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Minnesota pastor leads campaign to try to shift evangelical vote

Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Religious News

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rev. Doug Pagitt jumped on stage at his former Minneapolis church with a message that he and his entourage are repeating across the country: Evangelical voters, you can stay true to your Christian faith but not vote for President Donald Trump.

Their "Vote Common Good" campaign, conducted from a bright orange bus making stops at every Democratic state primary, represents the small cracks in the evangelical base that helped propel Trump into office. More than 80% of white evangelical Christians voted for Trump in 2016, and continue to support him in his bid for reelection.

Pagitt's campaign hopes to convince wavering evangelicals that the president's character and actions are so out of sync with Jesus' teachings that it's a moral imperative to remove him from office.

"I'm a Christian pastor ... and I believe everyone is a child of God, is the light of the world," Pagitt told his audience earlier this month. "But not every light of the world should be president of the United States of America."

Carl Nelson, president of Minnesota's association of evangelical churches, acknowledged that "I've heard very few evangelicals who embrace the president's character." But they overwhelmingly view Trump as an ally.

"Those who support him feel the other (candidate) choices would weaken religious freedoms, would expand access to abortion, and are making no effort to embrace the faith community," said Nelson, of Transform Minnesota.

 

The Vote Common Good movement hopes to change that. It brings together progressive Christian pastors and other faith leaders from across the country to hold rallies, roundtables and candidate trainings on how to connect with religious voters.

The campaign, launched during the Iowa caucuses, offers visible support to the faithful grappling with this tough choice. It is sometimes joined by supporters ranging from former White House press secretary Mike McCurry, now a professor of public theology, to Catholic social justice activist Sister Simone Campbell.

"We're not trying to make everyone a Democrat, just to vote for one this time," said Pagitt, the group's executive director.

Pagitt is heartened by recent developments in the evangelical community. In December, the editor of Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine started by the Rev. Billy Graham, penned an editorial headlined "Trump Should Be Removed From Office." A few weeks later before the impeachment hearings, a poll by Politico/Morning Consult indicated that 34% of evangelicals "strongly approved" of Trump's removal.

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