Calling him the most “consistent” president in American history, prominent Southern Baptist R. Albert Mohler Jr., indicated Wednesday that he will likely support President Donald Trump in 2020 despite not voting for him in 2016 when he also encouraged other Christian leaders to do the same.
“I did not vote for Donald Trump [in 2016], I certainly did not vote for Hillary Clinton, as a matter of fact,” Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, revealed in an Ask Me Anything session posted on YouTube.
Before making the confession, he explained how 2016 had been a challenging time of “disequilibrium” for the Republican Party, which he had supported consistently since 1980 when he voted for Ronald Reagan.
“The disequilibrium in the race had everything to do with the Republican side. It had everything to do with Donald Trump. Can I stand in all expectations of the political class and winning the Republican nomination? Look, he came with more baggage than any presidential candidate in American history of a major party,” Mohler said.
“He wrote books in which he bragged about his promiscuity, bragged about how he cut deals. His personal character was such that Americans knew what they were getting in the 2016 election and in the final weeks of the election. You had the bombshell of the video in which he made comments to a television personality that were just beyond even the moral vocabulary of most evangelical Christians and yet against all odds, again … Donald Trump won the election in 2016, winning in the Electoral College,” he said.
And Mohler, like many in the “Never Trump” camp in 2016, did not withhold his concern for Trump’s moral character, which some critics dismissed as “borne of false piety and self-righteousness.”
While he doesn’t have a different opinion of Trump’s moral character today, Mohler said he was impressed by the president’s commitment to his campaign promises and as a result he will not make the same decision he did in 2016, when he refused to support him.
“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’s been more consistent than any Republican certainly in the quality of appointments he has made to the federal judiciary, which will far outlive any presidency,” he said, noting that he will “will make a different political calculation in 2020.”
“I’m having to look at the situation differently,” he added, “because 2020 is not 2016.”
Mohler told The Washington Post in an interview published Thursday that he first began to believe Trump would deliver on his campaign promises during the 2017 Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Neil M. Gorsuch.
Trump also went on to appoint a number of evangelicals throughout his administration, including Mohler’s son-in-law, Riley Barnes, who currently serves as a senior adviser in the State Department. And because Trump has kept his promises, Mohler argued that he could likely see stronger support in 2020 from evangelicals than the 80 percent he got in 2016.
“In retrospect, I made my vote of minimal importance,” he told The Washington Post. “I don’t intend to do that in 2020. There’s a bit of regret in that.”
Dwight McKissic, senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, who is black, told the publication that he would no longer recommend Mohler’s seminary to black students.
“It shows you’re tone deaf or you don’t care about the sensitivities of the majority of African Americans who find Donald Trump a repulsive personality and politician,” McKissic said.
Karen Swallow Prior, professor of English at Liberty University, noted in a series of tweets that she would not be supporting President Trump or the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, this fall.
“In humility, hope, and faith, I will vote in November for a president who has better character, promotes more consistently life-affirming policies, and isn’t as handsy (or worse) with women than either of the two major party candidates. This is not throwing my vote away,” she wrote. “This is refusing to accept a bar so low. I will also ask God to bless—and multiply—this vote and others like it. Not to 'win' in a worldly sense, but in a more eternal one. I believe God will bless and use a remnant of voters. If you are with me, please pray likewise.”
Popular Bible teacher and author Beth Moore replied that she would be doing the “same.”
Left-leaning Christian legal analyst and commentator Monique Pressley commented that Prior's response is the same as a vote for the president.
“You’re right. It’s not throwing it away, it’s a vote for Trump. More so, it is a slap in the face of every person of color who has suffered injustice upon inhumane act under this president. You are voting from a place of luxury your brothers and sisters can ill afford,” Pressley began in her response to Prior.
“FYI—it was the devil, not God, who used this same remnant of which you speak leading to us having this godless man as potus. This is no time to be so spiritual you are of no earthly good. Civil rights being snatched away, the WH run like a criminal enterprise,” she continued.
“I cannot express to you in strong enough terms how disappointing it is for any Christian leader to rest in his or her privilege continuing to ignore or justify the abandonment of those whose lives are right now hanging in the balance. What rights would the majority have in this country if Black people (since permitted to exercise the right to vote) had refused to pick the better of two candidates because of how low the bar was? When did we have the luxury of picking a completely non-viable candidate because our wish list wasn’t met?” Pressley asked. “I will not join you in praying God raises a remnant so wedded to its ideals that it is detached from reality. I pray God raises an army...of believers who see clearly enough to do what is required to protect those they claim to love.”