Evan­gel­i­cals: A true test of faith in Trump

The Myanmar Times - - World -

A BOAST­FUL Don­ald Trump basked in the adu­la­tion of Chris­tian conservatives at a rally in Coun­cil Bluffs, Iowa, as he re­called their sur­pris­ingly strong sup­port in the hard-fought Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial pri­maries. He will need them again come Novem­ber 8.

Evan­gel­i­cals form a pow­er­ful vot­ing bloc that the bil­lion­aire Repub­li­can must win by sig­nif­i­cant mar­gins in key swing states if he is to de­feat Hil­lary Clin­ton at the bal­lot box.

Many re­li­gious conservatives favour Mr Trump, even af­ter many backed Ben Car­son or Ted Cruz, can­di­dates with stronger faith pedi­grees, in the pri­mary bat­tle.

But in a se­ries of in­ter­views, sev­eral evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers and lead­ers told AFP they hold deep reser­va­tions about the real es­tate ty­coon and his com­bat­ive rhetoric, per­sonal char­ac­ter and moral­ity.

Mr Trump, a Pres­by­te­rian, is a twice-di­vorced casino mag­nate who made mil­lions on a gam­bling em­pire. He has called for a ban on Mus­lims en­ter­ing the coun­try, and stands ac­cused of de­mean­ing women and cheat­ing em­ploy­ees – hardly the qual­i­ties of hu­mil­ity and virtue sought by faith-based vot­ers.

“It’s a quandary for evan­gel­i­cals, there’s no ques­tion about it,” ac­knowl­edged Mike Ham­let, who has been a pas­tor at First Bap­tist North Spar­tan­burg in the south­ern state of South Carolina for 32 years.

In Mr Trump they see a deeply flawed man, but one who none­the­less hews more closely to their Bib­li­cal val­ues, in par­tic­u­lar pro­tect­ing the un­born, than does Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Church­go­ers on a re­cent Sun­day in Spar­tan­burg, a white evan­gel­i­cal strong­hold, hes­i­tated when asked about Mr Trump, but said ul­ti­mately they would sup­port him.

“I don’t think that my stan­dard can­di­date is on the bal­lot, but I’m go­ing to vote to the right,” said Pam Dean, 59, who works with spe­cial needs chil­dren.

There are about 62 mil­lion bor­na­gain or evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian Amer­i­cans, ac­cord­ing to Pew Re­search Cen­ter. A large ma­jor­ity of white evan­gel­i­cals sup­port Mr Trump, but many say they will cast their vote against Ms Clin­ton.

“I think that is as much be­cause of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s op­po­si­tion to Bib­li­cal val­ues,” Pas­tor Ham­let said. “We’re not go­ing to have any can­di­dates that are more pro-abor­tion than she is.”

Ms Clin­ton, 68, is a Methodist, and has cited the teach­ings of Je­sus while cam­paign­ing.

Evan­gel­i­cals also largely align with the Repub­li­can Party on most is­sues, in­clud­ing na­tional se­cu­rity, im­mi­gra­tion and taxes.

But there is lit­tle un­bri­dled en­thu­si­asm for him among evan­gel­i­cals, and Mr Trump’s camp is wor­ried that like in 2012, many may choose to stay home on elec­tion day.

Evan­gel­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion may not de­cide the out­come in con­ser­va­tive South Carolina, which has not voted Demo­cratic since 1976.

But in North Carolina, Vir­ginia, Penn­syl­va­nia and Ohio, evan­gel­i­cals could prove Mr Trump’s saviour, or his un­do­ing.

“I think the jury is still out for some peo­ple, but per­son­ally when I look at the al­ter­na­tive, he is the only choice for me,” said Alexia New­man, di­rec­tor of the pro-life Carolina Preg­nancy Cen­ter. –

Photo: AFP

Don­ald Trump is seen as the lesser evil by evan­gel­i­cals.

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