Election '18

Christian Organization Sets Out to Reclaim Evangelical Voters from Trump

White evangelicals went all in on Trump. Faith leaders want to them to reconsider.

On Friday, The Guardian detailed the efforts of Vote Common Good, a Christian organization that is seeking to persuade Republican evangelicals to abandon President Donald Trump, and elect a Democratic House:

The message is the most politically explicit of a number of progressive Christian groups seeking to push back against conservative evangelical support for Trump. Whereas most focus on Jesus's teaching to protect the poor and vulnerable, Vote Common Good is honing in on places that voted in Republican representatives in 2016. Exercise your democratic right to get them out, is the essence of its campaign.

"We have been really dumbfounded and dismayed by the level of support that evangelical leaders have given to Trump," said executive director Doug Pagitt. "We have a moral obligation and a religious obligation to offer a different voice. Our faith compels us to speak out."

In the 2016 presidential election, 81% of white evangelical Christians voted for Trump. Two years on, Pagitt estimates that between five and 20% of those voters are "moveable".

He said: "They may have voted for Trump, but they are not supportive. Many of them had no idea it could be this bad. They've watched the rhetoric turn into horrible life implications for people, such as separating children and parents at the border, and they see it as contrary to human decency.

"They are generally silent, and most feel alone and isolated. We want to stand with them, look them in the eye and tell them their faith calls them to do something different in the polling booth this time."

Trump's election had a profound impact on the way that white evangelical voters view politics. In 2011, polling showed that only 30 percent of white Protestants believed a politician immoral in private life was suitable for "public and professional life." Now, that number stands at 72 percent, a clear signal that Trump's evangelical supporters had to convince themselves to look the other way on adultery and lying.

But there has still been friction. Conservative religious figures condemned Trump over his brutally cruel policy separating migrant families at the border. Meanwhile, polling shows white mainline Protestants are turning away from Trump, while Catholics and nonwhite evangelicals have broadly opposed him.

Religion in America is increasingly at a crossroads, with younger people turning away from faith and right-wing politicians desperate to bring faith-based indoctrination into the public square. In this transformative time, it is important to remember that no political party controls religion, and different people let their faith and politics inform each other in different ways. Religion was on both sides of the civil rights movement, for example.

Organizations like Vote Common Good are a reminder that progressive religious resistance to injustice is still alive and well in this country — and ready to make itself heard.

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.