President Trump “attempts to hijack our faith for votes,” the writer Jerusha Duford — Billy Graham’s granddaughter — said Thursday in a Zoom call sponsored by one of a growing number of evangelical groups that have formed to encourage Christians to vote for Joe Biden.
Trump’s “attempts to hijack our faith for votes, and evangelical leaders’ silence on his actions and behavior, has presented a picture of what our faith looks like that is so erroneous that it has done significant damage to the way people view Jesus,” said Duford on the call, which was sponsored by Not Our Faith PAC, a bipartisan group formed just this week with the explicit goal of trying to defeat Trump.
“I spent the better part of my life watching my grandfather look to be an example of Jesus, to how to conduct himself and how to treat people. Scripture talks about doing justly, loving mercy, walking humbly, and these are tenets of our faith that I do not believe our president demonstrates in any way,” she said.
Her grandfather, the most famous evangelist of the 20th century, was friends with presidents of both parties and avoided direct involvement in electoral politics. Her uncle Franklin Graham is one of Trump’s most prominent backers on the Christian right.
White evangelicals backing Biden are still a small minority of a group that supported Trump overwhelmingly in 2016. Eighty-one percent overlooked his boasts about sexually assaulting women, his documented history of adultery, his association with the casino industry and his proclivity for golfing over church attendance on Sundays to vote for him. As recently as August he had actually improved his standing with evangelicals, to 83 percent, although more recent polling by the Pew Research Center showed it had slipped somewhat, to 78. Even a small falloff in evangelical support could have a major effect on Trump’s reelection prospects, which is what groups like Not Our Faith are hoping to achieve.
In a phone call to constituents that was leaked to the Washington Examiner on Thursday, a prominent Republican senator who is also a conservative evangelical Christian, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, succinctly outlined the case against Trump.
“He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors,” Sasse said, in remarks that a spokesman for the senator confirmed. “His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He’s flirted with white supremacists.”
Duford said that in her experience, many evangelicals who might have voted for Trump in 2016 “went to the polls crossing their fingers, maybe holding their breath.”
But, she said, “now that we’ve had four years of it ... I think that’s going to change their perceptions.”
The most noticeable change from four years ago among some number of white evangelicals is their willingness to vote for a Democrat. In 2016 they might not have voted for Trump, but they were deeply uncomfortable voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Biden doesn’t inspire the same discomfort.
Not Our Faith was formed earlier this week by Michael Wear, a former faith adviser to President Barack Obama, and Autumn Vandehei, a former Republican congressional staffer for Tom DeLay, who was House majority leader from 2003 to 2005. (Vandehei is also married to Jim Vandehei, the co-founder of the political news website Axios.)
The PAC’s first digital ad is targeted to likely voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania. “Christians don’t need Trump to save them,” the ad says. “The truth is that Trump needs Christians to save his flailing campaign.”
Another organization, Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden, was formed earlier this month by a group including senior officials at several influential conservative evangelical seminaries and from Christianity Today magazine.