Inside the Mind of a Militant Evangelical Trump Supporter

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Our previous note explored why such a high-percentage of evangelical Christians continue to support an amoral candidate like Trump, especially in the wake of “grab ’em by the pussy” and the cavalcade of accusers coming forward. This next reader, Holly, passes along one of those “Fwd: FW: FW:” emails you’ve probably gotten from an older relative. She writes:

Hello, The Atlantic! Love the magazine. Thanks for all your work. I have pasted below a copy of an email my father-in-law sent out to his family. It is one of those “crazy” chain emails he will often forward to his sons, thinking he is enlightening them, but this one is WAY over the top and pertains to the discussion of evangelicals and Trump.

My in-laws live in Texas and have become increasingly conservative in the last 20 years. There are some, on that side of the family, who believe Christianity IS at war with Islam. This email speaks to those people when it says, “Maybe God understands we need a ‘war leader’ at this moment in time. Maybe God understands if we don't win this election, America is dead. It’s over.”

I found the email shocking as it revealed how these Christians can overlook Trump’s “aggression” and “crudeness” because that is what it “takes to win.” Did you in the media know that you unleashed the “dogs of Hell?” The email totally disses Romney and Ryan AND Ford. LOL!

Actually, my husband and I found this email disturbing and disappointing. I hope you find it an interesting window into the Christian conservative’s ability to vote for Trump.

The email:

Hope you don’t mind me sharing this with you. Personally, I think it hits the nail on this head. If you feel the same about this, please pass it on. Knowing that Franklin Graham, James Dobson and so many others are on the same page with us. Please let’s encourage everyone we know to get out and vote. God has blessed this Country and we need to do our part now.

Thanks for listening to me so early this morning, but my heart is so heavy over this election. We have kids, grand-kids that will suffer from our actions if we don’t stand strong now.

This may be the best and most honest political promotion statement you will ever read. It decidedly does not brush objections aside.

You hate Hillary? READ it.

You hate Trump? READ it.

You think there’s no choice? READ it.

And, read it with your grown-up hat on. We’ve all been dealt huge responsibility with this election. The first step toward accepting responsibility is accepting it, and the first step toward accepting it is recognizing it.

READ THIS. Read every single word. It’ll take you about three minutes. Be sure to read to the end by taking a few minutes and read all of it!

Are you sickened and despondent with the current campaign and upcoming presidential election?

I consider myself a conservative and do truly believe our country is at a political/economic/moral/social crossroads. I need to let you know I could/would never vote for Hillary Clinton to lead this country. To me, she represents everything that is wrong with our current political structure.

If you find yourself in a similar state of mind, please read the following article:

A message about Donald Trump.

Here’s a famous joke about God and how he talks to us.

When The Rowboat comes for YOU

A deeply faithful Christian man is stuck on roof at home with massive flooding up to the 2nd floor.

Rowboat comes. He says, “No, I’m waiting for God. I prayed and I know he’s coming.”

2nd Rowboat. “No, I’m waiting for God.”

3rd Rowboat. “No, I’m waiting for God.”

Water rises. The man drowns.

Now he’s meeting God in heaven. The religious man says, “Where were you God? I prayed. I was faithful. I asked you to save me. Why would you abandon me?”

God says, “Hey, I sent you 3 rowboats.”

Did you ever consider Trump is our rowboat?

Maybe God is trying to tell us something important—that now is not the time for a “nice Christian guy” or a “gentleman” or a typical Republican powder puff. Maybe now is the time for a natural born killer, a ruthless fighter, a warrior. Because right about now we need a miracle, or America is finished. Maybe the rules for a gentlemen don’t apply here. Maybe a gentleman and “all-around nice Christian” would lead us to slaughter.

Or do you want another Mitt Romney, Bob Dole, John McCain, Gerald Ford or Paul Ryan?

Did any of them win?

Did they lead the GOP to “the promised land?”

Did they change the direction of America? No, because if you don’t win, you have no say. Paul Ryan couldn’t even deliver his own state, Wisconsin!

And as leader of the House, Paul Ryan rolls over to Obama like my dog rolls over for a scrap of food, or a steak bone, nice, but obedient. I mean Paul Ryan … not my dog. My dog is actually a pretty good defender and loyal.

Maybe God is knocking on your door loudly, but you’re not listening.

Maybe God understands we need a “war leader” at this moment in time.

Maybe God understands if we don’t win this election, America is dead. It’s over. The greatest nation in world history will be gone. Finished. Kaput. Adios.

And with one last breath, maybe what we need to save us at the last second, is someone different. Someone you haven’t ever experienced before, because you weren’t raised in rough and tumble New York where nothing good gets accomplished unless you’re combative, aggressive, outrageous, on offense at all times, and maybe just a tad arrogant too.

Someone with a personality you’ve never seen on stage at your church.

Maybe, just maybe, being a nice gentlemanly Christian would not beat Hillary and her billion dollars, and her best friends in the media who will unleash the dogs of hell upon the GOP nominee.

I guess you think God is only nice and gentlemanly. Really?

Then you’ve missed the whole point of the Bible. When necessary, God is pretty tough. When necessary, God strikes with pain, death and destruction. When necessary, God inflicts vengeance. Maybe you think God couldn’t possibly be associated with someone like Trump.

Trump is too vicious, rude and crude.

When we won WWII, was God “nice”?

Were we gentlemanly when defeating Hitler?

Were we gentlemanly when firebombing Germany?

Were we gentlemanly when dropping atomic bombs on Japan?

Is God ever “nice” on the battlefield? Or does he send us vicious SOB’s like General George S. Patton so the good guys can defeat evil?

That’s a different role than a pastor or church leader. God understands that. And maybe it's time to re-define “nice.”

Maybe Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan aren’t nice at all, because they led us to defeat. And losing again would mean the end of America. And God can’t allow that. Maybe Romney and Ryan mean well, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Or maybe they’re just jealous they had their chance and blew it.

Maybe they’d rather help elect Hillary than allow a Trump victory that would make them look weak, feckless and incompetent.

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” (Isiah 40:30-31)

God is about miracles. We don’t need a “nice guy” or a “gentleman” right now. It’s the 4th quarter and we’re losing 14-0. We need a miracle.

So let me repeat my message to Christians: “YOU’RE MISSING THE BOAT.”

I believe Trump is our miracle. I believe Trump is our rowboat. Except he’s more like a battleship!

No one is saying Trump is perfect.

No one is saying Trump is a perfect conservative.

But he is a patriot.

He is a warrior.

He is a capitalist.

He is the right man, at the right time.

Yes, he’s a bit rude and crude and offensive. But that may make him the perfect warrior to save America, American exceptionalism, capitalism and Judeo-Christian values. The choice should be easy.

It’s Trump … or it’s the end of the American dream.

If anything in this article strikes a positive chord with you, please pass it on.

If you have any similar chain emails sitting in your inbox, please pass it on: Update from Christopher, a reader in D.C. and Christian conservative Republican who stands in stark contrast to the other reader’s father-in-law:

Hello—Love The Atlantic, especially the work that Messrs. Fallows, Graham, Bodenner and others have done in keeping readers grounded, pushing back against the very real risk of voters becoming acclimated to what is a truly exceptional, unprecedented, and unacceptable parade of horribles from the GOP nominee.  

I’m a life-long Christian, conservative, and Republican voter who has been led by faith, philosophy, and morality firmly into the #NeverTrump camp. But there are many friends, family, and co-religionists (as might be expected of a Texan) who recirculate the kind of emails and social media postings that were the subject of your last few notes.

I’ve not much to add to the excellent criticism already posted, except to note this: No pro-Trump posting I’ve seen this cycle from a “Christian” point of view has ever actually quoted Christ. Not. One.

Rather, “Christians” trot out David, or less frequently Moses, or Saul, or other flawed Old Testament characters, or cite to God leveling cities and calling for the slaughter of Israel’s enemies.  And that, true, is part of the Christian tradition (no quotes there) and a foundation of the faith. But I’m astonished that “Christians” can write and circulate post after post claiming to reconcile their political behavior with their faith without citing to the One upon whom our faith is founded and named.  

And there is a reason for this. The One who said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” would never approve of citing Old Testament vengeance, wrath, and human failures as an excuse for the opposite of what post-Resurrection behavior should look like. The One who preached the Beatitudes praising the Meek, Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness, the Merciful, the Pure of Heart, the Peacemakers would never condone the words and actions and appropriateness of Trump to serve as a leader (regardless of what it might mean politically). The One who rebuked the Devil’s offer of “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” would never condone those, who call themselves by His name, explicitly acknowledging that they are selling their faith for political power and trying to rationalize that using Holy Scripture.

That the behavior in which Trump engages—actually, by which he defines himself—is no longer something to be expected, welcomed, or excused, and is in fact anathema to God, was more or less Christ’s entire point and the reason for His sacrifice.  

Without Christ, there is no Christianity. Absent Him, there is no authority to claim righteousness in His name (and, for His followers, to claim righteousness at all). That’s why things like this disturb me so greatly. The Devil has made American Christians the same offer as he did to Christ on that desert mountain 2,000 years ago, and so many of them have taken him up on it, rather than responding, as their Master taught: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”

Keep up the good work.  #NeverTrump