White Evangelical voters massively abandoned Carter for the GOP, and that alliance has only grown over time. (Black evangelicals, which have a long history of political involvement dating back to the civil rights era, did not follow the same path; they predominantly identify as democratsbut does not always join the party on social issues.) Three-quarters of the white evangelicals supported Donald Trump in 2016 and their support for him remains strong. But has its approval among this group declined in recent months.
It is not clear whether this will translate into more votes for Democrats – defectors could stay at home or vote for third parties – but there are at least some signs of change. Forrester of the Christian Democrats of America said that her organization’s Facebook group has received “ many evangelical converts ” since the election. In the 2016 presidential election, 16 percent of white evangelicals voted for Hillary Clinton; in a recent survey, 17 percent said they would vote for Biden.
That could be a good sign for the small but growing number of religious candidates who embrace the more liberal evangelical tradition embodied by Carter. In Georgia, Reverend Raphael Warnock, a minister in the evangelical church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached for the US Senate as a Democrat. In Missouri, Christian Pastor Cori Bush is running for Congress. In Colorado, evangelical immigrant rights activist Michelle Warren, who had just lost her U.S. Senate bid this year, is already planning a new run.
Often these candidates have views that are broadly in line with progressive core positions such as a woman’s right to choose, marriage equality, action against climate change, immigrant rights and an extension of the social safety net. Some have received much acclaim. Warnock was endorsed by Stacey Abrams and led the democratic field in fundraising; Bush was endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; and Scholten has the support of Senator Elizabeth Warren and the forward-thinking organization Emily’s List.
But the support of democratic heavyweights does not guarantee support from progressive voters, many of whom view religion with skepticism. In a 2019 poll44 percent of Democrats said that churches and religious organizations are “doing more harm than good in American society.” A large majority of Democrats said that “liberals who are not religious” have too little or just the right amount of control over the party. Only 15 percent said they had too much. The Democratic Party came last year adopted a resolution explicitly embrace atheists after lobbying secular groups.
Some progressive voters interviewed for this story fear that openly religious candidates, even Democrats, will inevitably blur the boundary between church and state established by the First Amendment. “It must be completely separate,” said Andrea Geralds, a pro-choice, Michigan “hardcore constitutionalist” who doesn’t live in the Scholten neighborhood. “There is no middle ground for me.” Even when believing candidates say they unambiguously support the First Amendment, Geralds remains unconvinced. “As far as I’m concerned, they probably lie,” she says. She is less suspicious when it comes to other religions. When people say, “Well, do you say that about X religion?” No, I am talking about evangelicals, because evangelicals are actively trying to harm people in my country. “She says if she was given the choice between a progressive evangelical candidate and a Republican, she would stay at home.
Will Schweitzer, an independent in Georgia, who believes abortion is a private affair and those who are LGBTQ earning equal rights, is also skeptical of Warnock’s run of senates. “When I see Reverend next to a name that asks to be elected to a position of power, red flags go up,” he says. He said he will not vote for Warnock in the November special general election of the state.
Just like Scholten, some religious candidates have moved away from calling themselves “evangelical” because the label, as is generally believed, no longer matches their values.
Pastor Bryan Berghoef, who lives in the Michigan neighborhood next to Schoelten, once considered himself evangelical but no longer personally identified with the term a decade or so ago. He is not surprised that some voters feel uncomfortable. “They’ve only seen the conservative, ugly side of it,” he says.
Berghoef walks in a red neighborhood that is more tolerant – and arguably demands – policy positions that could easily sink a candidate in states like California or New York. He is a pro-choice, but believes that reducing the number of abortions through progressive policies such as expanding access to health care and providing a living wage is an important goal (a once mainstream view that Bill Clinton described the abortion as “safe, legal”, and rare “). Berghoef is popular with local Democrats, in part because of his long track record as an advocate for LGBTQ rights and racial justice. In November, he will face Republican Bill Huizenga currently under investigation for violations of ethics.
Politically, religious candidates must walk a fine line between being faithful to their religious beliefs, which can sometimes lead to more centrist positions, especially in the field of social issues, and alienating a progressive base that has definitely turned to the left.
In 2018, an ordained minister and democrat, Tabitha Isner, walked in a deep red neighborhood in Alabama. Isner is a member of the Christian Church (Disciplies of Christ), a progressive church that welcomes LGBTQ parishioners and clergy. But when Isner, who supports gay rights, was asked at a campaign event about a baker’s right to refuse service to gay customers, she admitted she was struggling with the question. “I said, ‘Well, this is difficult,'” she recalls. “I struggle with that as a religious person, not because I would ever discriminate against gays, but because I understand the value of religious freedom.”
She was put around it in progressive circles. “I lost five gay friends who just thought it was outrageous that I would try to empathize,” says Isner. “We have a real chip on our shoulder as a celebration of Christians.”
Of course, with a second Trump term at stake, the ability to cut the President’s evangelical base could be too difficult to resist, even for democratic voters who are skeptical of religion. Lori Goldman, founder of Fems for Dems, a Michigan political action committee seeking to choose progressives, said her organization would support any candidate whose policies conform to progressive values, although she acknowledges that deeply religious candidates allow her a break. “I get a bad taste in my mouth,” she says. “People have done the most egregious things in the name of religion since the beginning of time.”
For her part, Scholten talks openly about her faith on the campaign track. “I think voters have the right to know the person who represents them,” she says. The local leader who was initially skeptical eventually came along. “He said,” You are a Christian mother who is a civil rights lawyer and wants to run as a Democrat in western Michigan, “Scholten recalls. “” This will be the turn of the century, or we’ll go up in flames. ” ‘