Everyone knows that religion and politics are two topics one should avoid to facilitate civil discussion among friends and family. Yet both were the raison d’etre for “A Conversation About the Future of America with Donald Trump and Ben Carson,” organized by United in Purpose, which attracted more than 1,000 conservative faith leaders in midtown Manhattan this week.
I envisioned such an event more than a month ago, recognizing the critical moment in our nation’s history, the difference of opinion and response among conservative Christian leaders in this election cycle and the crucial difference that people of faith can make by casting an informed vote based on a biblical worldview.
The purpose of this gathering was to facilitate a meaningful discussion seeking mutual understanding between Mr. Trump and diverse evangelical and Catholic leaders, enabling them to be more informed about each other while also providing Mr. Trump the opportunity to better appreciate matters of importance to the influential and substantial faith community. United in Purpose plans to extend an invitation for similar dialogue to presumed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.
As Woody Allen said famously, “Showing up is 80 percent of life.” But for the candidate, it went beyond just keeping his commitment. We heard a certain amount of humility from the heart of the real Donald Trump, not his media persona or what the press says about him.
Noting that meeting with our group was the most important thing he could do, Mr. Trump spoke boldly, showing his identification with issues important to the Christian community. Those included selection of Supreme Court justices who support a culture of life; belief in traditional marriage as the foundation for society; religious liberty, including increasing attacks on believers standing for their faith; support for Israel as critical for America’s survival and protection; national defense; and immigration.
Mr. Trump repeatedly acknowledged that people of faith have lost many rights, which he plans to change. “It will be my greatest contribution to Christianity and all religions to allow you to speak openly; you have a right to do that,” he said. “People walking down the street have more power than you, because they can say whatever they want.”
It was both obvious and significant that Mr. Trump sat down to connect with our group in such a meaningful way. But perhaps the greatest import of this unprecedented event was that so many leaders came together from across the country to worship and pray together; to strengthen relationships; and to demonstrate unity in seeking God’s direction for the future of our nation.
Yes, we heard from Mr. Trump, and hopefully we will have a chance to have the same type of discussion with Mrs. Clinton. But that was not the overall point of the gathering.
At the end of the day, I don’t want to tell people for whom they should vote, but I do want to tell them to vote. According to researcher George Barna[AR3] , over the past four election cycles, an average of more than 26 million evangelicals registered to vote but did not show up at the polls. Another 13 million are not even registered to exercise that privilege and responsibility.
I believe culture can be changed to represent Judeo-Christian principles on which our nation was founded, because Christians represent a sleeping giant. If we get activated and motivated and wake up, not in an angry way but standing strong on our beliefs and values, conservative Christians in America can make a difference.
But we must maintain a unity of spirit, even as each individual makes his or her own decisions as to who will be the future leaders in our government. May God help us to lay aside our logos and our egos to facilitate such a transformation across our nation.
Bill Dallas is CEO of United in Purpose, a non-partisan organization committed to bringing about cultural change in America based on Judeo-Christian principles and motivating and mobilizing people of faith in the political and democratic process through responsible citizenship.