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Republican Convention: Most Evangelicals Fall In Line Behind Trump


And I'm Steve Inskeep in Cleveland, which is hosting the Republican National Convention this week. Let's meet one of the convention speakers, Pastor Mark Burns of South Carolina, who gave the benediction on the convention's first day.


MARK BURNS: Lord, we're so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We're thankful that you are guiding him - that we, together, can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united, in Jesus' name - if you believe it, shout amen.


INSKEEP: There you go. Pastor Mark Burns of The Harvest Praise & Worship Center in Easley, S.C., who's now come by our studios at WCPN Ideastream. Good morning, sir.

BURNS: Good morning, happy to be here.

INSKEEP: Much discussion about that benediction - did you mean to say God is on your party's side?

BURNS: (Laughter) Well, you know, I think a lot of things that I said in this speech - first of all, let me just say this - you have to understand that what took place in the context of what just happened right before I came on the stage.

INSKEEP: Oh, there'd been a lot of turmoil on the floor...

BURNS: There'd been a lot of turmoil and division...

INSKEEP: ...Because people wanted to vote. Right.

BURNS: Absolutely. I called it an attempted coup, so to speak, to take place. And so when I came out on the platform, it was in my intention and heart to just remind the Republican Party that we're not to be fighting each other at this stage, but that today and moving forward, we are to unite together to defeat our political opponent, which is the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton. In reference to saying - is God on our side? - I'm a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And for me, whenever I get - every opportunity I get to declare his name on whatever platform, I'm going to do so.

INSKEEP: I'm thinking, though, about - well, there's a remark by Amy Sullivan, who's been a religion writer for many years now with Yahoo News, who wrote, I've never heard anything remotely this partisan or pushing theology this distorted. That was her opinion. Convention prayers, she said, are usually nonpartisan affairs. Are you - are you suggesting maybe you got a little carried away by the emotion the moment? Or you said what you meant?

BURNS: Well, you know, I think - let me just say this. I think I'm a lot like Mr. Trump in some ways, that maybe when people say this was the most, you know, partisan prayer. For me, I was just doing what I've always done for Mr. Trump at his rallies. And that's just to rally the people and to declare to them that - not so much God is on our side because God represents everybody for those who believe in him, but that - to remind the people, you know, we are a country under God, indivisible. And that was my intention and heart, to just address that.

INSKEEP: For some reason, I'm thinking of those words by Abraham Lincoln who said of the Civil War, both sides thought God was on their side, but it could have been that neither one was right.

BURNS: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: One had to be wrong, and maybe both were wrong. I want to note for people that you're African-American and that, of course, African-Americans, broadly speaking, as a voter group, have voted Democratic. Here you are supporting Donald Trump. Has that sparked interesting discussions where you're (unintelligible)?

BURNS: Well, without question, across this country, that it has sparked different dialogues on both sides. But I really believe this is a season and a time that we really have to begin to start removing those adjectives that describe who we are. In reality, it divides us. The fact that you have to say I'm a African-American pastor supporting the Republican Party, we have to begin to change that dialogue because, first and foremost, I'm a Christian. Secondly, I'm an American. Thirdly, I'm a black man. So my faith and my loyalty to my country outweighs my ethnicity.

And I believe it - until leaders from the head now - from the president on down begin to stop viewing us as the races and the colors that divide us but really begin to focus on those colors that unite us, our country's going to stay in a divided state it is in right now.

INSKEEP: In a few seconds, do Donald Trump's values match your values as a Christian?

BURNS: Donald Trump, absolutely. There are three major points that Donald Trump is standing on that I support as a Christian. Number one, he supports, you know, the sanctity of marriage. Number two, he supports abortion - he supports, you know, the life of babies. He's pro-life. And security for families, so yeah, absolutely.

INSKEEP: OK. Pastor Burns, thanks for coming by, really appreciate it.

BURNS: Happy to be here.

INSKEEP: That is Mark Burns, pastor of the Harvest Praise & Worship Center in Easley, S.C.

Now, let's talk about another aspect of this convention. There's so much business that takes place on camera, but a lot of business takes place off camera - the meetings, the glad-handing, the receptions, maybe the occasional drink. So we gave the cocktail beat to National Review senior editor Jonah Goldberg who's still with us.

Jonah, where were you last night?

JONAH GOLDBERG: Well, when you say last night, about four hours ago.


GOLDBERG: Four and a half hours ago?

INSKEEP: Where were you all night? Go on, yeah.

GOLDBERG: So, you know, as someone who's more of a critic of Donald Trump but also a conservative, I've also sort of felt like we've been - there's been a lot of commiserating going on for the people who clearly lost. And then, last night, I was invited to a party at BuzzFeed for all of the media - ostensibly, for all the media outlets that have been banned by the Trump campaign.

INSKEEP: From time to time, he's banned people from events and so forth.

GOLDBERG: That's right. And I got there late. I got there - I had - let's say I had pre-gamed a bit.


GOLDBERG: And when I got there, I immediately got the sense that whatever sense of this being a select few - a sort of Henry V, we-happy-few mood had left because shortly after I got there, I saw Rudy Giuliani coming in. And he...

INSKEEP: He has never been banned by the Trump campaign.

GOLDBERG: He has not been banned by the Trump campaign. But it's true. You know, conventions - people call them political conventions. But in reality, to a large extent, they're media conventions. The media, at least in past conventions, has outnumbered the delegates.


GOLDBERG: And so it's a chance for everybody to get together and catch up and have drinks and commiserate and gossip. And there's been a lot of that going on.

INSKEEP: And is the discussion a lot different than whatever we see on camera?

GOLDBERG: It is. I would say among the delegates, enthusiasm for Donald Trump is pretty high. Among, sort of, professional sort of journalists - conservative journalists like me, movement conservatives, party leaders...

INSKEEP: Also political professionals and that sort of thing.

GOLDBERG: There's much - you know, it's ironic that this norovirus broke out...

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

GOLDBERG: ...Affecting all of these delegates, right, which is this terrible...


GOLDBERG: ...Gastrointestinal disease. And what I like about it is that we've - it's - this campaign season has been figuratively bowel-stewing for so long, and now we have a moment of literalism as the primaries come to an end.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) I can't believe we're going to end on that note.

GOLDBERG: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: But we're going to end on that note. Jonah Goldberg, thanks for going out and partying for us. I really appreciate that.

GOLDBERG: Great to be here. Thank you.

INSKEEP: Hope you're able to go on and get some sleep. We are in Cleveland at WCPN Ideastream. We are covering the Republican National Convention. It is Day 3. And we will continue to cover it throughout this morning, throughout this day and throughout the week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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