Evangelicals see Donald Trump differently. They are ready for an unapologetic strongman to help them do end-times battle.
GOD chose Donald Trump to serve as the Republican presidential nominee. And he did it for one reason: To pave the way for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
This is the claim of Frank Amedia, who recently served as Trump’s “liaison for Christian policy.”
Amedia’s ideas are not as foreign to the real world of American politics as they seem. They represent the beliefs of more than half of white American evangelicals. And they explain how Trump has managed to do what no Democrat could — to fracture the religious right, splitting evangelicals from Catholics and Mormons.
We know Trump does not embody the values or the virtues of a traditional evangelical champion. He is divorced, has long supported gambling and it would appear that he has no idea what it means to humble himself before God. He will not ask for the forgiveness of his sins because he is not sure he has any.
But these are not regular times, and he is not a regular candidate. Amedia, who publicly prayed with Trump recently, believes along with many of his fellow evangelicals that a secret, spiritual battle is under way of good against evil, light against darkness, Christ against Antichrist.
During the Obama presidency, some evangelicals fear that the devil has been winning this battle. Obama, they insist, has opened the White House to gays and lesbians, encouraged abortions and failed to support Israel. In so doing so, he is threatening to bring the judgment of God down on the United States. Hillary Clinton, to them, seemingly promises more of the same.
More than one-third of registered voters claim to be “evangelical” or “born again,” according to a Pew Research Center poll. And some believe that Trump is the man of the hour. “If we could see into the heavenlies right now,” Amedia explained in a recent interview about Trump. “We would see a skirmish going on that I believe is the beginnings of the preparation of the way of the coming of the Lord.”
Like Amedia, a majority of white evangelicals believe that we are living in the last days. Better students of world affairs than almost any other group of Americans, evangelicals have long believed that they, and they alone, know where the world is headed. In fact, according to the 2014 Bible in American Life report, of the 50 percent of all Americans who had read the Bible at all in the previous year, more than one-third claimed that they did so “to learn about the future.”
Evangelicals’ analysis of contemporary events builds on a complicated and convoluted reading of the biblical books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Matthew and Revelation. They masterfully use the Bible’s most cryptic passages to explain the past, understand the present and predict the future.
Their ability to line up global events with ancient prophecies in convincing ways has helped win millions of converts to the faith. Evangelicals offer hope and understanding in a seemingly hopeless and senseless world.
Evangelicals have been refining their methods and predictions for more than a century. World War I and every war since has seemingly fulfilled Jesus’s promise that in the last days there would be wars and rumors of wars. Benito Mussolini’s 1930s resurrection of the Roman Empire appeared at the time to match predictions in the book of Daniel. Atomic bombs in the late 1940s provided the likely vehicle for completing the 2 Peter prophesy that the Earth will soon melt in an awful conflagration. Israel’s 1967 capture of part of Jerusalem matched promises laid out in Ezekiel. In the 1990s, Saddam Hussein seemed to be rebuilding ancient Babylon in anticipation of the coming Antichrist.
In the 21st century, little has changed. Some evangelicals still turn to biblical prophecy to make sense of significant global events. Their well-read Bibles interpret headlines. And those headlines, they feel certain, tell us that the end is closer than ever.
This is where many evangelicals differ from Catholics and Mormons. The latter groups do not have the same kind of vigorous, all-consuming apocalyptic tradition. They look at political candidates with an eye toward the long term. Some see Trump as a poor choice whose values are not their values.
Many evangelicals see him differently. They are ready for an unapologetic strongman to help them do end-times battle. They believe that God will soon separate the “sheep from the goats,” the righteous nations from the unrighteous. During the final judgment, God will decide which nations were faithful to him and which were not, and he will dole out punishments and rewards accordingly.
Trump’s ideas meld perfectly with evangelical apocalyptic expectations as the battle of Armageddon nears. He promises to seize power and to use it for them. He claims he would restore religious liberty to evangelicals. He would prohibit Muslims from entering the country. He would defend Israel at all costs. He would fight abortion by adding conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. He would rebuild the American military. He would destroy the nation’s enemies. He would keep individual citizens well-armed and prepared for battle.
This is a man, in other words, who is not just seeking to beat Clinton. He is seeking to wage a real-world battle against evangelicals’ enemies and a spiritual battle against the Antichrist.
And this is why Amedia tells all who will listen that to support Trump is to ensure that the United States “stays under the favor of God.” To refuse to support Trump, then, is to defy God.
If Armageddon is coming, and many evangelicals believe it is, there can be no one better to lead the United States than Donald Trump.