10 Reactions to Trump‘s Evangelical White House Dinner
By , CP Reporter | Aug 29, 2018 6:35 PM 1 / 11 Expand | Collapse (Photo: White House)President Donald Trump speaks to a gathering of of about 100 evangelical leaders and their spouses during a dinner at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 27, 2018.
A storm of responses flooded social media following the Trump administration‘s White House dinner Monday night where about 100 evangelical leaders and their spouses were the invited guests.
Whether it was in response to the event itself or some of the comments Trump reportedly made during a closed-door portion of the evening, critics from both the right and left were disgruntled by what they saw in pictures and read in news articles online.
Here are 10 reactions to the Trump administration‘s dinner honoring evangelical leaders.
1. Melissa Rogers
Expand | Collapse (Photo: The Christian Post)Melissa Rogers, a nonresident senior fellow of governance studies at Brookings Institution and faith adviser to former President Barack Obama, speaks during a panel discussion hosted by Baylor University in Washington, D.C. on April 24, 2018.
Rogers, who served as President Barack Obama‘s special assistant and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, voiced her objections with the event.
She posted a on Twitter that laid out two problems with the dinner that was held to honor “one faith group that was not linked to a particular religious holiday.”
“First, it appears to be official favoritism for evangelicals, [especially because] it was billed as a kind of state dinner,” she wrote. “Once again, the Trump WH appears to favor evangelicals (more specifically, a partic kind of evangelical) over others, while claiming to promote religious freedom.”
In another tweet, Rogers noted that the event was held “in the run up to the election” and “featured a key part of Trump‘s base.”
“It looked and sounded like a campaign event,” she argued, pointing out that prominent evangelical lobbyist Ralph Reed‘s Faith & Freedom Coalition explaining how the dinner was held to “celebrate the influence of the evangelical vote in the elections and discuss plans to educate and turn out Christian voters in September.”
She also linked to a previous article in quoting attendees who described how there was much discussion during the dinner about the victories the Trump administration has secured for his evangelical base. There was also talk about the need for evangelicals to vote in the November midterm elections.
“In sum, it sounds like this was a campaign event targeting a particular religious group in the White House, not a tribute, much less an event appropriate for ‘The People‘s House,‘” she argued.
2. Michael Wear
Expand | Collapse (Photo: The Christian Post)Former Obama faith adviser Michael Wear speaks during a panel discussion held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. on June 18, 2018.
Wear, who directed faith outreach for President Barack Obama‘s 2012 re-election campaign and also served as a White House staffer, took to Twitter to point out the difference between how Obama celebrated contributions of Christians and the event the Trump White House hosted Monday night.
“When President Obama honored the contributions of Christians to this country, he was never just referring to the contributions of those who supported him politically,” Wear asserted in a . “The guest list for events like his reflected that.”
As Wear was on a trip to London, he posted a Tuesday morning stating that “Christians in the UK (and just about everywhere else) think American evangelicals have gone mad.”
In a , Wear added that “[t]he evangelicals in the news don‘t represent all evangelicals, and evangelicalism is about more than Trump.”
3. Bill Devlin
Expand | Collapse (Photo: Courtesy William Devlin)New York City pastor William Devlin ministers to a an elderly man at a refugee camp in Dohuk, Iraq, in this undated photo.
New York City Pastor Bill Devlin, who frequently travels the world to support persecuted communities, has been trying consistently to get more American pastors to travel with him to the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere to directly support persecuted Christians and show the American church cares about their plights.
Devlin, who pastors at Infinity Bible Church in the Bronx and heads a charity called REDEEM, most recently tried to get fellow American pastors to travel with him to support imprisoned American pastor Andrew Brunson during his last court hearing in Turkey but had little success with that recruitment.
“Church leaders fly into Wash DC from all over the US to be in the White House. I wish these same folk would get on a plane and come with me to the Middle East to meet w/their sisters & brothers who are being persecuted for their faith,” Devlin wrote on . “I only know of one in this group who has done this? Come to the camps, sleep in an IDP tent & be with those who desperately need encouragement.”
Devlin may have been referring to Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan‘s Purse evangelical humanitarian organization who has traveled the world on humanitarian missions.
4. Thomas Kidd
Expand | Collapse (Photo: Facebook / Thomas S. Kidd)Baylor history professor Thomas S. Kidd
Kidd, a history professor at the world‘s largest Baptist university, took to Twitter to voice his concerns with the dinner and thrice-married Florida Pastor Paula White‘s role in it.
have indicated that White, who is criticized by many as being a , gave the president and first lady Melania Trump a Bible during the dinner that was signed by several leaders who attended.
Kidd argued in a that White has seemingly become the “spokesperson for American evangelicals” and asserted that White‘s new “spokesperson” status was “brought to you by obeisance to Donald Trump.”
During Trump‘s presidential election campaign in 2016, White was viewed as “” because of her longstanding relationship with the thrice-married real estate mogul that dates back years.
Kidd was also seemingly critical of those who attended the dinner. He admits that it can be hard to decline an invitation from the White House. However, he that in “the Trump universe, attending such b*tt-kissing events also means you‘re cast as a member of a religious cohort _led_ by Paula White.”
5. Greg Thornbury
Expand | Collapse (Photo: Facebook / Gregory Alan Thornbury)Greg Thornbury
Thornbury, the former chancellor and president of The King‘s College in New York City, also questioned the way in which White presented the Bible to the Trumps during the dinner.
White presented the Bible in a way that made Thornbury question if she was praying to the Trumps instead of to God.
As has been , White was asked by the president to say a prayer after his formal remarks at the gathering. Before the prayer, White announced that she was giving the president and first lady the aforementioned Bible. She continued by reading an inscription that was written in the Bible.
She read: “First lady and president, you are in our prayers always. Thank you for your courageous and bold stand for religious liberty, and for your timeless service to all Americans. We appreciate the price that you have paid to walk in the high calling. History will record the greatness that you have brought for generations.”
White continued: “We pray this prayer. And if all of you agree with that, say ‘Amen.‘”
According to the official White House , it was after the audience said “Amen” that White closing prayer was given.
“Wait. I am trying to understand this. Before the closing prayer…there was a prayer offered TO the POTUS?” Thornbury .
Thornbury later commented on another tweet about how Trump was reported to have told the crowd that if Democrats wins in the midterms this November, the left will overturn their political gains of the last 18 months and do so “.”
“Jinkies! No wonder Paula White prayed to him at the end,” Thornbury .
6. John Fea
Expand | Collapse (Photo: Facebook / John Fea)Messiah College history professor John Fea
Fea, a left-leaning professor of American history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania who has been critical of evangelical engagement with Trump, commented on Tuesday about Trump‘s statement at the dinner that the left will resort to violence.
“I have to give Trump credit,” Fea wrote on his . “He knows that fear-mongering is one of the best ways to motivate evangelicals in the public square.”
Fea wrote that Trump‘s remark about “violence” reminds him of the 2016 Republican primary election “when Ted Cruz said the federal government would soon be .”
“This kind of rhetoric, as I argued in , works very well with evangelicals,” Fea argued.
7. Robert Jeffress
Expand | Collapse (Photo: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)U.S. President Donald Trump (L) is greeted by Pastor Jeffress at the Celebrate Freedom Rally in Washington, U.S. July 1, 2017.
Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor who was one of the earliest evangelical leaders to back Trump as a presidential nominee, has made several media appearances in the days following the dinner to defend the event and the president‘s agenda.
In a sent to Christian Broadcasting Network‘s David Brody Tuesday night, Jeffress gave his defense of Trump‘s remarks about the left wanting to overturn his administration‘s political gains for social conservatives “quickly and violently.”
“I believe the president was speaking metaphorically when he invoked the term ‘violence‘ to speak of the consequences of Democrats gaining control of the House,” Jeffress said. “He was simply describing how quickly his policies that evangelicals and other conservatives have so enthusiastically supported could be undone with a Democrat Congress.”
Jeffress added that following the president‘s remarks, he got up and told the crowd about the importance of the midterm elections this November. Jeffress stressed to the evangelicals in the room that if Democrats win the House, they will do one of two things.
Jeffress told fellow evangelical leaders that Democrats would either try to impeach the president or “paralyze him while he remains in office” if they take control of the House.
“Neither of those actions is acceptable to those of us here tonight,‘” Jeffress told the crowd.
8. Bishop Paul S. Morton
Expand | Collapse (Photo: Facebook / Bishop Paul S. Morton)Bishop Paul S. Morton
A number of African-American religious leaders were also not happy about the dinner.
One who took to Twitter to voice his concern is Morton, the senior pastor of Changing a Generation Full Gospel Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and co-pastor of Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Morton, an author, to his 200,000 followers on Tuesday that “white evangelical [Trump] corruption” is a “high price to pay” for the political gains that conservative evangelicals have received from the Trump administration, most notably the appointment of conservative federal judges.
In his tweet, Morton cited Romans 6:14: “For we [are] not under the law but grace.”
“Shall we sin [because] we [are] not under the law,” he wrote. “God Forbid Laws won‘t Save People Preaching will. Don‘t put laws [before] preaching [and] lose credibility supporting corrupt #45.”
Morton and a number of other pastors earlier this month against a group of about 20 black pastors who met with Trump to discuss prison reform.
9. J.D. Greear
Expand | Collapse (Photo: Twitter/)Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear smiles as he attends a dinner with about 100 other evangelical leaders and their spouses at the White House in Washington on Aug. 27, 2018.
One of the newer faces in the crowd for the dinner was Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear, the 45-year-old lead pastor of Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.
As Greear was recently elected president of the largest Protestant denomination, he took some heat online from left-leaning religion writer Jonathan Merritt for attending the event. As a candidate for SBC presidency, Greear had run on a platform that decried Church entablement with political parties and partisanship.
Greear posted a to Twitter Tuesday to explain why he chose to attend the White House dinner.
Greear said he received an invitation from the White House and consulted a number of leaders across the political spectrum as he carefully decided whether or not he should attend.
“In this case, I chose to attend in order to listen and meet other leaders and offer perspective where asked,” Greear said.
In order to be a “witness in the public square,” Greear said that it “requires some presence in it.”
Greear stressed that he‘s “as committed as ever to decoupling the Church from partisan politics.”
“[M]y desire for the SBC remains what it always has been — promoting a culture in which the Gospel is above all,” Greear wrote. “Sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zones for the sake of the Gospel.”
Greear also stated that he did not sign the Bible that was given to Trump by White during the dinner.
“I was not asked and was not aware it was being given,” he wrote.
10. Ronnie Floyd
Expand | Collapse (Photo: /)Vice President Mike Pence shakes the hand of Arkansas pastor and former Southern Baptist Convention president Ronnie Floyd during a meeting with dozens of Southern Baptist megachurch pastors and their wives in Washington, D.C. on April 11, 2018.
Floyd, a former SBC President and pastor of Cross Church in Arkansas, attended the dinner Monday as well as a held last May for a smaller group of evangelicals.
In an with The Christian Post Tuesday, Floyd defended Greear‘s decision to attend Monday‘s dinner.
“Anyone that would criticize J.D. Greear for doing that really needs to understand the big picture. We can do one of two things. We can sit on the sidelines and pride ourselves that we have never done anything wrong and we are sinless. But we are not sinless,” Floyd said.
“We have all fallen short of the glory of God and not just a few of us. We can sit on the sideline with spiritual arrogance like we are too good for this and we will not be contaminated or we can get involved.
“Jesus Christ did not say we need to be distinguished by our spiritual arrogance or by our scholasticism or by anything else other than one thing — love,” Floyd added. “[Christ] said, ‘Just as I have loved you, you love another.‘ I think everyone of us need to support the office of the presidency. We honor the office of the presidency and we speak in love, even when we are encouraging truth to be followed. We need to speak with love and live with love and we can‘t do that if we don‘t get involved.”
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