Opinion

Why This Evangelical Pastor Will Spend 2020 on the Road

Over the course of this year, thousands of people around the country – voters, volunteers and donors – will dedicate their time and money to help shape the outcome of the 2020 election. Professional campaign staff will do the same, plus a bit more stress and a lot less sleep.

Why would anyone put themselves through this? Less than 56 percent of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. Clearly none of us would be alone if we decided it was all just too much and chose to disengage instead.

The answer as to why one would voluntarily throw themselves into the gauntlet of politics right now is different for everyone. For me, as a progressive evangelical pastor, it comes down to a simple formula: faith, hope and love.

That’s why I’ll be part of a nationwide bus tour to train Democratic candidates up and down the ballot on how to speak to voters of faith and persuade evangelical voters to help get Donald Trump out of office. The year-long tour started this past weekend in Iowa with a candidates forum, and will end with a rally outside the White House on Nov. 3.

I was part of something similar in 2018. It was exhausting, stressful, and even disappointing at times. The same is sure to be true this go-around.

Faith is fundamentally a belief that something is possible, even when there’s plenty of reason to doubt. Vote Common Good, the organization I started in order to get evangelicals to make the common good, and not political party, their voting criteria, exists because we believe that if a critical percentage (5 percent) of evangelical voters switch sides, Trump can’t win.

Of course it’s hard to have faith without hope. And with the United States once again on the precipice of war in the Middle East, it can be challenging to hold onto hope these days.

What keeps me hopeful, and what differentiates hope from faith, is the experience of actually seeing what is possible. The recent Christianity Today editorial calling for Trump’s impeachment was a ray of light, but one that reflects the tip of the iceberg. As I’ve traveled the country, I’ve heard voters’ stories and felt my hope for what is possible this year grow.

I met a man in Holland, Mich., who told me that he has always voted for Republicans because he thought that was the right thing for a Christian to do. But, as a 71-year-old man, his faith is now calling him to vote against Trump.

More recently, I met a woman in Iowa — also a lifelong Republican — who voted for Trump in 2016 but refuses to do so again. She told me she decided to attend our event in Des Moines because we didn’t ask her to become a Democrat, just to consider voting for one this year. When I asked why she no longer supported Trump, she responded: “he ripped my heart out.”

Love is the last but arguably the most important piece of the puzzle. It’s the cause and consequence of people coming together, and without that happening democracy doesn’t work.

Bringing people together for the common good is what both parties want, in theory. But Trump’s Republican Party has abandoned any concern for the common good, instead fanning the flames of division and elevating selfishness and egotism to a place once reserved for virtue. There’s no love in the way Trump bullies and brags except love for himself. There’s no love in the way the GOP kowtows to him except love for power.

On the road meeting people across the country I’ve seen the love that makes this country great. Voters who changed their minds about Trump because of the way he treats migrant families, volunteers sacrificing hour after hour of their time because they don’t want to live in a country where the richest 10 percent of people hold 70 percent of household wealth, and candidates that put the needs of their community and country before those of their political party.

That’s why I’ll be on the road until Nov. 3, and what will keep us going across all 50 states — faith in the possibility that evangelicals could vote differently this year, hope grounded in the changes we’ve already seen and the love that emanates from people coming together for the common good. Because let there be no mistake, this year, coming together for the common good means defeating Trump.

Doug Pagitt is executive director of Vote Common Good.

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