Evangelical pastors divided over Trump shithole countries slur
Donald Trump’s vulgar remarks questioning why the U.S. should admit immigrants from Haiti and Africa have spotlighted the bitter divide among American evangelicals about his presidency.
While some of his evangelical backers expressed support for his leadership, other conservative Christians are calling the president “racist;” and say church leaders had a moral imperative to condemn him.
“Your pro-life argument rings hollow if you don’t have an issue with this xenophobic bigotry,” tweeted pastor Earon James of Relevant Life Church in Pace, Florida.
Trump won 80 percent of the white evangelical vote in the 2016 election. But recent polls show some weakening in that support, with 61 percent approving of his job performance, compared with 78 percent last February, according to the Pew Research Centre.
Still, conservative Christians remain as polarised as ever over his leadership.
Many evangelical leaders who defended him in the past would not comment on Trump"s remarks to a group of senators. A few offered some criticism. Pastor Ronnie Floyd, a former president of the southern baptist Convention, said it was “not good” to devalue any person.
Johnnie Moore, a public relations executive and a leader among Trump’s evangelical advisers, said the reports of what Trump said were “absolutely suspect and politicised.”
Senator Dick Durbin (Democrat-Illinois), who attended the Oval Office meeting Thursday, and peopled briefed on the conversation, said Trump did make the comments as reported: He questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa, as he rejected a bipartisan immigration deal.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina), who Durbin said objected to Trump’s remarks at that time, did not dispute Durbin’s description.
Pastor Mark Burns from South Carolina remainedskeptical, but said if the remarks were true, Trump was only reacting to poor conditions in Haiti and Africa that were the fault of “lazy governments” there.
The Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas and a frequent guest at the White House, said that apart from the president’s choice of words, “Trump is right on target in his policy,” putting the needs of the U.S. above those of other countries.
Yet anger spread among other conservative Christians.
They posted family photos on social media and proudly noted immigrant relatives.
Bishop Talbert Swan of the Church of God in Christ, the country’s largest Black Pentecostal denomination, tweeted a photo of one of his grandchildren born to what Swan said was his “educated, hard-working” Haitian-American daughter-in-law.
Swan, based in Springfield, Massachusetts, called Trump’s comments “vile, foul-mouthed, racist,” and posted the hashtag #ImpeachTrump.
A significant number of African immigrants are Christians who joined U.S. evangelical congregations, and many have become advocates for more generous immigration policies and critics of Trump’s views on the issue.
Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Washington, said his church includes Christians from Rwanda, Nigeria, Guyana, Cameroon and Zimbabwe.
“This is my immigrant family, my true brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,” he wrote on the site of The Gospel Coalition, an evangelical group.
“As a shepherd, I cannot abide the comments our president makes regarding immigrant peoples and their countries of origin. I cannot leave them alone to hear racist barbs, evil speech, incendiary comment, and blasphemous slander against the image and likeness of God in which they are made.”
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