President Trump has enjoyed general support from evangelical Christians, despite his moral failings and hateful policy priorities. Evangelicals on the right largely accept the president’s personal and public failings as acceptable considering the wins they have seen, particularly in the Supreme Court.
Evangelicals are generally conservative and vote Republican. One policy area where evangelicals have broken with hard right perspectives is in immigration. Evangelicals have long pointed to scripture as informing their more lenient view on immigration policy.
With only days to go in this year’s midterm election campaign, the president and his fellow Republicans have mounted a concerted effort to demonize immigrants, including asylum seekers. The president points to a group of desperate, impoverished, unarmed migrants who are walking from Central America to the southern border with the United States, and characterizes them as criminal, dangerous invaders.
Evangelicals who have long supported refugees have remained largely silent while the president spews hate and xenophobia. The Daily Beast contacted more than 12 top evangelical leaders who are closely connected with conservative politics. Of those contacted, only 3 were willing to discuss immigration.
Robert Jeffress was one of those willing to talk about the immigration issue. He is a megachurch pastor in Dallas, Texas. Jeffress said, “I’m sure the vast majority of the president’s base supports his efforts to secure the borders—including dispatching 5,200 soldiers to deal with the potential threat posed by the caravan.” He went on, “Every evangelical Christian I know is sympathetic with individuals who are fleeing persecution and are trying to enter our country legally. But when they come as a large group and defiantly vow to cross our borders, that sympathy tends to evaporate.”
When reminded that the vast majority of the “caravan” will likely not even reach the American border, Jeffress responded, “Maybe, but I have a feeling most of the president’s supporters don’t want to take that risk. There is no doubt that sending troops to the border will galvanize and energize the president’s base.”
Jeffress is right, the scare tactics, creating an immigration crisis that does not, in reality, exist, may be good politics for the base, but evangelical Christians have long claimed to hold themselves to a moral code that surpasses political expediency. In the Trump era, that moral imperative no longer exists.