Donald Trump escalated his fight with Washington’s evangelical leaders on Monday by attacking the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s policy arm. “Russell Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!” Trump tweeted.
The fight between Moore and Trump has been brewing for months, and now it is exposing deep fault lines in the evangelical community over the presumptive GOP nominee.
Moore is the head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination’s public policy office. He took over the post in 2013 following the long tenure of conservative hardliner Richard Land, and while Moore is committed to the traditional social conservative issues like abortion and marriage, he also has pushed to expand the platform, advocating for immigration reform and racial justice, especially in the face of poverty, police brutality, and mass incarceration.
Trump’s direct attack comes three days after Moore wrote an op-ed for the New York Times, “A White Church No More,” that directly called out Trump by name for a campaign that “has cast light on the darkness of pent-up nativism and bigotry all over the country.” Moore pointed out that the evangelical church in the U.S. is no longer the “old white precinct captains in Iowa,” or the “old, white television evangelists.”
“The next Billy Graham probably will speak only Spanish or Arabic or Persian or Mandarin,” Moore wrote. “The man on the throne in heaven is a dark-skinned, Aramaic-speaking ‘foreigner’ who is probably not all that impressed by chants of ‘Make America great again.’”
Moore responded Monday to Trump’s attack by tweeting a passage from the Old Testament, where God’s prophet Elijah stands up to the enemy king Ahab whose people followed false gods. “You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals,” Elijah says in the Bible, before the God of Israel rains down fire to show his power.
Trump supporters jumped in to attack Moore on social media for his leadership of the Evangelical Immigration Table, a platform for immigration reform signed by hundreds of influential evangelical leadersthat includes a path to citizenship or legal status for those who qualify. Moore is a leader of the group along with presidents of the National Association of Evangelicals, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, and evangelical humanitarian relief organizations.
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