Trump’s “Conversion” in Historical Context


Trump evangelical

Check out Lincoln Mullen’s piece at The Atlantic on Donald Trump’s apparent conversion. Mullen, a professor of history at George Mason University, places James Dobson’s claim that Donald Trump became a born-again Christian in historical context.

Here is his conclusion:

All of which connects to Dobson’s claim about Trump’s supposed conversion. It is plausible that Paula White could have “led [Trump] to Christ” by reciting a sinner’s prayer while Trump remained oblivious to its meaning as a feature of evangelical conversion. Or Dobson and White could have made the conversion up. Regardless of its truth, the claim seems like an attempt to make Trump more palatable to conservative Christian voters and re-secure their now-tenuous grasp on political power. Many evangelicals will be unable to cast a vote for the Republican presidential candidate with an untroubled conscience. If trusted leaders like Dobson can convince them that Trump is born again, some may find it easier to vote for him in November.

Evangelicals sing of conversion as being “washed in the blood of the Lamb,” but Dobson’s attempt is more akin to a whitewashing. If the doctrine of new birth is the birthright of evangelicals, leaders like Dobson would have them trade it for a mess of pottage.

Mullen nails it.  I also used the “mess of pottage” metaphor in my debate with Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, another evangelical supporter of Trump.  And whether we call it “whitewashing” or “laundering,” Dobson’s reference to a Trump conversion is designed to clean Trump of his moral indiscretions so that he is more palatable to evangelical voters.

As Mullen’s article suggests, the experience of the new birth is what makes an evangelical an evangelical. It is a very personal rite of passage celebrated within a spiritual community.  Dobson and friends have taken this sacred ritual–one that evangelicals believe makes a person right with God, offers redemption, and provides them with hope–and has used it to promote an agenda in the profane world of politics.