Christian Nationalism and Trump: Religious Revival in Politics

At the rally in Ohio, several participants stated their belief that Trump "followed the Christian path of repentance and starting a new life"

by Sededin Dedovic
Christian Nationalism and Trump: Religious Revival in Politics
© Scott Olson / getty Images

As Donald Trump increasingly incorporates Christian themes into his campaign while vying for his third Republican nomination for U.S. President, his support remains robust among evangelicals and other conservative Christians, writes Assossiated Press.

"Trump supports Jesus, and without Jesus, America will fail," said Kimberly Vaughn from Florence, Kentucky, who was among the supporters of the former president at a rally near Dayton, Ohio. Many shirts and hats worn and sold at the March rally had religious slogans such as "Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president" and "God, guns, and Trump." One man's shirt read "Make America Godly Again," featuring an image of a glowing Jesus supporting Trump with hands on his shoulders, reminiscent of Trump's 2016 campaign slogan "Make America Great Again." Many attendees said they believe Trump shares their Christian faith and values, often citing opposition to abortion and LGBTQ+ rights, particularly transgender expression, as common ground.

No one expressed concern about Trump's past behavior or current criminal charges against him, including allegations of attempting to conceal secret payments to a porn actress during the 2016 campaign. Supporters view Trump as offering a "religion of second chances." For many, Trump is a champion of Christianity and patriotism.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks to guests at the annual Lincoln Reagan Dinner hosted by t© Scott Olson / Getty Images

"I believe he believes in God and our soldiers," said Tammy Houston from New Lexington, Ohio.

"I put my family first, and in a broader sense, America comes first," said Sherry Cotterman from Sidney, Ohio. "I want a president who openly acknowledges needing God's strength." This is a familiar story in many ways. About 80 percent of white evangelical Christians supported Trump in 2020, according to AP VoteCast, echoing Pew Research Center findings that a similar proportion supported him in 2016.

This support endures despite early Republican primary voters having several openly conservative Christian candidates, none of whom faced legal issues and misconduct allegations like Trump. In the Republican primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina this year, Trump secured between 55 and 69 percent of white evangelical voters, according to AP VoteCast.

Trump even criticized a competitor, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, for signing a strict abortion ban, but this did not alter voters' views on him. Trump is the only Republican candidate facing multiple criminal charges: from conspiracy to overturn his 2020 election defeat to ongoing trials for allegedly falsifying business records to illegally influence the 2016 election with hush money for porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Trump was also the only GOP candidate with a history of casino ventures and two divorces, along with accusations of sexual misconduct, one of which was upheld by a civil court judgment. Republican primary voters still largely chose Trump.

This frustrates a minority of conservative evangelicals who see Trump as an unrepentant poser using the Bible and prayer sessions as photo ops. They argue he is not a genuine believer and point to credible, serious misconduct charges while he campaigns with incendiary rhetoric and authoritarian ambitions.

Karen Swallow Prior, a Christian author and writer who has publicly opposed evangelicals embracing Trump, said this support is familiar but now "intensified." She noted that Trump supporters once hoped, but were unsure, that Trump shared their Christian faith, whereas now "his supporters believe in him" and "despite Trump clearly wavering on abortion and LGBTQ issues, these matters are simply ignored." At the Ohio rally, several attendees expressed belief that Trump had "followed the Christian path of repentance and starting anew." "We all come from sin.

Jesus sat with sinners, so He will sit with Trump," said Kimberly Vaughn from Florence. "It's not about where Trump came from, but where he's going and where he's trying to take us." The Ohio rally, like other Trump events, included the singing of the national anthem by some convicted for crimes related to the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, whom Trump called patriots.

At the rally entrance, a group handed out pamphlets urging attendees to "entrust their salvation to Jesus Christ" and support "the patriots of January 6." Still, Trump's Christian supporters mention non-religious issues too—from foreign policy and immigration to gas prices and inflation.

Robert Jones, president of the Public Religion Research Institute and author of books on white supremacy in American Christianity, said strong evangelical support for Trump is not surprising. He noted that in a 2023 PRRI survey, less than half of white evangelicals said abortion was a crucial issue for them personally, but more than half cited five other issues: human trafficking, public schools, rising prices, immigration, and crime.

Trump's rallies adopt the symbols, rhetoric, and agenda of Christian nationalism, which typically involves the belief that America was founded to be Christian and should privilege Christianity in public life.