DES MOINES, Iowa — A different kind of political speech takes center stage at former President Donald Trump’s rallies: the opening prayer.
The calls, sometimes punctuated by cheer lines and partisan language, have become their own call to political action, citing the same lies and vindictiveness that Trump himself has spewed.
At a rally in Coralville, Iowa, in December, the Rev. Joel Tenney spoke before Trump, telling a few hundred of his supporters that he wanted to speak to them “as a pastor.”
“We’ve seen the current president weaponize the entire legal system to steal the election and imprison his leading opponent, Donald Trump, even though he has committed no crime,” he said.
“We have to re-elect President Trump for a third term,” Tenney said, echoing Trump’s “big lie” rhetoric. He later said that the upcoming election was “part of a spiritual battle” played by “satanic forces”.
“When Donald Trump becomes the 47th president of the United States, vengeance will be taken against all who preach evil in this country,” he continued behind the Trump-adorned podium, his voice shaking at times like a tent revival preacher.
Then Tenny prayed.
“God, I’m asking you, Lord, to help us re-elect President Donald Trump and restore America to its greatness,” he said.
The calls provide a unique insight into the evangelical world’s acceptance of Trump’s conspiracy theories, his nationalism and his promises of revenge.
Prominent “prosperity gospel” pastors like Paula White and Kenneth Copeland have long sided with Trump, giving him initial credibility in their own corners of Christianity. Now, pastors taking to the political stage across the country are often local pastors with larger followings — further evidence that Trump’s reach extends far beyond televised megachurches and to local congregations once again suspicious of the somewhat vulgar New York real estate mogul. and casino owner.
Rep. Paul Terry of New Hampshire, a retired evangelical Presbyterian minister, led the call at Trump’s rally in Durham in late December, telling the more than 4,000 voters in attendance that they had been “lied to, deceived and deceived.”
“With each passing day, we move further and further into George Orwell’s tyrannical dystopia,” he said, adding: “Every day we are burdened by those who claim illegitimate power and unconstitutional lawlessness.”
The Rev. Barney Bornhoft prayed for a “hedge of protection” around Trump at the start of a rally in Ankeny, Iowa, in December, offering something like a middle prayer comment: “I don’t believe we have any idea about the pressures. he is under” and called the cases opened against the former president “ridiculous”.
In July, another pastor, Jimmy Morales, hosted a Trump rally at his church, Fervent Calvary, in Las Vegas.
“It’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened in this church — other than you giving your life to the Lord,” he told the crowd.
“Lord, let us not wake up, but let us be awake,” Morales prayed.
The prayers also demonstrate the comfort many evangelical Christians seem to have with the incongruous relationship between their faith, which traditionally teaches forgiveness, love and humility, and a candidate who insults opponents, curses from the podium and boasts in an uncharacteristic way. humble leadership usually taught in evangelical churches.
From the same pew, and minutes apart, it is not uncommon to hear prayers and then falling.
Prior to Trump’s November appearance in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Baptist minister Patrick Wiedemeier, is supported The 2016 presidential campaign of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz likened Trump’s presence to the second coming of Jesus Christ by praying to the audience: “There’s great excitement in this place, Lord. And rightfully so. But this is just a taste of what will happen when he sends his son as king of kings, and he makes things right.”
When Trump took the stage 90 minutes later, his words barely tasted of evangelical Christianity, which emphasizes a merciful, loving and patient God.
“How does he keep that fat, ugly face?” the former president asked rhetorically about one of his political foes in Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. Trump later praised China’s Communist President Xi Jinping, who “rules his people with an iron fist” and made a baseless allegation that the president was on drugs before calling President Joe Biden a “stupid man.” it is turned off during public appearances.
The former president later pontificated about his controversial behavior: “Now, there may be people who don’t like my attitude, but it’s my attitude that got me there.”
Bornhoft and Tenney said the person who asked them to pray was Jackson Lane, the Trump campaign’s Iowa faith outreach director, and he didn’t put any restrictions on their prayers or dictate what they should say.
Lane did not respond to a request for comment, and the Trump campaign declined to comment.
Over the past eight years, Trump has effectively remade the Republican Party in his own image, and there is evidence that a significant portion of the evangelical church has also been formed under Trump’s leadership.
In 2016, Trump won just 22% of Iowa’s evangelical vote, according to the caucus. input vote. At the very end NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom survey51% of evangelicals in Iowa said they support Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination.
Trump’s once erratic behavior is now often a feature of pastors’ own words from the stages they shared with the former president.
Two of the ministers spoke to NBC News about their calls.
Bornhoft acknowledged that it was “in a sense” awkward to have a minister take the same podium as Trump, but added: “Part of him being on stage is what got us out of war years ago, keeping us with a closed border. “
“There are a lot of presidents who swear behind the scenes, who do a lot of different things,” Bornhoft said. “I hate to say it, but the office demands it sometimes.”
Claiming that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, Minister Tenney said he was “led by the spirit of God to say what I said.” When NBC News asked him about evidence pointing to the integrity of the 2020 election, he demurred.
“There’s an idea that’s been circulating among the left and the left-wing news media,” he said. “But I have a completely and totally different opinion, and that is that there was interference in the election and that the election was not a free and fair election.”
Tenney believes Trump is a “born-again” Christian, but doesn’t believe Biden, a lifelong Catholic, is a Christian because he supports abortion rights.
“You can’t be a Democrat and a Christian,” he said.
Tenney, 27, said he is also working to get other faith leaders to support Trump. But his full-time vocation is “preaching the gospel” as an international Pentecostal evangelist.
“Trump is meeting with the pastors of this nation, talking to them, talking to their congregations,” he said. “And that’s a good thing, because it’s not a good thing to have TV preachers and evangelists around, especially when they believe in the gospel of progress.”
According to him, God revealed to him that in March 2020, Trump will win the election, but he will not serve his second term. He described the revelation as “a very strong impression that came out of nowhere” during prayer.
“The election was stolen, but God allowed it,” he said.
In 2024, Tenney continues to pray that God will restore Trump to the White House. Besides her prayers, she does her part as a caucus captain for the former president.
“Does God want Trump to be president? Time will tell,” he said. But we want him to be president”