Russell Moore, Evangelical Leader, Faces Backlash For Anti-Trump Comments Russell Moore, who presides over the political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, called out religious right figures who supported Trump notwithstanding his "serious moral problems."
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Evangelical Leader Under Attack For Criticizing Trump Supporters

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Evangelical Leader Under Attack For Criticizing Trump Supporters

Evangelical Leader Under Attack For Criticizing Trump Supporters

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Closer to home, evangelical Christians were split over Donald Trump's campaign. By and large, they voted for Trump, but many did so reluctantly. One evangelical leader was very public about his very negative feelings about Trump, and now he's suffering a backlash. Here's NPR's Tom Gjelten.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: The Southern Baptist Convention has long been known for its criticism of politicians it judged morally unfit. The group even has its own political arm, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. But in this campaign, the head of the ERLC, Russell Moore, broke with other Baptist leaders over Donald Trump. Moore said Trump was an awful candidate, and he criticized what he called the old-guard religious right political establishment for backing him.

RUSSELL MOORE: The religious right turns out to be the people the religious right warned us about.

GJELTEN: Now, Moore is himself in hot water, facing attacks from that old-guard religious right he criticized during the campaign. Bill Harrell, the pastor emeritus at Abilene Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., says the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has gone astray politically under Moore's leadership.

BILL HARRELL: Since Dr. Moore has taken over, there are a lot of things that are being said on various issues that the Southern Baptist people, at large, don't agree with. So it's just developed into a very touchy situation.

GJELTEN: Harrell says he's heard other Southern Baptist leaders arguing that the convention's links with the ERLC should be reconsidered as long as Russell Moore is presiding over the organization.

HARRELL: There are a number of fairly large churches that are going to withhold their funds from the ERLC until this get straightened out.

GJELTEN: Moore, who holds firmly conservative Christian positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, is now responding to the backlash. In a new statement on his website, Moore says he did not mean to criticize all people who voted for Trump. He says - that was not at all my intention, and I apologize.

In fact, some of Moore's Southern Baptist supporters are now speaking out. Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, applauds Moore for calling Trump on his insensitivity to concerns about police brutality, an issue important to black Southern Baptist churches like McKissic's.

DWIGHT MCKISSIC: If they succeed in ousting Russell Moore, effectively, we have become the Trump Baptist Convention, alienating the majority of the population. This is so short-sighted of them.

GJELTEN: Support for Russell Moore also comes from Darrell Bock, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society. Bock worries that many evangelicals are quick to vilify those who dare to expound a critical point of view, even those who share their own religious background, like Russell Moore.

DARRELL BOCK: For some people, there is so much tribalism in the divisions that we have that to speak against your tribe is to be seen as kind of defecting from your tribe.

GJELTEN: Bock sees his fellow evangelical Christians - and the society generally - as standing now on a precipice where things could either get very bad or where people might begin to come together if they recognize the importance of being able to engage with those who disagree with them.

BOCK: Because where we've taken ourselves in the last few decades is to the edge of this precipice in which we are allowing this division to become so strong that our government can't even function.

GJELTEN: Bock does not see last month's election as providing Donald Trump a mandate. Pro-Trump and anti-Trump evangelicals, he says, need to stop thinking about who won or lost and start talking to each other.

Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.

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