Hymns rang through the evening as the evangelical group Vote Common Good visited the City of Crosses to preach not only the gospel, but encourage evangelical voters to flip Congress in the midterm elections.
About two dozen people gathered at El Calvario United Methodist Church to listen to speakers and join in songs and prayer. Vote Common Good is touring 31 cities nationwide where district races for Congress are close. Locally, that’s New Mexico’s Second Congressional District race between Democratic candidate Xochitl Torres Small and Republican Yvette Herrell.
Torres Small didn’t attend the rally but the group still delivered its message to evangelicals to reconsider their support of the Trump administration and Republicans whose actions do not reflect the teachings of Jesus.
Minneapolis pastor Doug Pagitt is the group’s executive director. He said one of the challenges traveling the country is reminding Christians that their commitment calls them to love God, their neighbors, and their enemies as themselves, not one political party.
“We’re asking people not to consider themselves to be a Democrat or a Republican, a conservative or a liberal. We’re asking Christians to consider their faith when they vote and it seems pretty clear that policies of the Trump administration are designed to limit the experience of people in this country in such a way that the Christian community should rise up and raise its voice and say that we won’t stand alongside any longer, let alone give support to the Trump administration," Pagitt said.
Pagitt said while the organization is officially nonpartisan, it’s endorsing all Democratic candidates in November because Republicans have failed to hold the president accountable.
“If the Republican Party would be standing up to this President, if the Republican Congress were putting brakes on a reckless and dangerous presidency, we would be supporting that Republican Congress. But they’re not," Pagitt said. "So, the reason we’re asking people to flip the Congress and to vote for Democrats in this election is not because we want to work on behalf of Democrats, it’s because we want a Congress that will stand up to this presidency because the policies and the attitude of this presidency is harmful to people in this country and around the globe," Pagitt said.
Data from the Pew Research Center shows more than 8 out of 10 white evangelicals voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. That support has carried through his presidency as 72 percent of white evangelicals have a favorable opinion of Trump according to a recent poll by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute.
Ross Whiteaker is pastor of the Morning Star United Methodist Church in Las Cruces. Whiteaker said he likes Vote Common Good’s message of voting for the good of all humanity, not in one's own self-interest. He said although he won’t tell his congregation how to vote, he wants them to think about the less fortunate and plans to vote for who he feels are the best people.
“The people who represent humanity the best and who have the best ethic that they live by and if they’re going to say that they’re a Christian then I want to see how that plays out in their lives, not just on the single issues. Not just on abortion but on how does pro-life look in all aspects beyond just abortion. How are we voting for life for everyone? So to me, flipping Congress for the common good isn’t about political party, it’s about the way people live their lives," Whiteaker said.
Ministers aren’t the only members of the group. Civil discourse consultant and author Christy Berghoef said she joined the tour because she’s seen a dissonance between what she understood Jesus and the gospel to be and evangelicals since Trump became president.
“The attitude that he’s taken towards immigrants and refugees and Muslims and people of color. Saying things that are false and untrue to kind of drum up the fear from people is why I think he does that," Berghoef said. "But as well his posture towards women, his attitude towards women, the things he’s personally done about women and doesn’t seem to show any remorse over. This is obviously very troubling to me and you know again, growing up as an evangelical and being an evangelical... it’s very difficult and hard for me to see him supporting, to see evangelicals supporting this man who says and does these things.”
Berghoef said Vote Common Good’s visits, particularly to conservative towns have attracted many evangelicals who thought they were alone in opposing the Trump administration; an indication they may be more than a niche group.
“So, I think it’s exposing something about us and some of the attitudes that are still very strong in this country. Some of the racial attitudes. Some of the attitudes towards women and so then when you see those things, when you start to name them, when you can’t ignore them then we begin to talk about them. We begin to dialogue about them and as this dialogue is coming to the surface, we’re beginning to engage in meaningful conversations in some cases for the first time ever," Berghoef said. "So, I think that that plays a role in inviting people to come out and it helps them see 'I’m not alone. There are other people who are feeling this way as well' and so I think this is going to grow. I think it’s going to keep getting bigger.”
To reach even more people of faith, Vote Common Good will host an online watch party on election night.