U.S. President Donald Trump has been facing a torrent of criticism for his meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday in Helsinki, Finland, but he’s also been defended by those saying he’s pursuing peace.
The two world leaders met for nearly two hours behind closed doors, and participated in a press conference for another hour afterwards.
A significant part of that press conference focused on the allegations that Russian nationals meddled in the 2016 presidential elections, which saw Trump defeat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Trump insisted during the conference that there had been “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia, and said that despite some U.S. intelligence officials suggesting there was election meddling, he believes Putin, who insists Russia played no part in the outcome.
The press conference has sharply divided Republicans and Democrats, including many Christians. Some, such as U.S. Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., have claimed that Trump has “abased himself before a tyrant,” though evangelists such as Franklin Graham have said that Trump is cultivating peace.
Here are six different reactions from prominent Christians to the Helsinki summit:
1. Russell Moore
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, did not mention Trump, but heavily slammed Putin on the day of the Helsinki summit.
“Vladimir Putin ruthlessly persecutes those who preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, holds orphans hostage from waiting families for his political purposes, murders dissidents and journalists, attacks democratic institutions and nations,” Moore wrote on Twitter.
“Morality is not relative,” he added.
Moore has been a vocal critic of Putin, and in March called his landslide election victory “bad news” for evangelicals.
“The #FakeRussianElections ‘victory’ of the Putin regime is more bad news for Russian orphans, Russian evangelical Christians, Russian people who want to live free of KGB-style authoritarianism,” Moore wrote at the time.
The ethicist has criticized a number of laws signed by Putin, including one in 2016 which banned people from sharing their faith outside government-sanctioned houses of worship, effectively banning evangelism in the country.
2. Franklin Graham
The Rev. Franklin Graham, who has backed Trump on numerous occasions when the president has been criticized by the media, said that the American leader chose to pursue peace.
“Thank you @POTUS @realDonaldTrump for pursuing peace above politics,” Graham tweeted.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association president retweeted Trump’s own words about the summit, where the president said:
“Nothing would be easier politically than to refuse to meet, to refuse to engage, but that would not accomplish anything. … I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.”
In the lead-up to the major meeting, Graham posted repeatedly that he’s praying for both world leaders.
“Join me in praying for President Donald J. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin as they meet today,” Graham wrote on Facebook Monday.
“President Donald J. Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in Helsinki. Let’s lift up both of these leaders and this historic summit in prayer — their discussions could have an impact that reaches around the globe,” he added in a previous post.
3. John McCain
Arizona Sen. John McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate and a Christian who says he attends a Baptist church, issued one of the strongest rebukes of Trump’s meeting with Putin.
“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake,” McCain said in a statement on his website.
“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world,” he added.
The senator, who has in the past condemned Putin for his role in the Syrian civil war and the war in Ukraine, said that describing the press conference even as a “pathetic rout” would not be enough.
“These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world,” McCain continued.
“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are — a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad,” he added.
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Source: Christian Post