Jay Richards, executive editor of The Stream and a professor in the school of business and economics at The Catholic University of America, sees a “supreme irony” surrounding president-elect Donald Trump’s stunning electoral victory earlier this month.
“The supreme irony of the Trump campaign is that lots of conventional and elite Republican politicians, especially in the northeast, either opposed him or dismissed him or attacked him beforehand,” Richards recently told “The Church Boys.” “These are the guys that would be running the transition right now… they sort of marked themselves out.”
But the end result, he said, is a situation in which some conservative Christians who might otherwise have been marginalized or simply brought in as “window dressing,” now, ironically, are being given a role on Trump’s team.
“Most of us Christians looked at the Trump campaign as sort of number 18 of the 17 people running originally, and yet the weird unconventional way in which it was won and the way alliances sort of played out — I honestly think that a lot of conservative Christians played a much more influentiual role than they would have if a more conventional Republican politician had won,” Richards said.
As for Trump’s interest in evangelical and — more broadly — Christian themes, Richards said he believes the president-elect is “absolutely genuine,” pointing, in part, to the language Trump uses when discussing faith themes.
“He has not tried to feign a deep Christian faith that he doesn’t have … he doesn’t say, ‘We evangelicals.’ He says ‘the evangelicals,'” Richards said. “He is sincerely curious.”
He also said he believes Trump was “taken aback” by the prominent evangelical leaders who were nice to him and who took steps to befriend him early on in the campaign — even when those steps seemed to harm the faith leaders in question.
“In some ways, he’s discovering these things and discovering these people later in life,” Richards said.
Listen to Richards discuss Trump and faith at the 22-minute mark below:
As for why so many Christians ended up supporting Trump despite the brash billionaire’s oft-times contentious language and behavior, Richards, who considers himself a social and economic conservative, offered up some theories. Far from seeing the collective move as an endorsement of Trump or his personal life, he said it was really more about Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“If a Christian is saying, ‘Well, look, which one is most likely to be good for life, which one is most most likely to protect my religious liberty?’ then I think that’s frankly where a lot of former Never Trumpers ended up, at least among Christians,” he explained, adding that, for these people, “Hillary Clinton was the alternative” — and one that troubled them.
Richards also made it no secret he’s not a fan of Trump’s “protectionist language,” specifically his comments about trade, but he said he’s hopeful as the administration begins to take shape.
“At the moment, I’m far more hopeful about the prospects for his administration than I would have been if we had had this conversation three months ago,” Richards said.
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