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Evangelical pastor leaves his longtime church over the congregation’s devotion to Trump

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Donald Trump posing with a Bible in front of St. John's church (screengrab)

Pastor Keith Mannes has served his community of East Saugatuck, Michigan for more than 30 years at Christian Reformed Church, but something has changed. Mannes can no longer defend his congregation’s support of President Donald J. Trump.

“There’s a quote from Martin Luther King where he said, ‘The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state,’” Mannes told the Detroit Free Press. “That just hit me hard because I think, broadly, the white evangelical community in our country has abandoned that role.”

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Mannes added, “The question of the church largely and how it’s functioned in this moment has been really disturbing. That’s been troubling enough that I need to lay it all down.”

Mannes said he has felt a disconnect with the church since before Trump’s election four years ago. When Trump descended the Trump Tower on the escalator in New York City in June 2015 to announce his run for president, Mannes said he began to feel an internal struggle.

“From the time he came down the escalator… It’s only been building ever since,” Mannes said. “From the beginning I thought there’s something about this man and the instrument that he is for a lot of things that are just very not Jesus.”

Mannes’ last sermon at Christian Reformed Church was Oct. 11.

In a poll conducted by Pew Research Center, Christian support for Trump has taken a downturn since August. The poll was conducted from Sept. 3 through Oct. 5.

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Sociology professor George Lundskow said support from the religious community is tied to how people view God.

“[His actions] don’t seem very Christian, much less conservative Christian,” Lundskow said of Trump. “I don’t think it’s about that. It’s something else about religion — whether you see God as punitive and judgmental or the loving, forgiving version of God. That definitely shapes political views as well.”

“It just floors me how church-going people who read the Bible and sing the hymns can show up at a [Trump] rally and just do that deep bellow like an angry mob supporting these horrible things that come out of his heart and his mind,” Mannes said. “It just began to trouble me so much that I am a pastor in this big enterprise.”

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