Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore, a prominent voice within America’s largest Protestant denomination, is calling on President Donald Trump to resign after Trump incited a violent mob of his supporters to descend on the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
“Mr. President, people are dead,” Moore tweeted on Friday. “The Capitol is ransacked.”
“There are 12 dangerous days for our country left,” the evangelical leader continued. “Could you please step down and let our country heal?”
While the mob rioted in the Capitol, Trump continued to spread conspiracy theories about election fraud and sent his “love” to the rioters. His tone finally shifted in a statement Thursday evening when he condemned those who had breached congressional offices and committed to a “smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power” to incoming President Joe Biden.
On Friday, Trump pledged that the “patriots” who voted for him will continue to have a voice in America’s future.
In a webinar for church leaders later in the day, Moore explained that by calling for Trump’s resignation, he was trying to “appeal to the president’s sense of responsibility in all of this.”
The period leading up to Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20 is going to be volatile, Moore predicted, pointing to how Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was accosted by angry Trump supporters at an airport on Friday.
In moments of national crisis, the president shouldn’t be reaching out just to his own base but seeking to bring the country together, Moore said.
“There has to be a time of healing. If the president can’t or won’t do that, then there are 12 more days left and I think he should take responsibility one way or the other,” Moore said. “We have to have stable, unifying leadership in this country.”
Moore is a longtime critic of Trump and one of the first American evangelical leaders with a national platform to openly condemn the insurrection as it was taking place.
“Character matters,” he tweeted later Wednesday afternoon, echoing a phrase that white evangelicals used in the 1990s to insist that private immoral behavior should preclude a politician from holding public office ― a standard that they no longer hold as strongly.
Moore said on Friday that he was “trembling with rage” while watching the extraordinary scenes unfold at the Capitol, partly because the rioters were displaying Christian symbolism. Photos and videos from the siege show one rioter holding a sign that reads, “Jesus Saves.” Another person appears to have entered the Capitol carrying a large white flag with a red cross on a blue canton, which is often called the “Christian flag.”
“Violent insurrection and the Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot coexist,” Moore said.
In addition to an act of “domestic terrorism,” Moore called the riot a violation of Scripture’s calls for Christians to submit to governing authorities and refrain from spreading lies. It could have a damaging impact on evangelicals’ efforts to witness to those outside the faith, he added.
Moore said Christians have a responsibility to call out this kind of Christian nationalism.
“There are people who don’t yet know who Christ is, who all they know about Jesus is seeing ‘Jesus saves’ in the hands of violent insurrectionists who are disobeying the clear commands of Scripture and the explicit words out of the mouth of Jesus himself,” Moore said. “That is blasphemy.”