I’m really resisting the urge to name drop some Christian leaders who are continually searching for any argument they can to defend Donald Trump as a man, a Christian, and a viable presidential candidate. My frustration over this knows no bounds, and that’s my personal issue that I don’t want to bring into this. Instead, I’ll take this issue by issue.
1) It’s all about the Court
This has been the persistent argument for supporting Trump. “If we don’t vote for a Republican, Trump notwithstanding, then the Democrats will have the opportunity to appoint two or three Supreme Court justices.” I’ve heard so many people make this case, but I just don’t buy it.
Conservatives won’t get another Scalia on the Court. Not because we don’t have any conservative judges to appoint nor because the Senate will block them. The reason we won’t get what we’re hoping Trump will give us is that the worldly had been irreparably altered by postmodernism, relativism, and reader-defined meaning. Scalia was what most would call an “originalist,” one who sought the original meaning of the Founding Fathers in the Constitution. However, this type of thinking doesn’t exist in our society, at least not in the way that it once did. Today’s readers don’t look for meaning in a text: they inject meaning into the text. So at this point in our society, politics wouldn’t matter. Philosophy has won the day. Any new justice is going to be reading meaning into the text of the Constitution based upon the liberal atmosphere of subjective truth that they have been raised in.
Secondly–and yes, we’re still discussing the Court–the very notion that, given enough conservative justifies, we could re-criminalize abortion or invalidate gay marriage. Let me be clear, there’s no amount of political maneuvering that could accomplish this. Only God could change any of this, and I don’t think God works that way. He’s entrusted us with the Gospel, the message of God that can change lives. Politics can’t really change anything. Legislating morality never works. The Israelites couldn’t even do it with the Ten Commandments and glory of God hovering above the camp.
Furthermore, the Court can’t be trusted to make the hard choices. Why did a mostly conservative court uphold the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with that weak tax-not-a-fine argument? Because the Court isn’t the isolated, ideology-free institution we assume it to be. Making unpopular decisions, out of step with public sentiment, is not the justices’ forte. Thus, in a climate where the majority of people don’t see anything wrong with abortion, homosexuality, or transgenderism, the hope that the Court would ever rule against these things is fading. Certainly, God can intervene, and in fact, my point is that there’s no hope of changing any of this without the working of the Holy Spirit. And yet, the Holy Spirit works through the Church, and the Church isn’t working on bringing about spiritual change so much as political change. Again, no Court, no matter how conservative, could just overturn any of these previous decisions without a viable legal reason to do so, and theology, doctrine, and so on are not admissible evidence in a court of law, no matter how true they are. If there were a viable legal argument for overturning these decisions, we’d have used it already. I wish there were one, but there isn’t. There is no loophole, no rationale by which we could change the legal landscape this nation. At least not yet.
To repeat myself, any future justice would almost certainly be a postmodernist, who reads meaning into the text. This is the caveat I would give to those who are voting in order to get Republican nominated justices to the Court: whoever they are, they won’t have the philosophical worldview you’re counting on. Conservatism has shifted, and though a judge might think in conservative terms in the present, when he reads the documents of the past, the documents upon which our government has been founded, he will read them in light of the postmodern, relativistic present, not the very concrete and objective reality of the 1780’s. Too much has changed, including the general worldview of the population of this country. Our nation wasn’t founded upon Christianity, but it was founded my men who had a Christian worldview. They believed in right and wrong, good and evil. They believed in objective truth. The general population–even many in the Church–fall short in these areas. Filling the Court with postmodern conservatives is a fools errand, accomplishing less than putting a finger in the dam.
2) “Pobody’s Nerfect”
So far, I’ve seen Donald Trump compared to David, Peter, Paul, and Cyrus the Great, who was chosen by God to be the deliver of the Israelites from the Assyrians, making him a type of Christ. The point being made is that all of these men had failings at some point in their lives. In fact, Cyrus, himself, was a pagan whom God used without his awareness or assent. These comparisons are all fine and good, except that they don’t apply here. David, Peter, and Paul all repented of their sins and threw themselves upon the mercy of God. David fasted and prayed in sackcloth and ashes when confronted with his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. Peter wept bitterly for denying Christ, and Paul considered himself to be the chief of sinners and marveled that God should have chosen him, an overly zealous Pharisee to minister to the Gentiles. Donald Trump, instead, has deflected, blame-shifted, and conditionally apologized, not for being offensive but only “if” someone was offended. There’s no comparison here.
Secondly, let’s talk for a minute about Cyrus the Great. He wasn’t someone who knew or loved God. Some have said that he was a respecter of the gods of the peoples he captured, and that this is how we should see Trump: not as a believer himself but as an ally or protector. However, Cyrus did not preserve the religions of the captured peoples out of an abundance of reverence. Cyrus was almost a dialectical response to the Assyrian Empire, which crushed all opposition. Cyrus’ tolerance, later to be appropriated by Alexander the Great and then the Roman Empire was more of a political move than any true concern about preserving faithful worship. And maybe some of our Christian leaders want us to be that cynical about our political choices, but if so, let’s stop couching it in spiritualized language and be honest.
Now, I started this post on the second day of this scandal, and now we’re on day three. Thus, the arguments have already shifted, and the big theme of today is that Trump might have said bad things, but Bill Clinton has done bad things. This is almost beyond the pale. For starters, Trump was saying that these were things he did regularly. Secondly, Trump is speaking about engaging in this behavior without consent of the women, which means that this is sexual assault. Bill Clinton has been accused of as much, but this is Trump gleefully, proudly proclaiming it. Now, Trump has since put out a second apology that does a better job at taking responsibility. I think we see a lot more of who he is in the first one, where his knee-jerk response was to blame others, but maybe I’m wrong.
And what about Bill Clinton? There was no end to criticism of him for his moral failings, and rightly so. A leader should be someone of good character, a role model. At least, that was the argument in the 1990’s. What’s changed? Why are Christians who are so dead-set on holiness in every other arena of life ok with Donald Trumps profession of faith on one hand and his continued pattern of sexual immorality, indecency, etc. on the other? I’ll probably get some flack for not attacking Hillary Clinton for her moral issues when she has also professed to be a Christian, but my reasoning for this is that I largely ignore the faith professions of candidates as they almost all claim Christianity, except that Donald has continued to go on and on about his faith. That’s fine, Donald, then I’m going to hold you to a different standard. The issue, however, is that many Christians want the standard of public faith to be boiled down to just two issues: pro-life and pro-family values. Friends, that is not the sum total of the gospel. And for that matter, Mr. Trump has more or less rejected the gospel, claiming to have never asked for forgiveness, and his response to this most recent scandal reflects that attitude. In his second apology, he did admit that what he said was wrong, but for someone who has said so much about his strong Christian faith, he hasn’t said much about how he has asked God to forgive him for his low view of women that prompted him to commit (or at least claim that he committed) sexual assault upon women.
Had any politician on the other side of the political spectrum been cause saying these things, the very same people defending Donald Trump would be the ones leading the campaign to see that individual thrown out of office. But because Donald gives lip service to the causes that are near and dear to our hearts, he gets a pass. This seems more than a little hypocritical.
Understand this Christian Trump supporters: people outside the Church already believe that we hate women. The see our pro-life and pro-modesty stances as being repressive, sexist, and completely at odds with a modern–in reality postmodern–view of gender equality. By supporting “our” candidate in a losing battle that will not carry over into eternity, we are alienating the souls we have been tasked to save. By glossing over this glaring error on his part, we communicate to outsiders that we don’t value women, love, holiness, and justice nearly as much as we value political power. To be sure, abortion must be stopped, but it won’t be stopped by any legal means, short of God’s divine intervention. But then, God has already intervened in human history by commissioning His Church to see that lives are transformed by His power and love, and therein we will cut off the sin of abortion by seeing people turn to Christ and choosing life, both temporal and eternal.
The Case Against Hillary as The Case for Trump
Furthermore, whenever your best argument for your candidate is an argument against another candidate, you’ve got a terrible candidate. The most consistent argument for Trump that I’m hearing over and over again is, “If Hillary gets elected…” and it goes from there into a big mess of fear: fear about the Court (see above), fear about the nation’s security, fear about religious liberties, etc.
There’s much that can be said about national security as that’s really a function of the military bureaucracy, and it depends on factors beyond anyone’s control. But let’s talk about the loss of religious liberties.
For starters, what liberties are we talking about? No one on the liberal side of the aisle is talking about closing down churches. No one is talking about banning the Bible. Yes, some private companies are being forced to offer insurance plans that provide birth control and abortions, with conflict with their Christian beliefs. This is an issue that I think is worth fighting over, but I don’t think it’s one that we’re likely to win for the same reasons listed above concerning postmodernism and relativism.
Again, some private companies are being forced out of business because they refused service to a homosexual couple: they wouldn’t bake a cake for a homosexual wedding because this conflicts with their Christian beliefs. In this case, I don’t know that it’s worth fighting. First of all, Christians have a very low view of marriage. We’re dead set on which genders can marry each other, but other than that, we don’t have much in the way of expectations. Do the two have to be Christians? If not, is this truly “holy” matrimony? Or is it just a public merger? Are the currently two living together, playing house before they’re married? Then why even get married? To please their parents, their accountant, to satisfy some vague sense of vestigial tradition? So, to these bakers, may I ask if they hold heterosexual couples up to the standard of holy matrimony, for too many in the Church think that marriage brings absolution and remission of sin, but it doesn’t. A marriage of a man or woman who are not surrendered to God does not please Him just because the genders are right. The sin at the heart of a homosexual and a non-Christian heterosexual marriage is the same: disbelief in God. Why treat one sinful marriage differently than another? Why open ourselves up the charge of intolerance and hatefulness? I understand not wanting to be forced to do something that violates conscience, but my question is why is our conscience so highly attuned to one sin over others? Yes, the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination, but that doesn’t make heterosexual sex before marriage or flat out disbelief in God any less damnable. Did Jesus rank people according to their sin? If so, surely the woman caught in the act of adultery would have been at the bottom the list, and yet He refused to condemn her. The same point could be made of Zacchaeus, of Mary Magdalene, of Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and even myself. Jesus didn’t single out one particular sin, so why do we?
But moving on to other liberties, some fear that we will have our freedom of religion and speech abridged, preventing us from speaking out against issues of religious or moral concern, such as abortion, homosexuality, and so on. This does concern me, but I don’t think we have come to this point. I don’t think that this election is the one that will decide this issue, but do you know what I think will make this issue a more likely outcome? Binding the Church to a figure who represents the intolerance and hatred of others that those outside the Church see us as. If the Church continues to court figures such as Donald Trump, who takes delight in offending others and wallows gleefully in his intolerance and political incorrectness, it will be nearly impossible to convince anyone that we are a body of love, seeking to serve and love others. We will be guilty of hate by association and that’s how such changes, such losses of freedom, will be levied against us: to stop the hate.
Let me now ask a question about our religious liberties: are we making full use of them? We can speak openly about the gospel, the love of Christ and His power to save, and yet, instead, we spend our time squabbling about emails and other political scandals. If we spent as much time and effort in seeing our friends and neighbors come to Christ, we wouldn’t need to worry about politics because majority of our nation would have become citizens of God’s Kingdom. But that’s not what we’re doing. We’re so busy being concerned about our temporal citizenship and whether this moribund nation is headed for greatness or destruction that we have ceased to care about whether the Kingdom of God is expanding. This is where we should be spending our time: loving others, speaking truth in a kind way, with an eye on eternal glory over temporal greatness.
I’ve spent the last two thousand words destroying the rationale for backing the Republic party candidate, but I want to be clear that I don’t judge those who vote for him. Some people just can’t get past the leading of their conscience to vote for any other party, and I understand that. Vote your conscience because God will still do what He wants. If you’re trying your best to obey God and build for the Kingdom, you can vote for whomever. There is no truly “anti-christ” candidate because none of them fully encapsulate the gospel of Jesus.
My point in writing this isn’t to tell you who to vote for. My point is to dismantle some the poorer arguments for Mr. Trump and to caution Christians against waging a war on each other and our non-Christian neighbors over something as small–from the eternal perspective–as this. Now, if you are an undecided voted or if you have some serious reservations with Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, I suggest you look at the third-party options available in your state because that’s a whole other issue that I don’t have time to get into.1 We need to be working for the cause of Christ, not a candidate. They are not the same. They may intersect, slightly, but I’d still argue that working for the cause of Christ will fix our temporal issues much faster than working to fix our temporal issues would advance the cause of Christ.
Suffice to say that in some states a vote for a Republican is a wasted vote so sending a message with a third-party vote or a write-in isn’t a terrible idea. ↩