We know roughly 81% of white evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Those voters didn’t necessarily love Trump, but nothing he did turned them off enough to support Hillary Clinton, waste their vote on an obviously losing candidate, or stay home. They weren’t bothered by his blatant racism, his bragging about sexual assault, his repeatedly lies, his obvious pandering to people like them, etc.
The silver lining to that — and I say this purely selfishly — is that the Trump support will be an albatross around evangelicals’ necks for decades to come. Once again, just as with marriage equality, there was an obvious moral decision to make… and white evangelicals failed the test. Without even getting into Christian theology, the end result will undoubtedly be more people walking away from the faith. After all, why would you even consider their brand of Christianity when it leads most of them to support a monster like Trump?
With that in the background, the New York Times‘ Elizabeth Dias took a closer look at a handful of young evangelical Christians regarding how they plan to vote next week and how they voted before (if they were old enough). She found them based on their responses to a Times survey (1,500 people responded) and their comments are fascinating.
While it’s not a scientific survey by any means, some of the people she spoke with made clear that the values promoted by many Democratic politicians are much closer in line with their Christian beliefs.
There are a lot of old white men in the Republican Party that use Christianity as a weapon to get themselves elected, but I’m here to tell you that we do not fall for them. The Jesus those men depict is not the Jesus that healed the sick and broke down social barriers. We are not a part of those men’s religion, and my hope is people will see that.
Being socially conservative, yet immigrants, has been interesting at best and conflicting at worst. Most people in my parent’s church are recent immigrants. We agree with most of what Donald Trump says about God and faith, but we do disagree with what he says about immigrants and any misconduct that he and others may try to justify in his personal life.
Being an evangelical Christian, I have to compromise. I am choosing to prioritize my core Christian beliefs over the immigration policies the G.O.P. is pushing right now. That is a point of tension.
It’s been frustrating to see people in my church community not engage, particularly on those issues which the Bible seems to speak about directly, like racism and sexism.
The message is clear: Democrats practice what Christians preach. Republicans just pay it lip service.
The Christians in the article frequently mentioned their support of LGBTQ rights, their desire to help the poor, their understanding of the plight of immigrants, the idea that religious freedom applied to Muslims and Jews and not just their Christian majority, etc. Those values don’t contradict their faith. Those values are inspired by it. As they point out, the problem isn’t with politicians not being sufficiently Christian, but with evangelical leaders who often disregard their own faith.
What about abortion, though? Many evangelicals said in 2016 that they couldn’t vote for Clinton because she’s pro-choice. Trump was happy to do whatever evangelicals wanted in that regard. But liberals would argue, with good reason, that overturning Roe v. Wade or curbing abortion rights via the Supreme Court, or making it more difficult to obtain health care, or making contraception less freely available, or promoting abstinence-only sex education are all things that contribute to more abortions, not fewer.
The topic doesn’t get much coverage in the article, but based on the respondents’ other answers, it seems possible that some of them will look to the data in creating a different path in pursuit of their anti-abortion agenda rather than relying on the courts or legislature. If they can’t win over the hearts and minds of people — like same-sex marriage advocates did — a decision from elected or un-elected officials will only galvanize their opponents.
None of this is to say white evangelical support for the GOP will dramatically change next week or in 2020. But if you’re a gambler, your long-term prospects are much better if you back the Religious Left.
(Image via Shutterstock)