Friday, January 17, 2020

Removal for Immorality?

The recent confrontation with Iran aside, the impeachment of Donald Trump is the biggest story in the news as of my time of writing. I had not intended to say anything about it here. While I don’t shy away from talking about politics, my preference is to cover topics that have a clear church/state connection. This does not, or at least, it is hard to pick out. That being the case, I assumed I would just remain silent.

However, the door was opened for me by Mark Galli, the editor in chief of Christianity Today. Galli wrote an editorial in CT on December 19, 2019 to explain his belief that Trump should be impeached because of his moral turpitude. Or rather, Galli wrote that this was the position of CT, speaking for the entire organization. He also did so while essentially claiming the blessing of CT’s founder, the late Billy Graham.

That last part led to an interesting response from Franklin Graham, saying that his father had been a supporter of Trump and would have been disappointed in CT’s editorial. It is never good to see two sides argue over the thoughts of someone who can no longer speak for themselves, but I would tend to accept Graham’s authority over Galli’s here.

Galli might have overstepped to invoke Billy Graham, but is he right about the President? I’ve made no secret of my problems with Trump. It should not be difficult for any Christian to admit that he has frequently acted in reprehensible ways. On Twitter, at least, he continues to do so. I did not vote for him in 2016, and I do not intend to do so this year, either.

All that said, Galli is absolutely wrong to call for Donald Trump’s removal from office by the Senate. Trump’s immorality was not my primary motivation in 2016. We are all moral failures, so it is no use looking for a perfect candidate. My feeling was that he was too imperfect to be worthy of my vote. Specifically, I believed him to be a liar. I thought he was saying whatever he needed to say in order to garner conservative support, but that if he once got in office that he would govern from the center-left and make frequent common cause with the Democrats. I guessed very wrong, his voters guessed right, and I have freely admitted that.

Trump’s administration has, for the most part, been a success. A shortlist would include his judicial nominees, the moving of the embassy to Israel, the gutting of Obamacare, the protection of religious liberty, the protection of innocent life, the tax cuts, the cutting of much red tape, and most recently, his handling of Iran. He’s not been pretty, but he has been effective.

Unfortunately, I suppose I have become a single-issue voter. Trump’s blasphemy last August is something I cannot overlook. My highest loyalty is to Christ, and personally, that episode tested it too severely for me to do anything other than abstain in November. I truly believe that accepting praise belonging only to God is a failure that reaches beyond the individual. When it is done by a national leader, it affects the nation. You need only look to the examples of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:28–37) and Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:20–23) for proof of the danger. Now, I certainly hope that Trump follows Nebuchadnezzar’s example and repents. But until then, I cannot support him.

Even so, that is not the same as opposing him. I am reasonable enough to admit that blasphemy, as heinous as it is, is not an impeachable offense. Galli’s position is no stronger. He sees Trump’s behavior toward Ukraine as a moral failing worthy of removal, but moral failings are not the “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” demanded by Article II Section 4 of the US Constitution. Nor did the House of Representatives show, as Galli and many leftists confidently proclaim, that Trump broke the law in this instance.

Let’s be clear about the facts. The Democrats failed to prove that Trump withheld foreign aid specifically for the purpose of damaging a potential political opponent. All we know is that Trump wanted an investigation into corruption in Ukraine. His interest was primarily in their involvement in interference in the 2016 election. Whether there was any such interference or not is immaterial, since there was enough evidence of it to warrant a look. Joe Biden was a secondary issue. And even if he had been primary, should people be free from investigation simply because they are political rivals? Because in that case, the Russia investigation and the impeachment of Donald Trump ought never have taken place. They were both politically expedient hypocrisy. In this instance, Trump did not do anything either wrong or even irregular. Aid is often contingent on the pliability of the nations receiving it. To say otherwise is opportunism, not idealism.

From there, we can go to the other place where Galli gets it wrong. He calls for Trump’s removal. There are only two legitimate ways to do that. Either he is removed by the Senate, which is not going to happen, or he is removed by the People through the normal electoral process. Well, Donald Trump is not going to be primaried. That means the only way to get him out of office is to vote for whomever his eventual Democratic opponent ends up being. So Galli is, in essence, telling Christians to vote for someone who will undoubtedly be anti-life and anti-conscience.

I won’t vote for Trump for my own reasons, but I am not about to vote for someone whose political programme is guaranteed to be antithetical to my own, either. I am also not telling anyone else not to vote for Trump. If enough people were to follow my lead, I suppose that would result in his loss by default. But it is not an active agenda to vote for his opposite, and I would be much happier to see him apologize so I could support him for all the things he has done right. Galli has gone much further than that, and it opens his own convictions to scrutiny.

The evangelical supporters of Donald Trump certainly do need to ask themselves some questions. They should especially be asking why they refuse to hold him accountable when he fails so that he can be made better. But the evangelical enemies of Trump need to ask themselves some questions, too. How far are they willing to go in their opposition? Because if there are no limits to what they will say and do, then they are no better than he is.

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