Is God a Democrat or a Republican?
To the adherents to the American Renewal Project, there is no doubt that the Creator is on board with the party of Trump, and in return that party must do more to live up to its godly mandate. That's why it is encouraging more conservative preachers to stretch beyond the pulpit and campaign for GOP seats.
The evangelical Christian group has organized a road show traveling across the country to encourage and train clergy for public office -- a big push that began in 2015, aimed at the 2016 races.
In my hometown, Kansas City, an upcoming event will feature Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley as a special guest. He is running in 2018 to unseat Missouri's senior U.S. senator, Democrat Claire McCaskill.
To get an idea of what the American Renewal Project (and, presumably, Hawley) stands for, consider the road show participants. One is the British expat social critic Os Guinness. In August, Guinness told CBN News that the American church has lost its "saltiness" and professed to be scandalized that Christians, though "a huge majority of Americans," have "less cultural influence than tiny minorities" such as the LGBTQ population.
American Renewal Project sends a siren call to Republicans who view modernism as an apocalyptic peril.
It appeals to religious conservatives who cannot reconcile themselves to marriage equality and are convinced that political correctness has struck down their rights of free speech. Central to the group's doctrine is the belief that Christianity is under siege in the U.S.
Sen. Ted Cruz, former presidential contender Mike Huckabee and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal are also adherents of the group's programs, called "Issachar Training," which takes its inspiration from Scripture, 1 Chronicles 12:32: "Men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do."
Among the American Renewal Project's fellow travelers is the highly debunked evangelical author and activist David Barton of the Texas-based WallBuilders. Barton pushes the theory that the Founding Fathers were deeply religious Christian men and that Congress initially intended for the Bible to be used in public schools, along with other quaint notions meant to displace the ideals of a secular society.
American Renewal's founder, David Lane, has been called out for years by the Southern Poverty Law Center, mainly for his anti-LGBTQ stances and goal of "restoring a Judeo-Christian culture to the country."
It seems like evangelical conservatives have been saying this for years, but it continues to work. In 2016, evangelicals played a key role in delivering the nation Donald Trump as president. He's their guy. More than 80 percent of white evangelicals cast their ballots supporting Trump, according to exit polling.
That very fact raises interesting questions about the status of their so-called godliness. Evangelicals (white ones, anyway) apparently felt permitted to ignore Trump's history as an admitted groper of women, along with other patent indications of personal corruption. They rationalized Trump's race-baiting birther attacks on Barack Obama's legitimacy as a U.S.-born citizen. And they've managed to convince themselves that fears of terrorism legitimize unconstitutional restraints on Muslim travelers and hordes of Mexicans and other undesirables that supposedly are swarming the border to cause mayhem.
But now Trump is descending into meltdown mode, huffing and puffing in most un-Christian-like terms on the world stage.
Will evangelicals continue to stand by him?
Even Chad Connelly, the head of faith outreach for the Republican National Committee, threw in the towel. He quit recently, citing an atmosphere that was "disrespectful, antagonistic and unacceptable."
Certainly, faith and has guided many fine elected officials. But a great many scoundrels have shrouded their iniquity with the cloak of faith. That may fool their coreligionists, but it doesn't fool others.
It is difficult for many Americans to understand how evangelicals can possibly believe that Trump is standing up for Christian morality and principles. It appears, rather, that he has used them just as he has used and abused so many suckers before in his reckless career.
MARY SANCHEZ writes for The Kansas City Star. Her column is distributed by Tribune Content Agency.