Politicians like U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer — conservative, evangelical, self-righteous — cannot possibly view President Donald Trump as their moral equal. Trump is a vulgar adulterer, a serial liar, somebody who likely hasn't read the Bible in decades (if ever) and, while raised Christian, shows no inkling of living a life of faith.
If Trump didn't claim to be a Republican, Cramer's party, the senator from North Dakota would view the president as a heretic, an ungodly sinner unfit for the highest office in the land. Yet, since Trump is a Republican, the opportunistic Cramer supports Trump 100% of the time.
It is hypocrisy at its finest, but evangelical Republicans like Cramer see no problems. They view Trump as a vehicle for advancing their policies, whether it is moving Israel's capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as part of the conservative Christian end-times prophecy or nudging the United States toward Christian nationalism.
That's all a fancy way of way of saying the ends justify the means. If you're a reasonable person who scratches their head at the evangelical right's full embrace of the sinful serpent that is Trump, there's your answer. He'll deliver what they want and, conversely, they'll deliver the unquestioned support he wants.
It's what straight-talking secularists might call a deal with the devil.
"It's very much the Cyrus paradigm," said Andrew Chesnut, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. "The great majority of them know he is not one of their own, yet he is an instrument for implementing many of the policies they favor."
King Cyrus the Great of Persia is a key biblical figure for evangelical Christians. He allowed exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem to build a temple. While a nonbeliever himself, Cyrus served as a vessel for the purposes of the faithful. Thus the modern-day parallel to Trump.
I spoke with Chesnut this week for a podcast as a follow-up to my recent column that called out Cramer for speaking to a group called Christians United for Israel. The column pointed out that CUFI's support for Israel isn't necessarily support for Jewish people, but instead a means to fulfill an end-times prophecy in which Jews gather at their God-given homeland to assure the second coming of Jesus Christ.
(Listen to Mike McFeely's podcast with Virginia Commonwealth University professor Andrew Chesnut here:)
It is American foreign policy based on religious ideology, advanced by evangelicals like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence.
Cramer is of that ilk. So is CUFI.
"It's pure instrumentalization of the Jewish people for evangelical Christian means," Chesnut said.
Truly frightening is what the mixing of evangelicalism and foreign policy could lead to. If Pompeo and Pence — and a senator like Cramer — believe Armageddon precedes the second coming, could this drive their decision-making when it comes to, say, Iran?
"I think there's a palpable danger that we can find ourselves in some kind of apocalyptic war because of the beliefs of these men in the upper echelons of the Trump administration who subscribe to the beliefs of millennial-type theology," Chesnut said.
Ask yourself this: Do you prefer decisions about nuclear war be made with the world's best interests in mind, or the interests of evangelical Christians awaiting the rapture? Many in the group Cramer spoke to recently prefer the latter.
That should be the most terrifying thing you've read today.