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Pro-Trump pastor Robert Jeffress offers pathetic defense of president’s “shithole” comments

He might as well have offered up a shrug emoji.

President Trump Participates In The Celebrate Freedom Rally At The Kennedy Center
Robert Jeffress has made a career out of defending Trump theologically.
Olivier Douliery-Pool via Getty Images

Robert Jeffress, pastor at Dallas’s First Baptist Church and unofficial leader of Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory council, has made a career of defending Trump using Christian rhetoric.

A day after Trump made headlines by condemning immigrants from “shithole” countries, Jeffress released what has become a customary defense of Trump’s actions. What sets his reaction to the president apart this time, however, was the seeming lack of any theological basis whatsoever.

Typically, Jeffress would be expected to break out another torturous, theologically loaded justification for Trump’s actions and statements. In just one example, last August Jeffress made a statement supporting Trump’s incendiary comments about North Korea, saying that God had given Trump “full power to use whatever means necessary” — including war — to defend America.

Which is why his latest statement in defense of Trump is so surprising. The statement didn’t even try to defend Trump in the language of Christian nationalism that he — and Trump’s other evangelical allies — has spent the past two or so years honing. Rather, he just focused on, well, nationalism.

In a statement made to David Brody of the (consistently pro-Trump) Christian Broadcasting Network’s The Brody File, Jeffress said:

What’s most striking about Jeffress’s statement is what he doesn’t say. He’s not making a theological argument in favor of Trump’s actions here, even though Jeffress (along with his co-council member Paula White and the rest of the advisory council) have made a career praising Trump in specifically Christian terms, and, in particular, using the Christian Broadcasting Network as an ally to advance this specific narrative.

Rather, Jeffress’s statement may even be interpreted as acknowledging that Trump’s position is incompatible with core Christian doctrines of charity toward those in need, and then defending it because of American interests. Trump can afford to be a “bad Christian” on an individual level because he is being a “good American” on a collective one. In other words, Jeffress has stopped trying.

In so doing, Jeffress has, perhaps inadvertently, revealed the dark heart of Christian nationalism: It is as much, if not more, about jingoism and ethnonationalism as it has ever been about Christian values.

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