I’m travelin’ down the road, I’m flirtin’ with disaster.
I’ve got the pedal to the floor, My life is running faster.
I’m out of money, I’m out of hope, It looks like self destruction.
Well how much more can we take, With all of this corruption. (“Flirtin’ With Disaster”)
For some Evangelical Christians, it seems that this classic 1979 Molly Hatchet song sums up their flirtation (yet again) with Donald Trump. With the pedal to the metal, running as fast as they can toward self destruction, not only will Evangelicals be out of money, but they are clearly out of hope if they are casting their lot with Donald Trump.
Speaking at Liberty University, a self-professed Christian University, Trump once again made it abundantly clear that he really has no concept of what it means to be a follower of Christ in any meaningful (i.e., Biblical) way. As a Southern Baptist Pastor who preaches and teaches on a weekly basis, I believe that Christians should have at least a passing acquaintance with the Bible. Or, to set the bar as low as it could possibly go, to know that it’s “Second Corinthians,” not “Two Corinthians.” To put it into perspective, third graders in our church’s Bible Drill ministry not only know how to pronounce Biblical books correctly, but actually know where said books are located in the Bible.
But, not to be too hard on Mr. Trump and offer some grace for the slip-of-the-tongue, there are far more serious reasons why Evangelicals should not put their hope in Donald Trump. Not to put too fine a point on it, but, notwithstanding what Jerry Falwell, Jr., the President of Liberty, said in introducing Mr. Trump, I have never remotely considered Donald Trump in the same category of Martin Luther King, Jr. and certainly not Jesus. Falwell, gushing in his introduction of Trump, made just such a comparison:
“Falwell lauded Trump’s generosity and worldly success; he called him “a breath of fresh air.” He compared Trump to his father and to Martin Luther King Jr., who also “spoke the truth, no matter how unpopular.” Trump, he said, “cannot be bought—he is not a puppet on a string like many other candidates.” Though Falwell’s comments were, he said, not an endorsement, he repeatedly imagined a Trump presidency as a boon to America. “In my opinion,” he said, “Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others, as Jesus taught in the great commandment.” (“The Religious Right’s Donald Trump Dilemma”)
Charity (i.e., giving money) does not equal Christianity. Helping others is not unique to the Christian faith. And, living your life as Jesus taught in the great commandment — to love God with all of you heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself — must mean more than worldly success. Surely we cannot be at the point in Evangelical Christianity where we put the most stock in the man with the most money, not to mention the most marriages. You would think that the leader of one of America’s premiere Christian universities would know this. But, then again, President Falwell did compare Mr. Trump to his dad, the late Jerry Falwell. Of his comparisons, I guess one-out-of-three ain’t bad.
Of course, this is not the first time that Evangelical Christians have flirted with a Donald Trump candidacy. In 2011, in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential race, some Evangelicals, including Tony Perkins and Ralph Reed, were intrigued by Trump and his appeal to Evangelicals. What I said then still applies to this Presidential Election Season:
“I do not blame politicians like Trump, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich who conflate — either intentionally or unintentionally — civic religion with true Christian faith. I do blame Evangelical leaders like Reed and Perkins who should know better! For any Evangelical Christian, particularly Southern Baptists — known as a people of The Book — to flirt with the candidacy of Donald Trump shows just how much the line between the true Gospel and politics has been blurred.”
This go-around, the legacy of Jerry Falwell and the “Religious Right” once again has reared its ugly head. As Russell Moore, President of Southern Baptist’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, rightly points out concerning Trump’s visit to Liberty University:
If Evangelicals say that character counts (and it should) for the Presidency, then their flirtation with Donald Trump should come to an end, post haste! However, if political power trumps (pun intended) Christian character and even the Gospel itself, then Donald Trump will continue to be lauded by Falwell and other Evangelical leaders as a man of (worldly) success and a breath of fresh air. But, if Donald Trump is a breath of fresh air for Evangelicals, then we are soon to suffocate!