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Russell Moore Criticizes 'Evangelical' Leaders Who Endorse Donald Trump: 'How Can They Look the Other Way In Silence?'

( [email protected] ) Mar 02, 2016 01:46 PM EST
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has criticized evangelical leaders for endorsing Donald Trump -- even though the GOP frontrunner promotes ideas that are anything but Biblical.
Russell Moore is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. NPR

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has criticized evangelical leaders for endorsing Donald Trump -- even though the GOP frontrunner promotes ideas that are anything but Biblical.

In a lengthy op-ed for the Washington Post, Moore explained that he has stopped calling himself an "evangelical" and instead refers to himself as a "gospel Christian" for a number of reasons.

One of those reasons, the pastor revealed, is because the word has become warped thanks, in part, to today's political environment.

He wrote, "I have watched as some of these who gave stem-winding speeches about 'character' in office during the Clinton administration now minimize the spewing of profanities in campaign speeches, race-baiting and courting white supremacists, boasting of adulterous affairs, debauching public morality and justice through the casino and pornography industries."

Although Moore did not mention Trump by name, he clearly alluded to the billionaire businessman, who recently swamped his rivals by winning across the conservative South in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as the more moderate states of Massachusetts and Vermont.

The GOP frontrunner has been endorsed by a number of conservative and evangelical leaders, including "Duck Dynasty" star Willie Robertson, Sarah Palin, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. and megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress.

In continuing his thoughts, Moore drew attention to how, in 2015, Trump told CNN, "I try and lead a life where I don't have to ask God for forgiveness...Why do I have to ask for forgiveness if you're not making mistakes? I work hard, I'm an honorable person."

Wrote Moore: "I watched one evangelical leader pronounce a candidate a Christian, though he explicitly states that he has never repented of sin, because he displays the fruit of the Spirit in job creation. That's not a political problem; it's a gospel problem."

"Why are many evangelical leaders, including some who pontificate on nearly everything else, scared silent as evangelicalism is associated with everything from authoritarianism and bigotry to violations of religious freedom?" he asked. "How can they look the other way in silence when politicians praise Planned Parenthood and demur about white supremacists and neo-Nazis?"

The pastor lamented that "secular progressives" had been right in suggesting that contemporary evangelicals merge religion and politics simply to gain power.

"For years, secular progressives have said that evangelical social action in America is not about religious conviction but all about power," Moore wrote. "They have implied that the goal of the Religious Right is to cynically use the 'moral' to get to the 'majority,' not the other way around. This year, a group of high-profile old-guard evangelicals has proven these critics right."

He also criticized a willingness to look the other way when the word "evangelical" is "co-opted by heretics and lunatics."

"Worst of all, what happens when evangelicalism is no longer even clear about what it takes to be saved: repentance from sin and personal trust in Jesus Christ?" he asked.

Moore concluded: "When this fevered moment is over, we will need to make 'evangelical' great again."

The pastor is not the only religious leader to urge Christians to back away from supporting Trump. Popular pastor and author Max Lucado recently condemned the GOP hopeful's "antics," insisting that, "such insensitivities wouldn't even be acceptable even for a middle school student body election."

"It's a high stakes thing from my perspective, because people make decisions about Christ on the basis of Christians and how we behave. If he's [Trump] going to call himself a Christian one day and call someone a bimbo the next, or make fun of somebody's menstrual cycle, it's just beyond reason to me," said Lucado.