse candidates, but I believe Trump to be a unique threat, both to American institutions and to the church’s witness”. His latest book, “Losing Our Religion”, charts the decline of Christian affiliation as evangelicals are torn apart over Trump, race, sex and scandals. He urges people to let go of the “cultural, politicised, status quo Christianity that led us to this moment of reckoning”.

Mark Wingfield, Baptist New Global

The publisher of Baptist New Global, Mark Wingfield, a journalist and Baptist minister, is astonished at Trump’s continuing support: In an opinion piece published as the latest indictments were laid, he said: “What in the name of everything righteous and holy is wrong with 30 per cent of Americans?”. He said Trump is a liar, con man, crook and evil, someone he considers an anti-Christ. “We’ve spent six years diagnosing why evangelical Christians have taken the bait and followed someone who is the antithesis of their professed faith. We’ve exhausted that inquiry, and nothing productive will come of it right now. What we need to focus on instead is those who are Trump enablers through their silence”.

Frank Schaeffer, author and director

Frank Schaeffer, former evangelical preacher and now author and Hollywood director, said the indictment of Trump was an indictment of the white evangelical movement. In an audio blog, Mr Schaeffer said the evangelical “big time movement” latched onto Trump because he is their soul mate. His MAGA enterprise mirrored their own “con artist paradise” where leaders amass millions of dollars from delusional supporters. “Trumpism is evangelicalism”, he said. “These are most serious charges ever levelled against a former US President, and white evangelical leaders are directly responsible for the fact that this odious con man became president to begin with”.

Rev Dr Russell Levenson, President George Bush’s pastor

The Rev Dr. Russell J. Levenson, President George Bush’s pastor for 11 years, has made an impassioned plea for the Republicans to ditch Donald Trump and find a presidential candidate who understands “the importance of grace, morality, decency and dignity”. His comments came in an opinion piece for CNN, published on the day Trump was indicted for the third time. Dr Levenson, now rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, said “What’s needed now is full-throated condemnation of the former president from members of his party”. He said “By failing to hold Trump to account, they are allowing the party to sink into an abyss and it will pay a high price for ignoring the moral high ground…It may take a generation or more for the party to recover from the looming disaster”.


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