Along with hundreds of other evangelical leaders, I joined NRB President’s Council members and other NRB members in a June 21 meeting with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump in New York City.
In addition to the hour-long meeting with hundreds of pastors and others, as a member of the Steering Committee, I met with Trump in a smaller gathering of leaders who were able to talk with him about various concerns of evangelicals.
At the larger meeting, Trump emphasized his commitment to religious liberty by vowing to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, who would be vetted by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. He also said he wants to restore the free speech rights of Christians by rescinding the infamous Johnson Amendment, which has limited the political speech of churches and other 501(c)(3) tax-exempt ministries. Additionally, Trump said he wants to encourage the use of the greeting “Merry Christmas” in American culture and government.
Also at the meeting, Trump reiterated his proposal to temporarily halt Muslim immigration to the United States, adding a more nuanced suggestion that he would pause immigration from regions where radical Islamic terrorism is present. He also promised that his judicial appointments would be pro-life.
On the one hand, Trump helped himself just by his willingness to meet with evangelical leaders and by addressing some of their questions and concerns. On the other hand, evangelical leaders helped their cause, introducing their priorities and leadership to a potential President of the United States.
Some of my friends were at the meeting, and some of my friends criticized those who attended, endorsed Trump, or have agreed to serve on his evangelical advisory committee. Those who are critical of the decision of others to meet with Trump should not jump to conclusions because there was no endorsement required of the participants, including myself, nor did any prosperity gospel preachers speak at the meeting. As I tweeted during the meeting in response to some criticism on social media, this was “no cheap date, but good discussion.”
On the same day of the meeting, Trump announced an Evangelical Executive Advisory Board that includes some NRB members. Tim Wildmon has written a reflection on the meeting and Richard Land has given the rationale for why he agreed to serve on the Advisory Board.
Among NRB President’s Council members attending were Doug Batchelor, Rich Bott, Laurie Cardoza-Moore, Stu and Nancy Epperson, Bruce Fogerty, Roberta Hromas, Johnny Kim, Barry and Karen Meguiar, Troy Miller, Miriam Neff, Grace Rendall, and Jamey Schmitz. Other NRB members in attendance were Brad Bright, James Dobson, Ronnie Floyd, Franklin Graham, Jack Graham, June Hunt, Robert Jeffress, David Jeremiah, Richard Land, Tony Perkins, Jim Robb, Larry Ross, Kelly Shackelford, and Tim Wildmon. Recent NRB Convention speakers who spoke at the Trump event were George Barna, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, and Lila Rose.
There are pro and con arguments to every candidate, and Christian leaders should make them when ready. Likewise, every Christian needs to work through this election choice in his or her own way. But, it is still early in the process, and we need to give each other space to figure this out. For sure, we should take care not to build straw man arguments, use caricatures, or engage in ad hominem attacks against our brothers and sisters.
By Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, NRB President & CEO
PHOTO ABOVE: Dr. James Dobson, Founder and President of Family Talk, makes a comment during a June 21 meeting with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump in New York City. Photograph courtesy of A. Larry Ross Communications.
Published: June 23, 2016