Several anti-Trump evangelicals are planning a nationwide road trip in an effort to flip Congress in favor of Democrats when the midterm elections roll around — and they’re also hoping to show America that not all evangelicals are supportive of this administration.
The group Vote Common Good is hoping that voters in more than 30 swing districts might be swayed by the power of the Religious Left.
Doug Pagitt, a Minneapolis pastor and the executive director of Vote Common Good, said progressive Christians are disturbed at what they view as Republican lawmakers’ failure to “restrain and resist” the Trump administration’s worst impulses.
“Evangelicals care about the least of these, and I believe them when they say it,” Pagitt told HuffPost, referring to a Bible passage instructing Christians to care for vulnerable groups. “But then they vote for politicians that invoke policies that don’t care for the least of these.”
Pagitt is giving evangelicals as a whole too much credit. I would amend his statement a bit: Ideally, evangelicals would care about “the least of these.” But we know that at least 81% of them — the percentage that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 — don’t seem to care at all. Even as refugee families continue being torn apart, they support a GOP committed to pushing through conservative judges in the name of being “pro-life.”
Calling out that hypocrisy is one of Pagitt’s goals, and he’s going to areas that have plenty of conservative Christians.
“What we’re doing is trying to give courage to people whose hearts are already opened, whose beliefs have already shifted, to say that they can vote and act according to their own beliefs,” Pagitt said.
The 14-state bus tour kicked off in Allentown, Pennsylvania, last Tuesday, with a scheduled stop in Holland, Michigan, on Monday. The bus will visit key Midwestern and Southern states — and is scheduled to spend six days in Texas, where Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke is vying for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s seat.
The tour is scheduled to end in Fresno, California, on Nov. 2 — days before the midterm elections.
It’s not that a Religious Left didn’t exist in 2016 — as Religion News Service points out, the group Nuns on the Bus has been promoting progressive politics since 2012 — but it certainly feels like this willingness to directly confront the majority of white evangelicals (specifically) has kicked into high gear only since the last election. (Would it have made a difference if they did more before 2016? It’s possible, though that could be said of just about any progressive organization. It also requires amplification by the media, which isn’t always interested in what’s believed to be a smaller subgroup within the evangelical movement.)
Better late than never, I suppose. If Pagitt and his crew can change the perception that the Republican Party is synonymous with the “Christian Party,” more power to them.
Vote Common Good says it is nonpartisan and simply supports the candidate in any given race who is more closely aligned with evangelical values. However, the group is only backing Democratic candidates this year, and one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s vice chairs, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), helped select the tour stops.
The group has also offered to help personally train Democratic candidates who want to learn how to address religious voters, particularly evangelicals.
That’s no small thing, and it’s not a violation of church/state separation. While Democrats have been rightly criticized for not reaching out specifically to the non-religious, they’ve also struggled to make inroads with conservative Christians who tend to believe (wrongly, in Pagitt’s view) Democrats stand in opposition to their core values.
At least this group acknowledges how much a “blue wave” is needed this year. Not because Democrats are “more Christ-like,” but because Republicans, despite all their power, show no desire to help the poor, mitigate suffering, care for the oppressed, or fight for (actual) religious freedom. If conservative Christians have already written off secular liberals, maybe they’ll listen to fellow evangelicals making very similar arguments.
I look forward to tracking Pagitt’s progress, though I admit I’ll be biting my nails the entire time.
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