(RNS) In the midst of a bitter presidential campaign, a group of 13 evangelical leaders has founded an organization advocating a Christian and civil approach to politics.
The group, Public Faith, stresses its nonpartisanship and includes both conservative and liberal-leaning evangelicals. Its founders include Michael Wear, the deputy director for President Obama’s faith-based initiatives during the president’s first term, and Alan Noble Jr., editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture, an online publication.
“We seek to offer a different voice: confident and hopeful, equally full of conviction and grace,” the group declares on its website, which went live Aug. 29.
Public Faith’s leaders say they are trying to counter sentiments among some evangelicals, who have traditionally favored the Republican Party, that they need to turn into political hard-liners, or bow out of a political process that so many this campaign season find distasteful.
The rhetoric of Republican nominee Donald Trump has distressed some prominent evangelicals, who have accused him of scapegoating immigrants and stereotyping ethnic and religious minorities.
While the group’s mission is not to be “anti-Trump,” Noble said that those who are morally opposed to Trump may find themselves aligned with Public Faith’s values.
“If you are an evangelical who wants to find a political institution that isn’t backing Trump, you might find Public Faith refreshing,” Noble said.
The group takes stances on hotly debated issues, calling on evangelicals to combat racism, stand up for religious liberty, alleviate poverty and battle climate change. They also decry abortion and endorse traditional marriage between a man and a woman, but they want evangelicals to care for families of all compositions, as well as pregnant women and mothers in difficult circumstances.
On Monday (Sept. 12), the group released a statement opposing the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the federal government from using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions. In the same statement, the group voiced its support for community-based policing and criminal justice reform.
Noble said the group is aware that some of its stances will resonate with conservatives, and others with liberals.
“We want to show we’re not simply tied to the GOP,” he said.
Beneath the group’s online statement is an option for readers to add their signature to a steadily growing list. More than 650 people have signed.
In an election where the polls show that neither major-party presidential candidate enjoys great popularity, Public Faith’s organizers fear that evangelicals may decide not to vote. Vincent Bacote, associate professor of theology at Wheaton College and co-founder of Public Faith, hopes voters will go to the polls and cast a ballot — if not in the presidential race, then for the down-ballot options.
“There’s more on the ballot,” Bacote said. “And often, those are the more important choices.”