Finding Faith in Impeachment?

January 23, 2020

As the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump dominates the headlines, Americans continue to face communal divisions predicated on party lines, with religious affiliation playing complex roles in shaping how many experience life within an increasingly divided society. Leaders affiliated with the Red Letter Christians, a justice-focused Christian movement, called for a national day of prayer in October 2019 “for the truth to be revealed through the impeachment inquiry.” Others have suggested the investigation into President Trump might threaten national unity. “Our country could begin to unravel if an elected president is thrown out of office because of lies and the media,” shared Franklin Graham, an evangelical leader and outspoken supporter of President Trump. With the 2020 U.S. presidential election fast approaching, religious leaders will continue to have a role in shaping public opinion on the president, his policies, and the impeachment process.

The religious beliefs and affiliations of Americans on the ground have also shaped responses to the impeachment inquiry. The Trump administration has received notable support from certain sectors of the Christian right, with prominent evangelical leaders privately counseling and publicly defending the president. Outside the U.S. capital, the on-the-ground situation is often more complex, with some initial supporters of President Trump now questioning his behavior and personal qualities. For example, Sioux County, Iowa—where the president was elected by an 81% margin in 2016—is home to many voters who would welcome the impeachment in large part due to a moral worldview grounded in evangelical Christian values. 

Members of other faith communities have also shaped debates on the impeachment process. President Trump has been continually critiqued by Jewish organizations for his rhetoric, which some have called anti-Semetic. The president has also found support in some Orthodox Jewish communities, suggesting divisions within the American Jewry. Prominent members of the Islamic community have raised similar critiques. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, has been a vocal supporter of impeachment. Especially with the ongoing  impeachment trial, religion will  continue to play complex roles in how many Americans experience political polarization. 

This week the Berkley Forum asks: How has the impeachment of President Trump and the 2020 presidential election more generally affected religious communities on the ground? Have faith leaders seen divisions within their communities and, if so, how can these divides be addressed? How might faith leaders approach pastoral and community care in an increasingly polarized America? What role might ecumenical and interfaith dialogue play in healing political divisions?

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U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC