Update: Tony Suarez has released a statement about his involvement with the board. The post is edited to include part of this statement. Also included are more public comments from Suarez and Richard Land.
Evangelical leaders have made their concerns about Donald Trump loud and clear. That is, until yesterday when prominent holdouts announced that they were joining Trump's Evangelical Executive Advisory Board.
For months, we heard many condemn Trump as an unacceptable choice. Remember any of these?
- Trump “needs to be canceled like his last reality TV program.”
- “I would never vote for a king pin within [the gambling] enterprise.”
- “Donald Trump is a scam”
These condemnations came from none other than so-called leaders who have now agreed to advise the Trump campaign.
Russell Moore, who heads the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission summed up the views of many who cannot grasp how once-critics have now saddled up to Trump.
James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, endorsed Senator Ted Cruz in the primary. Dobson said that Trump “can't be trusted” on issues of life and traditional family values. In the South Carolina primary, Dobson gave his voice to a robocall that a vote for anyone other than Ted Cruz was a vote for Trump.
In an email, Dobson said he was “very wary of Donald Trump.”
“I would never vote for a king pin within [the gambling] enterprise. Trump’s tendency to shoot from the hip and attack those with whom he disagrees would be an embarrassment to the nation if he should become our Chief Executive. I don’t really believe Trump is a conservative,” Dobson said.
Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference,
is was another critic of Trump. Just a couple of weeks ago, Suarez said that Trump needed to “repent” of his offensive statements. Earlier in the campaign, Suarez said that Trump's candidacy "needs to be canceled like his last reality TV program."
Suarez joined other Republican Hispanics who said that they could not support Trump.
“I don’t believe he would have the support of anyone in this room and I don’t think he has a chance of winning the general election,” said Suarez.
In November, Suarez criticized pastors who supported Trump. In a Facebook post that is now deleted, Suarez calls such preachers the only thing more embarassing than Trump's campaign (this is a cached copy):
Suarez also deleted the tweet stating the same criticism.
In another post, Suarez said that Trump had "crossed the line" when Trump attacked Moore:
Moore's predecessor, Richard Land is president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and executive editor of The Christian Post. Land also once called for evangelicals to stay clear of Trump. Earlier this year, Land's The Christian Post penned its first editorial taking a position on a political candidate. Why speak out this time? The headline said it all:
“Donald Trump does not represent the interests of evangelicals and would be a dangerous leader for our country,” the editorial said.
The editors listed the many problems of Trump including being “a misogynist and philanderer,” his demeaning of women and minorities, “his untruthfulness, questionable business practices, reported association with organized crime, and abrupt changes in fundamental positions.” They even feared that Trump would use his position as president to retaliate against evangelicals who opposed him.
Land went further in his own comments following the editorial.
“...it must be said, before it is too late, that whatever the problems may be, Donald Trump is not the answer. I fear that the millions of Americans who are putting their trust in Mr. Trump will be bitterly disillusioned if he were to obtain the nation's highest office.”
In explaining his decision to advise Trump, Land insists that there is nothing to see here. He has not endorsed Trump. He is joining Trump's board to be “salt and light in the world,” just as he would advise Hillary Clinton or anyone else.
We as Christians often ask ourselves "what would Jesus do?" Frankly, I cannot imagine our Savior would draw His robes around Himself and walk on the other side of the street and spurn Mr. Trump's request for spiritual counsel and advice.
Land is correct that the advisory board is not required to endorse Trump. Land has not "endorsed" Trump, but he has said that it was a moral imperative to help Trump beat Hillary Clinton
"Frankly, I think we're dealing with a choice between a lesser evil and a greater evil, and Mrs. Clinton is the greater evil. That's my personal opinion, and if we don't help the lesser evil prevail over the greater evil, we become responsible morally for helping the greater evil to prevail," Land told OneNewsNow earlier this month.
Some have. But some of the ones organizing the meeting have not. Family Research Council president Tony Perkins calls the meeting and advisory board just a "conversation" with Trump.
Suarez has given a similar explanation. He's not endorsing Trump; he is simply advising a leader.
I feel that I can best serve the Body of Christ and the Latino community by coming to a table of reason, rather than exchanging rhetoric for rhetoric. For months, we’ve been asking Mr. Trump to not just build a wall, but to build a bridge between his campaign and the Latino community. The formation of the board and his invitation for me to be a part of it gives me hope...Should Hillary Clinton ask me to serve on an advisory board, I will gladly say ‘yes.’ So far, she hasn’t, but Mr. Trump has and he deserves credit for it.
As for previous statements, Land said the use of harsh language was just primary politics.
“I think in the primary season there is a less nuanced way of talking about all kinds of things and as you get to the general election, the nuance of policy develops and you look to the prospect of governance,” Land said after the meeting with Trump yesterday. “I do think all of these issues get an additional layer of complexity and understanding.”
Apparently calling Trump a “scam” is just “less nuanced” phrasing.
Endorsements in this election are meaningless. If someone sits on a campaign's advisory board, it's not for pastoral care or for prayer. It's a political position. No more, no less. Prayer can be given in secret. Advice can be offered to the earnest. This is literally about a seat at the table.
Many of Trump's advisors were already supporters. But Dobson, Land, Suarez, and a few others were harsh critics until Trump came courting them. And that's what this is about: desperately wanting to be recognized as a leader in the eyes of the powerful.
These so-called leaders have now blatantly traded in their integrity for a seat at Trump's gold-plated table. I hope that they enjoy the ride to the top floor of Trump tower, for that is their reward.