As a Christian, who holds traditionally conservative values, and who supports a biblical worldview, this presidential election has been the most troubling I have ever seen. Since 1988, I have followed the general election, having been encouraged to by my fifth-grade teacher. I’ve seen great candidates and not-so-great, staunch conservatives, barely-conservatives, and everything in-between. I’ve known fellow Christians who have supported candidate I opposed, and others who agreed with me. I’ve heard countless people, and read even who, in every election, point to the Bible to add apocalyptic or persecutorial spin to their arguments. Frankly, I’d seen it all. Or at least I thought I had . . . until this year . . . this election. This year, I’ve seen something far more troubling. This year, I’ve seen something that threatens to reshape America in ways I never thought possible. This year, I’ve seen something that makes my heart ache and my stomach turn. What is this calamitous occurrence? What about it troubles me so? That is the subject of this article.
The most disturbing thing I have seen this election cycle was not the insults Donald Trump hurled at those who opposed him, nor the disparaging way he talked about the disabled, women, Mexicans, or Muslims. It was not the corruption of the Clinton machine, or the careless behavior of its matriarch. It was not comments about breast-size, or about “deplorables,” or about Aleppo. No, like in so many other areas, the deepest wounds often come at the hands of friends, confidants, and trusted advisors. In this case, the most tragic news that has come out of this lesser-of-the-evils election (as far as the Republican and Democratic candidates go) has been the incessant sin-blindness from some of the most trusted figures in American Christianity.
As a seminary graduate of Liberty University, I cringed as I watched Jerry Falwell, the university’s president, call Trump a “good father, generous to those in need, and an ethical and honest businessman,” encouraging people to forgive an unrepentant man and to vote for him.
I’ve watched Dr. James Dobson, who famously wrote Bringing up Boys, encouraging parents to raise godly young men, endorse Trump as a “baby Christian,” claiming Trump had accepted Christ, only to revise his statement later.
I read in horror as theologian Wayne Grudem wrote that voting for Trump was a “morally good choice,” and then breathed a little easier when he wrote a new article repudiating the earlier one, and calling for Trump to withdraw from the election.
My concern here is not that there are Christians who support a Trump presidency, though I find the idea unconscionable myself. My concern is that, every day, I am seeing fellow Christians who are undermining the gospel for the sake of fear and political expediency. You see, many of these men refuse to discuss the deep spiritual issues evidenced by Donald Trump’s behavior. Even as women come forward and claim that Trump has sexually assaulted them, even as one has brought suit against him for raping her when she was 13, even as stories abound of Trump’s cheating people out of pay, and even as the candidate himself says the most awful things ever heard from a presidential contender, their response invariably contains the phrase, “but the Clintons” or “but Bill” or “but Hillary.”
As I was preparing to write this, several biblical passages came to mind. I’ll discuss each of them briefly, and why I feel they are an appropriate challenge to those who support Trump AND proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” 2 Tim 1:7
When the Republican primaries were going on, I engaged in many conversations with Trump supporters, trying to understand what they saw in the man. Then, as now, the most common argument was, “He’s the only one who can beat Clinton.” Even now, the argument used by virtually Trump apologist is that we MUST vote for Trump so that we can keep Clinton from the White House. They’ve forgotten what Max Lucado expressed so well, namely, that God is on the throne, regardless of who wins this election. In saying this, I’m not advocating Christian un-involvement in politics, or a ‘who cares’ attitude toward voting contentiously. What I am advocating, and not seeing very much of, is a commitment to Christian principle that transcends world events. The Bible says that “perfect love casts out all fear.” If a Christian is voting for Trump only because they fear Clinton, they are, in fact, denying the gospel.
“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” Heb 11:24-25
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews presents a “hall of fame” of the Christian faith. Verse after verse describes the noble character of God’s people as an encouragement to live a bold faith in Christ. In the 24th and 25th verses, Moses is highlighted. Now, Moses’ life is full of examples of faith. The one chosen by the author of Hebrews, however, is very telling. Young Moses, given the opportunity to be a prince and have all the luxuries of life, chose instead to live with the Jews. He chose a life of mistreatment rather than one of ease.
In 1964, biblical scholar F.F. Bruce commented on this passage, “Moses might have argued to himself that he could do much more for the Israelites by remaining in Pharaoh’s court and using his influence there on their behalf rather than by renouncing his Egyptian citizenship and becoming a member of a depressed group with no political rights . . . Even if the crown of Egypt was within Moses’ reach had he remained where he was . . . he would never have attained such a reputation as he did by making the great refusal.” Pay close attention to this next part: “But when Moses made that refusal he did not foresee the reputation the reputation with which he was going to establish himself; he had nothing to look forward to but privation, danger, scorn and suffering. To have remained at Pharaoh’s court would have been lasting dishonor, and that dishonor would be a price too high to pay for material advantages which at best would be but short-lived.”
There are many today who are denying the gospel for the sake of political expediency. They are making the exact opposite choice that Moses did. They are choosing to ally themselves with a despot for their own comfort, rather than stand for truth and trust God for the outcome. Here’s a really good article on this topic.
“Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” Rom 1:32
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Is 5:20
“They make night into day, saying, ‘The light is near,’ in the presence of darkness.” Job 17:12
One of the most damnable things that someone can do, according to the Scriptures, is to call what is good evil, and what is evil good. The verses above are just some of the many that testify to this. This is a mirror of the great lie in the Garden of Eden, as the serpent said, “Has God really said . . .?” One might object, pointing out that no one is calling Trumps behavior good. In fact, many of his supporters have called it “unacceptable,” “indefensible,” “terrible,” and the like. However, they are failing in three main areas:
- First, they are not calling for Trump’s repentance. Repentance is different than an apology. Repentance connotes a changing of the heart and a committed change of lifestyle.
- Second, they are calling evil good in the sense that they are pressing the rest of us to hand the most powerful job in the world to a man whose only track record is that of abusing power to denigrate, assault, and cheat others.
- Third, and most discouraging, is that many of these Christian leaders are failing to stand with the abused, even ridiculing them. In any other sphere, these men would be demanding justice for the victims even as investigation into the validity of their claims was ongoing. In any other sphere, the protection of the weak would be paramount. But not here. Not with Trump. Too much is at stake for these leaders of the moral conscience of America to stand for the abused and downtrodden (unless they were abused by Bill Clinton, of course).
“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.” Prov 17:15
The justification of sin for the sake of political expediency, or for any other reason, for that matter, is an abomination to God. It is a denial of the truth claims of the Scriptures, and it is a cancerous trend in some areas of the church. This past year, however, this disease has infiltrated areas that were previously bastions of orthodoxy and moral fortitude. This election season, large swaths of Christianity have put down their Bibles in order to pick up their campaign signs, and have chosen, instead of standing for truth, to stand with an enemy of truth. Supporting evil in order to battle a worse evil is not righteousness, it is compromise.
I pray that the Church in America recovers from this great compromise, but I fear that our witness at home and abroad has been irreparably harmed.