Poll: 59% of White Evangelicals Will “Definitely” Vote for Trump in 2020

In a Washington Post/ABC News poll taken from April 22-25, 59% of white evangelicals say they will “definitely” vote for President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Another 23% say they will consider voting for him. Only 15% say they definitely will not vote for him.

Despite widespread coverage of the Mueller report, evangelical voters seem fixed on Trump. Perhaps white evangelicals don’t believe there is much to worry about. In the same poll, 57% of evangelicals said they don’t think Russian interference will be a threat to the 2020 election. Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) didn’t think the interference had an impact on the 2016 election. Compared to other groups, evangelicals led the way in skepticism about the influence of Russian meddling.

Evangelicals are with Trump on immigration as well. They are the leading group to say his immigration policies make them more likely to support him in the next election. Sixty-three percent believe Trump’s immigration policies are good compared to 16% who oppose them.  Among all voters the breakdown is 34% who support Trump due to his immigration policies versus 42% who oppose him for that reason.

I don’t think it goes too far to say that white evangelicals as a group see the world about like Donald Trump. This is a frightening and sobering thought.

Will Evangelicals Stand By Their Man?

Update: Trump just now posted an apology video, if you can call it that. In it he goes on the attack and shows no sign of stepping down.
Update: Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) calls on Trump to drop out.
Alan Noble started a petition aimed at the RNC to fire Trump.
The October surprise (although it shouldn’t be a big surprise) has come and Donald Trump’s support from evangelicals is being tested. Will they signal to him that they are leaving or will they stand by their man?
Donald Trump’s 2005 taped vulgar conversation involving glorification of assaulting women has resulted in loss of support from some GOP elected officials. An appearance tomorrow with Paul Ryan has been canceled. What will big name evangelical supporters do?
They probably could push him from the race. If enough pulled support and he saw his base leaving him, he might drop out rather than lose badly. However, if he thinks he has a base and could win, he may stay in.
Readers, if you see reports of evangelicals going one way or the other, please post in the comments.  
After initially making light of the situation, Eric Metaxas tweeted:

Ralph Reed and Tony Perkins are standing by their man.
Silence from Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Mike Huckabee, and Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Will Evangelicals Display the Mark of Trump?

Michael Gerson nails it in his column about evangelical support for Donald Trump in yesterday’s Washington Post.
He reports that 500 evangelical “leaders” will meet with Trump on June 21 and berates them because he assumes they have sold out. It certainly looks that way to me.
I think evangelical leaders have a lot to lose by supporting Trump. Gerson asserts that they take on the mark of Trump by their support. They risk selling their souls for a nasty political stew. I already don’t follow or respect most of them because they have been doing it for years. In this case, Trump has no redeeming qualities as a potential president and many obvious detriments. Evangelicals who jump on board will lose more than an election.
One bright spot in the article Gerson cited:

On the other hand, NewSpring Church Senior Pastor Perry Noble is not too eager to attend the said event. He wrote on his website last week that he’s one of those exclusively invited but called the event a “hypocrisy.”
Perry added that Trump has already spent enough time “proving himself.”

Southern Baptist president Ronnie Floyd wants to get to know Trump. Noble correctly says Trump has already let everybody know who he is. What will a 5 minute handshake and a meeting with 500 people tell you about Trump that he hasn’t already said and done?
FRC’s head Tony Perkins told Time that the purpose is to get to know Trump.

The invitation-only event is scheduled on June 21 in New York City and will be attended by the top names in the evangelical and conservative groups. President of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins told Time that the goal for the event is for them to get to know Trump and his state policies further.

I can just hear Perkins doing his Bing Crosby imitation.

Gettin’ to know you,
Gettin’ to know all about you.
Gettin’ to like you,
Gettin’ to hope you like me.
Gettin’ to know you,
Putting it my way but nicely.
You are precisely,
My cup of tea.
On his Facebook page, Gerson introduced his column as follows:
I honestly think that conservative Christians will look back on this embrace of Trump (by some) as one of the most disturbing and embarrassing periods in their history of public engagement. Many evangelicals I know now regard Falwell and Robertson at the height of their influence in the 80s and 90s as simplistic, discrediting representatives of their ideals. That is nothing… nothing… compared to shameful spectacle of Christians contorting their convictions to accept a secularist who praises the love of money and builds resentment against minorities and the vulnerable.

Marco Rubio Announces Religious Liberty Advisory Board

At least Rubio has better taste than Ted Cruz in historians.
World magazine has the list of Rubio’s religious liberty advisory board members. Seriously, Thomas Kidd’s presence in this group makes me feel better about Rubio.

  • Carlos Campo—president, Ashland University
  • Vincent Bacote—associate professor of theology and director of the center for applied Christian ethics, Wheaton College
  • Kyle Duncan—former general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead counsel for the Green family in the Hobby Lobby case
  • Tom Farr—director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and associate professor of the practice of religion and world affairs, Georgetown University
  • Kelly Fiedorek—legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom
  • Wayne Grudem—research professor of theology and biblical studies, Phoenix Seminary
  • Chad Hatfield—chancellor, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary
  • Thomas Kidd—distinguished professor of history and associate director, Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University
  • Daniel Mark—Villanova University and commissioner, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
  • Michael McConnell—Richard and Frances Mallery professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center, Stanford University Law School
  • Doug Napier—senior counsel and executive vice president, Alliance Defending Freedom
  • Samuel Rodriguez—president, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
  • Meir Soloveichik—rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel and director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, Yeshiva University
  • Rick Warren—founding pastor, Saddleback Church
  • Thomas White—president and professor of theology, Cedarville University

Institutional affiliations for identification purposes only

Source: Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign
Whatever one might think about any one person on this list, I appreciate the number of academics on the list. Now, let’s see if they really help inform his public policy proposals. 

David Brooks Wants Us to Fight a Different Culture War; Retraining Required

Brooks is a good writer and makes a good case for what I consider to be the right position.
In essence, he says evangelicals have lost the culture war over sexual matters, and so should consider being more like the Salvation Army than the Moral Majority. Become useful again. Actually, there is a lot of that going on and Brooks says evangelicals should become known for our good works of community as opposed to outrage over gay marriage.
It is hard to look at the ministry of Jesus and find fault with Brooks’ suggestions. Christians getting all mad over losing some political power doesn’t look like the New Testament to me.
Speaking from experience, the other culture war was exciting. There was a feeling of doing something important and meaningful. I thought the objective of defeating the godless liberals was a noble cause. Being a part of the in-group is a power social experience. However, I believe there is a better way to live.
Culture warring (on both extremes I think) requires lots of confirmation bias and self-deception. As I began to raise questions about the intellectual honesty of, for instance, the evangelical positions on the causes of same-sex orientation and the lack of change really happening, I was strongly discouraged from going there. I went there.
After I went there, certain evangelicals demanded my college fire me, my family was lied about and various other in-group rejections happened. I still believe in the same Jesus and still sing from the same hymnbook, but you can’t be an A-List evangelical unless you’re willing to believe a particular set of premises. Nothing much has changed; if you go after sacred cows, the cows’ caretakers get angry, often in Jesus’ name.
I write all of this because I fear that, without some kind of retraining, the hard core evangelical culture warriors may not be up to what Brooks says is a struggle for which social conservatives should be well-equipped:

The more practical struggle is to repair a society rendered atomized, unforgiving and inhospitable.

Brooks’ suggestions are good, but there are practical problems. Evangelicals can’t even agree that it would be a good idea for a Christian to serve all comers in our businesses. We can’t even agree that being hospitable and Christlike means bakers should bake a cake for gay customers. The culture warriors applaud the person who takes actions which are inhospitable. Currently, evangelicals need to own our part in rendering society “atomized, unforgiving, and inhospitable” and to repair our own community, before we can help anybody else do it.

Who Are the Real Evangelicals? A Q&A with Historian Thomas Kidd

Historian and author Thomas Kidd caught my attention again with his column at Anxious Bench about evangelicals who are not evangelicals. He contends there that there are four groups of Christians who are often confused for historic evangelicals but should not be considered evangelicals. Theological liberals make up the first group, and orthodox Presbyterians (I would add Christian reconstructionists) the second group. The next two groups, advocates of the prosperity gospel, and Christian nation proponents (think David Barton), will probably flinch about not being included. I have clearly lumped most of those people under the evangelical umbrella at one time or another so Kidd’s precision interests me.
I asked him if I could ask him a couple of questions for the sake of discussion here. He agreed and here is the exchange:
Me: Can a person be in two groups? Can a Presbyterian in your group 2 also be an evangelical? I suspect many believers in a Christian America would also see themselves as evangelical. Can they hold every other tenet of evangelicalism and work for a political solution to the nation’s problem?
Kidd: Yes, I would assume that virtually all evangelicals would also have some other denominational/congregational identity. Plenty of Presbyterians, especially in the PCA and the EPC, would fully accept the evangelical label. My point regarding Hart’s type of confessional Reformed folks is that there are conservative Protestants who explicitly reject the label evangelical, even though much of the media would automatically regard them as evangelical.
I agree that most in the Christian America (as well as prosperity gospel) camp would embrace the evangelical label, but if the core of their Christian message is American patriotism and politics – if there is, for them, an indispensable connection between the American Founding and Christianity – then I don’t see how that fits with historic evangelicalism.

Me: In the case of group 2, the Presbyterians, they have a name for their group. However, how about groups 3 and 4. How would you label them?
Kidd: Group 3 are the advocates of the “Prosperity Gospel,” Group 4 are advocates of “Christian America.” These are not how they
would necessarily label themselves, of course.
Me: As a follow up to question 2, I suspect the Christian America advocates would view the belief in America’s Godly Heritage as a hallmark of evangelicalism since they believe many of the founders were evangelicals. By excluding this group from the historic evangelicalism, are we not engaging in a debate over what historic evangelicalism is? It seems to me that historic evangelicals and Christian nationalists are in a dispute over the definition of evangelicalism with the Christian nation group believing your definition of evangelicalism is missing the important political element. What is your reaction to that formulation? If you think I am right, can you say briefly what you point to historically to suggest they are off?
Kidd: Yes, the whole debate is a question of what historic evangelicalism is. Christian America folks are often eager to cast the non-evangelical Founders as evangelicals, because doing so helps to justify their close connection between the Christian faith and the American Founding. Thus their desire to find quotes that might suggest that Jefferson or Franklin, or other non-evangelicals were actually devout, traditional believers.Historic evangelicals, conversely, say that while they would be delighted if it turned out that Franklin or Jefferson were actually evangelicals, there’s no good evidence to suggest that they were. This is no big deal for historic evangelicals, because our faith is not fundamentally connected to the American Founding. We’re thankful for the many good things about the Founding, especially the traditions of religious liberty and God-given equality. But we don’t need any of the Founders to have been Christians or evangelicals. Some were, some weren’t – they were a mixed lot, even if they pretty much all held to some basic Christian/theistic ideas, like the notion that God is the author of our liberties.
Thomas Kidd is the author of God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution and the upcoming George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father.

What Michele Bachmann's strategy for evangelical outreach might look like

After Michele Bachmann took the Iowa Straw Poll on August 13, Bachmann’s press secretary Alice Stewart credited Peter Waldron with a job well done, saying, “Michele’s faith is an important part of her life and Peter did a tremendous job with our faith outreach in Iowa. We are fortunate to have him on our team and look forward to having him expanding his efforts in several states.”
Waldron first came into the spotlight in relation to the Bachmann campaign when The Atlantic published a story on August which detailed Waldron’s 2006 deportation from Uganda after 37 days in jail following charges of terrorism. Those charges were dropped but the expose has led to interest in the background of one of Bachmann’s staffer’s responsible for keeping the evangelical vote away from Texas Governor, and fellow evangelical, Rick Perry.
The Bachmann campaign is by far not Waldron’s first. His resume listed on websites now only accessible through Internet archives claims positions in campaigns of Reagan/Bush, Bush/Quayle, Gary Bauer in 2000 and John McCain in 2008. While it is not clear what Waldron did for other candidates, he provided a detailed look at his strategy for Gary Bauer in 2000. Bauer had worked in the Reagan administration and clearly identified with evangelicals and the religious right. Just after Waldron left a failed youth program in the St. Petersburg area of FL, he went to work for Bauer, with the aim of securing the GOP nomination. Perhaps, Waldron used elements of this plan in Iowa.
Bauer’s campaign never caught on but the strategy mapped out by Waldron involved a good showing in the same Iowa straw poll event that his new boss, Michele Bachmann, recently won.  In 2000, Bauer took fourth place in the poll which, according to Waldron, inspired some momentum:

The August 14, 1999 Straw Poll was a good test of the Iowa organization and an opportunity to lay the foundation for success in the Iowa Caucuses. The strong showing gave the campaign a positive boost going into the final quarter of the year. The Ames success was built on the deployment of several key tactics, all of which can be used for the Caucuses.

One of those key tactics was the “Deployment of a concentrated church outreach program to recruit votes in sectors not being touched by other candidates.” Apparently, they used churches for political organizing:

One of the most successful aspects of the Ames effort was the collection and use of Evangelical church lists. Through the course of the Ames effort, over 30,000 such names were collected; they yielded over 600 committed Bauer supporters. Among such Evangelical church-goers, the candidate ran second to George Bush as the first choice for the GOP nomination. More importantly, that second place standing improved substantially when mail was used to raise the candidate’s I.D. and favorable rating.

Waldron’s 2011 straw poll strategy may have looked like 2000 but the newer version was more successful. So successful, that candidate Bachmann wants to expand his role in other states. Waldron’s Bauer plan provides some insight into what such an expansion might look like. Here are the keys to a successful evangelical campaign outreach:

The key components to a successful Evangelical organization program are the following:
The candidate needs prayer and must develop a prayer network in each state. The prayer network secures the candidate’s position as a “legitimate” Evangelical and a member of the faith-based community. All people of faith respect prayer and its supernatural power. Everyone can pray and each person must feel a part of the candidate’s effort to receive the nomination. Prayer does not require money, fame, and position of influence or power to achieve a sense of importance.
The Campaign must identify the individual spheres of influence in the state. Sub-divisions include Congressional districts; metropolitan areas; churches (large to small); para-church organizations; minority congregations; elected civic leaders from the faith community; pastors; etc.
Mail surveys (if time permits) and telephone calls permit the Campaign to identify supporters from within available lists. ID phone calls are invaluable to the overall strategy to deliver voters to the polls.
The central organizing unit is the “Church Contact.” The Church Contact is the candidate’s local organizer within a congregation. The Church Contact’s primary functions are to recruit, maintain, and deliver supporters to Gary Bauer. His/her job performance is enhanced by distributing campaign literature to family and friends, answering questions regarding the candidate, making announcements regarding Gary Bauer’s scheduled appearances, and collecting names and addresses (church directories). Registering new voters is another critical task performed by the Church Contact.
The Church Contact becomes the critical mass around which support for Gary Bauer grows concentrically. The Church Contact helps identify others within different congregations who support the candidate and will volunteer to be a Church Contact in that congregation. The challenge to the State Director (or local church coordinator in metropolitan areas) is to connect all the Church Contacts/congregations within a community. When the individual parts of the Church Contact program are connected the cumulative results is the beginning of a “movement.”
The Campaign must collect and maintain accurate names and addresses of current Evangelical Protestants in the targeted State. The lists are sub-divided into leadership, para-church, churches, pastors, and lay people. The Campaign is well served when it has representation in each of the Churches.
Communication to one’s database is critical to recruitment, maintenance, and growth. Timely and effective delivery of material into the hands of one’s constituency is imperative. Political literature is the ammo of a successful campaign. One cannot mail too much. Mail provides direction, recruitment material, and motivates one’s constituency.
The Evangelical community, in particular, and the broader faith-based community, in general, is a sub-culture with its own value-system, vocabulary, and vision for the future. Within this “sub-culture” is a distinct communication system that circumvents the main-line media, establishment elite, and high-profile political leadership.
Arranging for appearances on Evangelical broadcasts on religious radio and television networks is equally important. There are hundreds of call-in talk shows on Christian radio and television. An earnest effort must be made to arrange opportunities for the candidate to address his base via religious broadcasting.
The faith-based community wants to help. A message within the context of the Evangelical belief system is volunteerism and service. There must be a sincere effort to develop volunteer organization within each State. Each person brings three gifts to bear on the candidate’s success – time, talent, and treasure. Each State Director must set-up a volunteer program to cultivate the time and talent.
A critical component of the Church Outreach program is the hiring of a statewide Church Outreach Coordinator in each Tier I state. The Church Outreach Coordinator must be hired by local state leadership in consultation with the national Church Outreach team, and should be trained by the national team. All necessary staff must be in place by September 15, and all training must be completed by October 1.
The strategy for success outlined herein is dependent upon extraordinary grassroots organizing in Tiers I, II and III; appropriate levels of message mail, phone banks and earned/paid media; and the candidate’s grassroots appeal as demonstrated in personal appearances and the rise and fall of the candidate’s competition.

My guess is if you are involved in any kind of an evangelical church in South Carolina, you will be getting a call from Waldron or someone associated with the Bachmann campaign. Clearly, his strategy relies heavily on bringing out the evangelical vote. Currently, a real problem for this plan is Rick Perry. As a fellow evangelical, Perry is competing for the same voters. Perhaps, that is why Waldron likened Perry to King Saul and Bachmann to King David in a recent description of the two, saying that Bachmann has been anointed by God. Saul was initially popular and was attractive to the masses, whereas David was a less likely but eventually more successful King.  Such imagery fits right in with the Waldron plan:

The Evangelical community, in particular, and the broader faith-based community, in general, is a sub-culture with its own value-system, vocabulary, and vision for the future. Within this “sub-culture” is a distinct communication system that circumvents the main-line media, establishment elite, and high-profile political leadership.

Waldron’ analogy might be questionable, but, if it catches on, could be good politics.
UPDATE: Waldron is deploying the strategy in FL now, appearing with Bachmann at a Baptist church there. The write up mentions Waldron’s FL youth basketball program but is a little kind in the description.

Still stumping for Hillary; Ohio Dems mixed on Obama

This article from the Daily Telegraph reports some Hillary supporters who are not ready to let go of their gal, Hillary.
I have been quite surprised how many women I have talked to around Western PA who were not in favor of Hillary because of her stance on social issues or other issues for that matter, but favored her nonetheless. Rather, they really believed it was simply time for female leadership. Palin has resonated with them and may be the ticket going forward. There are so many demographic groups which may do some shifting this time around. I continue to wonder if evangelicals will break at the last minute toward Obama; not in large numbers but enough to offset some of the 18 million HIllary voters who might defect from Obama toward McCain.