Many Leaders of Conservative Christianity Dislike Trump’s Comments, but They Say He Is Not a Racist

FILE – In this Saturday, July 1, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump is greeted by Pastor Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Dallas Church as he arrives to speak during the Celebrate Freedom event at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. Many religious leaders have strongly condemned Trump’s disparaging remarks about minority members of Congress. “He does not judge people by the color of their skin,” said Jeffress, a frequent guest at the White House. “He judges people on whether they support him,” Jeffress said. “If you embrace him, he’ll embrace you. If you attack him, he’ll attack you. That’s the definition of color blind.” (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Many religious leaders have strongly condemned President Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks about minority members of Congress. Prominent figures on the religious right have not joined in, instead maintaining public silence or insisting that Trump’s tactics reflect hard-nosed politics rather than racism.

“He does not judge people by the color of their skin,” said the Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the Southern Baptist megachurch First Baptist Dallas and a frequent guest at the White House.

“He judges people on whether they support him,” Jeffress said. “If you embrace him, he’ll embrace you. If you attack him, he’ll attack you. That’s the definition of colorblind.”

Debate over Trump’s inflammatory tweets and comments has flared over the past few weeks. He told four outspoken congresswomen of color — three of them born in the U.S.–to “go back” where they came from. He also derided two black leaders — the Rev. Al Sharpton and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, of Maryland — and called the majority-black city of Baltimore a “rodent-infested mess.”

In response, 11 leaders of Protestant and Catholic groups in Maryland issued a public letter Tuesday imploring Trump to “stop putting people down.”

“Enough of the harmful rhetoric that angers and discourages the people and communities you are called to serve,” the leaders wrote.

A similar message came the same day from leaders of the Washington National Cathedral, designated by Congress as a non-denominational National House of Prayer.

“As leaders of faith who believe in the sacredness of every single human being, the time for silence is over,” said a statement from three cathedral leaders. “We must boldly stand witness against the bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and xenophobia that is hurled at us, especially when it comes from the highest offices of this nation.”

The Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of the Christian social justice group Sojourners, assailed Trump’s remarks as “a public sin that must be called out” and challenged five of the president’s evangelical supporters, including Jeffress and the Rev. Franklin Graham, to publicly denounce his rhetoric.

“If we hear silence from white people of faith, we are in deep spiritual trouble,” Wallis wrote on Sojourners’ web site. “Christian moral objection to the president’s racist language must grow every day and from many quarters.”

Graham, the son of renowned evangelist Billy Graham and president of the charity Samaritan’s Purse, said the president’s critics had devalued the word “racism.”

“The left has weaponized it and uses it against their opponents,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday. “The president is not afraid to go after anyone — their color has nothing to do with it. It’s the person’s ideology and politics.”

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Source: Religion News Service