Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has an uphill battle winning the support of evangelical Christians, a traditionally crucial voting bloc for his party.
In an opinion piece for Fox News, evangelical pastor Dr. Jack Graham wrote that many evangelicals were facing a “crisis of conscience” while considering to vote for Trump, whose rhetoric, political history and personal life run counter to the typical image of a “values candidate.”
Most evangelicals voted for Trump in the primaries, reports NPR, and support for Trump is only growing among conservative Christians.
In a June 21 meeting with more than 1,000 evangelical and Catholic leaders, Trump reached out to the conservative Christian community.
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During the question and answer period, organizers say the No. 1 topic of submitted questions was religious liberty. According to The Atlantic, Trump touched on evangelical fears that their faith is being pushed to the margins of American society, telling the audience, “your leaders are selling Christianity down the tubes,” but under his presidency, “we’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
According to attendees, Trump made no reference to Jesus or to specifics of his own faith in the meeting, says The New York Times. He did assure the audience that, under his administration, “No. 1, we will appoint pro-life, conservative, Supreme Court justices,” says The Atlantic.
Trump’s image among evangelicals has also been helped by the endorsements of some prominent Christian figures who have started to present Trump as a fledgling evangelical himself, says The New York Times. James C. Dobson, an American evangelical leader, said that he believed that Trump had recently come to “accept a relationship with Christ,” but that as a “baby Christian,” he may not be as far along in his faith development as others.
Many voters may be turning to Trump simply because, when it comes to the values issues most important to evangelicals, he seems to be the only viable option.
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“Hillary Clinton is clearly in favor of legalized abortion. There is no choice here for me and millions of evangelical Christians,” writes Graham. “We will vote principle over personality, party or our pocket books.”