President Donald Trump has used his platform as one of the world’s most powerful individuals to spread hate and divisiveness, mistreat vulnerable migrants, and otherwise encourage some of the least among us in their depraved ways.
But none of these are deal-breakers for the religious right in America. In fact, it was Trump’s recent use of the word “g--damn” that troubled evangelical Christians — even leading some to write their representatives to complain.
Following Trump’s campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, last month, West Virginia state Senator Paul Hardesty began receiving calls from his Trump-supporting constituents with complaints about their president, Politico reported.
It was not the “send her back” chants directed toward Somali-born Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, an American citizen, that people were upset with, however; it was that Trump was “using the Lord’s name in vain,” Hardesty said.
The state lawmaker, who supports Trump and describes himself as a conservative Democrat, said he had not paid much attention to the campaign rally — until he received a third call about the president’s language.
During the event, Trump said, “‘They'll be hit so g--damn hard,’ while bragging about bombing Islamic State militants.” Trump also recalled his warning to a wealthy businessman: “If you don't support me, you're going to be so g--damn poor.”
Hardesty said some of the white evangelicals in his district — a key portion of Trump’s base — are growing disenchanted with Trump due to his use of irreverent language. Some have even said they might not vote for him the next time.
“I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘You know I voted for [Trump], but if he doesn’t tone down the rhetoric, I might just stay home this time,’” Hardesty told Politico.
The lawmaker even went so far as to send the president a formal letter asking him to “reflect on your comments and never utter those words again.” But Hardesty has not heard back from the White House on the issue.
One pro-Trump pastor who requested anonymity to speak with Politico said, “Carelessly invoking the Lord’s name in a fit of anger is one thing. But repeatedly doing it for shock value … that does raise questions about the president’s respect for people of faith.”
But one cannot help notice that evangelicals supporting Trump have been extraordinarily quiet — if not in agreement — when it comes to the administration’s abuse of scripture in justifying its immigration policies.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions turned to the same passage in the Bible as German Nazis in justifying the administration’s policy of separating families at the southern U.S. border.
Romans 13 is one of the most egregious cases of proof texting – where a piece of Scripture is isolated from context and twisted to support one’s own agenda – throughout history. And yet, evangelicals were mostly silent as the Trump administration took a cue from authoritarians past in an effort to justify adherence to otherwise immoral actions.
“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said at the time. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent, fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”
The passage Sessions employed says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
It would seem that the bastardizing of their own holy book is not problematic for many evangelicals who support Trump and his agenda, but taking the Lord’s name in vain on occasion is simply a step too far.
Likewise, Trump's immigration rhetoric, which recently was mirrored in the online manifesto of a man who killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas, does not appear to be a deal-breaker for white evangelicals.
In the end, the president's swearing habit likely will not cost him too many votes in 2020.