More than two years into the presidency of Donald Trump, U.S. white evangelical Protestants continue to overwhelmingly support him, a new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data shows.
However, other religious groups are more divided in their views of the president, Pew said on March 18.
Two U.S. Christian publications often seen as reflecting different political perspectives, the Christian Post and Sojourners have carried editorial content that reflect both consternation and condemnation of that support.
George Yancey wrote an op-ed column in CP on March 7 saying, "...I must admit that I fail to fully comprehend why there is continual evangelical support of Trump," noting that he finds the pattern vexing.
Yancey said, "Evangelicals have been his biggest supporters in his policies and seem to be the most loyal to him. They have ignored his immoralities and shortcomings in ways they clearly would not have done for Democrats. It is a blind loyalty that he is unworthy to receive."
The Pew analysis found that around seven-in-ten white evangelical Protestants, or 69 percent of them, say they approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, the Center's latest polling found in January 2019.
This is somewhat lower than Trump's approval rating in the earliest days of his tenure – when about 80 percent of white evangelicals (78 percent) approved of his job performance.
Pew said this is in line with most polls conducted by the center since the inauguration.
White evangelical Protestants consistently give President Trump high marks.
Their support for the president has been consistently high, and many prominent evangelical leaders, such as Jerry Falwell Jr. – the president of Liberty University – have steadfastly stood with the president.
White mainline Protestants and white Catholics are, however, less approving of Trump's performance than are white evangelicals.
They are, however, more approving than religiously unaffiliated Americans, or those who identify as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular.
Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojurners wrote an editorial in the publication on March 22 titled, "White Nationalism. White Supremacy. White Power." in which he was scathing of Trump.
'EVANGELIST OF WHITE NATIONALISM'
"Donald Trump is an evangelist of white nationalism and white supremacy and his message must be rejected on grounds of faith by responsible Christians around the world and here in the U.S.," wrote Wallis.
He added, "And the bargain for power made by the white evangelical leaders who unquestioningly support Donald Trump must become a debate within the American church — the integrity of our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ is clearly now at stake."
In most of the 11 surveys conducted by the Pew Center since Trump's inauguration, between 46 percent and 55 percent of white mainline Protestants have approved of the president, including 48 percent in the January 2019 survey.
Around half of white Catholics have approved of Trump in these surveys, including 44percent in January.
Religiously unaffiliated Americans consistently express among the lowest levels of approval of Trump's performance.
These range from 17 percent to 27 percent across the polls the Center has conducted since the president assumed office.
Most black Protestants and nonwhite Catholics also have disapproved of the way the president handles his job.
While white evangelical Protestants generally give Trump high approval ratings, that does not mean they have no reservations about him.
HIGH MORAL STANDARD
An August 2018 survey found that roughly half of white evangelicals do not think that Trump has set a high moral standard for the presidency since taking office.
Some prominent evangelical leaders, such as Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, have expressed ambivalence about Trump and concern about some of his policies.
Others, such as Beth Moore, founder of Living Proof Ministries, openly oppose the president.
Wallis wrote in Sojourners, "Donald Trump has proved his identification with white nationalism from his demonizing of immigrants, to making his anti-immigrant lies the central message of his midterm election strategy, to deciding to make his symbolic wall the heart of his vision and legacy."
He cited Trump's anti-Muslim ban, his expressed hostility and falsehoods toward the Muslim religion and beginning his political career with championing the racialized birther movement seeking to undermine the citizenship and credibility of Barack Obama.
Wallis also sharply contrasted Trump's anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies with former President George W. Bush who had spoken "unusually" in defense of immigration, and its role in making the United States the nation it is today.
Bush said the week before at an immigrant swearing-in ceremony, "Amid all the complications of policy, may we never forget that immigration is a blessing and a strength."