Back in 2016, R. Albert Mohler—president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—was one of the few white evangelical Christians who refused to support Donald Trump. He wrote about that decision in an opinion piece for the Washington Post that was published two days after the release of the Access Hollywood tape.
I am among those who see evangelical support for Trump as a horrifying embarrassment — a price for possible political gain that is simply unthinkable and too high to pay…The release of the sexually explicit tape revealed Trump in a light that must be the worst nightmare for the candidate’s campaign. It revealed a sexual predator, not merely a playboy…Donald Trump is not just disqualified from being a Sunday school teacher. Honest evangelicals would not want him as a next-door neighbor…Trump’s horrifying statements, heard in his own proud voice, revealed an objectification of women and a sexual predation that must make continued support for Trump impossible for any evangelical leader.
That earned Mohler some respect from those of us who were disgusted by the way so many court evangelicals were willing to toss aside their so-called “family values” in the name of access and power.
While he didn’t cite it to support his position, Mohler could have quoted from a resolution passed by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1998 on the moral character of public officials—which was most likely written to address the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. Here are the key excerpts:
Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That we, the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 9-11, 1998, in Salt Lake City, Utah, affirm that moral character matters to God and should matter to all citizens, especially God’s people, when choosing public leaders; and…
Be it finally RESOLVED, That we urge all Americans to embrace and act on the conviction that character does count in public office, and to elect those officials and candidates who, although imperfect, demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character.
Less than four years later, Mohler has changed his tune.
While he doesn’t have a different opinion of Trump’s moral character today, Mohler said he was impressed by the president’s commitment to his campaign promises and as a result he will not make the same decision he did in 2016, when he refused to support him.
“I don’t have a different moral estimation of Donald Trump. Even in office he continually leaves me very frustrated in how he presents himself, how he speaks, but he has been more consistent in pro-life decisions, executive orders … than any president of the United States in any party. He’s been more consistent than any Republican certainly in the quality of appointments he has made to the federal judiciary, which will far outlive any presidency,” he said, noting that he will “will make a different political calculation in 2020.”
All we can do is take Mohler at his word and believe that he now supports a sexual predator because of his pro-life actions and judicial appointments.
But let’s put Mohler’s change of heart in context. Over 70,000 people have now died as a result of COVID-19, with a recent report suggesting that the number will double by early August. Not only did Trump fail to initially contain the spread of this pandemic, he has now—as Greg Sargent suggests—decided to go AWOL on the whole thing by shutting down the White House task force and focusing all of his energy on the economy. The repercussions of those decisions were captured in the irony of having the song “Live and Let Die” blasted from speakers as the president toured a plant in Arizona on Tuesday.
They blasted “Live and Let Die” while Trump walked around a Honeywell plant today in Arizona without a mask. It’s hard to believe this clip is real. pic.twitter.com/M1dMe8KaMK
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 5, 2020
That is the man Mohler describes as being more pro-life than any president of the United States. In this context, how can that statement be anything but truly mind-boggling?
By having a change of heart in the midst of this pandemic, Mohler demonstrates that his anti-abortion position isn’t about protecting life, it’s about controlling women’s bodies, especially when it comes to their sexuality. That is precisely what feminists have been saying about the anti-choice movement for decades now.