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We often hear about the evangelical right. What about the evangelical left?
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has garnered a lot of support from conservative and Republican voters, including many evangelical Christians. - photo by Herb Scribner
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has garnered a lot of support from conservative and Republican voters, including many evangelical Christians. According to the latest poll numbers out of Iowa, Trump is one of the top picks from evangelical voters, right behind Ben Carson.

The evangelical rights support for Trump is surprising because his politics dont often align with many evangelical beliefs and can be seen as too progressive, according to Jonathan Merritts latest piece for The Atlantic. For example, hes been called one of the most LGBT-friendly GOP candidates, even when many evangelicals are opposed to same-sex marriage and LGBT rights, Merritt noted.

Why do they love me? Trump asked. Youll have to ask them. But they do. They do love me.

Part of it might be because evangelicals have associated themselves with the Republican Party since the 1980s, Merritt wrote. Even if Trump doesnt check all of evangelicals boxes, hes won much of the support from the Republican Partys support, which brings evangelical support with it.

Trump is also somewhat of a traditionalist and stands up to the media, which are both qualities embraced by evangelicals, Merritt wrote.

Still, its unknown how long Trump will hold evangelical support because its so early in the election cycle, Merritt wrote. Evangelical voters may change their mind if they feel Trump is too progressive on some issues, such as his stance on LGBT rights.

Its been long known that evangelicals support right-wing candidates like Trump. In fact, some GOP candidates will base their campaigns around evangelical and religious beliefs so they can win that demographic in elections, which I wrote about earlier his year.

But is there room for a more progressive candidate to appeal to evangelicals?

New Republics Elizabeth Stoker Breunigs latest essay asked whether the evangelical left will rise again after it fell apart at the end of Jimmy Carters presidency. Carter, a progressive politician with evangelical religious beliefs, rallied progressive evangelical voters in the 1976 election to help win the presidency.

But, as Bruenig noted, those voters flipped on him in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan, who appealed to the evangelicals in a different way and created the evangelical right.

Unlike the evangelical left, evangelical conservatives aligned themselves with the Republican Party, mostly because the Republican Party had a firm stance on abortion, which appealed to many evangelicals, Bruenig wrote. Aligning with the GOP gave evangelicals more money to spend on support of political candidates, giving them more influence, too.

The evangelical left never identified with the Democratic Party, Valparaiso University historian Heath Carter told New Republic They never quite feel at home in American politics, theyve never been quite comfortable with how parties draw the boundary lines.

This cemented the evangelical right that is still popular and influential today, Bruenig wrote.

Will the evangelical left ever return? There was somewhat of a resurgence in the early 2000s, as many of George W. Bushs policies gained favor with evangelical left politics, Bruenig reported.

More recently, millennial Christians have agreed with progressive politics and may be the new evangelical left, Joseph Slife wrote for World magazine.

In fact, one of those millennials, Chelsen Vicari, told World magazine that evangelical progressives can be found among the youth. Still, it isnt easy for young Christians to have left political beliefs with the Bible and Christianity offering more conservative lessons, World magazine reported.

Thats why the evangelical left may be a more of a concept, rather than a firm poltical group, Vicari said.

When I say the evangelical left, Im really talking about those within the church who are pushing a political, leftist agenda cloaked in Christianity, Vicari told World magazine. And when I say cloaked in Christianity, I mean using the Bible and twisting it to justify a leftist political agenda that actually goes against what Scripture talks about in many ways, for example, marriage, and life, and liberty.

Because of the Bibles conservative lean, the evangelical left will have a hard time gaining ground, Vicari said.

Similarly, Randall Balmer, a professor of religious studies at Dartmouth College, told Bruenig that its unlikely the evangelical left will grow again unless progressive evangelicals gathered money, resources and time to convince young evangelicals to change their political beliefs.

Im pessimistic about that, Balmer said. It would take a lot of money, a lot of organizing, a lot of re-education.
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