Prominent Baptist theologian Albert Mohler faced online pushback last week after he said at a Christian conservative political conference that Christians must "vote the right way" in the upcoming midterm elections, warning Christians not to "vote wrongly" as "the big battles are still to come."
Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and host of "The Briefing" podcast, was one of several speakers to address the crowd gathered at the Family Research Council's "Pray, Vote, Stand" Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, last week.
The annual gathering of social conservatives, which took place at the First Baptist Church of Atlanta from Wednesday to Friday, hoped to rally faith-based conservative voters ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
In his speech Wednesday, Mohler highlighted "what's at stake" in the upcoming midterm elections in November.
He identified "unborn human life," "human dignity and the sanctity of every single human life," "the integrity of marriage as a part of God's creation order," "the integrity and the health of the family," and "whether or not biological male means a boy, biological female means girl and woman or not" as issues that Christians should keep in mind as they head to the polls.
Mohler declared, "we are in a time of war." He praised the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide and insisted that Roe's reversal "merely bought us the opportunity for the bigger war on behalf of the dignity and sanctity of life."
"We have 50 more years of work to do," he predicted. "The big battles are still to come."
Mohler attributed the success of the pro-life movement in achieving its long-desired goal of getting Roe overturned to Christians making the decision to "vote right."
"Every single election matters, but every single election is followed by the next one, and faithfulness now is absolutely necessary," he said.
Mohler rejected the idea that because Roe has been overturned, "all the pressure's off" for Christians to vote.
"We have a responsibility to make certain that Christians understand the stewardship of the vote, which means the discipleship of the vote, which means the urgency of the vote, the treasure of the vote and they need to understand that insofar as they do not vote or they vote wrongly, they are unfaithful because the vote is a powerful stewardship."
Mohler did not explicitly state what he meant by the phrase "vote wrongly." But some commenters on social media have taken the implication to mean he was referring to anything other than a vote for Republican candidates.
But Mohler also acknowledged that religious conservatives would find themselves disappointed by Republican lawmakers from time to time, pointing to 47 Republicans' embrace of a bill that would codify a right to same-sex marriage into federal law as an example.
"It matters massively who is sitting in the United States Capitol, in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. It matters massively who's sitting behind the Oval Office in the White House," he asserted.
Mohler faced scrutiny on Twitter from some pastors, historians and others, with some accusing him of Christian nationalism or ignoring that black Christian voters tend to vote Democrat.
Mohler defended his remarks on Twitter.
"If you are offended that I encourage Christians to vote FOR candidates who defend the unborn and support the integrity of marriage and to vote AGAINST candidates who support abortion and subvert marriage, that has been my message for my entire adult life," Mohler wrote, adding a link to writings on his website.
"It's all there on the record in written form for you to read. Better make a strong cup of coffee, there are a few million words. ... It's not like the argument is in secret code. I am confident the vast majority of Southern Baptists agree."
Rev. Dwight McKissic, the African American founder of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, who often speaks out about racial issues, responded to Mohler's defense.
"You have a right to vote as you please. However, if one chooses to vote Democratic because of their compassion to provide a safety net for the poor at a greater capacity, take a much stronger position against police brutality, increased minimum wages=important life issues too," McKissic wrote in a tweet.
In his speech last week, Mohler warned against sitting out the 2022 election because some believe it is merely a midterm election and not a presidential election.
"These midterm elections determine in so many ways not only what will happen in terms of the next Congress in the House and in the Senate as you think about the national offices and not only what happens in terms of several governorships and other statewide elections that are open, it is a setup for the national election that comes in 2024," he said.
While all U.S. House of Representatives seats will be on the ballot, 35 U.S. Senate seats and 36 governorships will be up for grabs in the 2022 midterms.
Commenting on the characterization of allowing children to declare themselves nonbinary and permitting biological males who identify as females to compete on women's sports teams as "love," Mohler stressed to the audience that "Truth and love are the same thing."
Citing John 1:14 to describe Jesus Christ as full of "grace and truth," Mohler stated, "we who are his disciples must also demonstrate lives of grace and truth."
"We have no right to accept a secular, godless understanding of grace and love that says, 'I have the right to tell you who I am in terms of my gender,'" he proclaimed.
He denied that Christians are "the people who want to kill their joy," instead maintaining that "we're the people who want them to know the joy of Christ."
"We need righteous laws, righteous judges," he said. "We need the right voters showing up with the right convictions at the right time to vote the right way in order that our children and our children's children may inherit this grand constitutional experiment, which I believe, under the providence of God, is unprecedented in human history and to us we as Christians know, is given to us not just as a project but as a stewardship."
While Christians have their ultimate "citizenship in heaven," Mohler said they also have a "Christian responsibility to make this world, by every bit of influence that we have, more fit for the living and for those who will yet in generations to come."
The Pray, Vote, Stand summit is one of several efforts by faith-based groups to drive the Christian turnout for the 2022 midterm elections.
On Sunday, the group My Faith Votes held National Voter Registration Sunday events at churches throughout the country, seeking to ensure that Christians are registered to vote with slightly more than a month and a half left until Election Day. The national grassroots organization Faith & Freedom Coalition is spending between $36 and $42 million to mobilize Christian voters to the polls.
The 2022 midterm elections will determine which party controls both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate for the final two years of Biden's term. For the past two years, Democrats have held complete control of the federal government but with extremely narrow majorities in both chambers.
The FiveThirtyEight Deluxe Model, which predicts the outcome of elections based on "polls, fundraising, past voting patterns and the opinions of political experts, gives Republicans a 71% chance of retaking control of the U.S. while giving Democrats a 71% chance of maintaining control of the U.S. Senate.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org