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Southern Baptist leader: opposing Trump puts you “on the right side of Jesus”

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

A top Southern Baptist leader has a warning for white evangelical Christians: If you want to "be on the right side of Jesus," you need to stand up to Donald Trump.

Russell Moore heads the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the largest, typically quite conservative American Protestant denomination. In a scathing op-ed in the New York Times, Moore argues that for white evangelicals, the 2016 election is a moment of truth:

A white American Christian who disregards nativist language is in for a shock. The man on the throne in heaven is a dark-skinned, Aramaic-speaking "foreigner" who is probably not all that impressed by chants of "Make America great again."

Moore likens Trump's candidacy to the civil rights movement — a test that many white Baptist churches in the South failed when they defended white supremacy rather than standing by black churches. He argues that it's also in evangelicals' interest to stand up to Trump, because the future of evangelical Christianity lies with the people Trump picks on, including immigrants:

Majorities come and majorities go. And sometimes a silent majority is too silent for its own good… The question is whether evangelicals will be on the right side of Jesus. That will mean standing up for the church’s future leaders, and for our mission, especially when they are politically powerless.

Moore has a lot of minds to change. White evangelical Christians typically support Republican candidates by huge margins: In 2012, Romney captured 79 percent of their vote.

Trump, so far, isn't leading with anything like those numbers, but he still has a huge advantage. The latest Reuters poll found that white Christians who describe themselves as born-again prefer Trump over Clinton, 48 percent to 29 percent, and that Trump has an even wider advantage among white Baptists who go to church at least weekly.

And when it comes to standing up to Trump, churchgoing white evangelicals might be more likely to simply sit on their hands: The closest competitor to Trump wasn't Clinton, but not voting at all.

How much do conservatives hate Trump?