Juan Williams: Evangelicals sell their souls for Trump

When it comes to the Stormy Daniels story, it is hard for me to understand the silence from evangelical Christians.

Let it sink in: It is now confirmed that the president’s personal lawyer paid a porn star for her silence.

After the story broke, a friend sent me an old article from a left-wing website.

Democrats, the story said, beat themselves up for not better understanding white, Christian support for President Trump.

But that is a fool’s errand, the writer argued, because there is no understanding people who don’t accept facts.

The facts on the porn star and Trump became clear last week when Michael D. Cohen, the president’s lawyer, said he personally paid $130,000 to Daniels.

The money changed hands just before the 2016 election to allegedly stop her from talking about a sexual affair with candidate Trump that took place in 2006, just after Trump’s wife had a baby.

There is no longer any way to deny the fact of the payment and the nature of the tawdry story.

Also, there is no way to deny a former Playboy playmate’s telling of another extramarital affair with the president in 2006 and 2007.

For a group that regularly preaches about the “sanctity of marriage” and inveighs against the evils of divorce, it was a major political puzzle to me when evangelicals first backed the thrice-married, adulterous Trump over Hillary Clinton.

The New Yorker magazine has now confirmed that the woman in question, Karen McDougal, wrote an account of the relationship. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that she was paid for her story by the National Enquirer’s publisher, a Trump friend, and the tabloid sat on the story, presumably to protect Trump.

And there is no way to deny that FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to Congress last week that Trump’s White House knew about two serious charges of domestic abuse against top aide Rob Porter but let him keep his job. Porter resigned only when those allegations became public.

Yes, the injunction to let he who is without sin cast the first stone is an important one. But it now seems clear that evangelical Christians, who hold up biblical edicts on lying, cheating and adultery, don’t care about the word of God when it comes to Trump.

A January poll for The Washington Post and ABC News “found 68 percent of white evangelical Protestants approve of Trump’s job performance — a figure that is nearly double that of the population as a whole and that is higher than any other religious or demographic group.”

Let’s not forget that according to exit polls, 80 percent of white, born-again evangelical Christians supported Trump in the last election. Hillary Clinton only received 16 percent support. Voters from this demographic cast 26 percent of all votes for president in 2016.

For a group that regularly preaches about the “sanctity of marriage” and inveighs against the evils of divorce, it was a major political puzzle to me when evangelicals first backed the thrice-married, adulterous Trump over Hillary Clinton.

She suffered years of public humiliation rather than breaking up her family, turning away from marriage vows and divorcing her philandering husband.

And now the puzzling behavior of evangelicals is pushed to the limit by their support for Trump despite the slimy facts of the Stormy Daniels story.

Imagine for one moment if President Obama’s personal lawyer had paid six figures in hush money to a porn star.

The same evangelicals would have condemned him as not being Christian and possibly believing in Muslim law that allows multiple wives. They would have said he was a bad example to the nation’s youth.

Imagine if Obama had endorsed a candidate despite credible allegations that he sexually molested young girls.

Well, there is no denying that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore (R), who faced just such allegations, got Trump’s full endorsement.

Again, evangelicals continued to support Trump.

Hypocrisy that deep can’t be excused by Trump’s convenient switch from supporting abortion rights to opposing abortion.

What we are seeing is a hollow core in evangelical faith as practiced by its leaders.

Tony Perkins, head of a Christian conservative evangelical group, The Family Research Council, said recently that his supporters give Trump a “mulligan” on sex with the porn star.

Evangelical leader Franklin Graham, the son of the nation’s most famous evangelical preacher, Billy Graham, also defended Trump.

“That was a long time ago,” Graham told CNN’s Don Lemon in dismissing the porn star story. “I’m more interested in who a person is today. I believe he’s a changed person.”

Graham saves his fiery condemnations for what he calls the “godless progressive agenda of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”

Robert Jeffress, a leading Trump supporter among evangelicals and senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas, told The New York Times earlier this month he “can’t look into the president’s heart.”

Jeffress said he doesn’t “care” if Trump is a religious phony but only that Trump has “embraced and enacted” policies favored by Jeffress and other evangelicals.

That led Tara I. Burton to conclude in an article on Vox that Jeffress’ indifference about Trump’s nasty earlier comments about "shithole countries" in fact “revealed the dark heart of Christian nationalism: It is as much…about jingoism and ethno-nationalism as it ever has been about Christian values.”

When it comes to Trump, the nation’s political, social and historical norms do not matter anymore. Now the acid of the Trump presidency is eating away at the integrity of leading evangelists and their supporters.

God help us.

This column originally appeared on The Hill.

Juan Williams currently serves as a co-host of FOX News Channel’s (FNC) The Five (weekdays 5-6PM/ET) and also appears as a political analyst on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace and Special Report with Bret Baier. Williams joined the network as a contributor in 1997.