Republicans and Christian leaders bashed for irony of speaking at Florida confab that warns of 'idolatry'
Josh Hawley, Donald Trump Photographer: Mandel Ngan/AFP

The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination and Albert Mohler is one of its most powerfully influential leaders.

The Southern Baptists Convention announced last Friday that the U.S. Department of Justice was investigating sexual abuse within SBC churches and institutions. The SBC has been battered by credible accusations of clergy sexual abuse, many verified by the independent investigation it launched.

As president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, SBC’s most prestigious school for pastors, Mohler wields enormous influence. He was one of the SBC leaders to sign a public statement promising cooperation with Justice Department investigators.

Mohler’s profile will loom larger next month when he’s onstage in Miami giving the National Conservatism Conference keynote address. His speech is entitled; “Your God Has Been Supplanted by an Idol: The Dangerous Illusion of a Secular State.” Guest speakers include Florida Gov. and GOP presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis, Republican Senators Marco Rubio, Rick Scott and Josh Hawley.

The online news community, Church Leaders, noticed a tweetstorm brewing with anger and concern over Mohler’s gig—a lot of it coming from the Deep South and Southern Baptist pastors and believers.

“Is this what you're all about? Election deniers, COVID hoaxers, all politics all the time,” tweeted Winston-Salem, North Carolina Pastor Ben Marsh from First Alliance Church. “I'm saddened. We have a shortage of pastors as it is, and now we're training them to care more for politics than Christ.”

Bethel Seminary leadership professor Andy Rowell weighed in: “It is gross for (Mohler) to be with all those who care so little for the truth.” He quoted Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked.”

Religion writer Chris Boeskool alluded to Mohler’s past statements that seem to support the controversial white Christian nationalist movement when he tweeted; “I've got news for you: The (seminary) was lost a VERY long time ago. Anyone who still willingly gives their time and money to the Southern Baptist Church is supporting this sort of white nationalist garbage.”

Christian nationalism is the term commonly used for churches that, in addition to conservative religious stances on abortion and same-sex marriage, embrace the far-right agenda of denouncing vaccinations and touting the falsehood that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Tennessean Susan Williams who blogs on “food, faith and fun” entered the thread with: “This is idolatry, and heresy, in my opinion. When has the church EVER done a good job managing political power. Jesus NEVER went after political power. His Kingdom is NOT of this world.”

That observation that Trump supporters were beginning to idolize Trump in ways that should be reserved for God echoed through the thread.

There were also tweets defending Mohler that pointed out that many pastors attend conferences devoted to progressive or liberal causes.

A few Trump supporters attacked Marsh by citing baseless, violence-inciting falsehoods. Third Eldest tweeted: “The election was stolen, covid was a hoax, and nothing has been more at stake. (The conference guests) are the only people currently standing in between your children and full-on pedophilia legalization.”

The latter is a response that’s become predictable but shouldn’t be normalized. What was unpredictable was the concern about Trumpification of evangelicals from people of faith in ruby red states.

As Marsh tweeted, “For the sake of truth we must admit that Jesus is Lord. That means Donald Trump is not. It is time to leave him behind. The election was not stolen. Admit this and move on.

Arlington, Texas Pastor Dwight McKissic’s tweet describes his feelings when he saw Mohler’s photo amid right-wing election denialists like Hawley. (McKissic has 14,400 followers).

“This picture makes me cringe for the SBC,” Pastor Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church wrote. “It’s extremely unappealing for multiple thousands I engage with. Not because they’re Republicans—Condi Rice, Colin Powell, E.V. Hill were Republicans. But, for all the reasons mentioned in this tweet (thread) and adherence to Christian Nationalism.”

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