Trump Confirms Commitment to Christians
'I'm so on your side, I'm a tremendous believer,' GOP presumptive nominee tells top evangelicals
Donald Trump began his crucial meeting with nearly 1,000 Christian conservatives on Tuesday (June 21) by telling them that he is a “tremendous believer” and that rather than praying for all the nation’s leaders, they should “pray to get everybody out to vote for one specific person.”
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee made it clear that that person should be him, as he also blasted Hillary Clinton, his likely Democratic opponent, as worse than President Obama.
A Clinton presidency, he said, "is gonna be an extension of Obama, but it's gonna be worse, because with Obama you had your guard up. With Hillary, you don't. And it's gonna be worse."
"And we can't be, again, politically correct and say we pray for all of our leaders, because all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tubes, selling the evangelicals down the tubes. And it's a very, very bad thing that's happening," Trump said, according to video clips posted on social media by Bishop E.W. Jackson.
Jackson is founder and president of S.T.A.N.D. (Staying True To America’s National Destiny) and head pastor at Exodus Faith Ministries and a strong supporter of Trump's.
Trump has often tried to invoke scripture, which he did again Tuesday by highlighting the injunction from 1 Timothy that Christians should pray for "all those in authority."
But by then interpreting the verse as a "get out the vote" mandate for one candidate, he may also land in hot water, as he has also done when referring to Bible passages.
Still, the crowd could be a forgiving one.
"I'm so on your side, I'm a tremendous believer, and we're gonna straighten it out," Trump says in another clip posted by Jackson.
"You know, oftentimes in some of my rallies … and I say — in a joking fashion, but boy, do I mean it — 'We're going to be saying 'Merry Christmas' again,' I mean, you go to Macy's, you go to these department stores today, you don't see any Christmas signs."
"Christianity — I owe so much to it in so many ways," said Trump.
That line drew applause, and seemed to signal an auspicious start to what is a critical stretch for Trump: In recent days, he fired his longtime campaign manager, financial disclosures showed his campaign coffers are nearly empty, and his poll numbers are flagging worse than expected following a series of controversial remarks.
Perhaps most worrying for Trump and the GOP are surveys showing that his support among white evangelical Christians — the key to Republican electoral success in November — is not nearly as strong as it needs to be.
At the meeting at a Marriott hotel in Times Square — an unusual venue for such a gathering of largely Bible Belt pastors — Trump appeared to realize what was at stake as he repeatedly stressed his own faith bona fides.
"Christianity – I owe so much to it in so many ways. Through life, through having incredible children, through so many other things," he said, according to another video from Jackson's Twitter feed:
"But I also owe it for, frankly, standing here because the evangelical vote was mostly gotten by me. If you remember, it went to South Carolina and I was going to be beat — very heavy evangelical state — and I was going to be beaten by [Ted] Cruz or somebody because he had a very strong evangelical vote, and I ended up getting massive majorities on the evangelical vote."
"And everybody said 'What's going on? This is – how did Trump do that?' And then I won elsewhere and, you know, I won the whole South."
Trump was also hailed by a longtime supporter and one of the conveners of the summit — the Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University in Virginia.
"Mr. Trump is a bold and fearless leader who will take the fight to our enemies and to the radical Islamic terrorists, whether they attack in San Bernardino, Orlando, or Paris," Falwell, scion of a late leader of the religious right, said to applause.
"Or whether they simply steal American jobs through unfair trade practices," he continued. "The day after Ronald Reagan became president, Iran released American hostages that had been held for 444 days. In my opinion, the day after Trump becomes president, every terrorist in the world will crawl under a rock in a similar fashion."
This article originally appeared in Religion News Service.