Monday, January 27, 2020

Series examines Midwest evangelicals' attitude about Trump

A series from The Guardian examines the role of rural evangelical Christians in electing, and perhaps re-electing, President Trump. It focuses on Midwest counties that Barack Obama carried in 2012 but went to Trump in 2016, helping deliver swing states and the presidency to Trump, Chris McGreal reports.

Trump dominated rural areas, especially among white evangelical Christians, who are disproportionately rural. In exit polls, about 80 percent of white evangelicals said they voted for Trump. Research has identified many reasons for this: fears of losing their rights, fears of losing white cultural primacy, and resentment of "coastal elites" while rural economies still struggled to recover from the recession. Many of those fears were fanned by evangelical media sources that have filled the void left by weakened or closed newspapers.

Forest County, Wisconsin
(Wikipedia map)
The Guardian is writing a story apiece about three rural Obama-to-Trump counties in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. In Forest County, Wisconsin, pastor Franz Gerber said he voted for Trump because he wanted conservative Supreme Court justices and anti-abortion laws, but is disturbed that many in his congregation appear to worship the president more than Jesus. "It seems like there are many evangelical Christians that are willing to die on the hill of supporting the Republican president, supporting Donald J. Trump. And to me, that hill is not worth dying on. No matter who the candidate is, no matter who the individual is," Gerber told McGreal. "To put all your hope into that individual is a dangerous road. Scripture would warn us against that."

Gerber said that many in the county of 9,000, which includes two Native American reservations, have strained relationships because of politics. Farmer Jennifer Nery, a former local Republican Party official, said she regrets her vote for Trump and thinks many others do too, but thinks they're being quiet so as not to ruffle feathers. Her change of heart led to a falling out with her friend Terri Burl, now the Forest County GOP chair, McGreal reports.

Burl says she doesn't think Trump's support is declining in rural areas, and waves away notions that the president should not receive support because of his morality. "People always say, look at how he treats people, his affairs, how he cheated on his wife," she told McGreal. "People like me say I’m not voting for him to be my pastor, my father, my role model. I’m voting for him to get some things done in Washington, D.C., that have never been done before. We forgive him because of other things."

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