Last Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted out an endorsement of a “great book” by “a wonderful man”: A Place Called Heaven, a new work on the afterlife by Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist church in Dallas. Jeffress is a member of Trump’s informal council of evangelical advisors and has backed many of the president’s controversial decisions, including war of words with North Korea. “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un,” Jeffress said in August.
Then, last Saturday, Jeffress announced on Twitter that he would host the Fox News anchor Sean Hannity at his church on Sunday. Critics ranging from the political commentator Erick Erickson to Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska replied caustically. According to Erickson, the pastor “seems more committed to Trump’s America than Jesus’s eternity.” In an interview, Jeffress responded critically, wondering if Sasse and others would criticize religious leaders who were involved in the American revolution, the abolition of slavery, and the civil-rights movement.
Jeffress, who sees himself as Trump’s “most vocal and visible evangelical spokesman,” embodies a distinct school of thought about the way Christians should relate to politics. During his sermon the day Hannity came, Jeffress spoke about Supreme Court decisions that he felt had derailed the country. He encouraged his parishioners to be politically engaged: “How do we push back against evil in the world?” he asked. “One way we do it in our country, a major way we do it, is through the government officials that we elect.”