Thursday, May 12, 2016

Two Baptists Spar Over Trump

Two Southern Baptist preachers.

One says, "being faithful to the wife of one's youth is succeeding in real life."

The other says stuff like that is a negative thing to say in relation to Donald Trump, who is twice-divorced.

One of these Southern Baptist preachers, Russell Moore, is no fan of Donald Trump.  But the other Southern Baptist preacher, Robert Jeffress, is.

Same denomination, same theology, same prestigious "Dr." in front of their names.  But two different viewpoints on the presumptive Republican presidential candidate.

So who is right?

Earlier this week, Trump blasted Moore as being a "nasty guy with no heart."  Trump apparently feels justified in saying something so acerbic about Moore because, well, Moore is such a huge embarrassment for evangelicals.

After all, Moore once cautioned evangelicals that "winning at politics while losing the Gospel is not a win."

Then there's this doozie of hateful rhetoric from Moore:  "Evangelicals can love a golden calf, as long as Aaron promises to make Mexico pay for it."

Ouch!  That one really hits below the billionaire's belt, doesn't it?  Talk about nasty.  And this past weekend, Moore dished out more of this "no-heart" slander on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Referencing both Trump and Hillary Clinton, Moore bemoaned "conservatives who were saying in the previous Clinton era that character matters... who now are not willing to say anything when we have this sort of reality television moral sewage coming through all over our culture."

Trump and Hillary are "reality television moral sewage"?

Apparently not to Jeffress, who pastors Dallas' legendary First Baptist Church.  From what I've heard, it used to be a pretty conservative congregation.  But now...?

"Moore had been launching vitriolic attacks not only against Donald Trump's policies, but also personal attacks against [his] character," Jeffress complained today, affirming Trump's need to defend his moral persona against Moore's incendiary provocations.

"When you keep poking the bear don't be surprised when the bear takes a bite out of you."

So I'm guessing Jeffress isn't going to preach any more against ISIS, or liberal left-wing Democrats, or sinners in general.  Isn't that what he's saying, when he says Moore provoked Trump by pointing out the errors of Trump's attitude, message, lifestyle, and worldview?  

Okay, so maybe Jeffress isn't about to give up his own high-paying and high-profile pulpit.  He's achieved widespread notoriety in Texas for his own provocative claims against people who lead lifestyles he believes are immoral.  Maybe he's just saying that if a preacher is gonna dish it out, he's gonna have to take it like a man when they dish it right back to ya.

Um, as if the problems Moore has pointed out in Trump's character and platform (what policy platform we've been able to deduce from his hollow platitudes) really don't matter.  Is Jeffress affirming that character really doesn't matter?

Hmm...  All the stuff I'm presuming Jeffress preaches from his celebrity pulpit about how Christ-honoring his congregants should be really doesn't matter, at least when we're talking about being president of the United States.

I've said before that I don't agree with Moore on everything he says, and for which he advocates.  And while I probably wouldn't have used the term "reality television moral sewage" in connection with Hillary or Trump on a liberal news analysis program, if Trump was running as a Democrat, wouldn't Jeffress and his allies be cheering Moore for his riveting description of the conundrum facing faith-based voters?

But Trump - nobody can deny he's clever - is running as a Republican.  And Jeffress, along with many evangelicals, care more for the political party than the candidate.  They believe that raw allegiance to the organization means more than personal responsibility.  They believe that personal moral character is expendable as long as the organization is seen as winning the top prize.

I'm not a Southern Baptist, and maybe you're not, either.  But if you were going to listen to a Southern Baptist preacher, and you wanted that preacher to be a God-honoring, Biblically authentic person, to which guy would you listen?

The guy who is willing to warn people about reality television moral sewage, or the guy who's ambivalent about it?

"When you keep poking the bear," Jeffress coyly warned, "don't be surprised when the bear takes a bite out of you."

Jeffress probably realizes that his is a Biblical analogy.  But he should also remember that his analogy in reference to God - and God's tolerance for being mocked - is even more real.

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