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For the first time in history, a former (and possibly future) president of the United States is now a convicted felon. A jury found that Donald Trump falsified business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star, with whom he had an affair, in order to keep the story from hurting his 2016 presidential campaign. If only President Trump could have seen the reaction from many white evangelicals to his sexual crimes and misdemeanors, he could have saved some money.

Pundits are probably right that this conviction—like all the revelations of the past almost-decade—will have little effect on the actual election. At this point, people know who they are supporting or opposing—and it’s hard to imagine many who didn’t know all along. The implications, though, are moral, not just legal or political, and on that ground, we should ask whether the most politicized evangelicals should actually love Donald Trump more.

One might reasonably ask how white evangelicals could possibly love Trump more. The most visible evangelical supporters of the former president have been willing, since at least 2016, to wave away criticisms of his character, from the Access Hollywood tapes onward. Many of these voices defended the former president as fit for public leadership, even after a jury found him liable for doing just what he bragged about in those tapes of yesteryear: groping a woman’s genitals against her will. And now this. But all of that is precisely what I mean by asking about love.

The question has been on my mind since I read the galleys of a brilliant book on former president Richard Nixon, coming out this August, by Christianity Today journalist Daniel Silliman, which you can read more about in the soon-to-be-published July/August issue.

Most people who follow religion and politics know about Billy Graham’s oft-articulated regrets about how close he became to Richard Nixon. Many also know about Nixon’s aide—and later Watergate felon, and still later repentant born-again Christian and revered evangelical leader—Charles “Chuck” Colson, and how evangelical ministers typically were so awed by the Oval Office that they would lose the ability to say much more than “Yes sir, Mr. President” when they were there. Silliman, though, demonstrates that this was not the whole story.

There was at least one evangelical pastor who spoke hard truths to Nixon. John Huffman, a Presbyterian pastor in Florida, who had revered Nixon since his days as a young Republican at Wheaton College, preached to the president as he sat in the pews of his church in the midst of Watergate, calling both publicly and privately for Nixon to confess the truth. What’s most surprising to me is not that there was at least one courageous voice of integrity—I’m sure there were others too—but the reason that Huffman gave to Silliman for why he didn’t sidestep the question of guilt with Nixon: “I really loved the man.”

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This, Silliman argues, is what made the difference. This pastor didn’t see Nixon as a transactional figure for whom one should trade unquestioning loyalty for a set of policy positions—much less the proverbial seat at the table. He saw him as a human being—a person loved by God, and a person who would ultimately stand, as all of us will, before the judgment seat.

Put aside, for a moment, the question of whether a former president should be prosecuted. That’s another question. Put aside the politics of red state versus blue state. What about the question of morality? What would our relationship to Trump look like if it were informed by our belief that hell exists?

The former president’s defenders are too smart to believe what some of them imply—that Trump never really knew Stormy Daniels and that he was paying her six figures of hush money to keep her from talking about something that never happened. So what message does it send when—like every other political constituency—we find ways to minimize that by suggesting that the cultural and political stakes are too high to worry about such minor matters as keeping one’s vows or telling the truth?

That’s especially when a figure is held up to the rest of the country as a champion of restoring the country to Christian values—to when “girls were girls and men were men,” as the old sitcom characters Archie and Edith Bunker would sing it. And that’s especially true when Christian leaders hail Trump as a “baby Christian” and he licenses his name to Bibles. For many Americans, the word evangelical now is shorthand for “Trump supporter.” How can we blame them when, in so many arenas of American Christian life, people who deny the Trinity are embraced as Christians, but those who don’t support Trump are ostracized as apostates?

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Many will talk about how God uses flawed and imperfect people; that’s true, of course. This is not, though, a Chuck Colson repenting of his sin, taking responsibility for it and pleading for God’s mercy. This is someone who instead now says that he will take revenge on his critics and enemies the moment he is back in office.

What does that say to those who are watching, learning from Trump’s “never admit, never apologize” strategy? It says policy is more important than character. Achievement is more important than integrity. The implication from religious leaders reputedly bearing witness to the God for whom they speak is this: A man is justified by winning alone.

You know that some of us, such as this writer, have very strong views about this figure’s being fit for public leadership, what he is doing to the witness of the church, the degradation of women and the glorification of political violence, and so on.

Some of us believe strongly in the separation of church and Trump. But maybe the problem is not primarily that so many evangelicals love Trump but that they love him so little that they are willing to say to those who follow his direction, This is fine, so long as you give us what we want.

Is it really love to use someone to achieve one’s goals—never even asking what the transaction is doing to that person? And then to just pretend that all of it never happened, and, if it did, everybody does it so it’s okay? One might even say that’s how an immoral man wrongly would treat a porn star, not the way a Christian people rightly would treat a leader who claims to represent them.

God loves Donald Trump. God loves those who will wreck their lives following his moral example. That’s not in doubt. The question is—do we?

Russell Moore is the editor in chief at Christianity Today and leads its Public Theology Project.