Trump faces growing evangelical backlash
The candidate’s remarks and new allegations of sexual assault garner fresh criticism
Most conservative evangelicals have given Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump a long leash this election season, but the past week’s revelations were the breaking point for some, including theologian Wayne Grudem, who renounced Trump after previously calling him the “morally good choice” in the election.
Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told CNN, “Evangelicals are going to have to ask a huge question: Is it worth destroying our moral credibility to support someone who is beneath the baseline level of human decency? ... That’s a far bigger question than the 2016 election.”
The Gospel Coalition editor Joe Carter wrote on Facebook, “The election will be over in 26 days. Your defense of a serial sexual predator will live on the internet for long after. Choosing honor and decency now will pay off for you later. Choose wisely.”
Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, told me Bible-believing Christians should “prayerfully consider the option of not voting for either candidate in this election. … Instead, focus on building a firewall in the House and the Senate to promote life, religious liberty, and limited government.”
Last month WORLD’s regular survey of evangelical influencers found more than half still refused to support Trump. This week the Barna Group released a survey showing 43 percent of evangelicals rejected both Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
But Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., whose father led calls for then-President Bill Clinton’s resignation in 1998, has staunchly and actively defended Trump on social media and in interviews. He told CNN he would support Trump even if the new allegations were true, adding, “We aren’t electing a pastor.”
A group of Liberty students called Liberty United Against Trump, though, released a sharp statement decrying the university’s association with the controversial businessman: “Trump does not represent our values, and we want nothing to do with him. … Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.”
About 1,000 Liberty students, faculty, and alumni signed the statement in the first 24 hours after its release. During the Virginia primary, only 8 percent of Liberty students voted for Trump.
It does not appear that any members of Trump’s evangelical advisory panel have resigned. Political operative Ralph Reed, who chairs the panel, reiterated his support for Trump. Panel member Bishop Harry Jackson said he does not intend to revoke his endorsement: “The majority of us on that advisory council feel that, if elected, Mr. Trump is going to fight for freedom of Christian expression. … We don’t want to hold him prisoner to his past.”
Mohler called that approach misguided: “We have to understand we wouldn’t want this man as our next-door neighbor, much less an inhabitant of Pennsylvania Avenue. … Long term, I’m afraid people are going to remember evangelicals in this election for supporting the unsupportable and defending the absolutely indefensible.”
Some other well-known evangelicals who have stated their opposition to Trump:Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Joel Belz, founder of World News Group Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, speaker, author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert Michael Cromartie, author, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center Andy Crouch, author, executive editor of Christianity Today Steve Deace, author, host of The Steve Deace Show Kevin DeYoung, author, contributor at The Gospel Coalition, pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich. Erick Erickson, author at The Resurgent, host of Atlanta’s Evening News with Erick Erickson, former editor of RedState Max Lucado, author, preaching pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas Russell Moore, author, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention Karen Swallow Prior, author, English professor at Liberty University Julie Roys, Moody Radio host Owen Strachan, author, associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, former president of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Ed Stetzer, author, pastor, professor at Wheaton College Jemar L. Tisby, president and co-founder of the Reformed African American Network Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy
Some prominent evangelicals who say they plan to vote for Trump:James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church in San Diego Wayne Grudem, theologian, professor at Phoenix Seminary, co-founder of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Harry Jackson, pastor, founder of High Impact Leadership Coalition Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif.; president of the Master’s College and Seminary Eric Metaxas, author, radio host Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council Ralph Reed, chairman of Faith and Freedom Coalition Joel C. Rosenberg, author, founder of the Joshua Fund Tim Wildmon, president of American Family Association Charmaine Yoest, former president of Americans United for Life
WORLD will update these lists as more leaders go on the record.
UPDATE: On Oct. 19, Wayne Grudem changed course again, advocating that conservatives vote for the policies attributed to Donald Trump.
This article was updated on Oct. 14 to include additional evangelical leaders who oppose Donald Trump and a list of prominent evangelicals who plan to vote for the GOP nominee. The lists were updated again on Nov. 7.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to support WORLD's brand of Biblically sound journalism, click here.