On my regular visits to Europe, I am often asked about the support of American evangelicals for President Donald Trump. I certainly understand the curiosity given Mr Trump's well-documented reputation prior to his presidency, his unfiltered stream-of-consciousness approach to social media, and his unconventional foreign policy - to put it mildly.
Yet, many American evangelicals are so close to the administration that the President and First Lady invited them to the equivalent of a state dinner last week “celebrating evangelical leadership.” At a certain point during the evening an open microphone prompted nearly two dozen of the dinner’s 100 guests to thank the administration.
Here are some of the reasons why evangelicals said they are grateful for the policies of the Trump administration, even when they are sometimes offended by the President's sensibilities:
1. He prioritises religious freedom
The Obama administration held court over the most significant threats to America's sacrosanct first amendment as have been witnessed in modern, American history. The most egregious example was when the administration attempted to require religious Catholics, including nuns, to provide contraception against their sincerely held religious beliefs.
When the Trump administration began their term, there were more than 50 active lawsuits against the Department of Justice for similar incidences. The Trump administration prioritised religious freedom in domestic and foreign policy by immediately auditing the entire federal government to identify incidences where administration policies violated the first amendment, and they corrected them, including by settling dozens of the active, aforementioned courts cases.
On the international front, the administration began reorienting humanitarian programs to assist persecuted religious minorities which had been overlooked in countries like Iraq by United Nations’ programs, and just a few months ago the State Department hosted a global symposium on international religious freedom that brought together senior government officials from more than 70 countries.
An entire book could be written on the way the Trump administration supports religious freedom, but one of the more recent examples is their use of severe sanctions against Turkey in response to their ongoing and unjust imprisonment of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson.
2. He protects the unborn
Without question, the Trump administration is more obviously pro-life than any previous administration since abortion became legal in the United States, and at a time when public opinion has moved rapidly against abortion, even among Democrats despite the party leaderships’ near-total unwillingness to accommodate pro-life Democrats.
The head of the Susan B. Anthony List, a noted pro-life organisation, didn't initially support candidate Trump but has since come to deem him "the most Pro-life president in American history" because of numerous policies he has introduced.
During the 2016 campaign, many evangelicals were deeply moved by hearing Trump's own story as to why he changed his opinion on abortion and one of the most profound moments of the election was in the final presidential debate when Secretary Clinton startlingly voiced her ongoing support for late-term abortion, despite the grotesque practice being banned by both the US Congress and the United States Supreme Court. Trump has fulfilled his promise to greatly strengthen pro-life policies.
3. He's addressing judicial over-reach
In many ways, the 2016 election was an election not made by Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump but by the sudden death of the reliably conservative Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, putting the long conservative balance of the court in jeopardy.
President Trump's successful appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court as Scalia's replacement represented the fulfillment of his single most important promise to the evangelicals who put him in office.
This week, his second nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, will begin his confirmation process and he is equally regarded as a trusted conservative, whose confirmation could guarantee a conservative Supreme Court for at least a generation. This is another fulfilled promise.
4. He's advancing criminal justice reform
While not an issue he campaigned in support of, President Trump has become a surprising advocate for criminal justice reform in the United States, a policy concern long advocated for by evangelicals whose passion for prisoners finds its roots in the New Testament itself.
The President’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, came into the White House with his own unrelenting passion for prison reform and has found in the evangelical community a natural and effective ally.
Because of it all, the United States’ Congress is on the verge of passing the first significant reform to America’s widely criticised prison system in over 30 years. The President’s evolution on the issue is largely considered the result of his evangelical advisors as has been the case with the President’s evolution on certain immigration issues, such as providing his support for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents when they were children.
5. He's addressing the opioid epidemic
The abuse of opioids in the United States is the nation's most significant drug problem, directly or indirectly affecting millions of Americans. The administration has forcefully taken on this addiction crisis, even when it meant taking substantial measures against large American companies despite opposition from the President's own party.
Evangelical pastors, who walk through addiction with members of their congregations, have been on the frontline of this developing crisis for years. The Trump administration has acted with the full force of the federal government, and it has already saved many lives.
6. He's strengthening the family
The administration's widely supported tax cuts, which were passed by the Republican-controlled Congress, under the direction of the President, included the doubling of the standard tax credit given to parents for their children, and the administration is now well on its way to finally introducing to American life a meaningful program to support "paid family leave."
The United States is far behind Europe in these types of social programs, but the Trump administration appears to have found an approach that would be considered fiscally responsible by Republicans even while meeting a long-term policy priority of Democrats.
7. The economy is thriving
The administration's economic policies - from deregulation to workforce development - have resulted in nearly 3 million Americans being taken off of government assisted food programs, over 5 trillion dollars being added the United States' economy, and the lowest ever unemployment numbers among African Americans, Hispanic Americans, young people, and women.
The overall unemployment number is at its lowest since 1969. In 2017, Americans were also more generous than ever before donating at least $410 billion to charity, the highest number on record.
Taking our seat at the table
Those are some of the reasons why President Trump enjoys the highest approval rating any Republican president has ever received from the Republican Party.
Obviously, these highlights only represent part of an always-imperfect picture, but we mustn't deceive ourselves into thinking there aren't logical reasons to support this unconventional president.
Earlier this year, when liberal American Bishop Michael Curry decided to parlay the gift of newfound fame into a candlelit march on the White House just two days after he was entrusted with preaching at the Royal Wedding, I was asked by CNN what I thought of the opinions of Christians like Curry who so ardently oppose the Trump administration.
Here was my answer, "many of them are my friends, too, and we happen to mainly agree on the challenges facing our country and our world. We just sometimes disagree on the solutions."
One might disagree with the merits of the administration’s policies or the by-product of their approach, but one must acknowledge that many reasonable people support the administration’s policies on the basis of facts, not ideology.
As for evangelicals, I’ve personally seen the constructive work of many in our community precisely because we’ve taken our seat at the table, very often serving as the reasonable center building bridges between polarised extremes.
Rev. Johnnie Moore is an author, religious freedom advocate and the founder of The KAIROS Company, one of the world’s leading, boutique public relations consultancies. Moore is often referred to as the informal spokesperson for those evangelicals who advise the Trump administration.