Religious right eyes Biden warily after Trump's good favor

FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden bows his head in prayer at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wis. Conservative evangelical Christians have proven some of Donald Trumps staunchest allies during his presidency. As his administration draws to a close, some of those backers are approaching President-elect Biden with skepticism, but not antagonism. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden bows his head in prayer at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wis. Conservative evangelical Christians have proven some of Donald Trumps staunchest allies during his presidency. As his administration draws to a close, some of those backers are approaching President-elect Biden with skepticism, but not antagonism. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – Conservative evangelical Christians have proven some of Donald Trump’s staunchest allies during his presidency. As his administration draws to a close, some of those backers are approaching President-elect Joe Biden with skepticism, but not antagonism.

Christian conservatives who stood by Trump through moments of crisis and success are hardly comfortable with his loss, and several have yet to fully acknowledge Biden as the winner of the election amid ongoing, unfounded fraud claims by the president. But they’re largely not echoing the harsh tone Trump directed toward his Democratic rival during the campaign, when he claimed baselessly that Biden is “against God.”

Texas-based megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, a stalwart evangelical booster of Trump, said Christians are obliged “to pray for what appears to be President-elect Biden. If he succeeds, all of America succeeds.”

Jeffress described himself as “deeply disappointed” by the apparent loss of a president he considers “a friend,” but added that he would respond to any outreach attempt by Biden, just as he did with Trump. The possibility that Biden could “be pulled away from extremist positions” held by other Democrats, Jeffress said, is “a plus not just for conservative Christians, but for all of America.”

It’s highly unlikely that Christian conservatives could develop a close relationship with Biden, whose support for abortion rights and stances on other issues stand in stark disagreement with the religious right. However, the lack of a combative tone from pro-Trump religious conservatives could create space for some common ground between the Catholic president-elect and other evangelicals who have not tied themselves as directly to Trump.

“If Joe Biden is the president, if that’s what it turns out to be, then we need to do everything we can to support him, where we can,” the Rev. Franklin Graham said in a recent interview.

Graham, who leads the Christian nonprofit founded by his late father, the Rev. Billy Graham, is a Trump supporter who offered prayers at his inauguration and this year’s Republican National Convention. But while he underscored that his opposition to abortion is one of several fronts where there could be no compromise, Graham said “we certainly can work with” Biden on other issues.

During the Obama administration, Graham attended a conversation Biden convened among faith-based advocates about gun legislation. The pastor also visited the White House in 2014 to discuss the Ebola crisis after a doctor at his global relief charity, Samaritan’s Purse, successfully fought the deadly disease.