Anyone who knows the Bible shouldn’t take issue with the idea that God has given President Trump authority to take out North Korea’s dictator, said Pastor Robert Jeffress, the Dallas megachurch leader who drew sharp rebukes for stating just that.
Jeffress sat down for an interview with RNS after his sermon Sunday (Aug. 13), just days after his words made headlines around the world. Some Christians and non-Christians accused him of exacerbating an already alarming war of words between Trump and the temperamental, young leader of nuclear-armed North Korea.
The critics have overreacted, said Jeffress, lead pastor of First Baptist Dallas, whose public observances on current events have not for the first time made him a target. A public pastor with the president’s ear, Jeffress, 61, does not shy away from sharing his belief that Scripture should undergird politics and diplomacy.
“What I said was that the Bible has given government the authority to use whatever force necessary, including assassination or war, to topple an evil dictator like Kim Jong Un,” said Jeffress, elaborating on a Tuesday (Aug. 8) statement in which he said that God has giving Trump “authority to take out Kim Jong-Un.”
“That authority comes from Romans 13. Paul said that government has been established by God to be an avenger of those who practice evil,” Jeffress told RNS. “I made it very clear that Romans 12 says we are to forgive one another when people offend us — don’t repay evil for evil, but overcome evil with good.
“But in Romans 13, Paul isn’t talking about individual Christians. He’s talking about government. Government is an organization God uses to bring vengeance against those who practice evil.”
Jeffress said his statement wasn’t the same as saying that “God ordained President Trump to nuke North Korea.”
But many thought it came too close.
Dallas Morning News columnist Robert Wilonsky questioned “how a man whose calling is supposed to be that of peace could so fervently proselytize in favor of war.”
In a National Review piece, Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, criticized Jeffress’ “bellicosity.”
And Christianity Today editor in chief Mark Galli penned an editorial titled “The Use of Nuclear Weapons is Inherently Evil.” After naming Jeffress, Galli wrote: “One would hope that Christian supporters of the President’s views would at least qualify and nuance their statements.”
North Korea did not come up in Jeffress’ public comments Sunday at First Baptist, a Southern Baptist megachurch that claims 13,000 members and occupies six city blocks on a $135 million campus at the heart of downtown Dallas.
The pastor — whose sermon focused on Jesus’ last supper with his disciples in Luke 22 — said he felt compelled to address the fatal violent clashes between white supremacist groups and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va. Saturday (Aug. 12).
“Whether it’s immorality, or racism that we’ve seen on display in Charlottesville this week, the ultimate answer is the transformed heart that comes from knowing Jesus Christ,” the pastor told the congregation.
SOURCE: Bobby Ross Jr.
Religion News Service