Baptist, evangelical leaders offer varying views on how to deal with Trump

Baptist, evangelical leaders offer varying views on how to deal with Trump

While faith leaders speaking out about the recently released tape of Donald Trump denouncing the comments he made about women and his actions related to women, many continue to stand with him as the Republican presidential nominee.

“The crude comments made by Donald J. Trump more than 11 years ago cannot be defended. But the godless progressive agenda of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton likewise cannot be defended,” Evangelist Franklin Graham wrote on his Facebook page Oct. 8.

“I am not endorsing any candidates in this election … both candidates are flawed. The only hope for the United States is God.

“But as Christians we can’t back down from our responsibility to remain engaged in the politics of our nation,” he wrote. “The most important issue of this election is the Supreme Court. That impacts everything. There’s no question, Trump and Clinton scandals might be news for the moment, but who they appoint to the Supreme Court will remake the fabric of our society for our children and our grandchildren for generations to come.”

And according to the Dallas News, Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, defended Trump on Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight on Oct. 10.

“Donald Trump’s comments were lewd … but they were not enough to make me vote for Hillary Clinton,” Jeffress said.

He pointed to Trump’s Oct. 9 debate performance as “the quality that all leaders have to have: resiliency,” according to the Dallas News.

But even with the “resilient” attribute, Trump’s support has taken a hit since the Oct. 7 release of the tape, especially among female voters and most religious groups, according to a poll released Oct. 11.

According to Dan Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute, which conducted a poll with The Atlantic Survey, “Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants are the only ones who are standing firm right now.”

Beth Moore: ‘Wake up’

Popular Bible study leader Beth Moore offered different reactions, releasing her concerns on Twitter.

“Wake up, Sleepers, to what women have dealt with all along in environments of gross entitlements & power,” she wrote. “I’m one among many women sexually abused, misused … talked naughty to. Like we liked it. We didn’t. We’re tired of it.

“Try to absorb how acceptable the disesteem and objectifying of women has been when some Christian leaders don’t think it’s that big a deal,” Moore wrote.

Also sharing concerns on Twitter is Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“What a disgrace. What a scandal to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the integrity of our witness,” Russell Moore wrote about the number of evangelicals who don’t seem concerned about Trump’s behavior.

“The damage done to the gospel this year by so-called evangelicals will take longer to recover from than the ’80s TV evangelist scandals,” he wrote.

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, called the upcoming election a “disaster” and said evangelicals risk destroying their moral credibility if they vote for Trump, according to The Christian Post.

“When it comes to Donald Trump, evangelicals are going to have to ask the huge question, ‘Is it worth destroying our moral credibility to support someone who is beneath the baseline level of human decency for anyone who should deserve our vote?’” Mohler said in an appearance on CNN, according to the Post.

Even evangelical magazine WORLD has called Trump unfit to serve.

In a post Oct. 11, editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky and the other editors detailed how they came to the conclusion that Trump should step aside.

“Eighteen years ago, a WORLD cover pictured President Bill Clinton next to the headline, ‘Time to Resign.’ Clinton had … used his power for adulterous purposes and then lied about it,” the WORLD report explained.

“This month a videotape showed Donald Trump making lewd remarks about groping women’s genitals. … (It) gave us new information about how Trump views power as a means to gratify himself. It raised further questions about how Trump would act if elected to the most powerful office in the world.

“Although WORLD over its 30 years has been more critical of Democrats than Republicans, particularly because of the abortion issue, we are not partisan,” Olasky and the editors wrote. “The standards we applied to Bill Clinton in 1998 are relevant to Donald Trump in 2016.”

Another group denoucing Trump consists of evangelical leaders across the nation through an online petition. More than 20,600 people had signed the petition at press time.

Known as “A Declaration by American Evangelicals Concerning Donald Trump,” the petition reads in part:

“Donald Trump’s campaign is the most recent and extreme version of a history of racialized politics that has been pursued and about which white evangelicals, in particular, have been silent.

“For this reason, we cannot ignore this bigotry, set it aside, just focus on other issues, or forget the things Mr. Trump has consistently said and done. No matter what other issues we also care about, we have to make it publicly clear that Mr. Trump’s racial and religious bigotry and treatment of women is morally unacceptable to us as evangelical Christians, as we attempt to model Jesus’ command to ‘love your neighbors as yourself.’”

At Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virgina, a group of several hundred students have formed the group Liberty United Against Trump and are expressing disappointment in university president Jerry Falwell Jr., who was one of the first evangelical leaders to endorse Trump for president.

Falwell has continued to be a staunch defender of Trump throughout the campaign, stating Oct. 13 that his endorsement is “only fulfilling my obligation as a citizen to ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’ by expressing my personal opinion about who I believe is best suited to lead our nation in a time of crisis.” (TAB, Religion News Service)

EDITOR’S NOTE — At press time pressure was mounting for Clinton to denounce a campaign official for her emails that allegedly mock Catholics and evangelicals. TAB will report on this situation as it develops.