As Election Day looms, evangelical Christians are a voting bloc that pundits and pollsters continue to watch. Having consistently cast Republican ballots for years, white evangelicals are questioning the party's nominee, Donald Trump, in ways that may shakeup up the electoral college math. For authors—who write about the Christian community, or are a part of it—this election has produced much to ponder and, at times, despair.
“Prominent evangelical leaders—conservatives—are speaking out against Trump,” said Michael Wear, former director of faith outreach for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and the author of Reclaiming Hope (Thomas Nelson, Jan. 2017). “They’re proving that conservatives are not beholden to the Republican Party.”
Many evangelicals have spoken about the fact that they face a crisis of conscience in having to choose between Trump and Hillary Clinton, especially because the latter is pro-choice. “There is a real burden and spiritual harm due to this election,” said Wear. His advice: “Cast a vote that aligns with your life; which candidate will best be used to love your neighbor?”
Jim Wallis, author of America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America (Brazos, Jan.) and founding editor of Sojourners magazine, considers the presidential election a “moral test” for white evangelicals. “Racism goes against the very heart of the gospel,” he told PW. “And Donald Trump has very clearly and deliberately stoked and used racial bigotry for his own political advancement.”
Theologian Miroslav Volf has endorsed Hillary Clinton, making her the first presidential candidate he has publicly supported in his career. “Donald Trump has no regard for the most vulnerable people in society—the poor, the sick, the young, and the elderly—or for common decency toward women,” Volf told PW. “The prospect of having an incredibly incompetent and very arrogant person leading a powerful country is very scary; that combination can be disastrous.” (Volf’s most recent book, Public Faith in Action (Brazos) was named one of PW’s five best religion books of 2016.)
Bestselling author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood (Thomas Nelson, 2012) Rachel Held Evans not only endorsed Hillary Clinton, but detailed her support in a blog that refers to Trump as “an incompetent narcissist who poses a unique threat to our American democracy.”
Jen Hatmaker, who has sold nearly 200,000 copies of her 2015 book For the Love (Thomas Nelson), recently discussed the presidential candidates with Religion News Service. Donald Trump, she said, is “absolutely, positively, thoroughly unfit for the presidency,” and her vote is between Hillary Clinton and Evan McMullin (a third-party candidate who has been winning in some polls in Utah).
Franciscan friar Richard Rohr, author most recently of The Divine Dance (Whitaker House, Oct.) has Tweeted about his opposition to Trump. “The evangelical support of Trump will be an indictment against its validity as a Christian movement for generations to come,” he wrote.
Perhaps the most vocal anti-Trump evangelical leader is Russell Moore, who said he will be voting for a write-in candidate in an op-ed for the New York Times. Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, and author of 2015’s Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel (B&H), compared Trump’s campaign to “moral sewage” while speaking to CBS News.
A number of evangelical authors have also opted to comment on the election without picking a side, such as novelist and legal analyst for Fox News, Lis Wiehl (The Candidate, Thomas Nelson, 2016).
Speaking to PW about Trump calling Clinton a “nasty woman” during the Oct. 19 presidential debate, Wiehl said that "as a woman, it was a horrible moment.” Noting that she did not endorse either candidate, Wiehl observed deep unrest in the Christian community as a result of the election. “I see a lot of people confused, saddened, with aching hearts,” she said.
Although Max Lucado, a pastor and the bestselling author of God Will Use This For Good (Thomas Nelson), declined to comment for this article, the bestselling author shared his thoughts on the election back in February in a blog post titled Decency for President.
“I don’t know Mr. Trump. But I’ve been chagrined at his antics,” Lucado wrote, citing the candidate's disparaging comments at, among others, a veteran and a female reporter. Lucado was subsequently included in an anti-Trump campaign without his consent, and later denied endorsing either candidate. More recently, Lucado shared a blog urging voters to pray. “We are really ready for this presidential election to be over,” he wrote. “Rather than wring our hands we bend our knees, we select prayer over despair.”
On Oct. 9 Beth Moore, the author of the 2010 bestseller So Long, Insecurity (Tyndale) and several Bible study books, reacted to the video footage that recorded Trump discussing groping and kissing women against their will. “Wake up, Sleepers, to what women have dealt with all along in environments of gross entitlement & power,” Moore posted to Twitter. A week later, the author clarified that she does not support or endorse any candidate, writing: “My tweets on 10/9/16 had 1 purpose: to speak up for sexually abused women who feel voiceless.”
Although the divide among evangelicals—with some voting against Trump and others even voting for Clinton—signals a major break from tradition, there are still a number of evangelicals who support Trump.
Eric Metaxas, author of If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (Viking, June), endorses the Republican candidate and has urged his fans to do the same. “For many of us, this is very painful, pulling the lever for someone many think odious,” he wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. And, on October 22, he tweeted: “What lies ahead under a Clinton presidency is the end of America as we know it.”
Dr. Robert Jeffress, author of Not All Roads Lead to Heaven (Baker, Feb.), defended his endorsement of Trump during an interview with NPR in October. “If the answer is not Donald Trump because he has verbally or otherwise assaulted women, do you really want to put a woman into the White House who supports the greatest assault on women of all? And that is murdering them in the womb before they have a chance to be born,” he said.
Other evangelicals, who are against Trump, have seized the election as a chance to change the public image of their community. Over 21,000 evangelical leaders—including authors such as Lisa Sharon Harper, Shane Claiborne and Marlena Graves—have signed a petition opposing Trump on Change.org that also urges the media to stop making the "mistake" of identifying the evangelical community as largely white, conservative men. It notes that this "narrow label," among other things, "ignore[s] our diversity" and fails "to accurately represent views expressed by the full body of evangelical Christians."
The petition continues: “We, undersigned evangelicals, simply will not tolerate the racial, religious, and gender bigotry that Donald Trump has consistently and deliberately fueled, no matter how else we choose to vote or not to vote.”