(RNS) — God has given President Trump the "authority to take out Kim Jong-Un," according to the Rev. Robert Jeffress, one of the president's key evangelical Christian advisers.
Jeffress' statement on Tuesday (Aug. 8) followed the president's warning earlier in the day that North Korea would "be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen" if its leader continues to threaten the United States.
The Texas preacher, who leads a congregation of more than 10,000 people at First Baptist Church in Dallas, has been an outspoken Trump supporter since early in the presidential campaign. He is one of dozens of conservative evangelical leaders who has enjoyed what one described as "unprecedented access" to this president who, they say, seeks their views on policy.
Jeffress released his statement early Tuesday evening as tensions between the two nuclear powers have escalated, and as Democrats and some Republicans criticized Trump's remarks as reckless.
For the first time last month, North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach California, according to The New York Times. And The Washington Post reported this week that North Korea may have miniaturized a warhead that could fit inside such a missile.
In his statement, Jeffress said he believed the Bible makes clear that "God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil." The senior pastor praised Trump for not tolerating North Korea's threats while panning previous administrations' "sheepish stance toward dictators and oppressors."
"When President Trump draws a red line, he will not erase it, move it, or back away from it," he said. "Thank God for a President who is serious about protecting our country.”
In an interview with The Washington Post, Jeffress cited biblical verses from Romans 13, saying it "gives the government to the authority to do whatever, whether it’s assassination, capital punishment or evil punishment to quell the actions of evildoers like Kim Jong Un.”
Jeffress was a member of Trump's evangelical advisory committee during the 2016 presidential election and since has attended several meetings of prominent evangelicals at the White House. That includes a dinner ahead of the National Day of Prayer, at which he assured, "Mr. President, we're going to be your most loyal friends."
Jeffress also recently hosted a Fourth of July concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where the president pledged his support to the military and to people of faith. First Baptist's choir and orchestra premiered a musical arrangement of Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."
Trump, who identifies as Presbyterian, has gone out of his way to embrace evangelical Christians. White evangelicals gave him 81 percent of their votes in November, a higher percentage than any other religious group.