DALLAS, Texas — A well-known megachurch leader and Trump supporter says that those who have been critical of last Saturday’s choir performance of a song based on Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan are “evangelical gnats” who are just upset that Trump won the election.
“They are absolutely nothing but evangelical gnats who are looking for any excuse to nibble at the president,” Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church of Dallas told the Christian Post this week. “If you take these critics’ argument to their logical end, then Christians need to quit saying the Pledge of Allegiance.”
As previously reported, the song, which had been written by the church’s former music minister, Gary Moore, was performed by the Southern Baptist choir during Saturday’s “Celebrate Freedom” rally in the nation’s capital. The event was co-sponsored by Jeffress’ congregation and featured a message from the president.
“Americans from ev’ry corner of this blessed land/Come together with one voice/Help us take a stand/Following the vision to make her proud and grand/And make America great again,” the choir sang out.
The brief tune followed a rendition of “Break Every Chain,” led by Leo Day, the dean of the School of Church Music at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The song speaks of the power in the name of Jesus.
“Make America Great Again” is now licensed by the worship music resource group Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) for other churches and religious gatherings to sing.
While the song was received with applause and cheers from those present, some who viewed the video footage of the performance expressed concern.
“It seems innocent enough. Indeed, if it were just another little ditty to whistle on Independence Day, it would be fairly innocuous,” wrote Jonathan Aigner for Patheos. “The problem is that it has been adopted by a significant portion of the evangelical church. It’s their mantra, their creed, and their prayer, and they shout it out with nationalistic fervor.”
“Pledging allegiance to God and to America in the same breath, melding together the kingdom of God and self, they pray a blasphemous prayer to a red, white and blue Jesus,” he opined. “How tragically this prayer cancels out the prayer of Jesus himself. The political church prays, ‘Make America great again!’ Jesus prayed, ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’”
J. Cal Davenport of The Resurgent hearkened back to when school children were chanting “Mmm mmm mmm, Barack Hussein Obama’ while reciting a poem about Obama’s election goals—and conservatives found it to be troubling.
“Of course, choirs singing patriotic music is nothing new, especially surrounding holidays like Independence Day. Some patriotic hymns have even melded explicitly biblical language with historic America events, as is the case with the Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Civil War,” he wrote. “But there is something fundamentally different about appropriating the slogan of the (never-ending) campaign of a sitting president.”
“When a local school or some private organization creates musical odes to a new president, such secular worship is troubling in a fascistic way,” Davenport opined. “At the Kennedy Center this weekend, the First Baptist Dallas Choir crossed the line into idolatry. The Church has no business putting its faith in and singing songs in honor of worldly leaders.”
Jeffress, however, disagreed and said that the song was no different than when choirs belt out the “Star Spangled Banner” at patriotic events.
“There is nothing wrong in Christians desiring God’s best for the country we love so much. That is what Saturday night was all about,” he said. “No one is worshiping Donald Trump. What we are doing is showing respect for our president and praying God’s blessings on him as he leads our nation. That is biblical and Christian to do.”
Jeffress, who has been a staunch supporter of the president and serves on his evangelical advisory board, also raised eyebrows in November when he suggested that Christians should move on from fighting same-sex “marriage” and focus on other moral issues, such as abortion.
“This is not going to be re-litigated by the Supreme Court. That is the law of the land. I wish it were different, but it’s not different,” he said emphatically.
Jeffress outlined that he told Christians and others not to urge Trump to make the sanctity of marriage a part of his campaign.
“And actually I had to argue against some hard-right Catholics and evangelicals who wanted Mr. Trump to make that a campaign issue,’” he explained. “I said, ‘Guys, forget it. It’s over.’”
“We need to go on to other things, like protecting the unborn,” Jeffress said.