The Christian Science Monitor

How Trump is moving heaven and earth to motivate evangelical voters

It was an instantly iconic moment: President Donald Trump, standing in front of historic St. John’s Church near the White House, holding a Bible aloft.

The night before, the church’s basement had been set ablaze by protesters, one of many acts of defiance across the country sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis. On this evening, federal police had used a chemical irritant to clear demonstrators who were protesting at the nearby park, allowing Mr. Trump to walk to the church unimpeded.

To the president’s critics, the photo-op represented a cynical attempt to wrap himself – a man not known for piety – in the imagery of faith. To the president’s supporters, the message was clear: He was going to stand tough under God’s watchful eye. 

“He was making a very clear statement: ‘We won’t be forced into hiding,’” says Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and an informal Trump adviser. 

Mr. Perkins suggests the president could have had a racially diverse group of clergy accompany him to the church and pray together for the nation. Mr. Trump had brought along a group of aides, many focused on national security and all white. 

But the religious imagery alone served its purpose: It sent yet another signal to a large and crucial portion of his political base, religious conservatives, that he’s with them. 

Three months before Election Day, Mr. Trump’s reelection prospects are in grave peril amid a pandemic, double-digit unemployment, and a national reckoning on race.

It’s essential that conservative voters of faith, as much as any other group, stick with him – and stay motivated to vote, even under trying circumstances – if the president is to win a second term.

“He needs every one of those votes,” says John Fea, a historian at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and the author of “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.” 

Politically-incorrect appeal

On Jan. 3 – a lifetime ago, it seems –

“Crisis of conscience”Every vote counts

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