The radio-show host Eric Metaxas believes protesters and the media are overreacting to the president’s executive order on refugees and immigration.
Depending on where you were this weekend, America’s crowds might have told you very different things about the state of the country. On Saturday and Sunday, thousands of people gathered at a dozen major international airports and in the streets to protest the president’s executive order on immigration and refugees. But on Friday, thousands more gathered on the National Mall for the March for Life, more in celebration than protest. Many felt encouraged, they said, about recent progress toward ending abortion, crediting Trump with taking steps on this issue during his very first week in office.
One of the speakers at the March for Life, Eric Metaxas, is a conservative evangelical talk-show host who wrote a book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who was detained and executed by the Nazis. During the campaign, he came out as a supporter and defender of Trump. When I spoke with him right after the election, he said he suspected that in time, Trump’s opponents “will see he is not the person they feared.”
Backstage at the March for Life on Friday, Metaxas told me he is feeling “tremendously encouraged” by Trump’s actions so far, particularly on abortion. By that point, drafts of the president’s executive action on immigrants and refugees were already circulating, and we discussed that as well: “When Trump says America first, it doesn’t mean cheering for America only,” Metaxas said. In general, he feels that the media has unfairly demonized the president, he said, and “we’re going to have to wait and see what he does.” Our conversation, edited for length and clarity, is below.
Emma Green: How are you feeling?
Eric Metaxas: I feel encouraged, tremendously encouraged. People on the pro-life side have never been merely advocating for an issue. [They have been] advocating for a fair debate. I think the science has so changed the debate that it will change the views of most Americans. I really think we’re at that point with sonogram imagery and a lot of the science that’s coming out, it’s getting harder and harder to deny that [a fetus] is a person.
I’m encouraged that because of Vice President Pence and President Trump and Kellyanne Conway, the truth will out.
Green: What have been your perceptions of President Trump so far?
Metaxas: He’s been shockingly, and perhaps even ironically, the most pro-life president in the history of the republic.
Green: Why do you say “ironically”?
Metaxas: “Ironically” because he is widely perceived as being anything but a social conservative. Somebody who has had three wives and who has been pro-choice most of his life is not the person you’d expect to advocate for the unborn.
But he’s 70 years old. I think he has a sense of the weight of his new position. He has genuinely done something many Never Trumpers scoffed that he would never do: Be faithful to his campaign statements on this issue. That alone is newsworthy. In one week, he has called out ABC News for not covering this March and encouraged people who have been laboring in the trenches. And also, the fact that he’s deputized the vice president and Kellyanne Conway to be speaking at the March today—it’s utterly astounding. Everyone here is profoundly encouraged.
Green: A lot of people are worried about refugees and immigration right now. Does this connect to the pro-life movement—standing up for families and people who have been persecuted on the basis of religion?
Metaxas: It’s all the details. You can err on either side of this. We’ve always been the most generous nation in the world when it comes to caring for those outside of our borders. The question is in the details: How do we keep the nation safe at the same time?
When Trump says America first, it doesn’t mean cheering for America only. It means if you want to care for your neighbors, you have to make sure that you are yourself, first, healthy. Just like they say on the plane: Take your own mask first before you help the person next to you. You’re both going to drown or die if you don’t take care of yourself.
Trump errs on the side of bluster sometimes for effect, but I don’t think that the people who voted for him, most of them, would ever be for not caring for immigrants or refugees. People in the church know it’s our obligation. The only question is how.
Green: If you had to give a general sense of how you’re feeling about the president right now, what his presidency means for the church and for America, what would you say?
Metaxas: Tremendously hopeful. I’ve never seen a president do what he said he was going to do so clearly and so rapidly in my life. The days of business as usual are over—that has been corroborated by the facts of the recent week. Any American would have to be happy and hopeful about that.
Green: But there are a lot of Americans who aren’t happy and hopeful.
Metaxas: If I sat down and talked to them, I would say … it’s an amazing thing to have an American politician, much less the president, actually saying what he means so that he actually act on it fairly quickly. It’s shocking, and genuinely hopeful for politics in America.
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