A diverse group of evangelical Christians unveiled a letter on Thursday condemning Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his candidacy, arguing his campaign “affirms racist elements in white culture.”
The letter, which is signed by nearly 80 prominent evangelical leaders, thinkers, authors, and pastors, decries Trump’s attacks on women, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, and the disabled, saying such vitriol is an affront to the Christian faith. It also highlights how his campaign has energized white nationalists, such as when he was endorsed by leaders of the Ku Klux Klan.
“We cannot ignore this bigotry, set it aside, just focus on other issues, or forget the things Mr. Trump has consistently said and done,” the letter reads. “No matter what other issues we also care about, we have to make it publicly clear that Mr. Trump’s racial and religious bigotry and treatment of women is morally unacceptable to us as evangelical Christians, as we attempt to model Jesus’ command to ‘love your neighbors as yourself.’”
“We have to make it publicly clear that Mr. Trump’s racial and religious bigotry and treatment of women is morally unacceptable to us as evangelical Christians, as we attempt to model Jesus’ command to ‘love your neighbors as yourself.”
Most signers of the letter, which is also published as a Change.org petition, hail from progressive-leaning evangelical communities. They include Rachel Held Evans, a blogger and best-selling author; Tony Campolo, a left-leaning evangelical author and activist; Lisa Sharon Harper, Chief Church Engagement Officer of Jim Wallis’ advocacy group Sojourners; and Shane Claiborne, author and founder of the Christian community the Simple Way.
Despite their liberal leanings, the signers say they reflect a more diverse coalition of evangelicals than what is often portrayed in the media—or courted by politicians such as Trump.
“A significant mistake in American politics is the media’s continued identification of ‘evangelical’ with mostly white, politically conservative, older men,” the statement reads. “We are not those evangelicals.”
The letter appears to be geared toward building an unusual point of solidarity with conservative evangelicals, many of whom are deeply ambivalent about Trump, who has a long history of bumbling attempts to discuss faith. Although 69 percent of white evangelicals now back Trump according to a new PRRI poll, several influential leaders of the Religious Right have been actively hostile to the business mogul’s candidacy. Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s political arm, has been an especially vocal opponent of Trump’s, arguing he is against “everything [evangelicals] believe.” Meanwhile, the conservative-leaning Christian Post published a scathing criticism of Trump in February—the first time the publication has ever taken a stand on a political candidate—and a Liberty University board member resigned in protest when the school’s president endorsed the Donald.
What’s more, some analysts argue that Trump’s support among evangelicals is unfairly inflated, because polls often fail to account for non-white evangelicals or those who do not identify as “born-again”—in other words, the exact group represented in Thursday’s letter.
“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.”
Interestingly, while the signers had no shortage of criticism for Trump, they avoided endorsing his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Hillary Clinton is both supported and distrusted by a variety of Christian voters,” the statement reads. “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.”