Some are Breaking Up With Their Church After Contentious 2016 Election

Ms. Miller’s evangelical faith guided and anchored much of her life until the presidential election, when the white evangelical church voted 81% in favor of Donald Trump. “On November 8, white evangelical Christianity and I called it quits,” wrote Ms. Miller online. (PHOTO: LEAH NASH FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

Ms. Miller’s evangelical faith guided and anchored much of her life until the presidential election, when the white evangelical church voted 81% in favor of Donald Trump. “On November 8, white evangelical Christianity and I called it quits,” wrote Ms. Miller online. (PHOTO: LEAH NASH FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

The contentious election is a ripe topic for sermons but is sending some churchgoers to the doors

The election is over and so is Brandi Miller’s religious affiliation.

“On Nov. 8, white evangelical Christianity and I called it quits,” she wrote in a message posted on Facebook. Ms. Miller, a campus minister at the University of Oregon, says that exit polls showing that 81% of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump revealed a divide over race that she, as a biracial woman, can’t condone.

“Evangelicals have decided who and with what they will associate,” wrote Ms. Miller, 26 years old, in an online magazine and on Facebook. “It’s not me.”

Church is often the place where people seek comfort and community in unsettling times, but the contentiousness of this election has filtered into the pews. In a sign of lingering partisanship, some people have looked for another place to worship, having split with their pastor over politics. Others are staying but feel estranged, wondering how a person a pew away backed a pro-choice candidate, for instance, or supported someone who demeaned immigrants.

“We have a lot of fingers pointed at each other saying ‘You are not Christian,’ ” says Megan Sutker, who was ordained in the United Church of Christ, works as an interfaith minister and belongs to the Episcopal Church. She worries the split will exacerbate disillusionment with organized religion, at a time when mainstream churches are already experiencing declines. Even messages from the pulpit urging unity can be loaded, with some people feeling it diminishes their concerns.

Nate Pyle, pastor of the small Christ’s Community Church in suburban Indianapolis, is aiming to bring both sides “to the same table to break bread.” He is planning small-group discussions in the church about books such as “Hillbilly Elegy,” a memoir about growing up in a poor white Appalachian town, and “The Cross and the Lynching Tree,” an exploration of race and religion. “The church is just as divided as the rest of society and we need to have a conversation about that,” he says.

In the presidential election, most religious groups voted as they have in the recent past. There is no single evangelical church, with the National Association of Evangelicals representing nearly 40 different denominations. But people who identified as white evangelical Christians, as well as white Catholics, supported Republican candidates. Groups that traditionally back Democratic candidates, including religious “nones,” or those without a religious affiliation, Hispanic Catholics and Jews, voted for Hillary Clinton. But within those groups, there are plenty of differences.

Carolyn Kramer, a 57-year-old retired public school-bus driver and lifelong Methodist, says she cringed when she entered her Mentor, Ohio, church parking lot on Sundays before the election and saw Clinton or Obama bumper stickers. “How could they claim they are good religious people,” she says of her fellow churchgoers, in backing pro-choice politicians.

Ms. Kramer, who volunteers once a week at a local Right To Life office, asked her Methodist pastors to take a stand. “They say they are against abortion, yet they don’t talk about it,” says Ms. Kramer.

“It makes me think this religion is not for me,” she says. Her 23-year-old daughter is in the process of becoming Catholic, and Ms. Kramer thinks she might eventually follow.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal
Clare Ansberry

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