Virginia church congregants got a political message from the pulpit on Sunday, with more to come. It isn’t just one congregation but more than 300 churches, and it isn’t just a biblical sermon with a political application but an outright campaign clip telling congregants explicitly which candidate to vote for to accomplish political goals. And it wasn’t from a pastor. It was from the vice president of the United States.
“As you know, this is an important election coming up on Tuesday, Nov. 2, and early voting is already underway. I believe that my friend Terry McAuliffe is the leader Virginia needs at this moment,” Vice President Kamala Harris says in a video to be played in hundreds of black churches across the state. She went on to tout McAuliffe’s record on jobs, health care, education, and “getting things done for the people of Virginia.”
“So early voting has already started, and this is the first year that you can vote on Sunday. So please, vote after today’s service. And if you cannot vote today, make a plan to go vote. … And after you vote, please tell every soul you know that it is so important they vote,” she said, telling listeners how to join McAuliffe’s campaign. The video will reportedly play in numerous churches for the next couple of Sundays until the election.
NEW — More than 300 Black churches across VA will hear from @KamalaHarris btwn Sun. and November 2 in video message that will air during morning services as part of outreach effort aimed to boost @TerryMcAuliffe.#VAGOV
— Eva McKend (@evamckend) October 16, 2021
This video raises a bevy of issues, not the least of which is its apparent violation of federal law for 501(c)(3)s and the spiritual implications of airing a blatantly partisan campaign video thinly veiled in weak religious language in what should be a sacred gathering.
In conversations about politics and religion, however, it’s almost impossible not to flash back to the status quo under the prior presidential administration, when any overlap of Christian values and political activism were condemned “because Trump.” Although it began before the Trump presidency and has continued in his wake, a major theme of the Trump era was a continual drip-drip of articles and arguments about the church’s relationship to the 45th president.
Pundits and other religious and political leaders with a distaste for Donald Trump and his supporters routinely invoked some combination of the words “white evangelicals,” “Trumpism,” and “Christian nationalism” to spit out pseudo-intellectual articles that all had the same basic and lazy message: White evangelicals sold their souls to Trump and destroyed Christianity by conflating Republican politics with religious faithfulness.
It appeared over and over and over, with certain moments during Trump’s presidency and the 2020 campaign drawing out particularly vicious smears of Trump-supporting Christians generally. It emerged in the Never Trump movement when he became the GOP nominee and many faithful Christians decided they would vote for him.
It happened during the Bible photo op outside St. John’s Church near the White House, a story that was lied about relentlessly by the corrupt media then used to smear Trump and his Christian supporters. It happened during the 2020 presidential race when Trump was juxtaposed with self-proclaimed Christians Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden. And it occurred nonstop after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, just to name a few.
This was despite the fact that Trump didn’t closely associate himself with a Christian label. Talk to any number of conservatives who voted for Trump in 2016 or 2020, and they’ll tell you they didn’t elect him for his morals (many, of course, never wanted him to be the GOP nominee). In fact, in 2016, voters, including Republicans, considered Trump to be the “least religious” candidate, according to Pew Research.
Nevertheless, leftists and nominal conservatives concluded that Christian Trump supporters had a “branding problem,” which they said stemmed from conflating a Christian identity with a Republican one.
Now we find ourselves with the current vice president beaming herself into hundreds of black churches to tell congregants which candidate to vote for. Where are all the articles lecturing Americans on the dangers of injecting progressive politics into the pews?
Will the Never Trumpers who spent years decrying a president for his moral failings and the Christians who voted for him have anything to say about Harris’s in-church support for a man who green-lights injecting racist curriculum into schools, lies about it, supports abortion and gender mutilation for minors, and denies parents’ rights? Where’s their righteous indignation now?
The truth is that the left and Never Trumpers’ hangup about Christian Republicans isn’t actually about an overlap of politics and religion. Nor is it about “white evangelicals” destroying the future of the church with their “Christian nationalism.” The anti-Trumpers’ problem with Christian Republicans is that they don’t like our politics and the deeply held religious convictions that inform it.
If their problem were truly a conflation of politics and Christianity, we’d hear a whole lot of outcry right now over Harris’s partisan Sunday morning video. But instead, all we’ve got is crickets and early voting.