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Christian colleges grapple with Trump’s election, views on women and minorities

(RNS) Support for Trump may have been less decisive on Christian college campuses, where most students are also white evangelicals.

The Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., on May 29, 2013. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Christoffer Lukas Müller

(RNS) Exit polls suggest 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for President-elect Donald Trump.

But support for Trump may have been less decisive on Christian college campuses, where most students are also white evangelicals.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll before the election found the views of younger adults do not align with some older ones when it comes to their beliefs about Trump supporters.

The poll, taken in September, found that 35 percent of adults aged 18-39 said it is fair to “describe a large portion of Trump’s supporters as prejudiced against women and minorities,” compared to 25 percent of those in the 40-64 age group and 30 percent of those 65 and older.

Internal, self-selecting polls from some Christian colleges in the days approaching the general election also showed weaker Trump support than among the evangelical community at large. At Wheaton College in Illinois, 43 percent of respondents said they would vote for Clinton, while at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, 52 percent said they’d vote for Trump.

Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton, said the weaker Trump support among college students is a generational issue.

“Millennials do tend to be more politically progressive than their parents,” Stetzer told The Wheaton Record, the school’s student newspaper. “I do think that justice-oriented millennials are going to be really concerned with some of the comments Donald Trump has said about women, minorities, refugees, and more.”

Wheaton’s President Philip Ryken attempted to calm fears of those nervous about a Trump presidency.

In a Nov. 12 letter to students, he said: “I write to reaffirm our commitments in the Community Covenant — as well my commitment as President — that our community stands against prejudice and hatred (including racism and sexism), embraces ethnic diversity as part of God’s design for humanity in Christ, and upholds the value of every person as an image bearer of God.”

The Echo, Taylor University’s campus newspaper, reported that some minority students expressed fear and frustration at the treatment they received in the aftermath of the election results.

The incidents, which were unconfirmed by Taylor University administration, included students running down halls of the Indiana school waving Confederate flags and an intimidating Snapchat message delivered to a minority student.

At Taylor’s chapel service the day after the election, Campus Pastor Jon Cavanagh advised the student body to “be kind and gracious to one another.”

At North Park University in Chicago, one openly bisexual student was targeted with a threatening hand-written letter that included derogatory and offensive language in the wake of the election. The note included “#trump” at the end.

A series of post-election dialogues has been planned at North Park, including one event set for Nov. 21 called “a religious response to the election and how our faith can help and hinder progress.”

The president of North Park University, David L. Parkyn, emailed the student body on Tuesday (Nov. 15), saying, “messages and expressions of hate have no place on our campus.”

(Kirkland An is an RNS correspondent)

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