Off the top of my head, there are two reasons that a Christian should exhibit a measure of support for Trump… but those aren’t the reasons I typically hear in Christian discourse.
Disclaimer: I’m a Canadian Christian, living outside of North America so take my opinions with a grain of salt (or less).
Why This Post?
I’m not overtly political, neither has this blog ever ventured into the realm of politics in any significant manner. What’s more I don’t personally and/or consistently express political views on any of my social media streams.
I do however have political views and without getting into specifics just yet, the general state of political affairs and political discourse seems a far cry from what I remember from my younger days; in many countries whose political discussions are trumpeted around the world via 24hr news.
Add to that the juxtaposition of what I’ll call “the cult of youth” (heralding young leaders as the “be all and end all”… at the price of experience and time-earned wisdom) and “the culture of outrage” (not necessarily inextricably linked, but concurrent at this moment in time) to the realm of “sober second thought” (to borrow a term describing the purported role of the Canadian Senate).
Then came Twitter
The only way you’ll really get a sense of my thoughts on politics (or perhaps more specifically, current political events) is through tweets that I “like” or “favourite” (whatever the current term is).
I guess, to an extent, I forget that what I like/favourite is promoted, by Twitter, to my followers, meaning that while I don’t make politically charged tweets, I may affirm some, and those affirmations (favourited tweets) are visible to people that follow me.
One well-intentioned, well-spoken and humble follower…
…called into question my repeated liking of tweets that they considered disparaging of President Trump. They were very careful to not offend and were almost apologetic and they called me out via a direct message as opposed to @-ing me publicly in a response.
In short – they did everything right, and in the right spirit, to legitimately question my “thought association” with private individuals, journalists or political figures who are critical of the American President.
Their question was also legitimate…
Why so much criticism of a president with several accomplishments under his belt that are favourable to the right: (to a conservative – and in this case… a conservative Christian – agenda… or one that would affirm a Christian world-view).
I don’t think I could do justice to their question in the space of a couple of Twitter DMs and since there are a couple (seemingly “never-the-twain-shall-meet”) of sides to that discussion, indulge me just a bit and allow me to respond here.
Trump and Evangelical Support
This has always amazed me to be perfectly honest. Trump, the man, is crass, crude and about as far from a role model as one can get – whether your ideal is based on biblical criteria or not.
For the purpose of this discussion however, biblical criteria is important because we’re talking about evangelicals (Christians in general – regardless of denominational affiliation).
My understanding of the basis for support among evangelicals is summarized in the following general arguments:
- We didn’t elect him to be our pastor, but our president (so words & deeds that would have a pastor quickly voted out of a leadership role in a local church are not as important in a presidential race).
- He will be able to make conservative Supreme Court appointments that will impact the moral compass of the nation for a generation or more. (I get the impact of this. It’s not insignificant)
- He’s better than Hillary (given the fervour of anti-Hillary sentiment among evangelical voters in 2016 and perhaps a vague admission of Trump’s less than conventional persona – from memory – this argument essentially amounts to a paraphrase of “He’s the lesser of two evils.”)
- Right over Left – this last point is really just an extension of points 2 & 3. As far as the right is concerned… Hillary was not just Hillary, she was a personification of the political left, which had been at the head of the executive branch for the previous two terms, and away from which evangelicals were anxious to move. (I get it.)
Essentially, the argument of the Christian friend that contacted me via Twitter fell somewhere between points 2 & 4 above.
Lack of Evangelical Support for Trump
Let’s be clear… here’s what evangelicals are not supportive of, when it comes to Trump:
- What are purported to be Trump’s racist (or at the very least, highly insular) comments / views.
- Trumps vulgar comments about women (Access Hollywood)
- Trump’s marital woes (whether it be multiple marriages or affairs outside of those marriages – confirmed or unconfirmed)
- Trump’s questionable business practices (please don’t ask me to “prove it”… there are enough stories, complaints, etc., PRE-dating the presidency that you’ve gotta admit… where there’s (billowing, abundant) smoke, there are at least SOME hotspots of fire).
- The fluidity between facts, alternate facts and position reversals that are remarkably present in this presidency.
Of course evangelicals don’t support such things. True followers of Christ, I hope, always aim higher and encourage others to do the same. (Paul may not have already attained, but he strived for better [Phil. 3.12-14], and he encouraged us to follow him as he followed Christ [1 Cor. 11.1])
Christians do NOT support these things.. even though the political left and, more broadly, an increasingly secular society would like to shame Christians into redirecting their support by conflating the two issues. Their argument is essentially
“You say you’re Christians and think you’re better than the rest of us, then you cast your vote behind that immoral Trump. Hypocrites!”Secular Society
There. They’ve said it….
It’s the sharpest & perhaps the most commonly used insult against Christians. It’s the one that stings the most and, truth be told, it’s probably one of the one’s that true Christians most wish to avoid. We cast ourselves as authentic, pride ourselves on authenticity and truly desire to be authentic. Which is why it stings so much.
I get it… Secular Society doesn’t, nor can it.
For starters, they judge themselves based on their intentions and judge others based on their actions. (C’mon now, you know we often do the same.)
Secondly though, the Bible says that there are some issues that are spiritually discerned [1 Corinthians 2:14]. Implying that those who don’t ascribe to spiritual discernment based in a biblical context will missread both our actions and our intentions.
Two Valid Arguments
Let me come back, for a moment, to the justification for “giving Trump a mulligan” that I hear often.:
“…but he’s done a great deal to advance the cause and values of the conservative right.”
Like I said in my introduction, there are two valid arguments for a measure of support for Trump, among Christians, but (respectfully) that’s not one of them.
The best rationale I’ve seen, for a Christian expression of support for the Trump presidency, was summed up by my friend Nanci Holston, in a 2017 Facebook post – here’s an image .
In a nutshell, those two arguments are…
- “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” [1 Tim 2:1-3NKJV]
- “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.” [Rom 13:1-2] **
** Note ** Some, of a more reactionary persuasion may ask “So does that mean that Dems, by not funding the wall, are rebelling & therefore will be punished?” Let’s distinguish between out & out rebellion and the exercise of party politics which is well within the party system. Note: count yourselves fortunate in the USA where you have a two party system. Many countries have more parties and reaching consensus is routinely MUCH more difficult.
If you want to convince me to refrain from using (or affirming) what can be perceived (in varying degrees) to be anti-Trump rhetoric, one of the two arguments above are the best to use as opposed to the purely pragmatic position (“He’s doing things aligned to our worldview”).
I can’t argue with the Bible.
When my friend contacted me earlier this week, this biblical rationale did come to mind and there was a pang of conviction that hit me. I may not (& do not) agree with Trump on many a level, but right now he is the leader of the USA. I have just as much responsibility to pray for leaders in Canada (my passport country) and France (my current place of residence) whether or not I agree with their political positions & practices (many of which, again, I do not).
Christian reaction to Trump vs. Obama
The “pragmatic” rationale is also not the right one to use because to me, it seems that it’s not applied consistently.
I have limited to no knowledge of Obamacare specifics, but on the broadest level, let’s call it a move towards universal health care. Now think: “caring for orphans & widows as being a sign of true religion” [James 1.27]. Christians would affirm that general practice, but many opposed its embodiment as Obamacare either because it looked too much like socialism (something Americans seem to fear although, for its periodic shortcomings it’s worked well in Canada) or simply because it was advanced by Obama (the embodiment of the political left and therefore “the liberal enemy” – Again… I get it. Not everything Obama did ranked high in my books either… clearly, “he didn’t walk on water”).
As much as many Christians are willing to give Trump a mulligan because there’s a pragmatic benefit to having him there (supreme court nominations & conservative legislation) so there were many American Christians who withheld their support of Obama (dare I say even their prayers or a genuine attitude of submission to authority) because there was a pragmatic benefit to seeing influence move from him (the left) to anyone on the right.
As for moral concerns…
Christians who are willing to minimize Trumps philandering because his continued presence facilitates a move back to conservative values were far more eager to express concern over alleged Obama stories (Somewhere between the north pole and the south pole, an American pastor friend said Obama was completely disqualified for service because of episodes that allegedly involved prostitutes and “lines of coke”). True? … don’t know & don’t particularly care. The issue is consistency.
The moral high ground doesn’t shift depending on whose standing on it.
Do I want to see Trump re-elected in 2020?
Do I want to see Trump impeached?
If there are legitimate, provable & proven offenses that preclude him from continuing in office… then yes, I rather think I would. (If God is able to establish authorities, he is also able to unseat them using well established protocols and political mechanisms like a general election in 2020 or an impeachment process sooner.)
Not because I’m a radical, leftist sympathizer who wants to see a departure from conservative values in America. Rather, because I concur with Mitt Romney… Trump, the man, has diminished the office of the American presidency. There has been a dramatic loss of civility because the example, set at the top, is terrible.
Does my view matter?
Nope. I’m Canadian and I live in France. My opinion couldn’t be more irrelevant.
So why am I nervous about expressing my opinion?
- Though in France, we serve in an American-based missions organization. Some of our financial support comes from the USA and all of it comes via the USA. I don’t want to jeopardize that very necessary support.
- I don’t want to offend and given the current state of the world in which we live and the social media via which we interact, sadly, it’s not easy for people to disagree without offense. That’s why I hope to have laid out my response in a balanced and measured manner.
My Friend was Right
Ultimately, the repeated appearance of my twitter account (ie. me) aligning itself (my-self) with those critical of the current US president could be mis-interpreted. I could be seen as rebellious of a God-established authority.
Whether that authority currently represents God’s perfect will or simply the logical result of giving mankind the liberty to choose is another question altogether.
Don’t be quick to jump on me for questioning this… Mankind is in a fallen state, subject to the sinful nature. Is this God’s perfect will for us or simply the result of our freedom to choose?
*Not trying to be flippant … honest & true*
Is it that important an issue for me, that I be able to exercise my “right” to express my view, regardless of what others think? Or is it more important for me to be mindful of others; that I not cause offense?
- … that Twitter doesn’t allow me the option of qualifying what I mean (or the space to adequately tease out the nuances), regarding tweets that I like/favourite and
- … that my opinion really isn’t important when it comes to American politics.
I can live without liking / favoriting certain tweets. (though I may, from time to time tweet / re-tweet the link to this post. 🙂 ) So you’ll see less liked tweets from me on political matters.
The end of the matter…
Has Trump done good things for individuals, groups and for the conservative right in America? Undoubtedly.
In my humble opinion, politicians, journalists (be they from the American left or right, from North America or abroad) and private citizens who either tweet, retweet, or like/favorite tweets, have done no more to disparage the Trump presidency than Trump has done himself through his own personal Twitter feed.
If you’ve read through this entire post – Thank you & congratulations, you’ve done well! It takes a special reader to get through long-form content in a world where readership is generally down and people favour shorter articles.
Do, allow me one expression of light-hearted humour, to end on a note of levity, without reading too much into it. This photo, taken by Kevin Lamarque (Reuters), is my favorite. It seems to sum up Trump, his presidency, people’s reaction to both and, too often, our reaction to one another while discussing him.
Even if you disagree with what I say,
I hope you will defend my right to say it.
based on Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s