Bud Kennedy

Christmastime clash: Baptists, leader divide over Donald Trump

In September, now-President-elect Donald J. Trump, a Presbyterian, held up his Scottish mother’s family Bible during a Washington speech.
In September, now-President-elect Donald J. Trump, a Presbyterian, held up his Scottish mother’s family Bible during a Washington speech. AP

Never have I seen so many sore winners.

After a hard-fought election victory, some who sided with President-elect Donald J. Trump now seem intent on punishing conservatives who did not.

The primary target is Southern Baptist Convention ethicist Russell Moore, a Mississippi pastor who went on to become Baptists’ policy leader.

Moore, 45, openly ridiculed Trump’s January speech at Liberty University and questioned whether believers could support him. Last month, Moore criticized the “old-guard religious right political establishment” for its strategic support of Trump.

The old guard fought back.

Prestonwood Baptist Pastor Jack Graham told The Wall Street Journal that Moore had disrespected Southern Baptists and that his church will consider “major changes” in support.

Trump loyalist and Baptist Pastor Mike Huckabee told NPR he is “utterly stunned [that Moore is] paid by Southern Baptists to insult them.”

Defending Moore, Arlington Pastor Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church told NPR that the church ought to speak on civil rights and against police abuse, and cannot become the “Trump Baptist Convention.”

Prominent evangelical professor Darrell L. Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary, author of How Would Jesus Vote?, also defends those who couldn’t support Trump, or who cast a “hold-your-nose” vote.

We are thinking in very binary terms — you’re either ‘with me’ or ‘against me.’ … Look back at the last 20 years. See where that gets us.

Darrell Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary

Basically, he’s asking Christians for thoughtful conversation and reconciliation.

In plainer words, he’s asking Trump voters to open the Bible and read it instead of using it to whack fellow believers.

“Right now, we are thinking in very binary terms — you’re either ‘with me’ or ‘against me,’ ” Bock said Thursday.

“Look back at the last 20 years. See where that gets us.”

We could conclude that it’s just not worth ever talking about issues of character and conscience … That would be a mistake. The opposite tragedy would be never to move past election day.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, in “Election-Year Thoughts at Christmastime.”

Writing Nov. 29 on FirstThings.com, Bock called for a “recalibration” of evangelicalism and for Trump supporters to hear out African-American and Latino believers fearful of racial hostility and nativist attacks.

“I’m actually trying to plead for people to talk and listen to each other instead of talking at or against each other, and asking for a different kind of discourse in a badly divided country,” Bock said.

He also asks evangelicals to be “self-reflective” and welcome criticism such as Moore’s.

“Both sides need to face up to their contribution to the divide,” he said.

In a column this week, Moore asked Southern Baptists to pray together for the president-elect and work together for the common good instead of arguing and casting judgment over who was right.

This might be a good weekend to have that conversation.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

While speaking to thousands of supporters in Fort Worth, Donald Trump claimed to have 'tremendous support from evangelicals' across the country. (video by Jared L. Christopher)

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