Faith likely to count in US presidential election's final vote tally

(Photo: Joe Biden official campaign website)Joe Biden

Donald Trump may be the most profane U.S. president known, who often acts in offensive ways to some Christians, especially those who are more liberal-leaning.

But if he gets into power again, it will undoubtedly be attributed to the strong support he has from evangelicals and Catholics in the U.S. Christian communities.

Trump continued to be White Christians' preferred candidate for the November election.

Still, support among voters in three major traditions – White Catholics, White Protestants who are not evangelical, and even White evangelical Protestants – had slipped since August, according to a Pew Research Center poll published Oct. 13.

Why do these numbers matter?

Well, let's look at the religious demographics in the United States.

According to Pew Research, 70.6 percent of people in the United States self-define as Christians of whom 25.4 percent are Evangelical Protestants and 20.8 percent Catholic.

Among other Christian groups, what are called Mainline Protestants account for 14.7 percent of the population and Historically Black Protestants 6.5 percent.

And in other faiths, 1.9 percent are Jewish and 0.9 percent Muslims.

In other groups, the Unaffiliated make up 22.8 percent, Atheists 3.1 percent, and Agnostics 4.00 percent.

Working out what all those self-defined groups really mean by their faith is more difficult, except in the case of more fundamental believers.

More than 1,600 clergy members, religious scholars, and other faith-focused officials and activists had endorsed Joseph R. Biden Jr., the largest group of faith leaders to back a Democratic presidential candidate in modern times, organizers of the initiative said.

With the U.S. having registered nearly 8.6 million cases on Oct. 25 and 224,906 deaths from the COVID-19 panemic, along  with the economy the virus could be a key issue in voting. The US virus toll is the world's highest.

Yet an Oct. 6-12 survey conducted by Pew found that  only 24 percent of Trump supporters view the novel coronavirus outbreak as a "very important" voting issue.

The Biden endorsement, announced on Oct. 9, was organized by Vote Common Good, a progressive organization that opposes President Trump and is focused on engaging Christian voters, The New York Times reported.

Those endorsements represent a range of major religions in the United States but mainly come from Catholic, evangelical, and mainstream Protestant Americans, organizers said.

The Pew Research Center had earlier reported that majorities of white voters from those religious traditions supported Trump in 2016, to the Pew Research Center, and while evangelicals remain among the president's most loyal supporters, the Biden campaign is hoping to cut into Trump's 2016 base.


In late August, Catholic nun Sister Dede Byrne spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention.

"As a physician, I can say without hesitation: Life begins at conception. While what I have to say may be difficult for some to hear, I am saying it because I am not just pro-life; I am pro-eternal life.

"I want all of us to end up in heaven together someday, which brings me to why I am here today. Donald Trump is the most pro-life president this nation has ever had, defending life at all stages."

Although attracting widespread praise for its pro-life policies from many Catholics, the Trump administration has drawn criticism from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for resuming federal executions after decades without federal use of the death penalty, Catholic News Agency reported.

The bishops have also criticized Trump for lowering the number of refugees resettled by the U.S. to its lowest recorded level in the 2020 fiscal year, deciding to accept a maximum of 18,000 refugees during hr year, and they said that decision was "unacceptable."

While white evangelicals remain a core voting bloc for Trump, in the 2020 race against Biden and white Catholics are expected to be a crucial demographic, Christianity Today reported Sept. 20.

The 2016 election was gifted to Trump by 77,000 votes in three states that swung the electoral college to him.

Data indicates that Biden - a lifelong Catholic - may shift some of the white Catholic votes away from the Republican leanings it held for the past four presidential elections and make it a true swing vote going forward.

Even small changes among Catholics could affect the electoral outcome, particularly in swing states. In 2016, Donald Trump won Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida by narrow margins of 1 percent to 1.2 percent of the votes cast.

"Based on weekly survey data collected by Data for Progress, then broken down by Christian traditions, we see white Christian support for the president slipping," wrote Christianity Today.

"Across traditions, slightly fewer Christians say they plan to vote for Trump and slightly more say they plan to vote for Biden than five months ago."


According to organizers, the endorsements represent a range of major religions in the United States but mainly come from Catholic, evangelical, and mainline Protestant Americans.

A granddaughter of the Rev. Billy Graham, Jerushah Duford, is a committed evangelical Christian who describes herself as "pro-life."

For most of her life, she voted Republican. Yet this year, she is voting for Joe Biden and is encouraging fellow Christians to distance themselves from a president who she says is trying "to hijack our faith for votes," Nicholas Kristof wrote in The New York Times on Oct. 21

"The Jesus we serve promotes kindness, dignity, humility, and this president doesn't represent our faith," Duford said.

She made it clear to Kristof that she is not speaking for her grandfather, the famous evangelist who died in 2018.

She said to him, "I think he would be sad. I think his greatest desire had nothing to do with policies but to introduce people to a loving Jesus, and the division this administration has caused, I believe, has hurt this effort."

The problem with these anecdotes is that they always come from the more liberal media, and there are few from the more conservative media.

Kristof points out, "There's nothing inherently conservative about evangelical Christianity, for Black evangelicals mostly vote Democratic and there is a long tradition of liberal evangelicals from Martin Luther King Jr. to Jimmy Carter to the writer Jim Wallis.

"But in recent decades, white evangelicals have mostly voted Republican, and Duford and others engaged in the new outreach acknowledge that many find it somewhere between scary and unthinkable to break that tradition."

He wrote that a massive obstacle for many evangelicals considering a vote for Democrats is abortion policy.

So, an incredibly important part of the upheaval now underway within evangelical ranks is a move to redefine "pro-life" to apply to more than fetuses.

However, a group calling itself "Pro-life evangelicals for Biden" says, "As pro-life evangelicals, we disagree with vice president Biden and the Democratic platform on the issue of abortion.

"But we believe a biblically shaped commitment to the sanctity of human life compels us to a consistent ethic of life that affirms the sanctity of human life from beginning to end.

On June 2, President Donald Trump introduced the Bible into the campaign in a dramatic fashion.

On June 1, 2020, a group of peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C., was tear-gassed so that Donald Trump could be photographed brandishing a Bible in front of St. John's Episcopal Church.

Catherine A. Brekus, Charles Warren Professor of the History of Religion in America, wrote an opinion piece for Harvard Divinity Law School's action, putting Trump's action into a historical context.

In the aftermath, Trump's critics condemned his actions as an insult to Christianity.


While Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a rare voice of Republican dissent, has lamented that Trump used the Bible as a "prop," others have censored him for making a crude calculation meant to appeal to his evangelical base.

"The Rev. Marion Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., has expressed her shock and pain that Trump used the Bible 'as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus'."

Brekus noted, "What few have acknowledged, however, is that this is not the first time in American history that a powerful white man has flaunted the Bible after wreaking violence against black people and their allies.

"As William Faulkner taught us, 'The past is never dead. It's not even past.' The spectacle outside of St. John's Church is only the latest iteration of a scene that has been repeated countless times in America, including on southern plantations before the Civil War. Too often in our history, the Bible has been displayed as an object of racial terror.

"When Trump wordlessly held up the Bible, a smirk on his face, he did so to demonstrate his power, not to ask for peace or forgiveness.

"It was a strategy taken straight from the playbook of white Christian slaveholders, who, in their moral cowardice, boasted that the Bible justified their violence against black men and women."

(Photo: Office of the U.S. President)
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