Donald Trump's Liberty University Address Draws Evagelical Leader's IreBy Russell Westerholm
It should come as no surprise that Donald Trump ruffled a few feathers during his address at Liberty University, but one of the loudest critics was represented those he was trying to win over.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, took to Twitter for a running commentary during Trump's speech. He called it "counter to the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ."
This would be hilarious if it weren't so counter to the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ. #TrumpatLiberty
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) January 18, 2016
Winning at politics while losing the gospel is not a win. — Russell Moore (@drmoore) January 18, 2016
Religious commenters, evangelical bloggers and preachers echoed many of Moore's sentiments as well.
This speech wouldn’t pass freshman comp at Liberty. #TrumpatLiberty
— Preston Yancey (@prestonyancey) January 18, 2016
Oh wow, @JerryJrFalwell just made the most convoluted comparison between Trump, his father, & #MLK. This is ignorant opportunism. At best. — Zach J. Hoag (@zhoag) January 18, 2016
But while a select few evangelicals spoke out against Trump, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. opened the convocation with glowing remarks about the GOP candidate's philanthropy and personality. Trump also told the crowd he was going to Iowa shortly afterward, a state with a strong evangelical presence that opens its Republican nominating caucuses on Feb. 1.
Falwell was also keen to point out that Liberty does not endorse political candidates, the school did host Bernie Sanders in September, you can watch that speech here.
Falwell gave Sanders (criticized by many GOP members for his "socialist" policies) plenty of kind words as well and the convocation audience cheered him heartily. But as The Washington Post pointed out, Falwell has given Trump these kinds of "endorsements" away from Liberty's campus.
"He cannot be bought, he's not a puppet on a string like many other candidates... who have wealthy donors as their puppet masters," Falwell told the crowd. "And that is a key reason why so many voters are attracted to him."
Another point of contention was Liberty's policy regarding convocation, which the school uses to host guest speakers. On its website, Liberty explicitly differentiates its convocation from its chapel, but notes that undergraduate students who live on campus agree to attend upon enrollment.
Commentators keep saying #TrumpatLiberty is a "packed house." These convocations are *mandatory* which is why Bernie had the same audience.
— Joanna Piacenza (@jpiacenza) January 18, 2016