Ralph Reed has a fawning new book coming out explaining why every Christian has a duty to fall in lock-step behind President Donald Trump.
In case you’ve forgotten, Reed came to prominence as the executive director of TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition in the late 1980s. In that position, he was famous for his scorched-earth political tactics and once boasted about putting his opponents in a “body bag.”
Reed ran the group for a number of years but jumped ship shortly before Robertson lost interest and pulled its funding. He went on to become a political consultant and got enmeshed in a sleazy scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. (In 2002, Reed received $5 million from Abramoff to oppose a casino proposed by the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians in Louisiana. Reed got several high-profile Religious Right leaders to oppose the casino on moral grounds, but Reed never bothered to tell them that Abramoff’s clients were a rival band of Native Americans, the Coushatta, who already operated a casino and didn’t want any competition.)
Since then, Reed ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor of Georgia and even penned a few political-thriller novels. But in 2009 he decided to go back to his roots and formed a Religious Right group called the Faith & Freedom Coalition.
Politico reports that in the book, which is due out in April, Reed asserts that Christians “have a moral obligation to enthusiastically back” Trump. The book is titled For God and Country: The Christian case for Trump, but its original title, believe it or not, was Render to God and Trump.
Since Trump’s political rise, some observers have asked what it would take for conservative evangelicals to criticize him. While a few Christian nationalist groups issued mildly critical statements after Trump left the U.S.’s Kurdish allies in Syria to the mercy of the Turks and Russians and enabled the return of the ISIS terror network, David Brody, a correspondent for Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, told The Washington Post Trump’s decision would likely have little impact on evangelical support.
“Evangelicals see this decision as a punch to the gut, but punches to the gut don’t always have a lasting effect,” Brody said. He called the matter “a mini-crisis” for Trump but added, “The president has done so much for evangelicals, in terms of judges and legislation, that this Syria decision isn’t going to be the death knell.”
Indeed, evangelist Franklin Graham, perhaps the most obsequious of Trump’s right-wing evangelical minions, is currently touring the country telling his followers that it’s no big deal that Trump tried to get the president of Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 election by digging up dirt on his main rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. It’s all a set-up, you see?
As we noted yesterday, Trump and members of his administration spent this weekend giving speeches portraying themselves as great defenders of the Christian faith and, in the case of Attorney General William Barr, assailing the very secular government that makes religious freedom possible. With Trump facing an impeachment inquiry that may metastasize, the White House’s strategy is clear: rally Trump’s base by portraying him as a victim and remind far-right evangelicals how much he has done for them.
Some Christians have criticized the Religious Right’s unbridled worship of Trump, as have some secular observers of religion in public life. One of them is Tom Krattenmaker, director of communications at Yale Divinity School. In a recent USA Today column, Krattenmaker pointed out that impeachment is an attempt to hold Trump accountable for offenses against the Constitution he may have committed, not an attack on anyone’s faith.
“This is a dangerous moment that requires the best of us,” Krattenmaker observed. “It’s time for cool heads, high principle and sober regard for the gravity of the moment.”
He’s right. Sadly, many conservative American evangelicals, by listening to hucksters like Reed, have repeatedly shown they’re lacking all three of those things.
Photo: Ralph Reed speaks to the Faith & Freedom Coalition. Screenshot via The Hill newspaper.