In this highly symbolic photo, pastor Robert Jeffress stands beside Donald Trump and smiles approvingly as the GOP presidential nominee expounds. What’s wrong with this picture?
As some of you know, last week I was on a public radio show (Interfaith Voices) with Robert Jeffress, pastor of the 12,000 member First Baptist Church of Dallas and one of the most prominent evangelical supporters of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy.
At one point during the on-air conversation, the moderator, Maureen Fiedler, asked Jeffress how he reconciled his evangelical faith with Trump’s disparaging marks about women. In a style that has now become commonplace among Trump surrogates, Jeffress dismissed the question. He said that Trump’s disparaging marks about women were said in his role as a television personality on his reality show The Apprentice and should not be taken too seriously. He then switched topics.
I pushed back.
First, I said that Trump’s remarks about women were not simply throw-away comments made on The Apprentice. These remarks about Megyn Kelly, Heidi Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Elizabeth Warren, and Hillary Clinton were made on the campaign trail.
Second, I asked Jeffress how, as a Christian pastor with national influence, he could defend Trump’s comments about women. (Or most anything else he says for that matter). His calling as a Christian minister is not to defend political candidates, it is to proclaim the truth of the Gospel and speak-out against sin. Listen here.
In other words, his vocation is to be prophetic. But unfortunately for Jeffress he cannot do this because, like many on the Christian Right, he has allowed politics to “trump” his calling as a pastor. From a historical point of view, Jeffress is the most recent manifestation of the evangelical church’s unholy alliance with GOP politics, an alliance that began in the late 1970s.
As a Christian, I have been thinking a lot about how the church should respond to the Trump phenomenon. This morning I was helped on that front by Chris Gehrz, aka “The Pietist Schoolman,” the chair of the history department at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
I know that Chris is wrestling with the same questions that I am. In his post “‘Tell It Like It Is’: How the Church Should Respond to Trump,” Chris urges the church to “tell it like it is” (speak the truth to Trump’s lies), be prophetic, confess past and present sins, and proclaim the Gospel. Amen.
Here is a taste of his post:
During our travels over the holiday weekend, we visited a church and witnessed an odd, telling moment. Looking for a negative sermon illustration at one point, the pastor spontaneously mentioned “the presidential candidate who says he doesn’t need God’s forgiveness.” As best I can recall, the pastor didn’t even say Donald Trump’s name, but he clearly thought he had crossed some kind of homiletical line. Blushing, he stopped the sermon and told his congregation that he regretted making the reference.
Again, I was a visitor, so I don’t know the particular dynamics here. The pastor didn’t explain why he regretted saying what he did. But I suspect that a fair number of pastors, priests, and other Christian leaders are uncertain just how to respond to the Trump candidacy. Many who, like me, find it hard to shake the feeling that they have a moral imperative to resist Trump nevertheless cringe at the thought of bringing “politics into the pulpit.”
Read the entire post here.