After White Supremacists stormed the U.S. Capitol, waving both Confederate and Christian flags during their insurrection, our nation needs Christian leaders who can bring healing, truth-telling, and justice. Al Mohler, one of the most prominent Southern Baptist figures, is not such a leader for this moment. He needs to step aside.
As president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and candidate for Southern Baptist Convention president, Mohler could soon be the most visible Southern Baptist leader. But his actions over the past year indicate that his leadership would prevent both the SBC and SBTS from being part of the solution. Mohler should step aside so the nation’s largest Protestant denomination can serve as a balm in Gilead.
On Wednesday (Jan. 6), Trump encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol because he falsely claimed the presidential election was stolen from him. The crowd promptly marched over, knocked down police, shattered windows, broke in, and violently took over the Capitol. All because, as Sen. Mitt Romney put it that night, “a selfish man’s injured pride.”
That selfish man who spent the last two months lying about the election and encouraged Wednesday’s insurrection was the same man Mohler publicly endorsed for president.
Back in 2016, Mohler said he couldn’t back Trump due to character flaws of the thrice-married candidate with a history of racism and misogyny. And if he did, Mohler added, he would owe Bill Clinton an apology. But when Mohler flip-flopped as he sought the SBC presidency in 2020 — before the annual meeting was canceled, thus postponing the election for a year — he gave no such apology. Now, he claimed Trump’s character wasn’t good but deserved the votes of Christians anyway.
“If I am electing a neighbor, it would be Biden hands down,” Mohler said, trying to justify himself as he skipped past Luke 10. “I would not choose Donald Trump for a neighbor. I am just not up to the tumult. I like a quiet neighborhood.”
Our nation’s neighborhood is in tumult, indeed. Mohler helped sow the wind, and now we are reaping the whirlwind.
Mohler had the audacity on Tuesday to claim no one should be surprised that Trump tried to illegally pressure Georgia’s Secretary of State to make up election votes so Trump could steal the election.
“Here’s something we need to note,” Mohler said. “If you look at president Trump, first of all, look at Donald Trump, the man. Donald J. Trump, the man who wrote the book, The Art of the Deal, the man who founded Trump University, you go down the list. In his own writings, long before he became president, he said that the one thing you must never do is admit defeat publicly. And if anything, this is a man who gave us decades before he was elected president the gamebook by which he was going to play.”
One might say, this proves exactly why character matters. As Mohler admits, Trump is just being who Trump always was.
Mohler does at least admit Trump lost and was wrong to suggest otherwise. But why did he support such a man in the first place?
Mohler on Wednesday also called Trump “responsible now for unleashing mayhem” in the attack on the Capitol. But even after a violent pro-Trump mob ransacked the Capitol in a failed attempt to help Trump overturn the election, Mohler still won’t admit his error or apologize.
“I stand by the comments that I’ve made at every point,” he told the Houston Chronicle after the insurrection. “We can’t go back and re-litigate November the third, but I voted in conscience on November the third.”
“How can you have remorse for doing what you believe was right on November the third?” he added. “I mean, that’s not even historically viable.”
On Thursday morning with the Capitol still a mess from the previous day’s violence, Mohler took an even less apologetic tone: “I voted for Donald Trump for president of the United States. I encouraged others to vote for him, too. Based upon the binary choice we faced on November the third, I believe then that that was the right action to take, and going back to November the third, I would do the same thing again.”
Mohler supported a man with such immoral character that that man lied about the election and openly encouraged a violent movement to overturn a free and fair election. And Mohler still insists he had to vote for Trump. Mohler’s failure to apologize sets a poor moral example to pastors and others across the nation.
This faulty moral calculation will haunt both the SBC and SBTS for years, but especially if Mohler is president of either or both.
In addition to backing a president who repeatedly encouraged and inspired White Supremacists, Mohler led the presidents of the six SBC seminaries to issue a statement on Nov. 30 condemning Critical Race Theory. In the year that saw unprecedented protests against racial injustices following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others, Mohler and the other presidents decided not to target White Supremacy or Christian Nationalism but a broad social science perspective that scholars use in analyzing issues of race, power, and society.
Even worse, the statement didn’t even make an argument beyond CRT is bad because we say so by fiat. The six presidents just said CRT was contrary to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 but didn’t explain why. They made this declaration even after SBC messengers just the previous year passed a resolution that specifically noted how CRT could be a useful analytical tool for Christians.
As a result of the short statement crafted by six White men to denounce an effort at eliminating systemic racism, several Black pastors and churches left the SBC. Mohler is helping make the SBC White again. Black Southern Baptist pastors from Minnesota to Illinois to Kentucky to Texas and elsewhere said they were out after the anti-CRT move.
Yet again, Mohler won’t apologize. And he refuses to remove honors on the SBTS campus to enslavers, whom he insists were “orthodox” in their theology. Apparently racist enslavers aren’t cast out by the BFM 2000 but scholars denouncing racism are.
If Southern Baptists are going to be the needed moral voice in 2021 and beyond, they will need someone other than Mohler as president at SBTS and especially the SBC itself. This time demands someone with the moral foresight that Mohler lacks. This moment demands someone who, unlike Mohler, can prophetically speak to our nation’s racist sins and injustices.
Our country is at a critical juncture. We need an SBC that instead of doubling-down on its historic support of White Supremacy will work toward healing and justice. Mohler disqualified himself as a leader for that hopeful future.