Exclusive: Evangelicals urge more action from Trump against alt-right

southern baptists condemn alt right orig GR_00000902
southern baptists condemn alt right orig GR_00000902

    JUST WATCHED

    Southern Baptists denounce white supremacy

MUST WATCH

Southern Baptists denounce white supremacy 01:34

(CNN)A group of prominent evangelical Christians is calling on President Donald Trump to take further steps to condemn white supremacists -- specifically those in the alt-right -- following the August white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one woman dead.

A letter that has been circulating privately among a coalition of pastors notes Trump's efforts to denounce the white supremacists, but urges the President to go further in condemning the alt-right "by name."
"This movement has escaped your disapproval," the letter, obtained exclusively by CNN, reads. "We believe it is important for this movement to be addressed, for at its core it is a white identity movement and the majority of its members are white nationalists or white supremacists. This movement gained public prominence during your candidacy for President of the United States. Supporters of the movement have claimed that you share their vision for our country. These same supporters have sought to use the political and cultural concerns of people of goodwill for their prejudiced political agendas. It concerned many of us when three people associated with the alt-right movement were given jobs in the White House."
    Initial signers of the letter include Southern Baptist Convention President Rev. Steve Gaines, former SBC President Rev. Fred Luter and the Rev. T.D. Jakes, a mentor of Trump's top spiritual adviser, Rev. Paula White. One member of Trump's informal Evangelical Advisory Board, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, also signed the letter.
    The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.
    Trump was widely criticized for his response to the white nationalist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month after he claimed that "both sides" were to blame for violence and said there were "some very fine people" among the white nationalist protesters.
    "I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me," Trump said during a press conference after the demonstrations. "You also had some very fine people on both sides."
    Trump signed a congressional resolution Sept. 14 that condemned the violence and renounced "white nationalists, white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other hate groups."
    "No matter the color of our skin or our ethnic heritage, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God," Trump said.
    But the signers of the letter are calling on Trump to take further steps to address the issue.
    "Our country desperately needs unifying leadership again," their letter reads. "We need you, President Trump, to lead us in such an effort. America needs your voice and your convictions to defeat racist ideologies and movements in every form that they present themselves. America is profoundly fractured and divided. We are praying, and call upon God's people to humble themselves and pray that you would take the bold and moral step to denounce the alt-right."
    The effort, a collaborative project drafted by Southern Baptists Rev. Dwight McKissic and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Dean Keith S. Whitfield, comes after the Southern Baptist Convention -- the nation's largest protestant denomination -- grappled with its own decision to condemn the alt-right earlier this year.
    At the denomination's annual meeting in June, Southern Baptists initially rejected an effort to condemn the alt-right, sparking an outcry among pastors who went on to force a vote on a resolution that condemned "every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy." The resolution ultimately passed.
    Read the full letter below:
    OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP
    FROM AMERICAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS:
    WE NEED YOU TO SPEAK
    Dear President Trump:
    The events that took place in Charlottesville, VA on August 12 grieved us. We were deeply troubled by the public display of racism on that day. It reminded us of a time years ago when such brazen displays of bigotry and white supremacy were common and were upheld by political leaders.
    We love the United States of America. We have overcome much racial injustice, but we fear that without moral clarity and courageous leadership that consistently denounces all forms of racism, we may lose the ground that we have gained toward the racial unity for which so many of us have fought. Our nation remains divided racially and ideologically. We struggle to stand together to denounce racial inequality and injustice in our country.
    Mr. President, you have, on occasion, denounced the KKK and the Neo-Nazis by name. And, on September 14, 2017, you signed a joint resolution condemning white supremacy. With your signature on that important statement, you also said, "No matter the color of our skin or our ethnic heritage, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God."
    We thank you for signing the resolution and for your words expressing the profound solidarity of the American people regardless of skin color and ethnic heritage. The joint resolution was needed to provide moral clarity that white supremacy and white nationalism are outside of American values—indeed, it is outside human values—and will not be accepted in our country. We are grateful that the resolution addresses your role, Mr. President, to "speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and White supremacy." Further, we commend your commitment to "use all resources available to the President and the President's Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States."
    Now, we respectfully call upon you to respond to the resolution by speaking out against the alt-right movement. This movement has escaped your disapproval. We believe it is important for this movement to be addressed, for at its core it is a white identity movement and the majority of its members are white nationalists or white supremacists. This movement gained public prominence during your candidacy for President of the United States. Supporters of the movement have claimed that you share their vision for our country. These same supporters have sought to use the political and cultural concerns of people of goodwill for their prejudiced political agendas. It concerned many of us when three people associated with the alt-right movement were given jobs in the White House.
    Alt-right ideology does not represent constitutional conservatism. The Constitution promotes the dignity and equality of all people. It maintains that we all have the ability to contribute to a just and free society.
    The alt-right, however, attributes the uniqueness and achievements of America to the so-called superior capacities and virtues of Anglo-Europeans. American Renaissance editor and alt-right leader Jared Taylor said, "The alt-right accepts that race is a biological fact and that it is a significant aspect of individual and group identity and that any attempt to create a society in which race can be made not to matter will fail." The core of the movement is the protection of white identity. Richard Spencer, a prominent leader in the alt-right movement, desires to transform our country into an ethno-state that serves as a gathering point for all Europeans.
    We request upon you to join with many other political and religious leaders to proclaim with one voice that the "alt-right" is racist, evil, and antithetical to a well-ordered, peaceful society.
    While addressing a political convention in Illinois in 1858, in a climate and country divided over slavery, Abraham Lincoln quoted Jesus, saying, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." The current and growing racial divide in America must be confronted, or the divided America of which Lincoln spoke will revisit us. We can see the haunting potential of this turn. Ferguson and Charlottesville may be a foreshadowing of things to come. We must set aside our political, ideological and racial differences, particularly on the issue of the alt-right. We cannot be divided and still defeat this new demonic racist force.
    Yes, it is time now for Christian churches to come together for the sake of the nation and the Kingdom of God. Recently, two major denominations, which have not always seen eye to eye on social and political issues, have come together on the issue of racial bigotry and injustice. In the aftermath of violence and protests in Charlottesville, leaders of these denominations called white supremacy and the alt-right racist and evil. Jerry Young, President of the National Baptist Convention USA, said white supremacy cannot be dismissed with moral ambivalence. He explains, "There are not two sides when it comes to white supremacy. It is a belief system that is anti-Christian at its core and must be repudiated without confusion." Steve Gaines, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, condemned the alt-right, describing the gathering in Charlottesville as "a gathering of hate, ignorance and bigotry" and stating the ideology violates core Christian beliefs.
    These are powerful and strong words coming from the leaders of two historic Baptist Conventions, denouncing the alt-right by name. We also need healing and unifying leadership from our political leaders. President George H.W. Bush and Pastor Edward Victor Hill II modeled this type of leadership for us 25 years ago. They worked together to address the shared pain of the African American community and the nation in the aftermath of the exoneration of the police officers associated with the Rodney King brutality.
    Our country desperately needs unifying leadership again. We need you, President Trump, to lead us in such an effort. America needs your voice and your convictions to defeat racist ideologies and movements in every form that they present themselves. America is profoundly fractured and divided. We can envision the change that could emerge if you would provide the moral leadership we so desperately need for racial healing. Our polarized nation could unite around your leadership on this critical issue.
    We are praying, and call upon God's people to humble themselves and pray that you would take the bold and moral step to denounce the alt-right. And we pray that we may see the beauty of people from all racial backgrounds dwelling together in unity, from which the blessings flow; and then we may see—God Bless America (Psalm 133:1).
    Respectfully,
     
    Dr. Danny Akin
    President
    Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

    Wake Forest, NC
    Dr. Bruce Ashford
    Provost
    Professor of Theology and Culture
    Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Wake Forest, NC
    Dr. Michael Bell
    Senior Pastor, Greater St. Stephens First Church

    Fort Worth, TX
    Rev. R. Marshall Blalock
    Pastor, First Baptist Church

    Charleston, SC
    Dr. René F. Brown
    Pastor, Mount Zion First Baptist Church

    Baton Rouge, LA
    Rev. Alan Cross
    Executive Director, Community Development Initiatives
    Missional Strategist, Montgomery Baptist Association

    Montgomery, AL
    Dr. Tony Evans
    Senior Pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship
    President of The Urban Alternative

    Dallas, TX.
    Dr. Nathan Finn
    Dean of the School of Theology and Missions, Union University

    Jackson, TN
    Dr. Robert E. Fowler
    Senior Pastor, Victory Missionary Baptist Church

    Las Vegas, NV
    Rev. Micah Fries
    Senior Pastor, Brainerd Baptist Church

    Chattanooga, TN 
    Rev. James D. Gailliard
    Pastor, World Tabernacle Church
    President - The Impact Center

    Rocky Mount, NC
    Dr. Steve Gaines
    President of the Southern Baptist Convention
    Senior Pastor, Bellevue Baptist Church

    Cordova, TN.
    Dr. Ronnie W. Goines
    Founding Pastor, Koinonia Christian Church

    Arlington, TX
    Dr. J. D. Greear
    Pastor, The Summit Church

    Raleigh-Durham, NC
    Dr. Joel Gregory
    George W. Truett Endowed Chair in Preaching and Evangelism
    George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University

    Waco, TX
     
    Dr. T. D. Jakes
    Bishop of the Potter's House

    Dallas, TX
    Dr. John Jenkins
    Pastor, First Baptist Church of Glenarden

    Glenarden, MD
    Rev. Kenneth Jones
    Senior Pastor, Como First Missionary Baptist Church

    Fort Worth, TX
    Dr. Ed Litton
    Senior Pastor, Redemption Church

    Mobile, AL
    Dr. Fred Luter
    Pastor, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church

    New Orleans, LA
    Dr. Rayford E. Malone
    Pastor, Greater Beulah Baptist Church

    Dothan, AL
    Dr. William Dwight McKissic,
    Senior Pastor, Cornerstone Baptist Church

    Arlington, TX
    Dr. James Merritt
    Lead Pastor, Cross Pointe Church

    Duluth, GA
    Dr. John Ogeltree
    Senior Pastor, First Metropolitan Church

    Houston, TX
    Rev. Vance Pitman
    Senior Pastor, Hope Church

    Las Vegas, NV
    Dr. R.A. Redwine
    Senior Pastor, Soldier Creek Baptist Church

    Oklahoma City, OK
    Dr. C. J. Rhodes
    Pastor, Mt. Helm Baptist Church

    Jackson, MS
    Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
    President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
    Sacramento, CA
    Dr. Manuel Scott, Jr.
    National Evangelist for the National Baptist Convention

    Los Angeles, CA 
    Dr. Ed Stetzer
    Executive Director, Billy Graham Center for Evangelism
    Wheaton College

    Wheaton, IL
    Dr. Walter Strickland
    Associate Vice President of Kingdom Diversity
    Assistant Professor of Systematic and Contextual Theology
    Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Wake Forest, NC
    Mr. Jemar Tisby
    President, Reformed African American Network
    co-host "Pass The Mic" podcast

    Phillips County, Arkansas
    Mr. Lawrence Ware
    Co-Director of the Center for Africana Studies and Diversity Coordinator
    Philosophy Department of Oklahoma State University

    Stillwater, OK
     
    Dr. Maurice Watson
    Senior Pastor, Metropolitan Baptist Church

    Largo, MD
    Dr. Keith S. Whitfield,
    Dean of Graduate Studies
    Assistant Professor of Theology
    Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Wake Forest, NC
    Rev. K. Marshall Williams
    Pastor, Nazarene Baptist Church

    Philadelphia, PA
    Dr. Jerry Young
    President of National Baptist Convention
    Senior Pastor, New Hope Baptist Church

    Jackson, MS
    Daniel Darling
    Vice President for Communications

    Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
    Dr. Russell Moore
    President

    Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission