Anti-Muslim, anti-gay Texas preacher, the Rev. Robert Jeffress is to deliver the sermon during a private service for President-elect Donald Trump and his family before Trump is sworn in as the nation's 45th president Friday, CNN reported. Trump's inaugural committee refused to comment on the report but Jeffress tweeted a confirmation following an appearance on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor." Jeffress, a Southern Baptist who leads a 12,000-member First Baptist Dallas megachurch, is a member of Trump's evangelical advisory board and campaigned vigorously for him. The service is to be held St. John's Episcopal Church across from the White House, a prominent pulpit likely to raise the hackles of minorities.
WASHINGTON – Senate candidate Mitt Romney of Utah says a prominent Baptist minister shouldn't be giving the prayer that opens the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem because he's a "religious bigot." In a tweet Sunday night, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee criticized Dallas minister Robert Jeffress for his remarks about Jews, Mormons and Islam. Romney said, "Robert Jeffress says'you can't be saved by being a Jew,' and'Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.' He's said the same about Islam." The liberal group Media Matters reports on its website that Jeffress made the remarks cited by Romney in a 2011 speech at the conservative Values Voter Summit. Jeffress responded in a tweet of his own by defending his view that "salvation is through faith in Christ alone."
A show of unity this week by leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) puts a happy, but perhaps temporary, face on a struggle over the direction of the nation's largest Protestant denomination. The head of the 15-million-member evangelical denomination's public policy arm, Russell Moore, has criticized President Trump and – most provocatively – SBC leaders who openly support him. Moore, who heads the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Frank Page, president of the SBC's executive committee, made peace at a Monday meeting in Nashville to tamp down rumors of a split between the two and speculation that the tie that binds the massive denomination together is fraying. While those ties may not be fraying, they have been strained. Moore has accused evangelical leaders who supported Trump of "normalizing an awful candidate," according to published reports.
Say the word "evangelical" and images of diversity or progressive politics are not likely to come to mind. But at the E.C. Glass High School auditorium in Lynchburg, Virginia, that's exactly what was on display in April at the first Red Letter revival. A mix of pop and contemporary Christian music plays from the speakers as trendy young people and white-haired couples, and black, white, bi-racial, and Latino evangelicals greet friends and find their seats for the first day of a weekend-long religious revival. The Red Letter Christians are an organization that intends to offer evangelical Christians an alternative to the old, white, predominantly male, and politically conservative evangelicalism that they believe has led the movement to lose its way. A great political and generational divide has driven a wedge in evangelical Christianity since Trump's election.
In 2009, Russell Moore was a young theologian who occasionally served as the host of a Christian radio show. He liked to let callers have their say, drawing them out with friendly questioning before gently acknowledging, when necessary, that he firmly disagreed. One day in July, he found himself leading a discussion of Sarah Palin, who had recently called a surprise back-yard press conference to announce that she was resigning the governorship of Alaska. Moore's guest was Richard Land, who had been praising Palin before most of the country knew her name. Land was the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public-engagement arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, which made him the loudest voice of the biggest group of Protestants in the country--the evangelical Pope, some people called him. He had urged John McCain to choose Palin as his running mate, and had pronounced himself "ecstatic" when McCain followed his advice. Addressing the audience via telephone, Land called the resignation "a very shrewd move," suggested that Palin remained "an existential threat" to liberal feminism, and compared her favorably to Justice Clarence Thomas. "Clarence Thomas dared to get off the liberal plantation," he said. "Sarah Palin refused to buy into liberal leftist feminism." Moore was respectful, but he seemed puzzled by Land's eagerness to defend Palin. Land thinks that Governor Palin's resignation was a shrewd move," he said. I don't understand it at all." Later in the show, after Land had hung up, Moore offered a broader critique. "We, as evangelical Christians, are really, really prone, it seems to me, to become so enthused with political figures that we just automatically impute to them almost superheroic status," he said.