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US Evangelical pastor: Why I've turned my back on Trump

by Chantalle Edmunds

The American Evangelical minister Rob Schenck has spoken to Premier about his decision to vote Democrat after 44 years of voting Republican.

Rev Schenck, 62, said his decision wasn't an easy one but he decided overall Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, "even though not perfect" when it came to "Christian sensibilities", was "the better choice."

The last time Rob Schenck voted Democrat was for Jimmy Carter in 1976, who he described as the born again candidate and "unapologetically evangelical."

From that point onwards, he backed a Republican candidate. Reflecting on those decisions, he told Premier:

"At times I became more of a faithful Republican than a faithful Christian...after a time it seemed that the two were synonymous. It really took the Trump Presidency, although not exclusively so, for me to see that differently and for me to evaluate it differently."

He added he came to the conclusion that while the Republican Party, and eventually President Trump, seemed to promote the concerns of evangelicals, such as pro-life policies and religious liberty guarantees, "at the same time all the other concerns, and in some ways more important concerns, were diminishing. The party and the administration were becoming more narrow ... the treatment of the stranger, the foreigner, the immigrant among us, became extremely hostile and toxic."

He added that a personal encounter with Donald Trump also caused him to "exercise great doubt about him."

Rev. Schenck said that as Christians we can pray that: "God's will be done in the election. In the end that is what our Christian lives are all about is surrendering to the will of God, sometimes the will of God is not what expect it to be, nor what we want it to be."

He added the decision voters make in the election must be balanced against "principles."

Referencing the Sermon on the Mount, he urged American Christians to think about the poor, those who suffer loss, "those who are humble, those who thirst after righteousness."

He also cited the two great commandments: "You should love the Lord of God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbour as yourself. Ask which candidate, which platform better reflects these principles and for me in this instance, in this moment in time... Joe Biden better reflects those principles."

Rev Schenck converted to Christianity from Judaism as a teenager. He came to faith in Christ through the Methodist tradition and John Wesley's teachings. 

He became entrenched in the evangelical movement and would protest outside abortion clinics. 

In 2014, he was invited to take part in The Armor of Light, an Emmy award-winning documentary about the apparent contradiction at the heart of the evangelical support for guns. He concluded there was no simple answer and went on to ask people to consider whether carrying a gun for self-defence could be considered Christ-like.

President of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute in Washington DC, Rev Schenck is an ordained evangelical minister, theologian and a political activist.

He founded the institute to continue the work of Bonhoeffer in reforming the evangelical church. Bonhoeffer was a theologian, ethicist and Nazi resister who spoke out against Adolf Hitler and as a result paid for his life. 


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