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Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler on the impact of Bob Jones III’s endorsement of Mitt Romney

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
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HH: Joined now by the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, my colleague on the Salem Radio Network airwaves, and on their editorial board, Dr. Albert Mohler. Al, good to have you back, thanks for joining us.

AM: Hugh, it’s always great to be with you.

HH: Your reaction, Al, to the announcement yesterday first of Dean Robert Taylor of Bob Jones University, and then to Chancellor of Bob Jones University, Bob Jones III’s endorsement of Mitt Romney. Were you surprised?

AM: Well, I was surprised only perhaps in the timing, but in all, no, I’m really not surprised. I think this is what happens in a political context when the options get reduced. And I think especially the statement made by Bob Jones III is very clear. He saw his options reduced to one candidate who he really thought had an opportunity to further his social and cultural and moral concerns. And he was pretty up front about that.

HH: Do you expect that this is the first couple of stones that are going to roll down an Evangelical hill? Or is this an isolated group of activists in South Carolina who have been particularly wooed by Mitt Romney?

AM: Well, you know, the interesting thing is it’s very difficult to call South Carolina or Bob Jones University atypical in this. And you just think back to previous Republican nomination struggles, and you can remember how decisive some of these constituencies can be. I think this is really big. If I were in the Romney campaign, I would be extremely encouraged by this, because not only is Bob Jones III obviously a very well known conservative leader, but he is so well positioned on the spectrum, that this is likely to make it easier for other persons also to make very similar moves.

HH: And do you expect any of those to follow shortly? Have you heard of any in the offing?

AM: Well, I know that there’s a lot of conversation going on. As you know, Hugh, there’s just a lot of people right now concerned about exactly how the race might shape up, concerned about timing, and concerned about what might happen between now and when anyone actually gets the opportunity to vote.

HH: Now do you think that this effectively dissipates the Mormon issue that there’s been so much conversation about? You and I have talked about it in the past, and I interviewed you for the book, et cetera, but does this put that one to bed?

AM: You know, I don’t think it puts it to bed. I think it, though, gets it into some pajamas, perhaps. Let’s put it that way.

HH: (laughing)

AM: It’s moving it in that direction, because I think what’s taking place is that Evangelicals are having to rethink a lot of this whole political question. It’s been easy in recent election cycles. Evangelicals have basically known here is someone who looks like us, sounds like us, believes like us, goes to Church like us, who on the issues, is right where we want him. And so we’re going to be very clearly aligned behind this one candidate. We’ve had to grow up as an Evangelical movement. And one of the big questions we’ve been having to ask is what exactly do we expect from a candidate, and does that mean that we can’t vote for a candidate who in some life particular, and something as particular as worldview and religious commitment, is in a different place than we are, but will further the goals and protect the gains on moral and cultural issues that are central Evangelical concerns. I think that’s been a maturation process. I think we’re seeing it before our eyes.

HH: I’m talking with Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the leading intellectual lights in the Protestant Church in America. Dr. Mohler, can you explain to the audience Bob Jones, and what that university is, and who Bob Jones III is in terms of the spectrum of American theological options?

AM: Yeah, if you talk about American Evangelicalism, or conservative Protestantism in America, you would certainly look at something like Bob Jones as, institutionally speaking, the far right bookend. And you’re talking about an institution…the motto of the university is The World’s Most Unusual University. It’s an incredible thing to see. It’s a massive educational complex, started by an Evangelist by the name of Bob Jones, then led by his son and his grandson, and now by his great-grandson. This is the grandson, Bob Jones III, pretty well known in the media. But to say the name Bob Jones and American conservative Protestantism is to speak of the brand of the reputation that is clearly understood to speak for independent fundamentalism, and without compromise or without fear.

HH: And how big are the numbers of independent fundamentalists in the country, Al Mohler?

AM: Well, I think in a state, first of all, like South Carolina, you’re talking about an extremely large portion, perhaps even a decisive percentage of the population, decisive in the sense that if they did not vote for a Republican candidate, that candidate can’t win. Nationwide, you’re talking about a considerable percentage of the population. But the other thing is, again, that what this really does politically is that it puts Bob Jones in the position of making it a lot easier for people in other Evangelical circles to make similar moves.

HH: And last question, Al Mohler, in the South Carolina primary, does Bob Jones III’s endorsement travel well?

AM: Well in the South Carolina primary, not only does it travel well, this is a huge signal. This is like a lighthouse going on, the light shining its beam on Mitt Romney. Not only that, but the argument made by Bob Jones III basically means that not only is he supporting Mitt Romney, he’s basically saying he is the only option so far as he sees it on the Republican side.

HH: Big news. Al Mohler, thanks for spending time to explain that for us, as very few people in the country are positioned to do. Reverend Albert Mohler from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky.

End of interview.

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