Key evangelical figures who once backed former President Donald Trump withdrew their support after he announced his third White House bid on Tuesday.
One televangelist, who served as a spiritual adviser to the former president and once said he was "a supernatural answer to prayer," changed his tune, telling supporters that Trump acts like a "little elementary schoolchild" and that his juvenile focus on minor issues was stopping him from achieving larger goals.
"If Mr. Trump can't stop his little petty issues, how does he expect people to stop major issues?" asked James Robison, president of the Christian group Life Outreach International, at a meeting of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers (NACL), a conservative political group that has advocated for antiabortion policies and outlawing gay marriage.
While giving his acceptance speech for an award Wednesday night, Robison brought up his relationship with Trump. As Robinson recounts, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson told Trump that Robinson would only give his endorsement if the two spoke for an hour. Trump, however, claimed he didn't speak to anyone for more than 15 minutes. They ended up speaking for an hour and a half according to Robinson.
"The man started calling me on his cellphone, and then he started asking me to call him," Robison said, referring to Trump's behavior after their initial phone call. For five years, Robinson says Trump "took every single call I made" but while "he heard, he didn't always heed."
As Robinson continued to criticize the former president, the crowd grew quiet.
"Everything you wanted him to hear — every single thing you ever prayed for him to hear — came through these lips right straight into his face," Robison declared. "And with the same force you've heard me talking to you, I spoke it to him."
At this point in the speech, Robinson was shouting while recounting a conversation he had with Trump. "'Sir, you act like a little elementary schoolchild and you shoot yourself in the foot every morning you get up and open your mouth!'" Robinson said. "'The more you keep your mouth closed, the more successful you're gonna be!'"
"It's time for us to get together and pray and stop trying to destroy each other, and I make that loud and clearly heard to Mr. Trump!" Robinson preached to a hesitant crowd. "We've got to quit amputating each other, slicing each other, and come together in supernatural unity that Jesus Christ prayed for!"
While most presidents establish a diverse faith advisory board with public meetings, Trump formed an informal but fully evangelical group during his time in office. Members were constantly changing and the group would often meet with top policy officials and lead prayer sessions with the former president.
Former evangelical advisory board member Mike Evans sent an essay to the Washington Post earlier this month, saying that he would not be voting for Trump again. Evans, a Christian Zionist from Texas, shared that he once left a Trump rally in tears because he saw "Bible believers glorifying Donald Trump like he was an idol."
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Evans said that while he was aware of the former president's "character flaws," they considered the relationship transactional and looked past it because he kept his promises to nominate Supreme Court justices that would overturn Roe v. Wade, and supported the state of Israel.
However, Evans claimed that Trump has harmed his Christian allies by using their religious views in a political platform.
"Donald Trump can't save America. He can't even save himself," Evans wrote. "He used us to win the White House. We had to close our mouths and eyes when he said things that horrified us. I cannot do that anymore."
Robert Jeffress, the senior pastor of a 14,000-strong megachurch in Dallas and a former evangelical adviser for Trump, said that he does not plan to endorse him again in the primary.
"The Republican Party is headed toward a civil war that I have no desire or need to be part of," Jeffress told Newsweek. However, he added that he would "happily support him" if he wins the nomination as he considers him "a great friend and our greatest president since Reagan."
Conservative evangelical commentator Everett Piper also warned that Trump harmed the Republican Party in the midterms, and would do even more damage during the campaign season.
"The take-home of this past week is simple: Donald Trump has to go," Piper wrote in the Washington Times. "If he's our nominee in 2024, we will get destroyed."
about Trump's 2024 bid