Donald Trump and Kari Lake are hypocrites on abortion: Will evangelicals even notice?

Republicans played the abortion card until it stopped working for them — only foolish Mike Pence still believes

By Nathaniel Manderson

Contributing writer

Published April 28, 2024 5:45AM (EDT)

Mike Pence, Kari Lake and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Mike Pence, Kari Lake and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

I have a hard time with small talk, dinner-party phoniness and the whole idea of sucking up to a boss or someone in a superior professional position. The idea of learning how to "network up," which I once taught students in a high school career course I designed, makes me want to vomit. I know it's good advice, because I've seen it work throughout my entire career by people willing to do it. But I cannot do it personally.  

I have certainly heard the cliché about how we're supposed to treat the janitor with the same respect as the CEO. But in practice, I have rarely seen that happen. What has hurt me professionally is that I tend to treat the blue-collar folks with great respect and upper-level professionals with disdain. Too often, I have no respect for these higher-ups because I find many of them to be incompetent suck-ups.  

"Successful" people often seem to be the type who care more about how they are seen, how much money they make, how big their house is or how much they have traveled, rather than being good people — or even good at their jobs. This way of things is part of American professional culture, which I believe is a big part of why so many people in this country feel spiritually empty. Selling your soul for a promotion, a larger home or job protection can never fill that void. 

This leads me to Donald Trump, Kari Lake and the other so-called Christians who pretended to care about abortion. As I just suggested, there's an important difference between people who are obsessed with how they are perceived and people who are living examples of the beliefs they espouse. Trump and Lake are good examples of the former. Former Vice President Mike Pence, although I believe him to be foolish and wrong-headed, is the latter.  

You see, Pence truly believes that abortion is murder at any stage, that being gay sends you to hell and should be cured and that a liberal pastor like myself is almost certainly controlled by the devil. All of that is real for Pence, which is why he finds a way to embrace every Republican political agenda that points toward those evangelical goals. From my perspective, it's too bad that Pence has ignored the teachings and ministry of Jesus Christ while professing to follow the true form of Christianity. Still, I give him credit for believing in what he is doing. That idea is a total mystery to Donald Trump. I am just guessing here, but I get the strong feeling that Trump does not believe in anything except punishing his enemies, burnishing his greatness and increasing his wealth..  

Did Pence simply not notice when Trump called for him to be killed on Jan. 6, 2021, or any of the many other occasions when Trump proved that he was only pretending to care about the evangelical agenda? Either Pence is really that dumb or he sold his soul to win on the evangelical agenda. Neither of those is a good sign. 

This brings me back, eventually, to my main point. I can only wonder whether betraying yourself is any amount of money or more political power or greater social status. I have known far too many miserably married couples with kids and a nice house who are secretly, or not so secretly, desperate to get out. They stay in in their unhappy situation for financial security, social acceptance, status, real estate and whatever else. Clearly they have their reasons, but I find it indicative of an American society that cares more about branding oneself than expressing anything authentic.  

This is why Donald Trump has been so successful in politics. In every public display of American culture, the brand comes first. Trump is a brand far more than a human being, and I am beginning to think that far too many others are as well. Whether in human relationships, politics, the news media or the churches, everything is understood as a public-facing brand. 

So I am not the least bit surprised that Trump and Lake have changed their tune around abortion. This was always a political game for them and nothing else. You might have noticed that virtually no one in the evangelical movement, other than Pence, has shown any shock or dismay at Trump's reversal — again, none of this ever had anything to do with abortion. It was always about power, revenge and money. 

The hard truth here is that the abortion issue was driven by rage against the feminist movement. Many evangelicals were eager to blame feminism for destroying the American family — and that kind of male rage is not just found within the evangelical church.

Abortion was never a core issue for the evangelical movement until it was seen as a political winner. There was no great outcry from the evangelical churches after Roe v. Wade was decided in the early '70s. It was a full decade later or so when evangelicals came to understand how easy it was to raise money and win elections while blaming all of America's social ills on the evil feminists who want to murder their babies. It didn't matter that no honest Biblical theology backs up this position. In fact, it took almost 40 years for them to come up with some precise cherry-picking of scripture they could use to justify banning abortion.  

Their theology is as weak a faith-based argument as I have ever seen. Using their biblical logic, I could just as easily argue that we should stone to death anyone who looks at porn, feels hatred for others in their hearts or has committed a single sinful act. In fact, it would be easier to make those arguments from the Bible than to argue that abortion is murder.  

The hard truth here is that the abortion issue was driven by rage against the feminist movement. Many evangelicals were eager to blame feminism for destroying the American family. To be sure, that kind of male rage is not just found within the evangelical church. It is evident throughout American society. I find it odd that under American law, violence against women is not defined as a hate crime. If it were, I think we would conclude that women are targeted for hate crimes more than any group in America. Sometimes branding is important.

In any event, we can be sure that Donald Trump never cared about abortion, women's rights, civil rights, workers' rights, the evangelical agenda or anything else with any clarity or consistency. Trump is about Trump and celebrating the Trump brand. Defeating Trump will mean resisting all the small-minded self-branding crap that seems to dominate American behavior.  

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The only brand I care about is the working-class poor of all races who can't pay their bills, buy a house or pay their rent, and are working two to three jobs while knowing that their kids have fewer opportunities than their parents. 

I recently started working some shifts at FedEx, doing overnight package handling. It's a nightly four-hour workout, unloading massive trailers. As hard as the work is, I love my co-workers more than any group of colleagues I've ever had. There is none of the positive-mindset manifestation crap I see on Instagram, and no arrogant claims about personal, political or religious philosophies. It is just a bunch of people working our asses off for not much lmoney and even less respect. There was a time in America when that kind of work was enough to buy a house, raise a family and send your kids to college, but that's no longer the case. Every one of my FedEx co-workers works multiple jobs and is close to the edge of losing everything, and might live long enough to see their kids have even less.  

The Christian faith should honor hard work and disadvantaged people. It should hear, love and serve the least among us. In fact, we could say that the Christian faith, the American dream and what we used to call blue-collar values need a rebranding, a revaluing and a renewed moral clarity. Perception is seen as everything in America, but perception is not reality. I respect Mike Pence, although I believe he is wrong about almost everything, because at least he believes in what he is doing.   

It is time to stand up for authenticity, for whatever it is you truly believe in. Stop worrying about your legacy and embrace your truth. We need to reclaim our faith in the American dream, and in ourselves as individuals. As a pastor, I have been by the side of people on their deathbeds. Over and over, I have heard them express regret about the times when they pretended to be something they were not, or were untrue to themselves just to get along and go along. As far as we know we are here on this earth just once, and I pray none of us will spend another minute pretending to be something we are not. Forget the brand and embrace yourself. The more Americans can be true to themselves, the more irrelevant a brand like Donald Trump will become.

By Nathaniel Manderson

Nathaniel Manderson was educated at a conservative seminary, trained as a minister, ordained through the American Baptist Churches USA and guided by liberal ideals. Throughout his career he has been a pastor, a career counselor, an academic adviser, a high school teacher and an advocate for first-generation and low-income students, along with a paper delivery man, a construction worker, a FedEx package handler and whatever else he could do to take care of his family. Contact him at

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Abortion Christianity Commentary Donald Trump Evangelicals Kari Lake Mike Pence Religion Republicans