Evangelicals did not support Mr. Trump in spite of who he is. They supported him because of who he is, and because of who they are. He is their protector, the bully who is on their side, the one who offered safety amid their fears that their country as they know it, and their place in it, is changing, and changing quickly. White straight married couples with children who go to church regularly are no longer the American mainstream. An entire way of life, one in which their values were dominant, could be headed for extinction. And Mr. Trump offered to restore them to power, as though they have not been in power all along.
“You are always only one generation away from losing Christianity,” said Micah Schouten, who was born and raised in Sioux Center, recalling something a former pastor used to say. “If you don’t teach it to your children it ends. It stops right there.”
…The years of the Obama presidency were confusing to her. She said she heard talk of giving freedoms to gay people and members of minority groups. But to her it felt like her freedoms were being taken away. And that she was turning into the minority.
“I do not love Trump. I think Trump is good for America as a country. I think Trump is going to restore our freedoms, where we spent eight years, if not more, with our freedoms slowly being taken away under the guise of giving freedoms to all,” she said. “Caucasian-Americans are becoming a minority. Rapidly.”
She explained what she meant. “If you are a hard-working Caucasian-American, your rights are being limited because you are seen as against all the races or against women,” she said. “Or there are people who think that because we have conservative values and we value the family and I value submitting to my husband, I must be against women’s rights.”
Her voice grew strong. “I would say it takes a stronger woman to submit to a man than to want to rule over him. And I would argue that point to the death,” she said.
She felt freer as she spoke. “Mike Pence is a wonderful gentleman,” she said. “This is probably a very bad analogy, but I’d say he is like the very supportive, submissive wife to Trump. He does the hard work, and the husband gets the glory.”
* “We are making this huge issue of white versus Black, Black Lives Matter. All lives matter,” she said. “There are more deaths from abortion than there are from corona, but we are not fighting that battle.”
“We are picking and choosing who matters and who doesn’t,” she said. “They say they are being picked on, when we are all being picked on in one shape or form.”
* There is a straight line from that day at Dordt four years ago to a recent scene at a chapel in Washington, where armed officers tear-gassed peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square and shot them with rubber pellets. They were clearing the way for Mr. Trump to march from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church and hold up a Bible, a declaration of Christian power.
“We have the greatest country in the world,” he said. “We’re going to keep it nice and safe.”
It was another instantly infamous moment, covered by cable news and decried by Democrats as an unseemly photo op. But in Sioux Center, many evangelicals once again received a different message, one that echoed the words uttered by a long-shot presidential candidate in a sanctuary on a cold winter morning.
“To me it was like, that’s great. Trump is recognizing the Bible, we are one nation under God,” Mr. Schouten said. “He is willing to stand out there and take a picture of it for the country to see.”
He added: “Trump was standing up for Christianity.”