fbpx

This week, First Baptist Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress appeared on Fox News and discussed allegations that President Trump may have had an affair with a porn star in 2006, and then attempted to cover it up.

He said, “Evangelicals know they are not compromising their beliefs in order to support this great president.”

Jeffress explained, “Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star. However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him … We supported him because of his policies and his strong leadership.”

It should be noted that Jeffress is a controversial figure and has said some incendiary things about about the LGBTQ community and Muslims.

He continued, “Evangelicals understand the concept of sin and forgiveness. We are all sinners. We all need forgiveness. That forgiveness is available through Christ for anyone who asks. Whether the president needs that forgiveness for this particular allegation, whether he’s asked for it, is between him, his family and his God.”

Jeffress isn’t wrong here. Christians should be willing to forgive people for doing something wrong. It’s core to their beliefs. The problem is Jeffress seems to be selective about who he’s willing to offer a certain level of forgiveness to, especially if that forgiveness entails allowing them to maintain leadership roles.

This line of thinking marks a dramatic shift for not only him—but many supporters of the presidents who are Christians. Dating back to the Clinton administration (when members of the Moral Majority led impeachment efforts in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal), the personal beliefs and moral behavior of the president have mattered significantly.

The blog Right Wing Watch even found a video Jeffress calling out “the hypocrisy of some evangelical leaders” because back in 2008, they supported Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon:

For the last eight years of the Bush administration, [they] have been telling us how important it is to have an evangelical Christian in office who reads his Bible every day. And now, suddenly, the same leaders are telling us that a candidate’s faith really isn’t that important. In fact, one of those leaders—a good friend of mine—said on national television, when it came to supporting Mitt Romney, he said, ‘Well, after all, we are not electing a theologian in chief, we are electing a commander in chief.’ My fear is such a sudden U-turn is going to give people a case of voter whiplash. I think people have to decide, and Christian leaders have to decide once and for all, whether a candidate’s faith is really important.

However, his conclusion on that question—whether a candidate’s faith is really important—seems to have changed dramatically.

Back then, he said, “The danger in all of this discussion is that Christians sometimes are willing to sacrifice the temporal for the eternal, that in order to get their candidate elected, to enact those laws that they feel are crucial, somehow we fool ourselves into thinking we are going to bring about the kingdom of God here on Earth. We are not going to do that. I’m not willing to trade people’s eternal destiny for some temporary change in the law.”

Is he right that morality doesn’t matter to Christians? For Jeffress, it depends on who currently holds the office.

If evangelicals are now of the collective mind that a politician’s personal ethics don’t matter, then they should not only apologize to the likes of President Bill Clinton, but they’re going to have to pledge not to criticize any politician’s moral standing moving forward. After all, we forgive everyone, right? What are the costs of this shift?

But if this is just a way for some Christians on the right to continue to support President Trump despite his moral lapses, then they should be honest about it and the double standard that this shift presents. It is possible to hold public figures to high moral standards, even if you like some of their legislative agenda. In fact, it is necessary.