For months, Rose Aller kept her support for Donald Trump a secret from colleagues at the Northern Virginia school where she works as a substitute teacher.

“You’re judged for your beliefs,” she said. “Our media branded you a racist, a bigot, a homophobe if you were Republican.”

So Aller stayed quiet. Only at church did she feel surrounded by people who think like her, people who were distraught over the changing values they perceived around them and were pulling for Donald Trump as their unlikely standard-bearer to bring their chosen Christian policies back into the White House.

Late last Tuesday, Aller discovered that she and other members of her church were far from alone. Eighty-one percent of white evangelical voters had voted for Trump. Aller, 46, went to school that Wednesday wearing a red-for-Republican T-shirt and beaming at a few other teachers who seemed jubilant instead of despondent about the election results. She wasn’t the only Trump supporter in school, it turned out.

And that night, at church, she was one of hundreds.

“Let’s take a moment,” Pastor Gary Hamrick exhorted about 500 uplifted congregants at Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg that Wednesday night, “to pray for our President-elect, Donald Trump.”


Hands of praise shot into the air.

“Every church is going to be influenced by the culture,” Hamrick said. “The issue becomes, will the church rise up and become an influencer of the culture?”

During the eight years of President Obama’s administration, white evangelical Christians, who make up one-quarter of the American electorate, felt the dominant culture moving away from them.

They watched as same-sex marriage became the law of the land, and as Christians were reviled for saying they didn’t want to provide pizzas or cakes or photographs for those weddings. They heard “Black Lives Matter” and didn’t understand when they were demonized for responding “All Lives Matter.”

They witnessed their nation elect and reelect a president who had disparaged people like them who “cling to guns or religion,” and then later seemed to think that anyone should be allowed to use any bathroom they like.

And then on Wednesday, evangelicals woke up remembering what it’s like to feel victorious in American politics.

“Their deepest desires may be enacted into laws – or hated laws repealed. Their prayers were answered – by electing a rude, crude and morally unacceptable nonbeliever,” Scott Thumma, a Hartford Seminary professor who studies megachurches and nondenominational evangelical churches, wrote in an email. “I have interacted with a few evangelicals since the election … and every one of them were proud and happy to have had a part in Trump’s election – not exactly because of who Trump is, but what he stood for.”

To be sure, these white evangelical supporters knew Trump was an odd champion. He is a self-declared Presbyterian but never a churchgoer. He is thrice married with a history of boasting about his infidelity, and he leveled insults at people including a beauty queen, a disabled reporter and even the pope.

Exit polls showed that 49 percent of Trump’s voters said they had reservations about him, and almost 1 in 5 voters who considered Trump unqualified to be president still cast a ballot for him. Whenever they spoke in church about Trump, they, too, did it with caveats.

Of course he’s not a Christian like we are. Of course I wish he hadn’t said that thing about grabbing women by the crotch. Of course. But … .


“People wanted to vote for Hillary because they’re like, ‘Trump is a bigot.’ He is! But Hillary is 10 times worse,” Scott Risvold said, sitting on an overstuffed couch in the lobby at Cornerstone Chapel, where he was 45 minutes early for the Wednesday night worship service.

On the opposite couch, Rob Cole nodded. “My sister, I just wanted to unfriend her on Facebook today, because she’s a die-hard Democrat,” he said.

Cole told Risvold, who left a position in military intelligence last year at 29, about a video he watched online in which a Christian speaker abroad hailed Trump’s victory. “It really makes you feel great to be a Christian,” he said.

That’s how Aller, the substitute teacher, felt too. “There’s been a big attack on our Christian faith. I think Christians took a big stand this time and said we’re going to stand up for our faith.”

The morning after the election, Aller said, a black second-grader came into her school and declared, “Trump was elected, so we’re moving.”

Aller said she responded: “We’re going to miss you. Let me know when your last day is. We’ll throw you a goodbye party.”

She said she’s sure the boy knew she was joking.

Then a little girl, also from a minority racial group, said she was unhappy about the result of the election, too, Aller recalled. “I think you should have a more positive attitude about that,” Aller said she told the girl.


Sitting in the back row of Cornerstone’s huge sanctuary on the night after the election, Aller related these stories to fellow churchgoer Morgan Hamrick, who also works as a substitute teacher. “That’s what I was telling the kids. What do you think is going to happen that’s so bad? Like, make America great again,” Hamrick, 23, said.

Hamrick’s father-in-law is the pastor at Cornerstone, a bustling church almost 40 miles outside Washington. Cornerstone’s congregation, predominantly white and multigenerational, is growing fast, and that post-election service was the last Wednesday service before it moved into a new building with a sanctuary twice the size. Stripped for the move, the room was unadorned except for an eight-foot-tall wooden cross on one wall and a few gourds on the stage where a well-amplified band played rock-style hymns.

About 500 people had gathered for worship, and about 220 young people, from a year old through high school-age, met separately for services at the same time.

A number of these Leesburg churchgoers make the long commute to work in the District of Columbia, where many of them feel like the only conservative – and perhaps even the only Christian – at their workplace, Gary Hamrick said. Church is normally their refuge, their place for meeting with like-minded people. When he laid out the candidates’ platforms in a pre-election sermon and then preached that they should vote for the candidate who best matched their values, they almost all knew he meant Trump.

Hispanic Catholics, Jews and some from other faiths voted heavily for Clinton on Election Day. White Catholics and mainline Protestants split for Trump, by a much smaller margin than evangelicals did. But the people who worship at Cornerstone and similar churches turned out in legion for Trump. White evangelicals made up 26 percent of the electorate, according to the exit polls, and Trump won about 8 in 10 of their votes.

White evangelicals were crucial to Trump’s victory. Had no white evangelicals voted, Clinton would have won in a landslide, 59 percent to 35 percent.