Are Trump's Values Consistent With Evangelicals?
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Tomorrow, on Martin Luther King Day, Donald Trump will address young evangelicals at Liberty University. It's the largest Christian university in the world. And it's part of what a lot of people see as Trump's effort to appeal to evangelical voters, many of whom will be voting in the Iowa caucus in just a few weeks. But there's division within that community about Trump and whether his candidacy is consistent with Christian values. Ted Cruz made the point in this past week's Republican debate by tying Trump to his hometown.
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TED CRUZ: Everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal, are pro-abortion, are pro-gay marriage, focus around money and the media.
MARTIN: Pastor Darrell Scott of the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland, Ohio has endorsed Donald Trump. And he helped organize a November meeting between Trump and a group of ministers in the African-American community. Pastor Scott joins us now from the studios of WCPN in Cleveland. Thanks so much for being with us.
DARRELL SCOTT: My pleasure.
MARTIN: Why is Donald Trump your candidate?
SCOTT: I had the opportunity of meeting him and becoming a friend of his several years ago, about five years ago. I was very impressed with him as a person - very charming, hospitable, gracious. And you know, the opinions and the ideas that he expressed concerning the direction of America resonated with not only myself but a number of the other pastors that met him five years ago. And that he - we asked him very directly, are you a Christian? He said, yes. We said, do you read your Bible? He said, well, not as much as you guys do.
MARTIN: And you prefer him to Ted Cruz, who has been much more explicit in talking about his Christian faith. And just on the face of it, Ted Cruz seems to have the background and the language and a familiarity with Scripture that you don't see with Donald Trump.
SCOTT: To me, Donald Trump comes across as more genuine and more honest and more authentic than Ted Cruz, even is his on-camera mannerisms. Ted Cruz seems as if he's playing to the camera. And I'm going to be honest. Whether Donald Trump was running or not, Ted Cruz would probably not be my candidate of choice. I mean, especially with me preaching for 25 years. So I can tell when a preacher is showboating. Or I can tell what's genuine and what's showmanship. And to be honest, there's a lot of showmanship in Ted Cruz to me.
MARTIN: There are a number of evangelical leaders who've been really turned off by Donald Trump. I'm going to read you something that Russell Moore has said about Donald Trump. Russell Moore is the head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. And he said that Donald Trump has, quote, "spoken in vulgar and harsh terms about women as well as in ugly and hateful ways about immigrants and other minorities." He went on to say, quote, "I don't think this is someone who represents the values that evangelicals in this country aspire to."
SCOTT: First of all, I don't agree with that. It seems to me that Donald Trump is judged through a lens. He's judged through a filter that the other candidates are not judged through.
MARTIN: So you don't take issue with the fact that he implied that Mexican immigrants were rapists and criminals, that he insulted John McCain, said he wasn't a war hero, that he disparaged Carly Fiorina's looks...
MARTIN: That he has called for a virtual ban on all Muslim immigrants to this country.
SCOTT: I think what Donald Trump says, first of all, is taken out of context. He did not say Mexican immigrants are all rapists. He said a number of the illegal immigrants are rapists. I can't disagree with that. He did not make a blanket indictment against Muslims. He said we need to have a temporary moratorium on immigration until our vetting process is upgraded. If we...
MARTIN: But you know, there was that rally. There was a Muslim woman who stood up at a Donald Trump rally in silent protest. And there were universal boos in her direction. And it doesn't bother you that these - this is happening at events, that there are people who feel this way, very directed animosity for specific groups of people? This isn't something that is necessarily considered a Christian value.
SCOTT: Well, that's the climate of America right now. The climate of America is that Islamophobia is prevalent in America right now because of terrorism. People have their opinions. And that just is the way it is. That's the climate of the country. And so for me to try to hold him accountable for the climate that exists in America - I can't hold him accountable any more than I can hold Cruz or Rubio or any of the other candidates.
MARTIN: Pastor Darrell Scott, thanks so much for talking with us.
SCOTT: God bless you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.