While Donald Trump and some of his supporters hold to the idea of a second term for his presidency, it is clear that some key evangelical leaders recognise Joe Biden is almost certainly president elect.
Here’s how Al Mohler – President of the US’s largest theological college, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – gently breaks the news to his conservative audience: “As a matter of fact, Donald Trump got millions of additional votes in 2020 over what he got in 2016, winning the White House. Yet, inevitably it appears that he has lost the White House, and thus, increasingly it is becoming a matter of intellectual honesty to refer to Joe Biden, the democratic candidate, as the almost certain president elect.”
Mohler does have a shot at the left for hypocrisy – many attacked the election of Trump, who lost the popular vote in 2016, as illegitimate – and this will help bring his conservative listeners around to his main point.
Mohler voted for Trump and he has not changed his mind about supporting his policies. “Now, just to be as honest as I can be, it is clear that the election in 2020 for president of the United States did not turn out as I had hoped.”
“It is also clear that right now, President Trump’s refusal to separate the personal and the political is endangering the reputation of the United States around the world, but it’s also endangering President Trump’s place in history, which will record not only how he came to the office in that remarkable election of 2016 when no one believed that he could win, how he served in the office for four years of making history, but also how he left the office and ensured the peaceful transfer of power, which is the hallmark of America’s constitutional order.”
Erick Erickson, a shock jock from Georgia – and an independently minded Christian conservative – has been trying “to talk fellow conservatives down from Trump’s election ‘fraud’ fantasies,'” according to This Week.
Here are some of his tweets undoing the Trump voter conspiracy theories.
(2) The applications were matched with both the voter's driver's license and their voter registration card.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) November 16, 2020
(3) Applications that were submitted through the online portal required a driver's license number and the ballot was mailed to the address on the driver's license.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) November 16, 2020
And here he debunks a theory that votes were stashed in a server in Germany.
The truth is the army did not raid a place in Germany nor take a server from Scytl. The army and the company both deny it. But why believe them when you can believe someone with no proof, but they’re on TV. Some people want to be lied to.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) November 18, 2020
(NOTE: For those wanting an update on the Trump court cases, here is a Wall Street Journal article about the remaining significant one that could affect enough votes, asking “Wheres the evidence?”)
While some evangelical leaders close to Trump continue to back him, many of his closest supporters are now taking a half-way position of saying the election needs to play out in the courts. Religion New Service points out it has not backed the Trump suggestions of fraud.
“As a veteran of the 2000 Florida recount, I take the integrity of elections and the rule of law very seriously,” Ralph Reed, leader of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, told Religion News Service.
“Donald Trump’s campaign is entirely within its rights to pursue legal challenges and recounts where appropriate. This election will be over when those recounts are complete and those legal challenges are resolved — and not until.”
As the courts determine who wins the presidency, there is another key race that is extremely important to the future governance of our nation. January 5 there will be a runoff in Georgia that could change the make-up of the Senate. https://t.co/mgPmm3CLu7
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) November 9, 2020
All the leaders quoted in this story so far were strongly supportive of Donald Trump during the election. The various degrees of distancing have occurred since the election.
In various ways, they are talking their audiences down from rejecting the election, some more strongly and clearly than others.
However, there are still Christian leaders on the Trump bandwagon. One major group is those who claimed to prophesy a Trump victory.
The Elijah List – which features the work of people acclaimed as prophets – is doubling down. “The enormity of what is presently being exposed with the massive and multi-pronged voter fraud cannot be overstated,” Johnny Enlow writes on the site.
“The freedom of the world is at stake. Elections around the world are ALL manipulated, and while the idea of a ‘Democracy’ is a great tease, it presently doesn’t really exist.”
However the idea that the unfulfilled prophecy might be due to the unfaithfulness of God’s people has emerged on The Elijah List.
“Six years ago, I released the word below which, now, has even greater significance for our nation. As we watch and pray concerning the election outcome, God is doing a deep work in our own hearts,” writes Wanda Alger. “This process is taking a while for a reason.”
She points to the Exodus, a theme several Elijah List writers point to:
“We see this truth demonstrated in the Old Testament story of the exodus from Egypt. Consider and compare these facts and interesting parallels with our own nation at this time:
• God’s people were in bondage and began to cry out for deliverance.
• God carefully orchestrated and prepared godly leadership to bring them out.
• Things seemed to go from bad to worse for a period of time.
• God chose not to deliver His people immediately… ON PURPOSE.
• God not only used the ungodly authority in the land … He hardened it!
• God’s people were freed only AFTER he sifted and purified their own hearts and lives of the idolatry and compromise that had infected them.”
In different ways, taking different paths, many Christian backers of Trump are moving away from supporting his claims of fraud and a rigged election.
This was a rigged election. No Republican Poll Watchers allowed, voting machine “glitches” all over the place (meaning they got caught cheating!), voting after election ended, and so much more! https://t.co/YDh7A7wxLW
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2020
Then there are also the evangelicals who were always skeptical of Trump and of pastors who flocked to the White House.
Trump’s advisors are “not evangelical leaders. They’re evangelicals who have had their status elevated because they hang around and get invited to the White House,” pastor Andy Stanley (of the influential Northpoint Church in Georgia) told The Atlantic.
“Those people were virtually in the marketplace, unknown, until all this happened.”
It’s not that Stanley isn’t the kind of evangelical Trump would want by his side. The pastor just didn’t want any part of it; hang around the White House for too long “and the next thing you know, you think you’re somebody,” he said.
“I just don’t have any business getting sucked into that.”