How can any believing Christian believe in Donald Trump? Much of Trump’s support comes from white evangelicals, and explanations of their backing for him usually centre on issues of money and identity. One in four American adults belongs to an evangelical church and they are somewhat older, less well-educated, slightly worse off and more likely to come from the South than their non-evangelical compatriots. Like many Americans, these evangelicals are experiencing genuine economic pain. Even before the coronavirus crisis, nearly half of all the nation’s adults allegedly could not lay hands on $400 in an emergency; indeed, it would take two years for the average household to save enough for just one month’s expenses. Moreover, many supporters of the president feel disrespected by secular liberals who disparage the faith and patriotism that built the nation. Evangelicals see in their mega-churches and ‘prosperity gospel’ evidence that conservative values point the surest way to security and salvation. Given Hillary Clinton’s characterisation of Trump supporters as a ‘basket of deplorables’, it is perhaps understandable, in an age of competitive victimhood, that the president’s religious supporters should feel that they had suffered a form of involuntary social distancing long before the pandemic began.
But do economic strain and challenged identities fully explain support by evangelicals for Trump? Sarah Posner, a lawyer and journalist who has followed the evangelical movement in America since the mid-1980s, argues that the ‘real driving force’ of their support for the president is ‘not religion but grievances over school