“If we’re going to make America great again, we’re going to have to make the church great again too.”
Commentator David Brody opened a recent segment with this argument. And what did the co-author of The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography mean by making churches great? Taking over denominations.
“Folks, we need to bring back the word of God — back to the house of God, specifically. And how do we do that, you might ask? Well, we need to elect better leaders for the church,” Brody argued on June 2. “Run for a leadership position if you know you’ve got what it takes to lead a congregation back on track. And that’s exactly what my next guest is doing.”
Brody then welcomed to his show, The Water Cooler, a candidate for president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Tom Ascol, a Florida pastor who believes the SBC has become too liberal (no, that’s not a typo), made his case with a supportive Brody.
“The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in North America and you better bet your bottom dollar that leftists are trying to take it over for their own purposes,” Ascol claimed ahead of next week’s SBC annual meeting in Anaheim, California. “Many of our leaders have just capitulated to the pressures of the world because they want to be liked, they want to be thought of as nice.”
Both Ascol and Brody see critical race theory and other arcane academic ideas as proof that the SBC is trending liberal. Brody, speaking from his studio with the U.S. Capitol behind him, complained that “this cultural woke-ism movement” has “such a firm grip on the church.”
This exchange occurred on Real America’s Voice, a Trumpian TV network. And this appearance by Ascol wasn’t an anomaly. He’s been making the rounds on rightwing media outlets as he tries to convince Southern Baptists to elect him. This campaign strategy is not only a unique approach but also suggests the type of voter he wants to court and the type of SBC he hopes to lead.
From appearances with Charlie Kirk, Eric Metaxas, OANN, BlazeTV, and more, Ascol’s media campaign might help him win the SBC presidency and remake the nation’s largest Protestant denomination ahead of critical national elections this fall and into the next presidential campaign. So, in this issue of A Public Witness, we recount the politics animating the SBC, hop on the virtual bus to follow Ascol’s campaign, and then consider what his victory could mean well beyond Southern Baptist life.