SBC leader: Trump at Liberty a 'golden calf'

by Staff, |
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, January 18. | REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

LYNCHBURG, Va. (Christian Examiner) – Donald Trump was on the stump at the world's largest Christian University Monday, but his effort to convince the audience of his evangelical bona fides might have fallen short after the politician – who claims Presbyterian lineage – quoted from the book of "Two Corinthians."

"Two Corinthians, 3:17, that's the whole ballgame," Trump said. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

The flub drew a roll of chuckles from the student audience, as Christians generally refer to the book as "Second Corinthians." There were also a few gasps when Trump twice cursed during the address to the Christian students and faculty.

One Southern Baptist leader was not amused.

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said Trump was forcing Christians to re-evaluate the difference between political power and the gospel, and the gospel was being drowned out by the candidate's message.

In one posting on Twitter, Moore called Trump "a golden calf," an obvious reference to the idol the Israelites worshipped in the Book of Exodus.

Trump's overall message, however, is one that resonated with the audience. He told the audience that Christianity is "under siege" and he, if elected, will "protect Christianity."

Trump also praised the university's success, calling it a "really great rocket ship" that achieved greatness because people banded together to support it.

"We have to band together; we have to do, really, in a really large version what they have done at Liberty. Because Liberty University has done that. You have banded together and you have created one of the great universities, colleges, anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world. ... Our country has to do that around Christianity," Trump said.

The candidate then went on to extol the success he had in drawing large crowds as evidence of the "movement" taking place behind his candidacy.

Trump is not the first political candidate to speak at the university. Republican candidates Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz also spoke previously at Liberty, with Cruz announcing his candidacy for president in his address. Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders also spoke to a full arena.

Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton has not yet been scheduled to speak, but Trump said he wanted to send her a message when she does.

"I know that maybe Hillary will be here and if she is you can play this back. We cannot have another four years of Barack Obama. We can't have another four years of Hillary Clinton," Trump said.

Trump spoke of the readiness of the military, a lagging economy, taxes, and immigration. On the subject of immigration, Trump said he could build a wall on the southern U.S. border.

"But it will have to be beautiful because, you know, one day they're going to call it 'Trump Wall,'" he said.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said in his introduction of Trump that Liberty "does not support or oppose candidates for public office, and Mr. Trump's appearance here should not be interpreted by any as an endorsement by Liberty."

Falwell's introduction, however, was effusive of Trump's qualities, including his heart for philanthropy and his head for business.

"In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the Great Commandment," Falwell said. He also said he believed Trump would be free of influence from lobbyists and the donor class when president.

"He cannot be bought; he's not a puppet on a string like many other candidates ... who have wealthy donors as their puppet masters," Falwell said, adding that his independence attracts many to him.

During the address, Moore tweeted that Trump (and Liberty) were "trading the gospel of Jesus Christ for political power." Moore said that exchange was "not liberty but slavery."

"This would be hilarious if it weren't so counter to the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ," Moore also tweeted. "Evangelicals can love a golden calf, as long as Aaron promises to make Mexico pay for it."