President Donald Trump hosted 100 evangelical leaders at the White House Monday and touted his record in supporting initiatives evangelicals have long sought.
The list included several steps the administration has taken to protect religious liberty for those who object to abortion or gay marriage, reinstatement of the Mexico City policy and changes to Title X that prevent taxpayer dollars from supporting abortion, prison reform that partners with faith based organizations, and how the administration has spoken out about worldwide religious persecution.
“Every day, we’re standing for religious believers, because we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of American life,” Trump told the gathering. “And we know that freedom is a gift from our Creator… Together, we will uplift our nation in prayer, defend the sanctity of life, and forever proudly remain one nation under God.”
Like other meetings between Trump and pastors, some left-leaning Christian critics of the president criticized the gathering. John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah College, called the dinner “a court evangelical extravaganza” and referred to several of the attendees as “court evangelicals.”
“We have prayed for an opportunity to speak to the president of the United States and we would have a voice and an open door to express our views. We have a president now who wants to hear from us,” Franklin Graham, who has been very active in his informal involvement with the administration, told the Christian Post. “The answer to anyone who says it is just pandering is: He is keeping his promises.”
“If it was just photo-ops and pandering, then nothing would happen,” he added. “But all these things are happening and we are amazed that we are seeing these things accomplished in the two years or so.”
Southern Baptist Convention president J.D. Greear attended and was criticized by some for that decision.
— J.D. Greear (@jdgreear) August 28, 2018
White House Evangelical Dinner Included a Q & A Time
Jack Graham, the senior pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, who has served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told The Christian Post that Trump took questions during dinner to allow evangelical leaders in the room to speak their minds.
What ensued, Graham said, was about 35 to 40 minutes of pastors expressing their appreciation for what the Trump administration has been able to do to progress a socially conservative agenda in the last 18 months. While Christians are often called to speak “truth to power,” Graham said the leaders in the room felt called to speak “love to power.”
Other notable evangelicals who attended the meeting include James Dobson, California pastor Greg Laurie, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, radio host Eric Metaxas, televangelist Kenneth Copeland, Pastor Jentezen Franklin, Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Ralph Reed, Maryland Bishop Harry Jackson, San Diego Pastor Jim Garlow, former Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd and Hispanic evangelical leader the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez.
The dinner was also attended by Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Homeland Security Ben Carson, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. The event was officially hosted by first lady Melania Trump.