Trump and Evangelicals on *Interfaith Voices* Radio

Trump Jeffress

Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas and a leading voice in American evangelicalism, symbolically stands in the wings at a Donald Trump rally.

I was recently a guest on Interfaith Voices, a syndicated public radio program, to discuss evangelicals and Donald Trump.  My discussion partner was Robert Jeffress, Trump supporter and pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas.

You can listen to the conversation here.  I am a bit disappointed  that a few things I said in response to Jeffress were edited out, but that is usually par for the course on these kind of shows.  (Perhaps I will write a blog post expanding on my responses to Jeffress’s Trumpism.  Stay tuned).  I think it is fair to say that the spirit of my critique of Trump and Jeffress is still in tact.

I am still not a fan of this kind of sound-bite debate.  So I hope that people will take what I said in the larger context of the things I have written about Trump here and elsewhere.

6 thoughts on “Trump and Evangelicals on *Interfaith Voices* Radio

  1. TVD:
    But as noted above, since the lack of a topic obliged each participant to formulate his own topic, Jeffress’s choice of abortion and national security is entirely valid, and were arguments he sustained.>>>>

    Yes. Jeffress stayed on topic, the ones he formulated as you point out, Tom. Abortion. National security.

    I would add the selection of supreme court justices.

    Dr. Fea, the alternative? You offer none because in this election cycle, there is no alternative. I have Evangelical friends who are planning to write in a name because they will vote neither for Trump nor for Hillary Clinton.

    So, what do you suggest as an alternative? A write in campaign? If so, for whom?

    Also, conflating the immigration issue with the pro life issue was not really kosher. Jeffries was obviously talking about abortion.

    The immigration issue does involve the treatment of our fellow human beings, all made in the image of God. You are right about that. For example. How does our weak enforcement of our borders play into the hands of the drug cartels and human traffickers? How does it play into the hands of corrupt governments who want people to leave their countries and send dollars back home to be spent in their failed economies?

    How much do those governments rely on American dollars sent back to support family members and prop up failed regimes?

    Surely you do not support open borders, do you?

    I hope that in your classroom you encourage your students to examine the human cost of a lack of border enforcement. It is great.

    It is a complex issue, and weak immigration laws coupled with a weak enforcement of existing laws do not help at all.

    May I suggest that the present administration’s extreme neglect of duty in putting American citizens first has helped produce the Trump phenomenon. To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This administration’s actions, coupled with the candidates that the Democrats are putting forward this year caused an unexpected reaction in the form of Trumpism. No one saw it coming.

    It is a tragic situation. Trump is a swine. What is Hillary? What does God want of us? Maybe repentance. We have sown the wind. Is this the whirlwind? God have mercy on our souls in this Year of Mercy.

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  2. First of all, John, I do not argue these things as a Catholic, Christian or *other*. My demurrals here are all formal ones, not taking sides on the theology. For the sake of discussion, I assume that all truth claims are equally true.

    Indeed, on the formal level, the discussion [it was a debate] also suffered as it was apples and oranges, a pastor vs. an historian.

    [If you were arguing merely as an “evangelical,” apples v. apples, then weaponizing your authority as an historian was improper. Indeed, if Jeffress had invoked his D.D. on any point of theology, I’d have considered that out of line too.]

    If it were a discussion between evangelicals, then, the fogginess of that term makes the premise largely invalid, since Rev. Jeffress is a fundamentalist and you are largely an Anabaptist-leaning liberal. For you two to discuss an “evangelical” view is almost as pointless as a Catholic and a Mormon debating the Christian view.

    And FTR, you again lumping immigration in as a LIFE ISSUE [caps yours] does not represent the position of the Catholic Church, which also holds abortion as sui generis and non-negotiable. [Indeed, even the Church’s “life issue” teaching against capital punishment is not non-negotiable; Catholics are free to conscientiously differ.]

    There are liberal Catholics, even some bishops, who conflate Beatitudism with abortion, but that is a sophistry. We all know what “pro-life” means in these contexts. Immigration is a discrete issue on its own.

    As for the role of government, Catholics and Evangelicals (of the National Association Of Evangelicals variety) have both affirmed the belief that government has a moral responsibility to promote the public good and protect human dignity.

    Dr. Jeffress has a quite coherent view of what constitutes the “public good,” as do you. But these issues must be sorted out on their own merits. As for the National Association of Evangelicals, I invoke O’Sullivan’s Law* for the nonce. As you well know, such organizations are often oceans away from those they purport to represent.
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    *”any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time.” I would sooner cite Evangelicals and Catholics Together or the Manhattan Declaration in this instance, both more recently formed, and both expressly “right wing.”

    That the Fea-Jeffress debate was devoid of right-left politics is, I believe, a thin fiction if it were advanced as such. Were a “Resolved: Donald Trump Sucks” debate held before Trump secured the GOP nomination and his opponent were a dozen pro-lifers who are strong on national security [per Romans 13] and not Hillary Clinton, such a ground could be sustained. But as noted above, since the lack of a topic obliged each participant to formulate his own topic, Jeffress’s choice of abortion and national security is entirely valid, and were arguments he sustained.

    Jeffress’s view of government sounds more like libertarianism than a sophisticated understanding of Biblical teaching or the Christian tradition on the role of government.

    Strong national defense, opposition to abortion, the legal imposition of homosexuality, and no doubt transsexual bathrooms? Since at least 70% of evangelicals vote that way, we return to the problem of what “evangelical” could possibly mean in this context. I think you’re flirting with No True Scotsman here.

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  3. Tom: As a Catholic I am surprised at your response. Immigration, religious liberty, the dignity of human beings (regardless of gender) ARE LIFE ISSUES. As for the role of government, Catholics and Evangelicals (of the National Association Of Evangelicals variety) have both affirmed the belief that government has a moral responsibility to promote the public good and protect human dignity. (My thoughts on this did not make the final cut). As I told Barb below, Jeffress’s view of government sounds more like libertarianism than a sophisticated understanding of Biblical teaching or the Christian tradition on the role of government.

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  4. I expected an easy wipeout of a thinly-credentialed fundamentalist preacher by your estimable professorial self and a moderator from a left-leaning* website who would join you as co-prosecutor. [Which she did.] It was two-against-one, in a topicless debate that ended up being “Resolved: Donald Trump Sucks.”

    I thought Jeffress a sucker to accept the thankless job of an open-ended defense of the unpalatable Trump. [Hell, I wouldn’t want to have to defend Thomas Jefferson from open-ended attack.] When one is obliged to defend and given nothing to counterattack, a mere draw is the best possible outcome, and even if unbowed, will still be bloodied.

    [Indeed defense attorneys confess that they must be on the counterattack. In the OJ Simpson trial, it was the police who were found guilty.]

    But after the smoke had cleared re Trump’s undeniable swinishness, the evangelical substance came down to the Bible, as I would think it should:

    IMO, Romans 13’s explicit relevance to the role of government–magistrates–“trumped” a more artsy application of the Beatitudes in regards to the job of the president, which Jeffress maintained is to keep his country safe.

    4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

    Highlighting the defect in the [non-]structure of the debate, that the measure of Candidate Trump’s suckitude can only be taken in light of his opponent[s]’.

    http://www.hoover.org/research/why-republicans-will-vote-trump

    Demerits for trying to link immigration issues to the “pro-life” question. For many or most evangelicals, “pro-life” is an explicit invocation of the abortion question, sui generis, and to conflate other issues with it is a sophistry. The moderator, instead of insisting on that point of definition of terms–or simply redirecting it specifically to abortion–instead participated in the conflation.

    Another undeniable argument is that there is zero chance Hillary or Bernie will nominate anyone remotely pro-life to the Supreme Court; by contrast, Jeffress was satisfied with Trump’s personal assurances he will.

    The debate lacked necessary rigor and focus, but Jeffress maintained his focus and defined his own debate in his own non-negotiable evangelical terms, the role of a president on national security and on pro-life issues: That Donald Trump Sucks is secondary; the real debate topic is “Resolved: It’s OK to kill babies and compromise national security as long as you don’t say swinish things about women.”

    Jeffress argued in the negative. Who won the debate depends on what the topic actually was.

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    *My opinion; the reader should judge for herself.

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  5. Thanks, Barb. And, once again, thank you so much for your support of my work. As I wrote in the post, a few things were cut out. I said a little bit more about the role of government. While I think I agree with Jeffress that individual Christians and government have different moral roles, I do believe that in the Christian tradition government must uphold human dignity and promote the common good. Human dignity and “life” also plays out in issues related to gender, immigration, and religious liberty. Jeffress’s remarks sounded more like a baptized version of Tom Paine in Common Sense or modern day libertarianism for my taste. It was also sad to see that the only thing Jeffress could come up with on the women’s question was that Trump was an equal-opportunity offender. I also believe I made some historical points that were cut–something about Jeffress as a product of the conservative evangelical alliance with the GOP that began in the late 1970s.

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  6. John your debate with Dr. Jeffress was amazing — Jefress observations about Trump’s comments about women were so disturbing as a leader of a major denomination, I couldn’t believe it. Your comments we so right on, thoughtful and filled with prophetic passion. I fear that evangelicals like Dr. jeffress don’t realize how much they have compromised the prophetic role of the pastorate for the sake of national security or any other policy. What happened to the historic Baptist tradition of being the contrarian voice in society, upholding the aspiration of a Christ like life– that is, one of Christ like character, sacrifice and love. You mentioned the standard of the Sermon on the Mount–I fear if Dr. Jefress is indicative of the manstream evangelical voice — then we are a long way from understanding this basic teaching and is further indication why evangelicals have been swept up in the “Make America Great Again” fever.

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