I had a long conversation this weekend with an evangelical Trump supporter. We had a lot of disagreements, but we also found some common ground.
We both agreed that evangelical leaders who support Trump have failed to rebuke the president’s immorality. And the list of his immoral behavior is long:
- He separated children from their parents at the Mexican border.
- He claimed that there were “very fine people on both sides” after white supremacists invaded Charlottesville, VA.
- He made derogatory comments about the appearance of multiple women.
- He said the people of Haiti, El Salvador and Africa come from “shithole countries.”
- He lies regularly to the American people.
- He not only demonizes the free press, but he attacked the dignity of individual reporters.
- He attempted to get Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election.
- He is teaching kids to bully other kids.
When Trump has engages in these activities, many of his followers, including Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, Paula White, Eric Metaxas, Jerry Falwell Jr., James Dobson, Jack Graham, and Ralph Reed, look the other way. Because Trump holds them captive, they are unable to speak truth to power. I challenge my readers to find five examples of pro-Trump Christian Right leaders making a strong condemnation of the president’s tweets, speeches, or actions. These men and women have placed political power and expediency over their call to be effective witnesses for biblical truth in the world. They have millions of followers who hang on their every word.
It was at this point in the conversation that my pro-Trump friend pushed back. Yes, he said, Trump did all these things and the court evangelicals have indeed failed to respond with moral clarity. But then he added: “What about the Democrats? Haven’t they also lied, demonized their enemies, and acted in a hypocritical manner?” Of course they have. But that’s not the point. I do not have any illusions about the world of politics. It is a corrupt sphere. The political world contains more darkness than light. The last two Democratic debates (Nevada and South Carolina) reminded me that I never want to pursue a career in politics.
But I do have high standards for Christians–men and women who, while sinners, should strive to rise above this broken world through God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. Christians don’t justify immorality by pointing out the sins and flaws of other people and say “what about them?” Since when is the moral behavior of Christians in public dependent upon the behavior of others? Christians are called to live faithful lives according to the standards God has given them through the sacred scriptures. When they see sin at the highest level of government they don’t ignore it, they call it out.
Many evangelicals will vote for Trump again in November because they believe he will continue to appoint conservative federal justices, oppose abortion, defend religious liberty (as evangelicals understand the term), and support Israel. Other evangelicals will vote for him because the economy is doing well. As an evangelical who is pro-life, a defender of religious liberty, and a believer in a strong economy, I strongly disagree with the choices these voters will make. Read my book Believe Me to understand why. But please don’t stand by and let this president’s words, tweets, and actions degrade the character of this country and the witness of the evangelical message–the “Good News”–with his nativism, racism, xenophobia, narcissism, fear-mongering, and disrespect for American institutions.
I don’t think America is or should be a Christian nation, but I do believe, with the founding fathers, that republics only survive when they have some kind of moral compass. By sitting silently and watching Trump run roughshod over this country, evangelicals fail to do their part in contributing to the moral fabric of this republic. Trump-supporting evangelicals no longer have the moral authority to speak out on matters related to government corruption, pornography, sex and violence in movies and television shows, racial reconciliation, school bullying, and the decline in civil discourse.
My views on evangelicals and Donald Trump have caused many of my fellow evangelicals to hold me at arms length. I have lost friends. Some tell me directly–through snail mail, e-mail, and social media–that I am mistaken in my views. Others, I sense, are quietly and subtly keeping me at a distance. Still others have told me that I have Trump derangement syndrome or, as someone recently wrote to me, I am only “singing one note these days.” But I continue to believe that Trump is bad for America and bad for the Church. I have a small platform to say something about this, so I simply refuse to become numb to the daily immorality emanating from the White House. If that means I am a broken record, then so be it. Believe it or not, being a broken record on this issue helps me sleep better at night. 🙂