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  • Evangelical Concern? Mr. President, Please! Watch the Language

    Surge Summary: Some evangelicals are expressing concern about the President’s use of profanity — he might want to pay attention to their concerns if he plans on being re-elected. 

    The evangelical church in America is among President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters. He might want to take a word of advice from some of them if he wants that iron-clad support to remain, however.

    Politico’s Gabby Orr writes:

    Conservative Democrat and Trump-supporting West Virginia State Senator Paul Hardesty’s ears perked up last month when he got a not one, not two but a third phone call from a constituent about Donald Trump’s recent appearance at a Greenville, NC rally.

    The residents of Hardesty’s district were calling to express displeasure over Trump’s foul language, specifically his “using the Lord’s name in vain,” Hardesty relates.

    “The third phone call is when I actually went and watched his speech because each of them sounded distraught,” said Hardesty, who describes himself as a conservative Democrat.

    Here’s what he would have seen: Trump crowing, “They’ll be hit so g—da–n hard,” while bragging about bombing Islamic State militants. And Trump recounting his warning to a wealthy businessman: “If you don’t support me, you’re going to be so g—da–n poor.”

    At the time, those particular comments might have gone under the general public’s radar because of news of the “send her back” chant which had broken out as Trump was speaking about Somali-born Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, an American citizen. But not everyone missed the President’s misuse of God’s name or some of the other profanities laced throughout the rest of that speech.

    The issue has recently hit a nerve among those who have become some of the president’s most reliable supporters: white evangelicals — who constitute much of Hardesty’s district. The group was key to Trump’s 2016 win, helping bolster his standing in critical swing states, and Trump likely needs to maintain that support if he wants to win a second term. But some are growing fatigued with the irreverent language that is often spewed at Trump’s rallies and official events.

    “I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘You know I voted for [Trump], but if he doesn’t tone down the rhetoric, I might just stay home this time,’” Hardesty said in an interview, adding that he has yet to hear back from anyone inside the White House after urging the president in a formal letter to “reflect on your comments and never utter those words again.”

    Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., an early and enthusiastic Trump supporter, conceded, “We all wish he would be a little more careful with his language, but it’s not anything that’s a deal breaker, and it’s not something we’re going to get morally indignant about.”

    Such sentiments might strike readers as odd, especially considering there would have been no such Christian-Right magnanimity extended to Barack Obama, Bill Clinton or candidate Hillary Clinton if they’d resorted to such language while on the campaign trail or in office.

    Donald Trump is no stranger to profanity. He indulged guest appearances on the notorious “The Howard Stern Show” in the 1990s and in a 2011 speech to Nevada Republicans he dropped multiple F-bombs and cast Chinese officials as a bunch of “motherf—ers.” His unseemly language even became a campaigning feature when he ran for president beginning in 2015. Having won that contest, his blue tongue hasn’t changed as much as some would like either publicly or privately.

    Trump’s “indelicate language” has, indeed, frustrated some of his religious enthusiasts who have otherwise been sturdy supporters of his agenda. Evangelicals overwhelmingly agree with his social policies, laud his appointment of conservative judges and appreciate his commitment to Israel — often overlooking Trump’s character flaws for the continued advancement of conservative-oriented issues like these.

    But when it comes to “using the Lord’s name in vain,” as Hardesty put it, “the president’s evangelical base might be far less forgiving.”

    Two pro-Trump pastors, both of whom requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation, admitted in interviews that they’ve winced and cringed their way through some of the president’s more provocative speeches, or the ones that contained multiple expletives. One of the pastors said he was “appalled” by the president’s remarks at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in March, in which Trump accused his political rivals of trying to run him out of office with “bullsh–” investigations and oversight actions.

    Two Christian ministers “who requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation”? That’s an admission some Trump-supporters also might find troubling. What are we dealing with here, the mafia? The Witness Protection Program? Trump voters who would dare speak anything less than adulatory sentiments about him need to go into hiding?

    “You know, I’m totally off-script right now,” Trump had said at the time. There was a smattering of cursing during the balance of that speech: a promise to “keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country” and throw undocumented immigrants “the hell out.”

    “I’m not going to get into private conversations, but I made sure he knew that type of rhetoric is unacceptable. This was not just an event for adults,” said one of the pastors, who is close with several members of the Trump administration.

    Such a reflection would have one-time been considered simply an expected reflection among churchgoing voters, especially from leaders of churches.

    “I think this president needs to be president to all of the people and realize that kids look up to him and adults look up to him,” Hardesty said. “Carrying that type of language from behind the presidential seal is offensive.”

    Critics might want to remember, nonetheless, foul-mouthed utterances have not exactly been unheard of in modern politics. Former Vice President Joe Biden, a current Trump rival, was caught in March 2010 calling the Affordable Care Act “a big f—ing deal” at the bill’s signing.” On the Senate floor in 2004, Biden’s predecessor Dick Cheney snapped at a Democratic senator who’d irked him that he should “f— himself”.

    The difference, mind you, is in neither the Biden nor Cheney case did the they unload the objectionable utterances directly into a live mike before potentially millions of American and international watchers/listeners.

    Two other 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls — Beto O’Rourke and Tulsi Gabbard — have used profanity in recent public statements, and countless more examples can be found in the presidential archives.

    Just last week, Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke coarsely said of Trump, “Well, J**us Ch**st, of course, he’s racist.”

    Some might wonder: Since when do progressive liberals determine the standards of conservatives, and particularly Christian-conservatives?

    Another difference, plainly, is Trump enjoys the support of the religious right’s political support, so they are willing to cut him some slack. Yet, losing the group’s support would be catastrophic for his presidential future.

    About 80 percent of white evangelicals cast their ballots for Trump in 2016 and 61 percent of the broader evangelical voting bloc believes the U.S. is heading in the right direction under his administration, according to a 2018 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.

    Add to that, Evangelicals are more likely to vote than other demographic groups and their ballots automatically drift toward GOP candidates when they do. In a number of swing states — Florida, North Carolina and Michigan, for example — evangelicals dominate the religious demographic.

    Still, developing concern about the president’s cursing doesn’t tell the whole story:

    Several of his most ardent evangelical allies resist the concerns Trump’s swearing could endanger this crucial voting bloc; or admit it’s not an issue for them.

    Alveda King, a Fox News contributor and the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., said she’s inclined to extend grace to the president when he swears or makes inappropriate comments.

    “I remember God’s love and mercy towards me,” she said.

    A couple glaring questions, however, emerge when people hear that kind of reasoning from members of the Bible-believing electorate: Since when does “understanding” toward a person’s sin issues translate into excuse making? And, once more, where was all that warm-n-fuzzy empathy toward the flaws and foibles of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton when the nation was considering them for president?

    Some Donald Trump supporters perceive his vulgarity an expression of his authenticity and that mitigates the offense taken at it; i.e., this is just “Trump being Trump”.

    Melissa Mohr, the author of a book on swearing, wrote for Time in June 2016, “When we hear people swear, we often assume that their words spring from a deep well of real feeling.”

    But some curse words could have adverse effects for Trump, particularly with his evangelical audience.

    “Carelessly invoking the Lord’s name in a fit of anger is one thing,” said one of the pro-Trump pastors, quickly adding he would not encourage such behavior. “But repeatedly doing it for shock value … that does raise questions about the president’s respect for people of faith.”

    If Donald Trump wants to be re-elected in two years, he might heed to this concern and curb the expletives that regularly erupt from his mouth. Others would go beyond that counsel to advise he do the same if he wants God’s blessing to continue to attend his administration.

     

    Image: Adapted from: Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay 


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