Jesus is their savior, Donald Trump is their candidate

As Donald Trump increasingly infuses his campaign with Christian trappings while coasting to a third Republican presidential nomination, his support is as strong as ever among evangelicals and other conservative Christians.

“Trump supports Jesus, and without Jesus, America will fall,” said Kimberly Vaughn of Florence, Kentucky, as she joined other supporters of the former president entering a campaign rally near Dayton, Ohio.

Many of the T-shirts and hats that were worn and sold at the rally in March proclaimed religious slogans such as “Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president” and “God, Guns & Trump.” One man’s shirt declared, “Make America Godly Again,” with the image of a luminous Jesus putting his supportive hands on Trump’s shoulders.

Many attendees said in interviews they believed Trump shared their Christian faith and values. Several cited their opposition to abortion and LGBTQ+ rights, particularly to transgender expressions.

And for many, Trump is a champion of Christianity and patriotism.

“I believe he believes in God and our military men and women, in our country, in America,” said Tammy Houston of New Lexington, Ohio.

“I put my family first, and on a larger scale, it’s America first,” said Sherrie Cotterman of Sidney, Ohio. “And I would any day of the week, take a president that openly knows he needs the strength from God over his own.”

In many ways, this is a familiar story.

About 8 in 10 white evangelical Christians supported Trump in 2020, according to AP VoteCast, and Pew Research Center’s validated voter survey found that a similar share supported him in 2016.

But this is a new campaign, and that support has remained durable — even though Republican voters in the early primaries had several openly conservative Christian candidates to choose from, none of whom faced the legal troubles and misconduct allegations that Trump does. In the Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina Republican primary contests earlier this year, Trump won between 55% and 69% of white evangelical voters, according to AP VoteCast.

The Ohio rally, like other Trump events, featured a recording of the national anthem sung by some of those convicted for crimes related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, whom Trump called “patriots.”

At the rally’s entrance, one group handed out pamphlets urging attendees both to “trust in Jesus Christ for your salvation” and to support the “J6 patriots.”

Caleb Cinnamon, 37, of Dayton, identified as a Christian and said opposing abortion is a top priority. He cited Trump’s three Supreme Court appointments, who proved decisive in the 2022 decision overturning of the Roe v. Wade precedent that had legalized abortion nationwide.

Earlier this year, Trump hit multiple applause lines in speaking to a conservative audience at the National Religious Broadcasters convention.

“We will protect Christians in our schools and in our military and our government,” Trump said. “We will protect God in our public square. … I will protect the content that is pro-God.”

Trump pledged a federal task force to fight the “persecution against Christians in America” and “the toxic poison of gender ideology,” saying “God created two genders, male and female.”

Trump’s rallies take on the symbols, rhetoric and agenda of Christian nationalism, which typically includes a belief that America was founded to be a Christian nation and seeks to privilege Christianity in public life.

Trump endorsed a Bible edition that includes U.S. founding documents and the lyrics to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”

At the Ohio rally, some said they believed the nation or its founding documents, such as the Bill of Rights, had Christian origins, though historians dispute such assertions.

Some Trump supporters voiced hope for a more Christian America.

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Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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