The 2016 presidential election presents “an excruciating moment” for evangelicals because the two major candidates fail “the baseline test of character,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, during an Oct. 12 appearance on “CNN Tonight” with host Don Lemon.
“When it comes to Donald Trump, evangelicals are going to have to ask the huge question, ‘Is it worth destroying our moral credibility to support someone who is beneath the baseline level of human decency for anyone who should deserve our vote?’” Mohler said, in response to the 2005 video released last week of Trump’s lewd comments. “I think that’s a far bigger question than the 2016 election. This election is a disaster for the American people; it’s an excruciating moment for American evangelicals.”
Mohler said he understands evangelicals will come to different conclusions in the voting booth, especially since Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party’s “absolute devotion to abortion is a threat to the sanctity of the human life.” But Mohler cautioned evangelicals to think carefully about how publicly supporting Trump, a candidate “we would not allow our children to be around,” undermines their moral credibility.
“Can we put up with someone and can we offer them our vote and support when we know that person not only sounds like what he presumes and presents as a playboy, but as a sexual predator?” Mohler said. “This is so far over the line that I think we have to recognize we wouldn’t want this person as our next-door neighbor, much less as the inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. And long term I’m afraid people are going to remember evangelicals in this election for supporting the unsupportable and defending the absolutely indefensible.”
Mohler had expressed similar views in an Oct. 9 editorial for The Washington Post, in which he said evangelical leaders are wrong for serving as “apologists for Donald Trump.” Mohler has not wavered in his criticism of Trump. At the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June, Mohler said “character is an indispensable issue” and Trump “eclipses" Bill Clinton with his unrepentant adultery and support of the pornography industry.
Other Southern Seminary leaders and students also have expressed their criticism of both Trump and Clinton. The October issue of the seminary publication "Towers" featured a panel of voices arguing both candidates fail on issues that matter to evangelicals: character, the value of life, religious liberty, racial harmony and refugee care.
“The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most pro-life message the world has ever seen or heard,” said Andrew King, director of pro-life organization Speak for the Unborn and a Ph.D. student at Southern. “The complication in this election cycle is that the two leading candidates maintain, albeit in different ways, that some lives are less valuable than others.”
Writing about religious liberty, Boyce College Dean Matthew J. Hall said neither nominee has offered assurance that they affirm or understand the constitutional principle. Hall urged Christian voters to invest in local and state politics for the sake of religious liberty and “find our common ground in the Gospel, not in partisan identity or political ideology.”
In a separate article in the magazine, Boyce College alumnus Samuel D. James offered three reasons why Christians should still vote even if they don’t support either party nominee. James, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said Christians should focus on down-ballot candidates “to see all of public life in light of Christ’s authority.” Voting faithfully also can mean choosing a third-party candidate or a write-in, James suggested, and he also argued that voting is essential because “it’s ultimately about the Kingdom of Christ” in promoting righteousness and mercy.