Trinity Christian College students (from left) Zach Fitch, 20, Josh Coldagelli, 21 and Karlyn Boens, 19, talk about who they are supporting in the presidential election and why. | Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

Steinberg: Evangelical youths weigh vexing presidential choice

SHARE Steinberg: Evangelical youths weigh vexing presidential choice
SHARE Steinberg: Evangelical youths weigh vexing presidential choice

Follow @neilsteinbergZach Fitch, 20, a junior at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, views Donald Trump as a deeply flawed candidate. But he’s voting for him anyway.

“He says ridiculous things, sometimes really inappropriate things,” said Fitch. “Yet, I’d rather have somebody right now who is a little more toward my beliefs — he doesn’t like abortion. I feel like he’s my more evangelical vote. I would like somebody better, but God can change anyone.”

Geena Calomino, 21, a senior at Trinity, drawing upon the same faith, finds that impossible.

“As my first election, I feel horrible that I have to decide between these two candidates, because I don’t agree with what they’re doing, either of them,” she said. “But I cannot and I will not support someone who puts down women and makes fun of the disabled. . . . To have a president or presidential candidate who openly does that is horrifying to me.”

The American public, exhausted by the 2016 presidential election, finally collapses across the finish line Tuesday. Having written dozens of columns parsing every aspect of this bitter and historic race. I decided not to add one more voice, telling voters what to do. But rather to yield the field to young people, grounded in a particular morality, and see what illumination they might offer. So however the vote falls, we might better understand what just happened. On Friday, while the city was celebrating the Cubs victory, I visited this 1,200-student college in the southwestern suburbs. The administration gathered a half dozen students. Each took a different approach. Josh Coldagelli, 21, a senior, won’t vote for anyone.


Follow @neilsteinberg“I’m one of those young dumb millennials who’s not voting,” said Coldagelli. “But it’s an intentional non-vote. . . . I’m an American, but I’m a Christian before I’m an American. I understand that my American right and my American duty is to vote. But I understand, more than that, that my Christian duty is to not support evil. . . . It sickens me that somebody who can say something like, ‘Grab her by the p—y’ can actually run our country, and another person can be under FBI investigation and a third who is mocking the media and smoking marijuana. These are the three best people that can run our country? It is my American duty to vote, but I think it is also my Christian duty to support righteousness, and in voting I would not be supporting righteousness.”

Karlyn Boens, 19, a sophomore, was the only African-American in the group.

“As a minority, I’m constantly thinking about my past and the fact that I didn’t always have this privilege and this right,” said Boens. “That hangs over my head. Having your grandmother tell you, ‘Oh you need to vote in this election because your ancestors fought for you to be able to do this.’ You have to do it. And I wholeheartedly agree with that . . . but at the same time. I don’t know. I’m really stuck. . . . I feel like I’m expected to vote for Hillary because she’s Democratic.”

Four years ago, the 2012 election roiled the campus, and this election the school took steps to encourage civil discourse. Though differing, the students not only listened respectfully to each other but also seemed to hear what one another was saying.

“We get so hung up on being passionate about individual policies — that’s something especially evangelicals do,” said Coldagelli. “The biggest thing is that, in this election, are our lives really going to change that much Nov. 8 when the decision comes out? Are our lives really going to change that much in January when the inauguration happens?  Is our daily life really going to change that much? Or will it be . . . .”

“Maybe,” Boens interjected, to nervous laughter. “Trump gets in office and does some deportations, a lot of people’s lives are going to change.”

“That’s the biggest thing we need to realize,” continued Coldagelli. “There is not one way to America. We get caught up in that: Donald Trump’s view of America is the only way to be American, or Hillary Clinton’s view of American is the only way to be American. But that’s not true. There’s so many different ways. That’s the beauty of being the land of the free. But we have to be the land of the free for all. Having a politician do that is near impossible. It comes down to individual actions.”

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