Ron Sider started with a laugh and a prayer.

“Lord have mercy,” he replied with a chuckle when Clout asked why it was necessary to compile a collection of essays in a book titled The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelicals on Justice, Truth and Moral Integrity.

Sider is an emeritus professor of theology, holistic ministry, and public policy at Palmer Theological Seminary in Montgomery County. He said white evangelical voters overwhelmingly supported President Donald Trump in 2016 even though he “is clearly racist, repeatedly says awful things about women, [and] has policies on questions of racial justice, economic justice, and environmental issues that fundamentally contradict biblical norms.”

The book Sider edited arrived this month, when racial strife has been thrust once again to the forefront of public life, following the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Louisville, and Atlanta.

Sider calls on white evangelicals to confront racism.

"Donald Trump, instead of uniting the country, is stoking that racism,” he said. “They want Jesus to be lord of their politics. I don’t think they’ve thought very much about that.”

John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., contributed a chapter asking white evangelicals to reflect on the civil rights movement, which was followed by the rise of the election-oriented “Moral Majority” — which he sees as motivated more by fear and power than hope and humility.

“White evangelicals are driven by a political playbook that runs against the core tenets of Christian faith,” Fea said. “These things will corrupt the church and will thus weaken the church’s witness.”

Fea said the “Christian right has hijacked our churches,” making them heel to Trump’s politics.

“The white evangelical church has been held hostage by the GOP,” he said.

Chris Thurman, a psychologist in Austin, Texas, helped launch the project. He modeled it after a 2017 book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.

Thurman’s chapter looks at verbal abuse people of faith suffer from “supposed Christians” for criticizing Trump. Among the insults he has heard: “spineless,” “demonic,” “cowardly,” “stupid.”

“I just think at some level they must have some sense that they’ve backed the wrong horse and just can’t admit it,” Thurman said. “It is brutal out there.”

Thurman agrees with Fea that division among white evangelicals will linger even if Trump loses his reelection campaign.

Sider is more optimistic that some evangelicals will rethink their politics ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

“My hope and my guess is there will be a small number of white evangelicals who say they can’t vote for this man again,” he said. “It wouldn’t take a lot of that to change the outcome.”

Trump is bad news for Fitzpatrick in Bucks County, polls says

U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Bucks County Republican, told The Inquirer last month that he is undecided on whether to vote for Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden. Then he easily survived a primary challenge from an opponent who cast himself as a loyal Trump fan.

A new survey commissioned by his opponent’s campaign may explain Fitzpatrick’s thinking. The survey by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling calls Fitzpatrick’s 1st District contest against Democrat Christina Finello a “toss-up.”

Trump has a 56% disapproval rating, while 56% of voters there would vote for Biden, the poll found. Finello is down just 2 points in the race, 40% to 38%, with 21% undecided. That’s even though 71% of the voters didn’t know enough about her to have an opinion.

Tying Fitzpatrick to Trump is Finello’s goal, despite his holding the president at arms’ length.

» READ MORE: A ‘slice of America’ Bucks County district should be a battleground. But Democrats need ‘a perfect storm’ to win.

The poll found 47% of voters were less likely to support Fitzpatrick after hearing he supports Trump’s legislative agenda “when it matters most, including on coronavirus and the Trump tax plan,” while 16% said it make them more likely to support him and 37% were unsure or said it didn’t matter.

Fitzpatrick’s camp deferred to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm for House Republicans, which touted him as “the most bipartisan member of Congress” and dismissed Finello as a “partisan zealot” who trails and has little money.

Finello’s camp, which is using the poll to raise money, hit back by saying Fitzpatrick’s “relying on Trump’s party headquarters to make his case only shows his ‘bipartisan’ title is just an act.”

The Pennsylvania GOP is still at odds about ‘unity'

The Pennsylvania Republican Party still can’t agree on the proposed “unity resolution” designed to make peace at its July 10 summer meeting.

The original plan, as Clout explained last week: Have 22-year Republican National Committee veteran Bob Asher of Montgomery County seek another four-year term in a two-phase election that would require his resignation next February and guarantee that party secretary Andy Reilly of Delaware County would step up as an RNC member for the rest of the term.

But the RNC told the state party this week that violates its rule on one person being elected at a time.

So state party Chair Lawrence Tabas of Philadelphia, in an email to state committee members Wednesday, proposed that Reilly be elected to a four-year term and then “deliver an irrevocable proxy” to Asher, allowing him to serve five more months in the post.

Reilly and Vonne Andring, the party’s executive director, said Asher’s team developed the first proposal. Asher declined to comment. Tabas, in his email, said Asher has not agreed to the new plan.

“If Bob has continued objections, that is unfortunate,” Reilly said Thursday.