Evangelical Christians celebrate and urge unity; others wary

(RNS) How prominent religious figures, both evangelical Christians and others, responded to the 2016 presidential election results as they became clear overnight.

President-elect Donald Trump arrives to speak at his election-night rally in New York City on Nov. 9, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Carlo Allegri

(RNS) Some celebrated and congratulated the victor. Some prayed and called for unity. But it was clear early on that evangelical Christians were key to Donald Trump’s stunning upset in the 2016 presidential election.

Meanwhile, others — including atheists and Muslims — reacted in shock and vowed to defend against what one group termed “unconstitutional and undemocratic actions.”

According to exit polls, 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians cast their ballots for the reality TV star-turned-Republican presidential candidate. It was a higher figure than voted for Republicans Mitt Romney (79 percent) in 2012, John McCain (73 percent) four years before that or George W. Bush (79 percent) in 2004.

RELATED: Post-election church services aim to reconcile Christian voters

“The triumph of Donald Trump may signal ‘the last hurrah’ of white male evangelicals in America, or it may mean that their influence is once again on the rise. We will have to wait and see,” Tony Campolo, former spiritual adviser to President Bill Clinton, told Christian Today.

“But there is no question that his victory was largely due to their support.”

Here’s how prominent evangelical Christians and others responded to the 2016 presidential election results as they became clear overnight.

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, on November 9, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Mike Segar

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at his election-night rally in New York City on Nov. 9, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Mike Segar

Paula White

White is Trump’s spiritual adviser, a member of his evangelical advisory board and pastor of the New Destiny Christian Center in Florida. She issued this written statement:

“Far more than what divides us, this election has revealed what unites us. I have never seen such solidarity between evangelicals and catholics, pentecostals, charismatics and baptists.  We were brought together with a mutual love for our country and through a mutual faith in God. The election started the conversation but what will come from these new and renewed relationships will have far more impact than anything that could be realized through the election of any politician. We aren’t ending this season so much entering a new one, ready to love the world together to a degree greater than we ever could alone.”

Samuel Rodriguez

Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, called the election results “Brexit 2.0” on Twitter.

In a longer written statement, he said:

” Instead of the agenda of the donkey or the elephant,  Christians must be about the Lamb’s agenda. We can and we must continue the fight to reconcile Billy Graham’s message of righteousness with Dr. Martin Luther King’s march for justice. The moment we, as Christian voters, are co-opted by any given political party or ideology, we lose our legitimacy to speak truth to power. Looking ahead, now is the time to rise up as people of faith and as an independent voice that holds political leaders on both sides of the aisle accountable to policies that don’t aim left or right, but toward righteousness and justice, for all.  Chief of which remains our concern for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, immigration reform and racial unity.  We pray for the safe keeping of our democracy as we transition to the new Donald Trump administration and we pray that God will continue to bless and prosper our nation in the coming months and years ahead.”

David Silverman

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, tweeted Tuesday night: “This is why I fight. This makes the work more important. Separation of religion and gov is in serious danger. Help.”

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Jen Hatmaker

In the weeks leading up to the election, the best-selling Christian author called Trump “absolutely, positively, thoroughly unfit for the presidency” in a controversial interview with RNS in which she also expressed her support for the LGBT community. As electoral votes rolled in Tuesday for Trump, Hatmaker tweeted, “Will someone come hold my hand?”

The day before, she had posted on Facebook:

“Our marching orders are the same. We are still about the same things we’ve always been about, Christian. We will still love our neighbors and resist fear. We will stick up for the marginalized and protect the vulnerable. We will show up for the hard work of good citizenship and remain faithful to God and each other. We will insist on bringing hope and grace and strength and love to this busted up world. We will not malign people out of fear or confusion. We will love God and love people and that is the same basic plan it has always been.”

Her fellow speaker on the Belong Tour, Nichole Nordeman, also tweeted as Trump’s win was announced early Wednesday morning.

Russell Moore

The president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has been one of Trump’s most outspoken evangelical critics.

Early Wednesday, Moore urged Christians to pray for the president-elect in a blog post. And he said, “No matter what the racial and ethnic divisions in America, we can be churches that demonstrate and embody the reconciliation of the kingdom of God.

“The most important lesson we should learn is that the church must stand against the way politics has become a religion, and religion has become politics,” he said.

U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta leaves the stage after addressing supporters at the election night rally in New York, on November 9, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Rick Wilking

U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta leaves the stage after addressing supporters at the election night rally in New York, on November 9, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Rick Wilking

Ronnie Floyd

Floyd — senior pastor of Cross Church in Arkansas, another member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention — started Election Day with this tweet: “It is a great day in America: Pray, Vote, and Trust God.”

As results were announced, he issued this written statement:

“I pray sincerely that God might grant wisdom to our new commander in chief to lead our nation in righteousness and toward peace and justice. This is a time to rebuild and to reconcile, to lock arms with our fellow Americans and work with our elected officials for a better future. We must remember that the task of protecting our rights to life and religious freedom is as much the responsibility of the average American as it is of the individual sitting in the oval office. May each of us then take upon ourselves this duty and work with elected officials at all levels of government to secure these rights for future generations. All along the way, may we seek the good of all Americans.  Let us extend honor and love to all, and reserve our fear and worship only to God, who alone deserves to be our source of ultimate hope and security.”

John Fea

In response to an ABC News exit poll showing Trump captured 81 percent of the evangelical vote, Fea, professor of American history and chair of the history department at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, tweeted, “If this is evangelicalism–I am out.”

Others shared similar sentiments.

David Jeremiah

Jeremiah — founder of Turning Point, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in California and another member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board — issued this written statement:

“This presidential election has been a moment in history when God has reminded us that our ultimate citizenship is indeed in heaven, and not on earth. While we love America, as Christians we are sojourners and pilgrims, and like the heroes of our faith we are looking for a better country beyond this earthly one, to the heavenly city God has prepared for us. Let us then continue walking by faith, not by sight, placing our trust in God’s eternal promises and not in the fleeting machinations of men. We commit to pray for the new Trump administration. We pray that God might have mercy on our nation and that our leaders might know and fear Him, for as the Scriptures say, blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. This is a time when we must hold fast to our calling to be good citizens and to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, pointing those around us toward our hope in Christ and breathing life wherever there is despair. Presidents come and go, but our God remains forever and he will be on his throne on November 9 as he was on November 8 and as he will be for all of eternity.”

Donald Trump supporters cheer as U.S. presidential election results are announced during a Republican watch party in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 8, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Nancy Wiechec

Donald Trump supporters cheer as presidential election results are announced during a Republican watch party in Phoenix on Nov. 8, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Nancy Wiechec

Robert Jeffress

Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, tweeted a photo of himself at the Trump victory party Tuesday night in New York City.

In a short video message posted online immediately after Trump’s victory speech early Wednesday, Jeffress said: “No matter how you feel about the outcome of this election, I hope you’ll join me in praying for my friend President-elect Donald Trump.

“For those who didn’t choose to vote for President-elect Donald Trump and may carry a measure of uncertainty about the future, there’s no need to fear and no reason to be discouraged. In Daniel, chapter 2, it’s clear that God alone establishes our leaders. As Christians, our hope does not reside in kings, presidents or any authority other than God and God alone.”

Tony Campolo

Campolo, former spiritual adviser to President Bill Clinton, said in an interview with Christian Today:

“The triumph of Donald Trump may signal ‘the last hurrah’ of white male evangelicals in America, or it may mean that their influence is once again on the rise. We will have to wait and see.

“But there is no question that his victory was largely due to their support. His victory is likely to get evangelicals to do some soul searching as to who they are, and why they were swept up in supporting a man whose rhetoric played upon fear of immigrants, fear of Muslims, an anti-scientific disbelief in global warming, overt racism and sexist attitudes that are contrary to scripture.”

Rachel Held Evans

The popular Christian author and blogger wore a pantsuit to the polls Tuesday, posting on Facebook that her vote for Hillary Clinton “wasn’t a difficult choice, and I’m not embarrassed about it.”

In her tweets throughout the day, Evans chastised both Trump and the white evangelicals who voted for him:

“God is still on the throne. And Donald Trump still shouldn’t be president. Both of these things can be true,” she tweeted.

And, “White Evangelicals, you just made Donald Trump the most powerful man in the world. Don’t you dare complain about being persecuted.”

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Pope Francis

The Vatican’s highest-ranking diplomat, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, congratulated Trump and said the Catholic leadership was praying “that God enlightens him and supports him in the service of his country of course, but also in the service of well-being and peace in the world.”

Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, said he hoped Trump would modify the hard-line immigration policy he advocated in his campaign rhetoric, but Parolin noted that “from what I have heard Donald Trump has already expressed himself in terms of a leader.”

Pope Francis provoked a political storm in February returning from a visit to Mexico when he said Trump was “not Christian” for pledging to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.  

David Harris

David Harris of the global Jewish advocacy organization AJC lamented the “bigotry and exclusion” expressed during the campaign, which included anti-Jewish hate speech on the part of some of the more vociferous Trump supporters.

“America’s diversity must be defended against any further attempts to demonize or stigmatize on the basis of ethnicity, race, gender or faith,” he said in a statement.

Harris added that the top priority now is to “address the wounds of an extraordinarily divisive contest.”

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Muslim Advocates

The national legal advocacy and educational organization posted on its website:

“Throughout this election, Muslim Advocates has repeatedly expressed grave concern about undemocratic and unconstitutional policies proposed by candidates – from banning Muslims from the U.S. to vilifying Mexican Americans to threatening journalists and political opponents with unilateral executive action and imprisonment. These policies violate the very foundation of our democracy and threaten every American’s right to freedom, justice and equality.  If President-elect Trump wants to bring America together and be a leader for all Americans, he will need to disavow these dangerous proposals and ideas.

“Today, we stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans who reject racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism and division.  Muslim Advocates will use every legal tool available to protect our country against unconstitutional and undemocratic actions.”

Jim Daly

Daly, president of Focus on the Family, issued this statement early Wednesday:

“As a Christian who believes in the ultimate sovereignty of God, I have to believe He allows our circumstances to fulfill His plans. As the prophet Daniel said, “He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” The nation has spoken. I pray that God grants us the grace and wisdom to seek His heart for all people made in His image, the preborn, the elderly, progressive and conservative, each one of us. I am reminded His son Jesus Christ died for all. May those of us who trust in Him express our faith by bringing His peace to a world filled with chaos.”

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism published a statement Wednesday signed by representatives of the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and other organizations.

It read in part:

“President-elect Trump has the opportunity to use his office to bring Americans together, and to move us toward a brighter future. If he does so, we will be ready to work with him for the common good. If he does not, we also stand ready to be fierce advocates for the values that guide us: inclusivity, justice and compassion.

Just as Abraham went out into a place of great uncertainty, we now find ourselves in an unanticipated time and place. But we know, like Abraham, that our faith and enduring values will be a strong foundation as we move forward.  We love the stranger, feed the hungry and care for the orphan and the widow.”

RELATED: Election campaign makes some evangelicals reject name

Trillia Newbell

Newbell, director of community outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, said that in the weeks before the election, she cried when a loved one shared he or she was supporting Trump for president. And those don’t appear to have been tears of joy.

“Actually in tears after seeing someone I love post that they are voting for Trump. I can take the Christian celebrities but friends are hard,” Newbell tweeted.

On Wednesday morning, she urged prayer in a post on the ERLC website.

“The results mean good news for some, and bad news for others. It’s good to be involved and even concerned about the political climate of our country. As Christians, this burden for the nation should lead us from angst to prayer,” she said.

Jim Wallis

Wallis, president of Sojourners, wrote a post Wednesday on its website, urging Christians to “reach out in solidarity and protection to those who feel and are most vulnerable” and pledging to do his part.

“Most white evangelicals didn’t seem to mind that they sold their souls to a man who embodies the most sinful and shameful worship of money, sex, and power, and — perhaps more than any other public figure in America — represents the very worst values of what American culture has become. We have never witnessed such religious hypocrisy as we saw in this election, with the majority of white Christians voting for a man like Donald Trump, including an overwhelming number of white evangelicals: 81 percent, 8 points better than Romney, including 75 percent of white evangelical women. It is a real tragedy that most of America’s well-known white megachurch pastors were not heard from in this election, and their silence in the face of Trump’s racial politics may end their own moral credibility. The religious right leaders, who supported Trump politically over all their previously expressed religious values, showed once and for all that they have always been primarily right-wing political operatives and should never be taken as ‘religious’ again.”

Jesus Christ

OK, so Jesus Christ isn’t actually on Twitter. But @JesusofNaz316 is. And the often wryly humorous Twitter account turned serious Tuesday night as the results of the election came in.

“Feel the shock tonight. Pray,” the account tweeted. “Then tomorrow join hands and work for justice, welcome the stranger, stand with the oppressed, and hope.”


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