WASHINGTON (AP) – Conservative Evangelical Christians have proven to be some of Donald Trump’s most staunch allies during his presidency. As his administration draws to a close, some of these supporters approach President-elect Joe Biden with skepticism, but not antagonism.
Christian conservatives who have backed Trump through times of crisis and success are uncomfortable with his loss, and many have yet to fully recognize Biden as the election winner amid allegations of non-fraud. founded in the course of the president. But they largely fail to echo the harsh tone Trump addressed to his Democratic rival during the campaign, when he baselessly claimed that Biden was “against God.”
Texas-based mega-church pastor Robert Jeffress, a staunch evangelical advocate for Trump, said Christians are obligated “to pray for what appears to be President-elect Biden. If he succeeds, all of America succeeds.
Jeffress described himself as “deeply disappointed” at the apparent loss of a president whom he considers “a friend”, but added that he would respond to any attempt to raise awareness from Biden, just as he did. with Trump. The possibility that Biden may “be removed from the extremist positions” held by other Democrats, Jeffress said, is “a plus not only for conservative Christians, but for all of America.”
It is highly unlikely that Christian conservatives can develop a close relationship with Biden, whose support for abortion rights and positions on other issues are at deep disagreement with the religious right. However, the lack of combative tone of pro-Trump religious conservatives could create space for common ground between the Catholic president-elect and other evangelicals who have not linked so directly to Trump.
“If Joe Biden is the president, if that is what he turns out to be, then we have to do everything we can to support him, where we can,” Reverend Franklin Graham said in a recent interview.
Graham, who heads the Christian nonprofit association founded by his late father, Rev. Billy Graham, is a Trump supporter who offered prayers during his inauguration and this year’s Republican National Convention. But while he stressed that his opposition to abortion is one of many fronts where there could be no compromise, Graham said “we can certainly work with” Biden on other issues.
During the Obama administration, Graham attended a conversation Biden convened among religious advocates about gun legislation. The pastor also visited the White House in 2014 to discuss the Ebola crisis after a doctor from his global charity, Samaritan’s Purse, successfully battled the deadly disease.
Yet conservative Christians like Graham have wielded little influence over the Obama administration’s agenda – and pro-Trump evangelicals expect a similar secondary role under Biden.
Family Research Council Chairman Tony Perkins, a longtime Trump partner, said during Obama’s presidency, “I didn’t go to this end of Pennsylvania Avenue, because I was never invited . “
“If I was invited, I would definitely go, have a conversation and represent the views of our constituents,” Perkins added in an interview. “But I do not hope that they invite those who have traditional biblical views on life, religious freedom and human sexuality.”
Perkins said his socially conservative group would focus on working with the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Whose party is set to retain control of this chamber unless the Democrats cannot win next month’s two runoffs in Georgia.
Conservative Christians are not short of potential looming conflicts with the new administration. Biden is likely to overturn Trump’s ban on US foreign aid for groups that support abortion, among other measures to strengthen abortion rights, and he pledged to act quickly on a measure of LGBTQ rights which has drawn criticism from leading religious conservatives.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, list chairwoman Susan B. Anthony and Catholic adviser to Trump’s re-election campaign, said she saw “almost no hope” of moving Biden to abortion, her group’s priority issue, and foresaw “melee”. hand fight until we resume the presidency.
However, some groups such as Perkins may find occasional opportunities to work with the Biden administration while remaining critical in their messages to members and their fundraising, according to evangelical writer and analyst Napp Nazworth.
“They’re going to be able to say, ‘Please support us because your religious freedom is in danger,’ said Nazworth, who left the Christian Post last year after posting a pro-Trump op-ed.
Meanwhile, evangelicals besides those most closely associated with Trump are already identifying commonalities where they could partner with Biden.
One is his plan to raise the annual refugee admissions ceiling to 125,000, a wish he recently reiterated at an event organized by Jesuit Refugee Services. The Trump administration had reduced the target for refugees to historically low levels.
Nathan Bult, senior vice president of Bethany Christian Services, said he’s engaged with Biden’s transition team on child protection policy.
Bult said his group was working with the Trump administration but “we have never shied away from criticizing” movements he disagreed with, and “we will treat the Biden administration the same.
Galen Carey, vice president of government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals, highlighted several areas of collaboration with the Biden administration, including immigration, paid family leave and criminal justice reform.
“We have principles that we believe should appeal to all Americans,” said Carey, “and we would like to be a constructive force for the common good.”