Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler Jr. said that while he considers President Donald Trump a “huge embarrassment,” he finds voting for any alternative “unthinkable.”
In an interview with the New Yorker that was published Monday, the head of the Louisville, Kentucky-based Southern Baptist Theological Seminary spoke about his views on Trump.
When asked if Trump being supported by a majority of evangelicals is an embarrassment, Mohler admitted, "Yes. President Trump is a huge embarrassment. And it’s an embarrassment to evangelical Christianity that there appear to be so many who will celebrate precisely the aspects that I see Biblically as most lamentable and embarrassing."
He said that he was “reluctantly voting for him in 2020,” taking issue with many of the moral qualities of the president.
“I have to make a distinction between voting for a candidate and rationalizing for a candidate, much less being enthusiastic about what I would see as the character faults of a candidate,” said Mohler.
“I will not become an apologist for the misbehavior of the president and for what I see as glaring deficiencies in his private and public character.”
Mohler, who did not vote for Trump in 2016, went on to note that when it came to the upcoming election, “the alternative is increasingly unthinkable.”
He also critiqued how the “national discourse” often defines the term “evangelical” when discussing political support for the president.
"As a theologian and as a churchman, when I define evangelical, I’m really talking about a self-consciously orthodox classic Protestantism that is deeply connected to the church and deeply committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ," he explained. "And then you have the media definition of evangelicals, which means anybody who isn’t Catholic or Jewish or something else and, especially as demographers look at the white population, identifies as some kind of conservative Protestant. They just are called evangelicals. That’s the problem.
“If you look at evangelical leadership in the United States, you see a tremendous reticence to enter into the Make America Great Again euphoria. But, with the populist base of the Republican Party, and the populist base of American evangelicalism defined the way that especially the media defines evangelical, you do. They’re not co-extensive, but they overlap considerably.”
In April, Mohler indicated in an "Ask Me Anything" episode that he was going to support Trump’s reelection, despite maintaining moral concerns about the president.
“I don’t have a different moral estimation of Donald Trump. Even in office he continually leaves me very frustrated in how he presents himself, how he speaks, but he has been more consistent in pro-life decisions, executive orders … than any president of the United States in any party,” he stated.
The move by Mohler to support Trump was met with criticism, including an open letter posted to Facebook by Louisville Baptist Pastor Joel Bowman.
"It grieves me to say you have, in my estimation, lost all moral credibility. You no longer have a prophetic voice. Now, you simply blend in with popular, politicized evangelical thought," wrote Bowman.
"Rather than being an apologist for the Gospel, you have become an apologist for political conservatism."
Mohler’s stated intention to vote for Trump comes as some are reporting that white evangelicals, long a crucial Republican voting bloc for the president, are waning in their support.
David Brody, chief political analyst at the Christian Broadcasting Network, told Politico that recent issues may lead enough evangelicals to vote for Joe Biden, which could sway the election.
“Here’s the problem for Trump: He needs to be at 81 percent or north to win reelection. Any slippage and he doesn’t get a second term, and that’s where Joe Biden comes into play,” explained Brody.
“In this environment, with everything from the coronavirus to George Floyd and Trump calling himself the ‘law-and-order president,’ Biden could potentially pick off a percent or 2 from that 81 percent number.”