Undecided Evangelicals Discuss How Trump Can Win Them Over; Bishop Harry Jackson Says Trump Hasn’t ‘Burned Too Many Bridges to Earn Black Christians’ Votes’

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke in January at Liberty University, the non-profit, private Christian university founded in 1971 by evangelical Southern Baptist televangelist Jerry Falwell. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke in January at Liberty University, the non-profit, private Christian university founded in 1971 by evangelical Southern Baptist televangelist Jerry Falwell. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Donald Trump will meet behind closed doors on Tuesday with hundreds of the nation’s most prominent Christian conservatives — megachurch pastors, religious media personalities, theological writers, heads of social conservative organizations and more.

Many of these Christian leaders supported other candidates, including Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina in the primary season. Some have criticized the presumptive Republican nominee for his rhetoric about race and about women, his lack of an anti-abortion history and even his ownership of casinos.

What would Trump have to say to earn their support on Tuesday? Several people who will be attending the meeting weighed in.

“He would have to win my vote. He would have to earn my vote. There’s not one thing. It’s a full spectrum,” said Jerry Johnson, the president of National Religious Broadcasters. “The sanctity of human life is important. Religious liberty is important. The marriage issue is important. The terrorism issue is important. And understanding the separation of powers in the Constitution is important.”

Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor at Maryland’s Hope Christian Church, said he wants to ask Trump at Tuesday’s meeting about three topics he believes are important to his fellow black Christians: economic development plans for inner cities, criminal justice reform and education. “I don’t think that he has burned too many bridges” to earn black Christians’ votes, Jackson said. “I don’t think it’s too late at all, but we know there are going to need to be some specifics put on the table.”

“To be fair, Trump is a New Yorker,” said Eric Metaxas, an author and radio host. “He is not exactly in touch with Bible Belt values and shibboleths. I think it’s important for him to know, if he wants to be elected, he has to take seriously that constituency, people who are social conservatives. … My guess is most people in the room [at the meeting with evangelical leaders] are open to supporting him, even if they have huge issues with him.”

Metaxas, who said at this point he plans to vote for Trump, said he wants to hear Trump defend religious liberty, including the right to oppose same-sex marriage. But more than policy positions, he wants to get a glimpse of Trump’s soul.

“I would say that what most people in America are looking for from Trump, and certainly what most Christians are looking for, is something that he may be incapable of — but it’s some level of introspection and self knowledge; that he would be aware of how he comes across,” Metaxas said. “That would put a lot of people at ease, if he would be capable of a few sentences of introspection. That would go a long way. Speaking as a Christian, I know that I’m a broken sinner who makes mistakes, who hurts people’s feelings and needs to apologize. When he famously said that he doesn’t have much to be forgiven for, something like that just revealed that he doesn’t think about himself the way a lot of people think about themselves. Especially Christians, who try actively to examine their souls.”

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SOURCE: The Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer