A Southern Baptist megachurch pastor asked God’s blessing on Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump in an invocation at a Sept. 14 campaign rally in Dallas.
Trump, addressing a crowd estimated at 17,000 Monday evening at the American Airlines Center, thanked Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, for his support.
“Where is Pastor Jeffress?” Trump asked, looking around. “He’s around here someplace. What a good guy. Where is he? Come here.” Joined onstage by Jeffress, Trump exclaimed: “I love this guy!”
Jeffress, a Fox News contributor and pastor of the 11,000-member Dallas megachurch, made headlines in the last presidential election when he described the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a “cult” and said evangelicals should not vote for then-candidate Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon.
Jeffress, who supported Texas Gov. Rick Perry during the 2012 campaign, later conceded “it is better to vote for a non-Christian who supports biblical principles like life and marriage than voting for a professing Christian like Barack Obama who absolutely repudiates what Jesus Christ said about some key issues.”
In 2014 Jeffress released a book claiming that Obama’s re-election was paving the way for the Antichrist foretold in Scripture.
“While I am not suggesting that President Obama is the Antichrist, the fact that he was able to propose such a sweeping change in God’s law and still win re-election by a comfortable margin illustrates how a future world leader will be able to oppose God’s laws without any repercussions,” Jeffress wrote.
In his prayer at the Trump rally, Jeffress said the following:
“Heavenly father, your Word declares ‘blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.’ Tonight we come before you realizing that you are not a respecter of people or nations. Any nation that reverences you will be blessed by you. And any nation that rejects you and your Word will be rejected by you.
“Tonight we come before you thanking you for Donald Trump, who along with others is willing to selflessly offer himself for service to this nation, for no other reason than he desires to make America great again.
“Heavenly father, tonight we come asking a special blessing upon Donald Trump and his family. We pray that you would protect them, and that you would guide them every step of the way as they seek your will for their lives. And we pray this in the name of the one who came and died and rose again, that we might have eternal life, Jesus Christ our Lord. It is in his saving name that we pray. Amen.”
Trump interpreted the prayer as an endorsement. “He said: ‘He may not be perfect, but he’s going to make this country great. He’s a leader. That’s what we need.’ And I want to thank you, Pastor.”
Trump boasted, “I’m leading with the evangelicals, big league,” and told Jeffress, “I really want to thank you, because you’ve been so good.”
“He’s been so great,” Trump said of Jeffress. “And I am Protestant, I am Presbyterian, just in case anybody wants to know. So, the polls come out, and we’re really killing it. We are killing it.”
A recent CNN poll showed Trump the favorite with 32 percent of white evangelical voters, still the frontrunner but with neurosurgeon and Seventh-day Adventist Ben Carson gaining ground with 28 percent.
Some say Trump’s appeal to evangelicals is overrated, and those who attend church regularly are less likely to support him.
“Trump has made his living as a casino mogul in an industry that preys on the poor and incentivizes immoral and often criminal behavior,” Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told NPR recently.
“He’s someone who is an unrepentant serial adulterer who has abandoned two wives for other women,” Moore said. “He’s someone who has spoken in vulgar and harsh terms about women, as well as in ugly and hateful ways about immigrants and other minorities. I don’t think this is someone who represents the values that evangelicals in this country aspire to.”