Listen to the first few minutes of this interview with court evangelical Robert Jeffress:
Jeffress says that evangelicals had a “binary choice” between Trump and Clinton in 2016. Clinton supported abortion. Trump did not. Fair enough. I could say something here about one-issue voting, but I will save that for another place–perhaps a forthcoming book scheduled to appear in June.
Jeffress has used this “binary choice” argument to disguise the fact that he supported Donald Trump in the GOP primary when there were other candidates–Cruz, Rubio, Carson, Santorum, Perry, Huckabee, Fiorina, Bush, Jindal, Walker, Kasich–who were pro-life and conservative on social issues. Jeffress often brags that he was the first evangelical leader to back Trump. If this is true, he needs to explain–in positive terms–why he chose Trump over the others. In my view, Jeffress is in a different category from the evangelical leaders who merely “held their nose” and voted for Trump.
Jeffress also says in this interview that Trump’s immoral past does not matter. God has forgiven him. Jeffress doesn’t care what Trump did before he became president as long as he maintains the right policies. In arguing this, Jeffress has suggested that character, past and present, is not important for a presidential candidate. This is a relatively new view for Robert Jeffress. It is a view that he seems to have adopted when Donald Trump announced his run for the presidency in 2015.
For example, in his 2011 book Twilight’s Last Gleaming: How America’s Last Days Can Be Your Best Days, Jeffress tells his readers to vote for men of character because a person’s “core beliefs serve as a restraint against immorality, corruption, and dereliction of duty.” He rejects the “popular” notion that “a politician’s personal life has no impact on his public service.” At one point in the book, he even takes issue with Martin Luther. Jeffress asks:
But what if your choice comes down to voting for a qualified non-Christian candidate or an unqualified Christian? Doesn’t competency trump spirituality? Some people quote an alleged comment by Martin Luther: ‘I’d rather be ruled by a competent Turk than an incompetent believer.’ Such a declaration appears to make good sense, until you consider some obvious flaws in such an argument. (p.109-110)
The “flaw” in Luther’s argument, according to Jeffress, is Luther’s belief that a political leader’s competence is more important than his character. Last time I checked, Trump has neither.
Jeffress seems to reject the idea that sins–even forgiven sins–have consequences. Someone who committed murder ten years ago and seemingly got away with it may have asked God for forgiveness, but if new evidence emerges in the case he or she is still going to jail for murder. (I can’t believe I have to explain this, but this is the world in which we now live).
Donald Trump’s sins may be between him and God, but I wonder what Jeffress thinks about the manner in which these sins have coarsened our culture? Because of the actions of this president we now have porn stars and Playboy models all over the news. I hope Jeffress is disgusted by this. I am sure he is upset that his grandchildren have to see this. Any serious Christian would be. If he is indeed troubled by the fact that the porn industry is getting free publicity every night on the nightly news (including Fox News), he must realize that this is happening because Trump’s past sins (forgiven or not) have found him out. Character matters–past and present. Jeffress should be ashamed of himself for not speaking out about this. He is a Christian pastor.
Jeffress may also want to think long and hard about his role at Fox News in light of recent comments by Ralph Peters.