Businessman Donald Trump is deeply unpopular with Southern Baptist leaders.
The latest member of the Protestant denomination — America’s largest, with some 15 million members — to tangle with the Republican Party’s presumptive 2016 presidential candidate is Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
In a weekend interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Moore described Trump as a “lost person” who has an insufficient relationship with Jesus Christ.
“My primary prayer for Donald Trump is that he would first of all repent of sin and come to faith in Jesus Christ,” Moore told the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, according to the Religion News Service.
“That’s my prayer for any lost person,” the evangelical leader added.
On Wednesday, longtime syndicated columnist Cal Thomas published the transcript of an interview with Trump.
Thomas asked Trump who he thinks “Jesus is” in the interview.
“Jesus to me is somebody I can think about for security and confidence,” Trump responded. “Somebody I can revere in terms of bravery and in terms of courage and, because I consider the Christian religion so important, somebody I can totally rely on in my own mind.”
Trump’s answer is roughly an eternity from the tenets to which Southern Baptists adhere.
According to a “Basic Beliefs” statement, the Southern Baptist Convention believes that Christians receive Jesus as “Savior and Lord.”
“Christ is the eternal Son of God,” the statement declares. “In His incarnation as Jesus Christ, He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross, He made provision for the redemption of men from sin.”
In addition to Moore, other Southern Baptists have strongly criticized Trump.
In March, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, described Trump as a person whose “entire mode of life has been something that has been at odds with American evangelical conviction and character” in a National Public Radio interview.
Last year, in The Christian Post, Southern Baptist leader Dan Darling and fellow evangelical Matthew Soerens denounced Trump for broadly defining immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals.”
“Mr. Trump may have the support of a few self-describing evangelicals in polls, but he and other candidates adopting his rhetoric on immigration are alienating many more,” Darling and Soerens wrote.
Meanwhile, Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist ethic commission, has taken many opportunities to savage Trump.
On “Face the Nation” last month, Moore called Trump a purveyor of “reality television moral sewage.”
“I think there are going to be some conservative evangelicals who vote for Trump because they — they believe the Supreme Court is on the line and they feel guilty for doing that,” Moore said on Face the Nation. “And there are going to be many other evangelicals who simply don’t vote in that election or who do find a third-party candidate or a write-in candidate to vote for, not because they think that candidate will win, but because they think there’s something more important than politics, which is one’s conscious.”
In an op-ed in The New York Times last year, Moore had even harsher words for Trump.
“His attitude toward women is that of a Bronze Age warlord,” Moore wrote concerning the twice-divorced Trump, and “he regularly ridicules evangelicals, with almost as much glee as he does Hispanics.”
Moore also noted that Trump has trivialized the Christian sacrament of communion by calling communion wafers “‘my little cracker’ as a way to ask forgiveness.”
Trump is “a casino and real estate mogul who has built his career off gambling, a moral vice and an economic swindle that oppresses the poorest and most desperate,” Moore wrote. Trump also supported abortion and Planned Parenthood “up until very recent years,” Moore noted. (RELATED: From Immigration To Guns To Abortion, Donald Trump Must Reckon With His Progressive History)
Trump has taken to Twitter to respond to the Southern Baptist ethicist, calling him “a terrible representative of evangelicals and “a nasty guy with no heart.”
Trump has also attempted — and continues to attempt — to address the stringent criticisms leveled against him by Southern Baptists and other evangelicals.
He won significant numbers of self-proclaimed evangelicals throughout the Republican primary, particularly in the South.
On Friday, Trump is scheduled to address a large conference of conservative Christians in Washington, D.C. on Friday.
Later this month, on June 21, Trump is scheduled to meet in New York City with approximately 500 conservative Christian bigwigs for a “guided discussion,” the Religion News Service notes.