Faith

Evangelical leaders go to bat for Jared Kushner

Numerous evangelical leaders are coming to White House adviser Jared Kushner’s defense as he faces scrutiny for his alleged ties to Russian operatives. (Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images)

Numerous evangelical leaders are going to bat for senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, a practicing Orthodox Jew, as he faces scrutiny over his potential ties to Russia.

Following Kushner’s closed-door testimony Monday before the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss his contacts with Russian operatives, 10 Christian leaders issued statements of support for President Donald Trump’s son-in-law.

Many of the statements came from leaders who were on Trump’s evangelical advisory board, which has in the past commented on policies while steering clear of specific people within the administration. But Kushner is different, because — according to these leaders — he’s played a central role in their influence in the White House.

Those who defended Kushner include Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., author and humanitarian Johnnie Moore, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President Samuel Rodriguez, Florida megachurch Pastor Paula White, Assemblies of God General Superintendent George Wood, Maryland Pastor Harry Jackson, and Southern Baptist Pastors Jack Graham, Robert Jeffress, David Jeremiah, and Ronnie Floyd.

“I believe the only criminal collusion occurring over the last year has been collusion between the media and government officials held over from the Obama administration who have leaked classified and secret information in an attempt to discredit our president,” Falwell said.

The Liberty University president went on to slam the media for continuing to cover the Russia collusion story with little hard evidence to substantiate the claims made by TV anchors and newspaper reporters alike. Falwell described Kushner as “brilliant” and “a man of the highest integrity.”

Moore defended the White House official in even stronger terms. He said Kushner has “become a confidante to our community and I would say the key point of contact between the White House and evangelicals.”

In the nearly two years he’s known Kushner, Moore said he cannot remember a time when a request for contact “wasn’t returned and returned promptly.”

“Rather than punishing him for that, the country ought to be celebrating him for his service,” Moore said, adding that the story of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign is a “political charade.”

Moore, a former senior vice president at Liberty, found himself at the center of some controversy earlier this month, after tweeting a photo of a handful of faith leaders who were praying over Trump in the Oval Office. At the time, Moore described the meeting as “a very special moment but it was also not an unusual one.”

The group of Christian leaders were swiftly attacked by liberal Pastor William Barber, a member of the national board of the NAACP. He described the event as “theological malpractice bordering on heresy” during an appearance on MSNBC.

But the evangelical leaders are standing their ground, and they have Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, who is also Jewish, to thank for the access they have to the West Wing.

“It’s just like God to use a young Jewish couple to help Christians in the United States, defend their rights, and secure their religious freedom for now, and for subsequent generations,” Jeremiah said.

Despite the rift among some Southern Baptist leaders — with Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore often criticizing the president — it should be noted that white evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Trump in the 2016 election.

Furthermore, many white evangelicals hold positive views of Jews because they see them as “God’s chosen people,” which may explain the warm relations between Kushner and the many evangelical leaders seeking an audience with the president.

Jackson said he “immediately connected” with Kushner over their mutual concern for criminal justice reform.

“He clearly is a man whose heart for our nation is only matched by his mind,” the pastor said. “I am honored to know him and — like many Christians in this country — I am heartened to know that day in and day out he is working for the people’s interests in the people’s house.”

Rodriguez described Kushner as “an ever-present help in time of need,” a reference to Psalm 46:1.

“From the beginning of my own interaction with President Trump, there has been one person always there at every meeting, available to answer every question, and immediately following up upon concerns of our community,” Floyd said. “That person is Jared Kushner.”

In a statement following his private testimony Monday, Kushner told reporters he did not collude with Russia  and described his actions as “proper and occurred in the normal course of events in a very unique campaign.”

Kushner also defended his father-in-law’s Election Day victory over then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Donald Trump had a better message and ran a smarter campaign, and that is why he won,” Kushner said. “Suggesting otherwise ridicules those who voted for him.”

Kushner ventured to Capitol Hill Tuesday morning to face additional questions regarding his interactions with Russia, this time before the House Intelligence Committee.

One last thing…
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