Picture by Richard Wong
Donald Trump is a force. When radio commentators, TV personalities, political pundits, and the media alike are stumbling over themselves to hear what he has to say, good or bad, Trump has truly become a force to be reckoned with.
It is somewhat puzzling to understand the phenomena of Trump’s success in this political run for President of the United States. But what is even more than puzzling, distressing actually, is that Donald Trump is swaying professing Christians to disregard their faith and values and vote for him while holding their collective breaths.
Lately, there has even been Christian supporters stumping for Trump’s campaign. Many are coming out and questioning the mindset of the #NeverTrump camp. Even Tim Wildmon’s son, Walker, spoke out against and criticized Christians for standing on their beliefs, makes the argument that the ‘Never Trump’ movement doesn’t have an answer to what he calls a “gaping hole” and a “complete lack of a plausible alternative” to winning the election.
The fact that Christian leaders are banding together in support of Trump is a sad reflection of the state of the Church in America today. For example, American Family Association, Tim Wildmon, provided a glowing report on how productive the meeting between Trump and various Christians leaders was. It appears these Christians were willing to forget the character flaws that Trump exhibited in the past, even most recently during the primaries, to believe that Trump will make do on all of his promises.
Some Christians go to great lengths to justify their allegiance to Donald Trump. They’ll point to the progressive agenda that is running out-of-control. They’ll say that there is too much at stake in these elections, and that if Trump doesn’t become president, the socialist platform of the progressive liberals will move this country so far left and out of reach that there will be no hope of any return. And in all of their discussions, they’ll assert again that Trump is the only way to avoid this scenario.
Even recently, Dr. James Dobson has suggested that Donald Trump has converted to Christianity. In the same tone as Dr. Ben Carson when he stated that he saw Trump pray more and is beginning to “believe in a higher power”, Dobson actually believes that Trump made that crucial commitment of accepting Jesus as Lord of his life. Perhaps these Christian leaders are hoping this will be a game changer for Trump’s campaign among evangelical voters. That is a startling comment to make given Trump’s propensity to lie and manipulate to get others to believe him. There are so many reasons not to believe Trump’s conversion, the least of which is not believing he needs to ask for forgiveness. For Dr. Dobson to say that we need to cut Trump some slack is presumptuous at best. Our question ought to be, “How is Donald Trump exhibiting the fruit of the Holy Spirit?”. So far, he hasn’t.
If Donald Trump truly has converted as a born-again Christian, it would be a mistake to take a newly born Christian and throw him into the fire as president of the greatest nation on earth. With all of the stress, power, and temptation that the position of leader of the free world is given, it would be disastrous for Trump to be put in this position to fail. Without a considerable amount of time being discipled in the faith, that is exactly what will happen. We’re supposed to believe Trump can handle the presidency while having Paula White as his personal spiritual advisor. Paula White? The heretic and prosperity preacher? This all sounds very doubtful.
It would be nice to believe Donald Trump and his hopes of making America great again. In all of his rhetoric, he has made some grand promises. He has promised to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court that align themselves to the express meaning or intent of the Constitution. He also said he would stand on the side of religious freedom, support Israel as our ally, and oppose abortion. One of the strongest platforms he’s pushing is to fix our immigration problem, supposedly by building a wall and slowing down the influx of Syrian immigrants to our borders.
However, Donald Trump has exhibited a history of untrustworthy behavior. He has shown himself to be a narcissistic, egotistical manipulator of the facts to accomplish his own personal goals and aspirations. How can any of these Christian leaders take him at face value? Steve Deace, a syndicated radio host and author, has shown that he’s a scam artist, gossip, slanderer, misogynist, adulterer, deceiver, and liar. Trump has even endorsed and wrote on the concept of “The Art of the Deal”. In this, he is quoted in saying:
I never get too attached to one deal or one approach. For starters, I keep a lot of balls in the air, because most deals fall out, no matter how promising they seem at first. In addition, once I’ve made a deal, I always come up with at least a half dozen approaches to making it work, because anything can happen, even to the best-laid plans.
As Larry Schwartz points out, this explains why Trump can make diametrically opposed statements, which looks a lot like flip-flops. Does this seem to explain many of the statements in which we’ve seen Trump waffle on issues, like abortion for example, during the primaries? One moment he says he’s pro-life, the next he says Planned Parenthood does many great things, and then he says he wouldn’t ban partial-birth abortion. Even the Washington Post reports that “Donald Trump took 5 different positions on abortion in 3 days”.
Donald Trump has an uncanny ability to play to the audience. He knows what many voters are looking for in light of the previous eight years under an out-of-control administration. He talks about making America great again. Even at the expense of singling out Muslims on immigration. He understands the concern many Americans have with the Syrian refugees flooding onto our borders. He plays to the crowd because he knows there is anxiety growing with an increase in violence regarding Islamist terrorism.
This brings to mind what happened with Hitler and Germany. Germany was looking for a leader. In Peter Ross Range’s column, he describes the conditions in which Hitler came to power. Germany was reeling from the economic conditions of the previous world war. Then comes Hitler with a “special skill in selling himself was his uncanny ability to intuit crowd mood.” Does this sound a little familiar?
It was also during this time of Hitler’s rise to power that Christian leaders laid down their values in the hopes that Germany would rise to national greatness once again. They even used Scripture to validate their support for the Nazi ideology. Again, does Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan have any comparisons?
As Range points out, both Hitler and Trump are able to convince the masses that they have the particular skill sets needed to turn their respective countries around. They understand how to manipulate the narrative in reframing politics to advance a persona of their overall greatness. It’s maniacal, egotistical mindset that drives them.
Is Donald Trump as dangerous as someone like Adolph Hitler? Unlikely. It’s more likely that Trump is seeking adulation and praise to stroke his ego than to become a conquering authoritarian. But given that he exhibits some of the same characteristics as someone like Hitler, it would be equally negligent to say that Trump could not be as equally dangerous.
It’s easier to see how the greater percentage of Trump’s supporters are able to be sucked into his charisma. It’s charisma that explains exactly how psychological manipulators are able to convince a large number of people to buy into their lies. Leaders of religious cults are experts in this area. But what’s confusing is the large number of Christian leaders that have succumbed to Trump’s sales pitch. What happened to discernment?
Here’s where the analogy of Germany and America becomes even more concerning. According to the website at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the majority of the German population was Christian during the rise of Hitler. Many Christians were influenced by the statement of “positive Christianity” that was part of the Nazi Party Platform. Many believed that Christian values were being advanced through this platform. These are the same Christians that viewed themselves as being pillars of the community and theologically grounded. They even used Scripture and their interpretations to validate their support for the party.
Today, we have a Christian leadership that is doing much of the same thing. They acknowledge on some level that Trump isn’t perfect. But they go on to say that God is using Trump much in the same way that God used ordinary men in the Bible. They’ll say that the men God used in the Bible weren’t perfect either. One minister adamantly states that Donald Trump is God’s mouthpiece. Another leader, a televangelist, states that God told him that Trump’s political success is His will. Others only admit that Trump is the lesser of two evils. In the sense that Hillary Clinton would be horrible for this nation, they believe that Trump would be less so. They believe that at least he would follow up on a couple of his promises. And that’s enough for them. Maybe they believe Trump will nominate worthy conservatives as Supreme Court justices. Maybe they believe he will help the nation with its growing immigration problem. Or maybe, just maybe, he could care about protecting the religious rights ingrained in our Constitution.
The problem with this line of thinking, though, is to believe that Trump will accomplish anything that he advocates as part of his campaign promises. If there is anything that this country should know full well is that character matters and when it chooses someone of Trump’s character it usually comes back and bites them in the butt. Trump’s campaign promises are full of double entendres and one can never be sure what he means because he typically avoids specific details. That way he can never be nailed down to any one specific course of action, which goes completely against his mantra of “The Art of the Deal”.
There are some Christians, though, that understand that the idea of voting for someone like Trump is akin to endorsing their faith and values for a man who is unrepentant and doesn’t believe in the need for forgiveness. Steve Deace, for example, wrote a “letter to Christian leaders” imploring them to consider Christ before supporting a man like Trump. I have written a blog post suggesting that Christians should vote their consciences and find a candidate that all like-minded believers can get behind. Yes, even at the expense of losing. Because ultimately, what matters in the end? Is it our faith in God or in man? Like Holly Williams points out, “When I stand before my Creator, do I really want to explain that I knowingly and willfully voted for this, ‘but only because I really, really wanted to keep the White House’?”
There are more important things at stake than winning or losing an election. What should concern Christians is how we live out our faith and exhibit our values to the nonbelieving world. What message are we giving them when we coalesce around someone of Trump’s character? Are we going to follow Germany’s example and support dangerous ideologies and twist our interpretation of Scripture to do so? For what purpose? Because we’re concerned about the direction of the various social policies in our country? Or would it be wiser to stand firm on theological doctrine in Scripture to help point a lost and dying world to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
Ultimately, when we stand before our Creator and give an account of our lives, will He ask us if we did everything possible to save our country at the expense of our faith and convictions? Will God be concerned that we didn’t vote for Trump and as a result Hillary Clinton became president? And will he ask if we chose to elect the lesser of two evils? Will those be His concerns?
Or will it be more likely that He will be more concerned if we did everything to point the lost to Him so that souls would be saved and that He would be glorified?
Which one of those will Jesus say as He did in Matthew 25:23: “…’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”