What does Donald Trump really think about the court evangelicals?

Earlier this month we did a post about Trump allegedly calling evangelical beliefs “bulls–t.” Many court evangelicals rejected this story because it came from former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, a convicted criminal.

But now, thanks to the reporting of McKay Coppins at The Atlantic, we know that Cohen is not the only one who claims that Trump mocks evangelicals and their beliefs. Here is a taste of his recent piece:

The conservative Christian elites Trump surrounds himself with have always been more clear-eyed about his lack of religiosity than they’ve publicly let on. In a September 2016 meeting with about a dozen influential figures on the religious right—including the talk-radio host Eric Metaxas, the Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, and the theologian Wayne Grudem—the then-candidate was blunt about his relationship to Christianity. In a recording of the meeting obtained by The Atlantic, the candidate can be heard shrugging off his scriptural ignorance (“I don’t know the Bible as well as some of the other people”) and joking about his inexperience with prayer (“The first time I met [Mike Pence], he said, ‘Will you bow your head and pray?’ and I said, ‘Excuse me?’ I’m not used to it.”) At one point in the meeting, Trump interrupted a discussion about religious freedom to complain about Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska and brag about the taunting nickname he’d devised for him. “I call him Little Ben Sasse,” Trump said. “I have to do it, I’m sorry. That’s when my religion always deserts me.”

And yet, by the end of the meeting—much of which was spent discussing the urgency of preventing trans women from using women’s restrooms—the candidate had the group eating out of his hand. “I’m not voting for Trump to be the teacher of my third grader’s Sunday-school class. That’s not what he’s running for,” Jeffress said in the meeting, adding, “I believe it is imperative … that we do everything we can to turn people out.”

The Faustian nature of the religious right’s bargain with Trump has not always been quite so apparent to rank-and-file believers. According to the Pew Research Center, white evangelicals are more than twice as likely as the average American to say that the president is a religious man. Some conservative pastors have described him as a “baby Christian,” and insist that he’s accepted Jesus Christ as his savior.

To those who have known and worked with Trump closely, the notion that he might have a secret spiritual side is laughable. “I always assumed he was an atheist,” Barbara Res, a former executive at the Trump Organization, told me. “He’s not a religious guy,” A. J. Delgado, who worked on his 2016 campaign, told me. “Whenever I see a picture of him standing in a group of pastors, all of their hands on him, I see a thought bubble [with] the words ‘What suckers,’” Mary Trump, the president’s niece, told me.

Greg Thornbury, a former president of the evangelical King’s College, who was courted by the campaign in 2016, told me that even those who acknowledge Trump’s lack of personal piety are convinced that he holds their faith in high esteem. “I don’t think for a moment that they would believe he’s cynical about them,” Thornbury said.

Read the entire piece here.

Evangelicals refuse to learn from history. As I wrote in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, this is not the first time evangelicals got played by politicians in this way. Richard Nixon used Billy Graham. Ronald Reagan used Jerry Falwell Sr., Cal Thomas, and Ed Dobson. George W. Bush (or more accurately, Karl Rove) used the late David Kuo.

Today, the court evangelicals are empowering a narcissist, pathological liar, power-hungry wanna-be-tyrant who has probably done more harm to this country than any other American president. Yes, they got their Supreme Court justices and their Jerusalem embassy, but history will hold them accountable for their complicity. By November 3 they may very well be the only ones still clinging to this corrupt leader.

Michael Cohen alleges that Trump called evangelical beliefs “bulls–t”

As most of you know, Michael Cohen was Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney and “fixer.” The press is now starting to get access to his forthcoming memoir, Disloyal: A Memoir.

Here is a taste of Ashley Parker and Rosalind S. Helderman’s piece at The Washington Post:

Cohen describes Trump’s obsessive hatred of Obama, including claiming that the only reason the former president got into Columbia University and Harvard Law School was because of “f—ing affirmative action.” He also recounts Trump’s “low opinion of all black folks.” claiming that Trump once said while ranting about Obama, “Tell me one country run by a black person that isn’t a s—hole. They are all complete f—ing toilets.”

After South African President Nelson Mandela died in 2013, Trump said he did not think Mandela “was a real leader — not the kind he respected,” Cohen writes.

Instead, Cohen writes that Trump praised the country’s apartheid-era White rule, saying: “Mandela f—ed the whole country up. Now it’s a s—hole. F— Mandela. He was no leader.”

Cohen writes that before winning the presidency, Trump held a meeting at Trump Tower with prominent evangelical leaders, where they laid their hands on him in prayer. Afterward, Trump allegedly said: “Can you believe that bulls–t? Can you believe people believe that bulls–t?”

“The cosmic joke was that Trump convinced a vast swathe of working-class white folks in the Midwest that he cared about their well-being,” Cohen writes. “The truth was that he couldn’t care less.”

“Can you believe people believe that bulls–t?”

Read the entire article here.

We will see if anyone corroborates Cohen’s story in the same way people are corroborating Trump’s words about American military personnel.

This all reminds me of the late David Kuo, an evangelical speechwriter for Jack Kemp, Bill Bennett, John Ashcroft, court evangelical Ralph Reed, Dan Quayle, and George H.W. Bush. He also worked in Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

In his book Tempting Faith, Kuo wrote:

For…the White House staff, evangelical leaders were people to be tolerated, not people who were truly welcomed. No group was more eye-rolling about Christians than the political affairs shop. They knew “the nuts” were politically invaluable, but that was the extent of their usefulness. Sadly, the political affairs folks complained most often and most loudly about how boorish many political involved Christians were. They didn’t see much of the love of Jesus in their lives…There wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t hear someone in the middle-to-senior levels making some comment or another about how annoying the Christians were or how tiresome they were, or how “handling” them took so much time. National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as “ridiculous,” “out of control,” and just plain “goofy.”

Kuo, who died of a brain tumor in 2013, realized that the White House is “one of the most seductive places imaginable. Not just because of the perks…but because of the raw power of the place hidden in true desire to save the world.”

Andrew Sullivan on David Kuo and the Passion and Joy of Evangelicalism

I did not know David Kuo, but I have read his book Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction.  I have also followed Kuo’s video posts at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Daily Dish.  I was thus saddened to hear that Kuo died of cancer last week at the age of 44.

Kuo was best known as the evangelical Christian who served as the deputy director of George W. Bush’s Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives.  After he quit the organization he wrote Tempting Faith to expose how the Bush administration was using the office as a political prop.

Over at the Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan, a Catholic, describes what it was like attending Kuo’s funeral at an evangelical mega-church.  His post reminds me of why I remain an Evangelical.  Thanks, Andrew.

Here is a taste:

I have never been to a mega-church service – which is something to be ashamed of, since I have written so often about evangelicalism’s political wing. And it was revealing. The theater was called a sanctuary – but it felt like a conference stage. There were no pews, no altar (of course), just movie-theater seats, a big complicated stage with a set, and four huge screens. It looked like a toned-down version of American Idol. I was most impressed by the lighting, its subtlety and professionalism (I’ve often wondered why the Catholic church cannot add lighting effects to choreograph the Mass). The lyrics of the religious pop songs – “hymns” doesn’t capture their Disney channel infectiousness – were displayed on the screens as well, allowing you to sing without looking down at a hymnal. Great idea. And the choir was a Christian pop band, young, hip-looking, bearded, unpretentious and excellent. Before long, I was singing and swaying and smiling with the best of them. The only thing I couldn’t do was raise my hands up in the air.

This was not, in other words, a Catholic experience. But it was clearly, unambiguously, a Christian one…

…What I guess I’m trying to say is that so many of us have come to view evangelical Christianity as threatening, and in its political incarnation, it is at times. But freed from politics, evangelical Christianity has a passion and joy and Scriptural mastery we could all learn from. The pastors were clearly of a higher caliber than most of the priests I have known – in terms of intellect and command. The work they do for the poor, the starving, and the marginalized in their own communities and across the world remains a testimony to the enduring power of Christ’s resurrection. 

In some way, this was David’s last gift to me. His own unvarnished, embarrassingly frank belief helped me get over my prejudices against evangelicalism as a lived faith. His faith strengthened mine immeasurably, especially when we were among the first two to bail on the Bush administration in its first term. It was not a shock that his last day above the ground opened up more windows and doors in my mind. He doubtless hoped it would.

I feel no grief. I remain, as someone once said, surprised by joy.

David Kuo

David Kuo was the Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in the George W. Bush administration.  In 2006 he published Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction.  Here is a description of that book:

David Kuo came to Washington wanting to use his Christian faith to end abortion, strengthen marriage, and help the poor. He reached the heights of political power, ultimately serving in the White House under George W. Bush. It was a dream come true: the chance to fuse his politics and his faith, and an opportunity for Christians not just to gain a seat at the proverbial table but also to plan the entire meal.  

Yet his experience was deeply troubling. He had been seduced, just as so many evangelical conservatives had been seduced by politics. Tempting Faith is a wrenching personal journey and a heartfelt plea for a Christian reexamination of political and spiritual priorities.

In 2003, while he was working for the president, Kuo was diagnosed with brain cancer.  He has been fighting it ever since.

Over The Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan has been posting videos of Kuo answering questions from readers.  Here him discuss prayer, Christianity, Obamacare, and conservatism.  Listen to them here.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1