Evangelicals Take Center SAGE
With four days to go until the election, the fence is becoming a less crowded place. Undecided Americans are making their choices — helped along by shocking new revelations from the FBI on Hillary Clinton and the stark contrasts in the two candidates’ agendas. The ground is shifting all right, especially for what George Barna has dubbed the SAGE Cons — the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged conservatives. Essentially these are Christians like you; followers of Christ, who are both informed and engaged.
In the latest surveys of his American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI), the all-important bloc of politically active evangelicals is gravitating to Donald Trump in startling numbers. In key states like Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, and elsewhere, the mass migration is particularly noticeable. Back in May, 67 percent of SAGE Cons in the Buckeye State were supporting the GOP nominee. In the last couple of weeks, that number has skyrocketed to 92 percent — a 25-point swing in one of the most critical states for either candidate to win.
Perhaps even more telling, Barna points out, is that six months ago, about two-thirds of Trump’s supporters were backing him “because of their dislike of Mrs. Clinton.” Just 37 percent cited his positions on key issues as the driving reason for their choice. Now deep into the fall, that number has almost flipped. “The most common motivation for backing Mr. Trump is now his positions on key issues, listed by a whopping 75 percent.” After three debates, which helped pull the curtain back on Hillary Clinton’s extremism, Americans finally got a good look at the two nominees’ differences on things like abortion, the Supreme Court, national security, trade, and religious freedom. For SAGE Cons, who rank abortion as their top issue (30 percent) and SCOTUS nominations a close second (28 percent), the final debate delivered exactly the clarity they were hoping for.
“If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby,” Trump said. “Now, you can say that that’s OK and Hillary can say that that’s OK. But it’s not OK with me, because based on what she’s saying, and based on where she’s going, and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.”
It may have been the most significant moment of the campaign for Trump, and could prove to be one of the most important in the history of modern presidential politics. Not only did it expose Clinton’s inhumanity for what it is, but it helped mobilize an army of pro-lifers to the side of a man who offers the best chance of reversing the damage done by the last eight years of the Obama administration. Trump’s answer resonated in the battleground states, where voters started waking up to the gulf between he and Clinton on the fundamental problems facing America. Suddenly, voters — and SAGE Cons in particular — started to make decisions not based on the people, but policies, principles, and platforms. Dr. Stephen King, Regent University Professor of Government, joined me on “Washington Watch” yesterday to delve deeper into the motivation of voters and the impact they can have next Tuesday. (Listen here.)
What matters now is turnout. It’s all well and good if evangelicals say they support Donald Trump. Now they have to make the drive to the polling stations and show it. Right now, Barna predicts 85 percent of SAGE voters will cast ballots in the election, and for Trump to have a chance, 86 percent of them will need to break for the GOP nominee. The next 96 hours are crucial. If you or someone you know hasn’t made up their mind on the race, share FRC Action’s two videos: the “2016 Party Platform Comparison” and “In the Balance: Why the Courts Matter.” If you’re still not convinced, check out my new op-ed in the Stream, “Evangelicals Should Reject False Dilemmas,” which is a response to the idea that Christians should have to choose between engaging in politics and maintaining their spiritual purity. This election, as with any election, is not about electing someone who is going to “spiritually reform” America. It’s about electing individuals who will respect the rights of Christians and others to live by their faith and fully engage as citizens of this country so that through sharing their faith in Christ through both words and deeds, they can reform society. America’s political deficiencies are directly linked to our spiritual weakness. The answer is not for Christians to retreat further from issues of public concern into religious ghettos, as some on the Left would suggest. The answer is in rekindling our love and devotion for Christ that causes us to go and accomplish our spiritual (Matt. 28:19-20) and cultural commissions (Gen. 1:26-28).
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