White evangelical Christian voters are all in for Donald Trump—or, at least, that's the conventional wisdom. And while the president continues to see high approval ratings among that group, there are some faith leaders who hope to convince religious voters to move away from Trump in the November election. The nonprofit group Vote Common Good is holding rallies across the state through next week to try and do just that.
Doug Pagitt is a pastor and the executive director of Vote Common Good. He says that there is good reason to think that Trump might be losing some of his support among Christians. A poll commissioned by Vote Common Good surveyed evangelical Christians and Catholics in swing states, including Michigan. It showed an 11% shift toward former Vice President Joe Biden among those voters, when compared with their votes in the 2016 election.
Pagitt says he’s been speaking with evangelical and Catholic voters for the past three years about why they voted for President Trump in 2016 and if they plan to do so in 2020. Among those who plan to vote differently this election, Pagitt says, many cite the president's "unkind" policies. Those concerns have been amplified amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To hear Donald Trump say '150,000 people are dead, it is what it is’ doesn’t fit with any of these people’s own sense of morality, or for many of them, Jesus’s teachings that blessed are those who mourn,” Pagitt explained.
Even a small, quiet movement of evangelical Christians choosing to vote for Biden instead of Trump could influence the overall outcome in the state like Michigan, says Pagitt, where President Trump won with a slim margin of victory over Hillary Clinton.
Pagitt says he and his team are asking voters to choose a presidential candidate with a higher calling or “the common good” in mind. Given the diversity of opinions and identities among Christians in the U.S., “the common good,” as well as the question of how political policy should reflect religious values, can mean different things to different voters. That’s also true for clergy members, says Pagitt.
“This is a crucible moment for clergy,” he said. “The mixture of politics and economics and social change and racial reckoning in a pandemic have now put us in one of those moments where future generations are going to look back and say, how did you respond?”
Pagitt says he and his team recommend pastors read the Sermon on the Mount with their congregation just prior to the election.
“If you can read the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes, and still feel that your vote matches the vote for this president or for these Republicans in this election, then step forward in faith,” he said. “And if you feel that quiet movement in you that says, ‘This doesn’t fit’ … then maybe your faith needs to lead you on November 3.”
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Nell Ovitt.