Voters will go to the polls today to cast the final ballots in a presidential election that has proven deeply divisive not only for Americans but for Christians.
Polling data as of Nov. 2 showed Democratic nominee Joe Biden with a lead over President Donald Trump, but the Republican incumbent overcame a late deficit in 2016 to win and has recently cut into his opponent’s advantage. While Biden held a 6.5-point lead as of Nov. 1 in the RealClear Politics national average of polls, Trump trailed by only 2.9 points in the latest average in six battleground states.
A record 96 million votes already were cast in person or by mail, the U.S. Elections Project reported Nov. 2. It appears the voter turnout will easily surpass the previous high of nearly 139 million four years ago.
It is possible the winner will not be known for days or weeks. Some states will receive and count mail-in ballots as long as 10 days after the polls close.
Among evangelical Christians, this year’s presidential election campaign has mirrored much of the discord of the 2016 race between Trump and Hillary Clinton, but with what seems to have been an increased intensity and outspokenness.
Some Christian leaders have endorsed Trump or called for believers to vote for the president based on his support for pro-life and religious liberty causes and in spite of character shortcomings. A large majority of self-identified, white evangelicals are expected to vote again for Trump.
Others, including many Black Christians, have maintained their opposition to Trump. Citing in part the president’s rhetoric on racial issues, his perceived hesitancy at times to condemn white supremacy and policies on immigration, some apparently will vote for neither candidate. Others may vote for Biden in spite of his abortion-rights advocacy.
Various pastors and other Christians have expressed the position that they are now without a political home.
In recent days, some pastors and leaders have encouraged Southern Baptists to embrace a focus on the unity of Christians in Christ and the kingdom of God during an acrimonious election season.
“You have to give other believers space and room to have other priorities,” said Jimmy Scroggins, lead pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., during a podcast excerpted on Twitter Oct. 31.
“Let’s not make our politics a litmus test for faith and friendship,” he said. “I think that’s very unhelpful. And people are making a religion out of their politics. And it’s a shame because we’ve got to be transcendent in what we’re grabbing onto.”
In his Oct. 26 newsletter, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, urged Christians to affirm their “identities are formed first by an actual cross – by Christ and him crucified” (Gal. 2:20).
“If this is the case – and our lives are in the context of eternity – we need not worry about whether we are politically ‘homeless,’” Moore wrote. “Only those with no home are frantic to find one. We will not be crushed when we see people who agree with us on some things disagree with us on others. And we won’t be terrified when we find people who disagree with us on most things agree with us on something.”
The proportion of pastors who have endorsed a candidate for president or another office has increased in 2020, LifeWay Research reported Oct. 27. The study showed 32% of American Protestant pastors have personally endorsed candidates this year outside of their church role, compared to 22% in 2016.
At least one Southern Baptist entity head has endorsed Trump this year. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, announced his support for the president after refusing to vote for either Trump or Clinton in 2016.
Democrats hope what seems will be a record voter turnout will result in not only winning the White House but gaining control of the Senate. While Republicans hold a 53-47 edge in the Senate, RealClear Politics showed the GOP with a 46-45 advantage Nov. 2 in the polls but with nine races rated toss-ups. Democrats appear certain of maintaining their comfortable majority in the House of Representatives.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)