I was a vocal NeverTrumper during the days leading up to the 2016 election. Since then, I have not spoken much about political issues, for several reasons. First of all, I am burned out on politics. Second, politics has become so divisive in churches and in the SBC that I have not felt that raising partisan issues was a wise use of my time. My feelings about President Donald Trump remain largely unaltered. He has done some good things in his administration – Justice Gorsuch is probably at the top of the list. But he has continued to be crass, belligerent, and to be embroiled in scandals. His first year in office has been tumultuous beyond dispute – Democrats blame Republicans and Republicans blame Democrats.
I do not write today to reopen the discussion of Donald Trump’s qualifications for office, or even to review his competence in office. He is president and will be for almost three more years, possibly seven, barring something unforeseen. But I write because of two links brought to my attention today. First was an article from the New York Times (which immediately causes many of you to discount it, I am sure) called, “A Quiet Exodus: Why Blacks Are Leaving Evangelical Churches.” The premise of the article is that the nearly unquestioning support of Donald Trump among evangelicals has caused black evangelicals to feel uncomfortable and unwanted in predominantly white churches. Is this accurate? I would guess that to some extent, it is. I have heard this same idea from other sources, that the Trump campaign and the almost unquestioning support of many Christians and churches for him has created suspicion and distrust among minorities and has set back racial reconciliation dramatically. I hope it’s not true but I fear that there is substance there.
Had I only read that article, I would not be writing this, but I also was sent a clip of Dr. Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist pastor and an untiring advocate for Donald Trump. The president has been accused recently of sexual involvement (not recent, I believe) with a porn star. Accusations of hypocrisy are flying because evangelicals, who claim to uphold a biblical standard of morality, are seemingly ignoring the “stormy” days (sorry) that have enveloped the presidency. Here is what Dr. Jeffress said on Fox News. (My apologies for the somewhat racy pic there.)
Here are a couple of clips from what Jeffress said:
“Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star…However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him.”
“Evangelicals knew they weren’t voting for an altar boy when they voted for Donald Trump. We supported him for his policies and his strong leadership.”
“Evangelicals understand the concept of sin and forgiveness…Whether the president needs that forgiveness, whether the president has asked for that forgiveness, is between him and him, and his family, and his God.” (In the ellipsis, Jeffress did give a rudimentary gospel presentation)
“Even if it’s proven to be true (the sexual allegations), it doesn’t matter.”
Anyone as old as I am might feel as if he were caught in the “upside-down” from the late 90s. Then, when President Clinton’s sexual escapades were being discussed, evangelicals spoke with one voice that character mattered, that personal behavior could not be separated from professional performance. I have a letter in my files from James Dobson written during that time saying that Christians simply could not support a president, regardless of his policies, who was guilty of such ungodly behavior.
Now, it is a Republican president who is guilty (he’s admitted adultery in his own books) and is accused of heinous moral behavior and evangelical leaders are saying exactly what the liberals said in the 90s. “It doesn’t matter.” Trump’s personal character doesn’t matter as long as his policies are good and he leads us well. That is exactly what the Democrats said about Clinton and we were horrified.
Please let me make it clear what this article is NOT about.
- I don’t want to discuss Trump’s policies or effectiveness in office.
- I am not interested in whether he was a better choice than Hillary. I met a man in the Dulles airport who worked for Hillary on my trip back from Africa and he told me that things would likely not be better today if Hillary was in office. He couldn’t say enough bad things about her. Fine. I don’t want to argue that Hillary should be president (I did not vote for her).
- I am not wanting to discuss politics in general.
- I am not even interested in discussing Dr. Jeffress or his loyalty to President Trump.
I have a very specific and limited point here. Dr. Jeffress repeatedly speaks as a self-appointed mouthpiece for evangelicals. “Evangelicals believe…” “Evangelicals think…” And it is true that a majority of self-identified evangelicals (an increasingly meaningless term) have shared some of his views. But I want to make a clear, unambiguous statement to the Baptist world, the Christian world, and the world at large – if it reads this blog.
I am a conservative, evangelical, Baptist. I believe in the inerrancy of the word of God, God’s special creation of the world, the miracles of the Bible, the Virgin Birth, the sinlessness of Christ, the Blood atonement, the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone, and the Second Coming of Christ. As a political, theological, moral, and personal conservative, I want to make one thing absolutely and unequivocally clear.
Robert Jeffress does NOT speak for me.
When he speaks for evangelicals he is not speaking for me. I still believe what I believed when I said that Bill Clinton should resign from office. Moral character cannot be separated from professional performance. When Dr. Jeffress appears on Fox News and speaks on behalf of evangelicals, there is at least one Iowa pastor who is not whispering amen. I suspect I am not alone.
Dr. Jeffress is welcome to speak for himself and if they allow, for his church. But I hope the press will understand that “evangelicalism” is far from monolithic and he is not “the voice of evangelicalism.” He is not the voice of Southern Baptists and does not speak for us (nor do I or any other individual). Please understand, Dr. Jeffress has the right to lift his voice but as a conservative evangelical Christian I beg you to hear me – it is NOT my voice.
Does Robert Jeffress speak for you?