Pastor-in-Chief? - Word&Way


Ryan Binkley, a pastor in Dallas, Texas, is outspoken about who he is supporting for president. Himself.

“A dream came to my heart to run for president of the United States about eight years ago,” he told me as he mounts his longshot campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. “And it came in the form of a dream. And then it came again and came again a few months later. And so these just kept coming into my heart. And over time, God’s been giving me a message for our country. And that’s what I’m sharing today.”

Your first thought might be Ryan who? Of course, that echoes what the newspapers said about a little-known politician and peanut farmer when he started running in 1976: “Jimmy who?” But while that Baptist Sunday School teacher had electoral experience as Georgia’s governor, Binkley’s resume looks quite different as a nondenominational pastor and businessman. But even more so, his tone offers a stark contrast today to the partisanship, cynicism, and grievance politics churned out daily by a businessman and ex-president who is the GOP frontrunner.

Politico recently rated Binkley as a third-tier (out of three) candidate. But that put him in the “long shots” category with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former pharmaceutical company CEO Vivek Ramaswamy. The publication argued that Binkley’s path to moving up in the field depended on the success of his focus on Iowa and his inspirational message.

A key test will come this summer as he seeks to meet the fundraising and polling criteria for the first Republican presidential debate on Aug. 23. As he tries to achieve that, he has joined other White House hopefuls in highlighting his faith during his campaign, including during his announcement remarks on April 23 at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Although Binkley’s seeking the Republican nomination, he holds to the ideal of bipartisanship and working across party lines. That also impacts how he thinks about issues of faith and politics. While he praised the GOP for its positions on marriage and abortion, he told me that as a pastor he believes “the Democratic Party, in some ways, has a stronger position” on issues like “caring for the immigrant or for the poor.”

“God is neither Republican nor Democrat,” Binkley added.

But while God hasn’t joined either party, the pastor has thrown his hat into one ring. So he’s hitting the campaign trail, focusing especially on the early caucus state of Iowa. He’s made multiple trips to the Hawkeye State and told me he plans on spending about three weeks every month in the state where personal connections with voters often mean more than TV ads and national polling. But he’s also spending money, having already bought more than a quarter of a million dollars in TV and radio spots in Iowa.

Though Binkley’s longshot campaign won’t gain the attention that most in the growing GOP field receive, his background as a pastor gives him a unique perspective to think about issues of faith and politics in a campaign that will be filled with appeals to God and campaign appearances in churches. So this issue of A Public Witness takes you inside Binkley’s campaign to hear about his decision to run and how he’s managing his dual roles as candidate and pastor.


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