A group of “never-Trump” Republicans targets Christian voters in its first political ad warning that “evangelical leaders who lay their loyalty and faith on the altar of Donald Trump are betraying their congregants and their country.”
“It is clear that in exchange for power and money these ‘pastors’ have been tasked with recasting Trump’s absurdities and moral failures as nothing short of prophetic divinity,” says a social media caption introducing a 2 ½-minute video titled “The MAGA Church.”
The video, produced by a group calling itself the Lincoln Project, begins with a warning from the Bible to “beware of false prophets,” quoting from Matthew 7:15, “which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
A series of rapid-fire video clips juxtapose praise for Trump from evangelical leaders like Southern Baptist megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress and evangelist Paula White against snippets of the president making un-Christlike comments and cursing.
It ends with a photo of Trump with his head apparently bowed in prayer superimposed with the comment, “If this is the best American Christians can do, then God help us all.”
The Lincoln Project is a new political action committee led by fiscal conservatives including George Conway III, a Republican lawyer who is critical of Trump despite being married to White House aide Kellyanne Conway, and Steve Schmidt, a political strategist best known for pushing Sen. John McCain to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Drawing inspiration from President Abraham Lincoln, who led the United States during the most polarized time in American history, the Lincoln Project describes its mission as to “defeat President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box.”
“We do not undertake this task lightly nor from ideological preference,” the group says on its website. “Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain. However, the priority for all patriotic Americans must be a shared fidelity to the Constitution and a commitment to defeat those candidates who have abandoned their constitutional oaths, regardless of party. Electing Democrats who support the Constitution over Republicans who do not is a worthy effort.”
Critics dismiss the Lincoln Project as RINOs, an acronym for Republican in Name Only.
The MAGA Church video comes just days after the launch at a Miami megachurch of a new Evangelicals for Trump coalition led by Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, and other clergy who are standing by Trump during impeachment proceedings in Congress.
It also follows a Dec. 19 editorial in Christianity Today saying that the president should be impeached and removed from office.
Exit polls in 2016 showed that 81 percent of white evangelical voters cast their ballots for Trump. While many evangelicals who voted for Trump in 2016 remain loyal to the president, his support is far lower among non-white evangelicals and religious “nones,” who in the last election trended toward Hillary Clinton.