WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2016 — The evangelical perspective on the GOP candidates for president this year is surprisingly diverse. A devout Christian might assume other Christians would take a more consistent view. We are not electing a spiritual leader and it is not the job of the president to evangelize, but Christians want someone who walks the walk of Christian values and makes decisions based on a Christian moral compass.
No group of people, including evangelical Christians, can be assumed to walk in lock step with one another, but we might expect most evangelicals to be looking for a leader who is a constitutional conservative and who agrees with them on social issues to which the Bible speaks clearly. Wouldn’t they want a leader with a staunch view against abortion and one who demonstrates a moral life and a strong support for the constitution?
This year the evangelical vote is quite diverse, according to national polls. For instance, 37 percent of evangelicals say they support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee. In 1999, Trump told Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” that he was “strongly pro-choice,” and that he would not support a government ban on abortion. He did say that he hated the “concept of abortion.” In another time, evangelicals would have distrusted a candidate with such a view in his past, even if it had apparently changed.
Wouldn’t most evangelicals question the sincerity of faith of a candidate who had been divorced twice and married three times, as Trump has? Wouldn’t they be turned off by a candidate whose attacks are rarely based upon policy differences, but instead are vicious personal attacks?
Trump said of Carly Fiorina, “look at that face…who would vote for that for president?” Of Ben Carson, “He’s pathological” and can’t be trusted. Trump has consistently made personal attacks; his approach to differentiate himself from his rivals while offering up little substance in actual policy positions. This year it doesn’t seem to matter to a large segment of evangelicals.
Trump’s mention of “two Corinthians” tells everyone who knows their way around the Bible that Trump probably hasn’t read it or been where it is preached or discussed in many years.
And yet more than a third of evangelicals love him.
Cruz gets about 20 percent of the evangelical vote, according to national polls. While his background and upbringing suggest that he is a Christian, he doesn’t seem to walk the talk. He doesn’t get along with anyone who isn’t completely in agreement with him on ideology and tactics.
Following his campaign’s attempt to pull Carson supporters away by nefarious means in the Iowa caucuses, Cruz defended their actions. He actually lied before a national audience at the New Hampshire debate when he said that CNN did not correct the record on the Carson confusion until 9:30 p.m. The record was corrected in every medium by 7 p.m. on the night of the caucuses. The damaging tweet and phone calls were made by his campaign after that. Yet few voters seem turned off by the apparent conflict between Cruz’s actions and his purported values.
Ben Carson gets 11 percent of the evangelical vote and Rubio 10 percent, according to polls. Rubio, being Catholic, might be expected to draw fewer evangelical votes.
It is not just Christian laity that is divided by the field. The Rev. Franklin Graham has been so upset by the antics of GOP candidates that he actually left the Republican Party. The Rev. Jerry Fallwell Jr. has endorsed Donald Trump.
Dr. Alveda King, the niece of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, believes that “conservative” voters are more caught up with personalities than they are with supporting the U.S. Constitution based on godly principles. In a recent interview with OneNewsNow King suggested, “We are dealing with a reality show mentality. Too many people are saying ‘I like,’ rather than ‘I think,’ thus voting with emotions rather than brains.”
Asked if she thought any candidates were true conservatives, the only name she could offer was that of Dr. Ben Carson. Carson has the highest approval rating and lowest disapproval rating of any GOP candidate, yet his polling numbers have declined since December. Even after the Cruz campaign’s underhanded tactics in Iowa, Carson has refused to speak negatively of other candidates, and instead has tried to keep the race focused on issues. Asked if he would accept Cruz’s apology, he said that he would.
Have evangelical voters succumbed to the temptation of wanting to punish the “GOP establishment” by any means? They may have, even when they have an outsider candidate available who seems to be walking the talk of Christian values.