Seventh-day Adventist retired neurosurgeon and presidential hopeful Ben Carson told Christianity Today that even on the campaign trail, he begins every day with prayer and Bible reading. His comments come at a time when his support among Evangelical voters has slipped markedly. Speaking of his presidential bid, Carson said, "It hasn’t changed our routine. No matter where we are, we still start each day with prayer and Bible reading, and we end it the same way. I find myself praying a lot more these days." Carson spoke to Christianity Today by phone from a campaign stop in South Carolina.
Carson has been slipping in polls of likely Republican voters after his insistance that the Egyptian pyramids were built by Joseph of the Bible to hold grain during a time of famine. Carson's highest polling numbers, which saw him briefly assume frontrunner status in the crowded GOP primary field, came at a time when his Seventh-day Adventist faith became the subject of national discussion. He has now dropped to third in most polls behind mogul Donald Trump and in statistical ties with Junior Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Senator Cruz has been trending higher among Evangelicals as Carson has faded.
Religious discourse has proven Carson's proverbial double-edged sword. On the one hand, his popularity rose among Evangelical Republicans when he claimed God led him to run for office, and has discussed his Christian faith. On the other hand, questions about whether Carson's sabbatarian commitments put him at odds with Evangelicals and his seemingly ill-informed comments about the pyramids have hurt Carson, as have increased scrutiny of his autobiography, "Gifted Hands," and his ties to embattled supplement manufacturer Mannatech.
Republican strategist Ron Bonjean suggested in a New York Times article that Carson has also struggled to persuade voters of his foreign policy bona fides. “Carson is failing the commander in chief test that Republican primary voters have, especially around national security issues like the recent terrorist attack in Paris,” Bonjean told the Times.
In an attempt to build foreign policy credibility, Carson met with Syrian refugees in Jordanian refugee camps the weekend after Thanksgiving. Following his trip to Jordan, Carson has insisted that the United States should not accept Syrian refugees, and that the San Bernardino shootings could be attributed to insufficient security protocols for screening immigrants to the United States.
As Carson's support among Evangelicals has flagged, Ted Cruz has gained the most ground among religious conservatives. Hoping to reverse the trend, Carson touted the endorsement of fifteen South Carolina pastors, and has sought to re-emphasize the role he feels God plays in his White House run.
Speaking to Christianity Today, Carson said, "I find myself praying a lot more these days. If you have strong Christian values in a secular progressive society, you’re going to be the subject of much attack. But the Lord gives you what you need to get through that."
Carson stated that he attends church as often as possible, noting that on the campaign trail, it is harder. He said that he has been able to speak in many churches on Sundays while touring the country (no mention of churches on Saturdays). "If the Lord puts me in the White House, I will definitely continue attending on a weekly basis," Carson said. He also said that if elected, he will not have a "politically correct" Christmas. "It'll be a real Christmas," he said.
In the same Christianity Today interview, Carson discussed the Planned Parenthood shooting, the refugee crisis, and medical technology. See more of his responses here.
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
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