Southern Baptist leader: Donald Trump a ‘lost’ soul who must repent

(RNS) Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore has not been shy about mixing it up with Donald Trump, and now Moore is at it again, telling an interviewer that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is a "lost person" who needs to find Jesus.

"My primary prayer for Donald Trump is that he would first of all repent of sin and come to faith in Jesus Christ," Moore told David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network in a video posted Friday (June 3). "That’s my prayer for any lost person."

Moore, who as head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention is the denomination's chief policy spokesman, has been one of the most stalwart evangelical critics of Trump.

Moore has for months blasted what he sees as Trump's boorish behavior and character flaws, and last month he ramped it up with pointed comments in an op-ed in The New York Times and an appearance on Face the Nation.

Trump’s campaign was “reality television moral sewage,” he told Face the Nation, and in the Times he criticized Trump's followers — many of whom are Moore's fellow evangelicals — for using racist “threats and intimidation” tactics.

Trump, who is hardly shy about attacking his critics, struck back on Twitter — where Moore is also no shrinking violet — and the social media war was on.

Speaking to CBN's Brody, Moore said he would also pray that a conversion for Trump — who says he is a Christian — would translate into a change in his public policies in terms of "the principles of justice" and the "American constitutional framework."

Moore added that would also mean a change "not only in terms of the way in which he (Trump) is changing the moral character of people, including the people that are supporting him and getting on the bandwagon, having had to excuse things that they’ve never had to excuse before."

That appeared to be a reference to the many Republican leaders — like former candidate Marco Rubio and, most recently, House Speaker Paul Ryan — who were once staunchly anti-Trump but have since embraced the likely nominee, often awkwardly given the public record of their earlier opposition.

Trump, who enjoyed strong support from white evangelicals during the primaries, has also been winning over many conservative Christians leaders, to the chagrin of Moore and other #NeverTrump diehards.

Trump will continue that lobbying effort this month when he addresses a major conference of social conservatives in Washington on Friday (June 10).

Then on June 21, some 500 conservative Christian leaders will meet with Trump in New York City for a "guided discussion" to solidify their support for him or win over any skeptics.

Moore has said he could not support either Trump or Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee; in the interview he said Clinton also needed to change, though he said she "has a different set of problems and issues" than Trump.

Signaling a potential new phase in the political role of conservative evangelicals, Moore said his primary focus "is 2017, and preparing the church to be a church which is going to have to be a sign of contradiction regardless of whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is in the White House."

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