Friday, October 14, 2016

How Can Evangelicals Defend Donald Trump?

Those who know me personally may not believe this at first, but I have had very little to say about the 2016 election. Don’t laugh, it’s true! In comparison to what I did during the primaries, and what I would normally be doing, I have been almost silent. Those few comments I have made have been in self-defense, rather than as an effort at persuasion. With nothing nice to say, my goal was to say very little at all and just stick to the decisions of my own conscience.

With what has happened recently, however, I feel I cannot continue this approach. It is time to speak out more broadly, perhaps more persuasively, and from my position as a minister of Jesus Christ. I must do so because many Christians in this country are running an awful risk.

Said and Done

Last week, a recording came out of Donald Trump making terribly derogatory comments about women. And sadly, it was nothing new. No one expects better of him. But the aftermath has been even more disturbing to me, which is saying something.

Most of you are probably familiar with what I am talking about. You have certainly seen it. Perhaps you have even shared it. There are a number of Facebook and Twitter memes being passed around with the basic message of, “I remain far more concerned by what Hillary Clinton has done than by what Donald Trump has said.” And often, these memes are being shared by people who identify themselves as Christians.

Let me say, that last comment is not my way of suggesting they are not actually Christians. I am not calling their salvation into question. Rather, I am merely pointing out that they self-identify as Christians. It is the label they use to represent themselves to the world. Therefore, for good or ill, the things they do reflect upon Jesus Christ. That reflection, specifically, is what I am talking about today.

Moral Relativism

The message being sent is one of moral relativism. In other words, Donald Trump is not bad because Hillary Clinton is worse. Anything he says or does is defensible because she is so terrible. Morality in this model, rather than being the difference between right and wrong, purely, is a sliding scale.

Such an approach to politics is Machiavellian, not Christian. The goal is to gain power by any necessary means, rather than to pursue godliness. But I believe I can hear the objections already: “We are voting for a President, not a pastor!” Does that mean character has nothing to do with the office of the Presidency? Then Hillary Clinton could not be a horrible choice. No, the truth is that character is everything. Decisions, whether made in the pastor’s office or the Oval Office, come from the heart. We will not find a perfect leader until Christ returns, but if we want to see this country move in a positive direction, then we at least have to support good ones.

Others say that Trump’s comments were from over a decade ago, and that he is a recently changed man. Like the rest of us, he is just in need of grace. His need of grace is true enough, and I honestly hope he finds it. I hope exactly the same thing for Clinton. But to suggest that Trump is a born-again Christian is nothing short of wishful thinking. It is only within the last year that he said he has never felt a need to ask for God’s forgiveness, and that he suggested Ted Cruz could not be a Christian because he is of Cuban descent. There is absolutely no evidence that Donald Trump is a believer in Christ. There is no fruit of a life lived in the Spirit. There is no reason to trust him with the highest political office in the nation, not on religious or any other grounds.

These things have all been heard before. For some reason, they do not matter to many evangelical Christians. Or at least, they are pretending they do not matter. After all, some have defended Trump by pointing out that those who have a problem with him did not have a problem with Fifty Shades of Grey. And of course, it means those Christians had a problem with the content of that book, as well they should. But that does not excuse Trump, with whom they should be just as disgusted. And there is really no comparison between the Presidency and a novel.

These brothers and sisters of mine have, unfortunately, put themselves in the position of being more relativistic than the world around them. Even unbelievers know there is something deeply wrong with Donald Trump, while Christians who have so long claimed to know better whistle past the graveyard.

The Future

I think, however, that I understand what most undergirds this willingness to overlook Trump’s many flaws. It is fear for the future. Trump is the nominee of the Republican Party. Before that became our painful reality we could look to avoid it, but now he is all we have left. If he loses, it means Clinton wins. And that will mean the death knell of our rights, as her Supreme Court picks impose a progressive vision on our nation for decades to come. Trump has a chance of doing better, so we have to vote for him in order to save ourselves.

That is the message being sent by the Christian defense of this man. It is a salvific one, the Gospel of Donald Trump. Too many Christians see him as our only hope for the future. What they fail to see is how they are throwing our future away.

This is what I am really here to talk about. By defending Donald Trump for the indefensible, evangelical Christians are discarding one of their last claims over the heart of our society. Our moral authority is being sacrificed for the sake of electoral victory. Do you understand how that looks to people my age and younger? In their minds, the effort to elect Trump is synonymous with Christianity. Therefore, Christianity is a hypocritical religion that only exists to resist the Democratic Party. We talk a good game about our nation pursuing righteousness and resisting dissipate living. But as soon as the GOP selects a pro-choice, pro-homosexual, pro-transgender, pro-nationalist, pro-divorce, woman-hating megalomaniac as its presidential nominee, all the moral preening gets tossed aside for the sake of getting someone in the White House with the right letter after his name.

And those Christians think they are doing it for the sake of the future. They have no idea how difficult a future they are making. They do not know, or do not care, how hard it will be for me and those like me to reach our contemporaries. Politics and religion intersect, but Trump’s Christian Soldiers have made it so that Christianity is, in the eyes of the upcoming generations, nothing but a way to pursue political power. For the sake of a few Supreme Court picks, they are ensuring that millions will be less willing to hear the message of judgment with which the gospel of grace must start. For if Donald Trump cannot be judged unworthy of the Presidency, then no one can be condemned for anything. And if no one can be condemned, no Savior is necessary.

Having Flavor

I am very concerned about what Hillary Clinton could do as President. It would be foolish to be unconcerned. But I believe, if we align ourselves with God’s will, then we can weather that coming storm. We can resist, we can outlast, and we can learn to be more effective. But if we are seen as supporting someone as reprehensible as Donald Trump, then we will lose all our effectiveness, all our credibility. And what does our Lord Himself say of flavorless salt? “It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13). That is the real threat, the greatest danger in this election.

I cannot tell you to vote or not vote for anyone. Ultimately, the choice is yours, and thank God for that freedom. All I can do is ask you, for the sake of the gospel, to carefully consider what you are doing. If you are defending Donald Trump, then you are putting your fear of Hillary Clinton ahead of everything else. And the consequences of that could be staggering. I have no doubt that the church will continue, but it will do so in spite of you rather than because of you. And in this country, it could suffer the greatest setback it has ever known. Christianity’s association with Donald Trump could become a stain never to be removed here.

Please don’t let that happen. When I try to tell them about the hope and goodness found in Christ, don’t let the first thought of your sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, your friends and theirs, be that I am a hypocrite because I must have supported Trump. That is going to be their first assumption, if you cannot repudiate him. Do you truly believe God will praise you for placing such a stumbling block in the way of the lost, and in the way of those sent to find them?

This must end. We must not sacrifice our effectiveness for Christ on the altar of politics. I stand here, now, and say that as a minister, I can never support Donald Trump. I say it with all the same passion that I have long had against the destructive policies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And I ask you to say the same. Prove to posterity, and to God, that you would rather suffer potential difficulty, trusting in the Lord for deliverance, than to ally yourself with evil. At the absolute least, if you must still vote for Trump, do not defend him publicly. The damage that is doing is incalculable. It is far worse than anything Hillary Clinton can do.

(From Desmoine Register)
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