Man of Zeal: Iowa’s ‘MAGA Pastor’ Tenney Drove 18 Hours to Boost Trump in New Hampshire

Man of Zeal: Iowa’s ‘MAGA Pastor’ Tenney Drove 18 Hours to Boost Trump in New Hampshire

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At a Trump rally in Concord, the Rev. Joel Tenney talked Democrats, Armenia, Israel, and the character of the man he calls ‘God’s anointed man for the time.’

Many who came to hear former President Donald J. Trump speak in Concord, New Hampshire, on Jan. 19 waited for hours beforehand in the cold parking lots outside. Some had traveled from hours away in nearby states—for instance, Kim Keafer, who had driven all the way from St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

But the Rev. Joel Tenney had most of the crowd beat.

“I came from Iowa—drove 18 hours immediately after the caucus was finished to work here and campaign here—knock doors, make phone calls to ensure Nikki Haley does not win here in New Hampshire primary,” the energetic Iowa evangelist told The Epoch Times in the last few minutes before President Trump took the stage.

Mr. Tenney became a go-to source for legacy media and other sources in Iowa. Axios included him in a grouping of “MAGA pastors.”

In Iowa, religious leaders like Mr. Tenney diverged from some other high-profile Christian faith leaders there who endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Bob Vander Plaats, the CEO of the Family Leader, was one such pro-DeSantis voice in the Hawkeye State.

“I love Bob. He’s an amazing guy … We’re friends on Facebook,” Mr. Tenney said.

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“But I’ll tell you what—I was very disappointed with that, [and] I think a lot of Iowans were, that he did not stand behind the greatest president of our lifetimes,” he added.

Christian boosters of Mr. DeSantis point out that he signed a heartbeat bill that the former president has criticized as “too harsh.”
During a Fox News town hall before Iowa’s caucus, President Trump walked a fine line on abortion, avowing no support for heartbeat bills and stressing that he was “for the exceptions, like Ronald Reagan, with the life of the mother, rape, incest.”

Mr. DeSantis accused the president of having flip-flopped on the issue during his debate with former United Nations ambassador Haley that same night.

“I think he [President Trump] did very, very well for the pro-life movement,” Mr. Tenney said, noting that he broke new ground in office by speaking at the March for Life in 2020.

“He was the only president to ever do that. He saved millions of babies’ lives just from that alone,” Mr. Tenney said.

At a time when mainline Protestant churches often display rainbow flags and other signifiers of left-liberal causes dear to many modern Democrats, Mr. Tenney staked out a comparably staunch position on the other side of a partisan divide that extends to Americans’ Sunday mornings.

“If you vote for a Democrat, you cannot be a Christian. In my estimation as a pastor, when I examine the Word of God, it’s not possible,” he said.

Pastor Joel Tenney from Iowa speaks during an interview with The Epoch Times at a Trump rally in Concord, N.H., on Jan. 19, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Pastor Joel Tenney from Iowa speaks during an interview with The Epoch Times at a Trump rally in Concord, N.H., on Jan. 19, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Laments Loss of Armenian Christian Enclave

Mr. Tenney’s zeal has led him to spread the Word abroad, including among Armenian Christians. He lamented the recent flight of ethnic Armenians from the Republic of Artsakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, following an attack from Azerbaijan on the largely unrecognized state, which first split from Azerbaijan amid the collapse of the Soviet Union. The enclave formally ceased to exist on the first day of this year.

Predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan’s successful displacement of Christians from the territory was enabled in part by Israeli weapons.

Mr. Tenney, who, like many evangelical Christians, is a strong defender of Israel and the Jewish people, argued that the United States was complicit in that, thanks to its aid.

“Our dollars got behind Israel, which then went to Azerbaijan. In effect, the United States weaponized Azerbaijan, and we turned a blind eye under the Biden administration and lost Artsakh, the oldest Christian enclave in the world,” he said.

Defends Trump’s Character

President Trump’s character is one of the most hotly disputed matters in all American politics—and that extends to the Granite State ahead of its caucus.

Some New Hampshirites cite it as a reason for their opposition to his candidacy, up to and including a willingness to vote tactically against him.

Lucas, a young man at a coffee shop in Keene who would not share his last name, said he might participate in the Republican primary with the specific aim of thwarting the former president.

“Trump, specifically, is a malignant narcissist,” the man said.

But at the rally in Concord, President Trump’s supporters, including Mr. Tenney, had a very different perspective.

“President Trump is a humble person, okay? And he wants to fight for our rights,” Mary Donnelly, a woman who has supported President Trump’s political ambitions at least as far back as 2015, told The Epoch Times.
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald J. Trump speaks during a campaign event in Concord, N.H., on Jan. 19, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald J. Trump speaks during a campaign event in Concord, N.H., on Jan. 19, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Tenney credited him with personal decency behind the scenes—in his recounting, through a moment of sympathy with Iowa state lawmaker Brad Sherman, whose daughter had recently died.

The evangelist also likened the former president to King David and Cyrus the Great. The Bible records that the latter man ended the Babylonian captivity of the ancient Judeans.

“King Cyrus does not have a perfect moral track record, but he was God’s anointed man for the time, and that’s what I see with President Donald J. Trump,” he said.

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