MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Let's hear from someone with a different perspective. Robert Jeffress is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. It's considered the oldest megachurch in the country. He supports Donald Trump and has been encouraging others to support him over the past few months. He's on Donald Trump's faith advisory council, and he's with us now from First Baptist Church. Pastor, thanks so much for speaking with us.
ROBERT JEFFRESS: Oh, it's great to be with you. Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: Now, you said - at least I hope I'm quoting you accurately - you've been quoted as saying that Donald Trump redeemed himself from the leaked "Access Hollywood" video after his performance at the second presidential debate last weekend. Am I quoting you accurately?
JEFFRESS: Well, there's - there was one key word left out, and that is politically. He redeemed himself politically.
MARTIN: OK, I was going to say that that does - redeem does have a different meaning in Christian context, so...
JEFFRESS: No, those of us - yeah, those of us who are Christians believe Jesus Christ is the only one who can redeem us, (laughter) so that's a big difference.
MARTIN: OK, so thanks for clarifying that. But tell me why you think that.
JEFFRESS: Well, I think - of course, I think he was very strong in that debate. And I think he showed a real quality that every leader needs, and that's resiliency. I mean, let's face it, he's up against the ropes right now. But he hasn't thrown a pity party for himself. And I think if he should become commander in chief, we all want that in a leader, somebody who is able to fight back.
MARTIN: Can I ask you, though, about the substance of the argument about his conduct? There are those who do believe that his personal conduct is disqualifying.
JEFFRESS: Yes. And understand, much has come to light and many allegations have been made. But what I would say is this. You know, in 1980, evangelicals overwhelmingly elected a candidate who was a known womanizer when he was in Hollywood. He would be the first divorced president in U.S. history. His name was Ronald Reagan. And when evangelicals voted for Reagan, they weren't endorsing womanizing. They weren't endorsing divorce. They were endorsing Reagan's policies.
And I think that's why Donald Trump continues to enjoy evangelical support. They're not endorsing necessarily his lifestyle. What they're saying is this is a binary choice between one candidate, Donald Trump - who is pro-life, pro- religious liberty, pro- conservative justices of the Supreme Court - and another candidate, Hillary Clinton, who has an opposite view on all of those issues.
MARTIN: What I was wondering, though, is that we see that many people have a lot of anxiety about this election - do people come to you with those concerns? And if so, what do you say to them?
JEFFRESS: There are some who have concerns, but I think most of our members are mature enough to understand that by voting for a candidate, they're not endorsing a particular lifestyle. They're simply voting on the issues. And, you know, I read just this week a Christian blogger who said she had been a victim of sexual assault and she could not support Donald Trump. And I can understand that. I can sympathize with that.
MARTIN: Can I just stop you, pastor? Forgive me. Forgive me for interrupting.
MARTIN: Can I just stop you? The issue here is not just words. The issue here is that Donald Trump, if he is to be believed, is saying that he imposed himself on people who did not wish him to do so, that that's the issue. It's not just that he said these things but that the allegation is he did these things, that he did put his hands on people.
JEFFRESS: Well, and the key word there is the allegation is. I think everybody has to come to their conclusion. But the point - if you'll let me finish - that I was going to make is what you have to do then is decide. If you decide that what he said is true and that he's actually done those things, then you have to make a choice. If the answer is not Donald Trump because he has verbally or otherwise assaulted women, do you really want to put a woman into the White House who supports the greatest assault on women of all? And that is murdering them in the womb before they have a chance to be born.
MARTIN: You know, I spoke with Pastor Max Lucado earlier. One of the points that he made in his recent blog post to people who follow him is that at the end of the day, people do have to come together. On November 9, this is all going to be over, and people have to find a way to see each other again and to restore each other's humanity. He said - what he said is - exactly - stop being mean. And I wondered if you see any common cause with him on that. And do you think that that's possible?
JEFFRESS: (Laughter) Well, first of all, I see a lot of common ground with Max Lucado. I love Max Lucado. And, you know, I've disagreed with his point of view. When I'm looking for a leader who's going to fight ISIS and keep this nation secure, I don't want some meek and mild leader or somebody who's going to turn the other cheek. I've said I want the meanest, toughest SOB I can find to protect this nation. And so that's why Trump's tone doesn't bother me. But having said that, I do agree with Max Lucado. There needs to be unity, especially in the body of Christ.
MARTIN: If Hillary Clinton should win on November 9, will you be loving her as a sister in Christ?
JEFFRESS: Absolutely. I - absolutely. And I'll go one step further. I'll certainly be praying for her, too.
MARTIN: That's Pastor Robert Jeffress. He's speaking to us from First Baptist Church of Dallas. He's been a vocal supporter of Donald Trump. He's campaigned with him when he came to north Texas. Pastor Jeffress, thank you so much for speaking with us.
JEFFRESS: It's always good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.