As far back as 2011, Evangelical Christians’ fascination with Donald Trump, culminating in his 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton, has been on a collision course with the Biblical faith that we say we hold dear. A time of reckoning with putting our faith in (at times bordering on idolatry) political parties, politicians, and politics, is upon us. And, will not be pretty.
With a culture increasingly post-Christian and anti-God (at least the Triune God revealed in Scripture), Biblical Christians, rightly so, long for our nation to return to God. We have fasted, prayed, and sought after revival, but we have become impatient with God’s timing and God’s ways. Instead of fervently praying like the Prophet Elijah, we too often try to take matters into our own hands. If God isn’t going to turn our country around on our timetable, then we will turn to someone who we think can get it down NOW. Enter Donald J. Trump.
Evangelicals’ Flirtation With a Trump Candidacy
A lifelong businessman from New York City (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things), Evangelicals began openly flirting with a Trump Presidential candidacy 12 years ago, looking to him as a potentially intriguing political savior:
“Who are these Evangelicals that Donald Trump piqued the interest of? Ralph Reed and Tony Perkins (here), both well-known leaders of Evangelical political organizations, apparently think that Trump will be given a hard look by Evangelicals and social conservatives. If Reed thinks that Evangelicals will like Mr. Trump’s “pro-marriage stance,” then the bar for being considered pro-marriage has been considerably lowered.
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.”
By 2015, the flirtation was open courtship. Evangelicals, including many prominent Southern Baptists, rejected candidates with solid conservative credentials and track records on issues that they said mattered most. Instead, they openly embraced a twice-divorced, three-times married celebrity candidate with untested positions on moral issues that were — and still are — tearing our country apart, namely the right to life, marriage, and gender. On a hope and a prayer, many Evangelicals went all in on Trump as the “family values” candidate.
President Trump’s Election
Throughout the 2016 Republican Primary season, Trump, with a huge assist from the Mainstream Media and Fox News, secured the Presidential nomination while rejecting every norm of previous candidates. From his course language and lies hurled against his opponents to his unique campaign style to lingering questions about his character, he was nevertheless cheered on by those who were looking for someone outside the Republican and Washington establishment to fight for their values. That included — and includes — many self-professed conservative Christians.
If anything, Donald Trump is a fighter. For many who were tired of Republicans not fighting against the relentless onslaught of leftist Democrat attacks on culture and traditional family values, Donald Trump, a man not known for family values, was suddenly seen as a modern reincarnation of King David. We no longer needed “compassionate conservatism.” We didn’t need kind or gentle. We needed a warrior. We needed a King David who would fight the Goliaths of the godless media, the perverted Hollywood cabal, the Deep State, and the globalists.
But, this new King David would have to be a man of impeccable character. After all, Evangelicals, including Southern Baptists, rightly and loudly proclaimed that character counted when Bill Clinton had an extra-marital affair during his Presidency. How could anyone with such low moral fiber occupy the highest office in the land?
Character Counts Until It Doesn’t
In the twinkling of an eye, we threw character under the bus when it came to our leaders. Or, at least the leaders on “our team.” The common refrain from many Christians, the same ones who didn’t give Bill Clinton a pass for his immorality, suddenly became, “We weren’t electing a pastor. We were electing a President.” The clear implication was, “As long as Donald Trump governs in a way that we like, we’ll give a pass to his character defects.” Character Counts. Except when it doesn’t. We see where that’s gotten us as a nation.
So, when Donald J. Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States, defeating the pre-anointed first female President, Hillary Clinton, Evangelicals were elated. Although I didn’t vote in the 2016 election due to a voter registration snafu after we moved from New Mexico to Virginia in the summer of 2016, I couldn’t help but be pleased when the NY Times changed its election prediction on election night, showing that Donald Trump would miraculously defeat Hillary Clinton. Maybe, just maybe, things would be okay.
For the most part, over the course of Trump’s first term, things were more than okay, at least from a policy perspective. Many conservative policies were implemented while many liberal policies from the Obama era were scaled back or rescinded. Depending on who you ask, Trump was exactly who our country needed to right the ship-of-state after eight years of Obama/Biden or, he was the most destructive and dangerous person who has ever held the office of President of the United States of America.
Trump’s Supreme Court Legacy
If President Trump achieved nothing else, he was able to do what even Ronald Reagan could not — see three conservatives appointed to the United States Supreme Court. For that reason alone, religious conservatives should be thankful. Where would our nation be today but for a conservative bulwark on the High Court holding back the leftist, anti-Constitutional forces that seek to destroy the freedoms that we still enjoy today? But, as they say, that was then, this is now.
What of this Trump candidacy for a second term? Will Evangelicals continue to overwhelmingly support Donald Trump in the Republican Primaries? If current polls are accurate, that is a resounding YES. Despite four criminal indictments against the former President, polls show that “81 percent of white evangelicals maintain a favorable view of the former president.”
Does Trump deserve Evangelicals’ vote just because of what he did in his first term (notwithstanding the way that his first term ended or his current legal troubles)? Are Evangelicals inclined to vote for Trump, even if some of his positions on key moral issues might change? Is the past the best predictor of the future when it comes to a Donald Trump Presidency? Or, do we need to take a fresh look at Mr. Trump through a more discerning, Biblical lens?
In as many days, President Trump has given Evangelicals a clue as to how he would govern on key moral issues in a second term, including on issues of life (abortion) and gender. For a man who claimed as recently as this past June to be the most pro-life President in history and, who implemented policies consistent with the Biblical and scientific (at least the science of the last couple thousand years) understanding of gender, Candidate Trump gave two very disturbing (at least for Biblical Christians) answers to foundational moral issues that we say we care about.
Trump Throws Pro-Lifers Under the Bus
In an interview with new “Meet the Press” host Kristen Welker, Trump was asked about abortion in general and whether he would sign a 15-week abortion ban if it made it to his desk:
“In interview after interview since the repeal of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, Mr. Trump has ducked questions about whether he would support a federal ban on most abortions at 15 weeks — the baseline position of many Republicans, including the leading anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
With Ms. Welker on Sunday, Mr. Trump again refused to clarify his position.
“What’s going to happen is you’re going to come up with a number of weeks or months,” Mr. Trump said. “You’re going to come up with a number that’s going to make people happy.”
He made a far-fetched promise that as president he would “sit down with both sides” and negotiate a deal on abortion that would result in “peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years.”
Trump Comes Out Against 6-Week Abortion Ban
To say that Trump’s answer is ludicrous would be an understatement. As long as babies are being killed in the womb, there will be no “peace on that issue.” How can you negotiate peace with Democrats when every elected leader in the Senate and House (save one or two) supports abortion through birth? But, if Trump’s answer on a general abortion ban wasn’t bad enough, he also came out against 6-week abortion bans (often referred to as fetal heartbeat bills which ban abortion after a baby’s heartbeat can be detected) that have been passed in at least 12 states, including Florida.
Whether he was trying to simply hammer his opponent, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (whom he referred to as “DeSanctus”), or Trump’s position on abortion isn’t as solidly pro-life as he once claimed, his answer to Welker’s question on 6-week abortion bans is troubling, to say the least:
Trump: “Desanctus (sic) was willing to sign a five-week, six week ban.”
Welker: “Would you support that?”
Trump: “I think what he did is a terrible thing. A terrible mistake.”
Trump is now on record saying that an abortion ban of six weeks, after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, is a “terrible mistake.” Why is it a mistake, from a Biblical perspective, to want to ban abortion as early as possible? Why was it a mistake for Ron DeSantis or other governors to sign these bills? This is nothing short of craven from the former President. That he would not commit to any ban, including at 15 weeks, should speak volumes as to how he would treat pro-life issues in a second term. If his beliefs on life are this flexible, I’m not sure that Trump really has any beliefs when it comes to the issue of abortion. It certainly doesn’t sound like how the “most pro-life President in history” would speak to an issue of such moral gravity.
Trump’s Muddled Answer on the Transgender Issue
Abortion wasn’t the only moral issue that Donald Trump was asked about this past week. In an interview with former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, Trump was asked if people could change their genders. For those who believe in Biblical Christians, including conservative Evangelicals, the answer to that question, both from a Biblical and scientific basis, is clear. People cannot change their gender or sex. Those both refer to the same thing — maleness or femaleness from a biological perspective. Here is Trump’s less-than-clear answer:
Kelly: “Can a man become a woman?”
Trump: “Umm. In my opinion. If a man became a woman. I think part of it is birth,” Trump said. “Can the man give birth? No. Although they’ll come up with some answer to that also. I heard just the other day, they have a way that now the man can give birth. No, I would say. Yeah, I’ll continue my stance on that.”
What does that mean? That is one of the most convoluted, non-sensical non-answers that any candidate, much less the Christian family values candidate, could give to a simple question. If you need to nuance or obfuscate your answer about whether a man can become a woman, you are speaking volumes as to who you really are and how you plan to lead on this issue in a second term. What Donald Trump is speaking on this issue is neither good nor Biblical.
A Day of Reckoning is Coming!
What to make of Donald Trump’s answers on two of the most pressing moral issues facing our country today? Sadly, it is bocoming increasingly clear that Donald Trump is amoral (i.e., lacking a moral sense; unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something). He believes only in himself, despite what he tries to portray to the base of the Republican Party, which includes a large number of Evangelical Christians. Someone recently summed up Trump’s core philosophy:
“Trump does not believe in anything. He has no grounding. He cares about nothing but himself. It’s not even about social conservatism because, as president, he did this on immigration, crime, gun control, etc. It’s about a movement led by a guy who has absolutely no loyalty to anyone but himself—who believes in nothing higher than self-preservation.”
Regardless of where you stand on the former President, this much is certain. A day of reckoning is coming for Evangelicals. What is a reckoning? It is “a day or time in the future when people will be forced to deal with an unpleasant situation which they have avoided until now.” Sometime between now and next November, Evangelicals will be forced to deal with the unpleasant situation we find ourselves in because of Donald Trump. I’m not talking about the political mess. I’m talking about the spiritual mess, including what we have done to our witness in the culture. We have sold our birthright for a pot of putrid stew. We have tried to avoid acknowledging that fact up until now. We won’t be able to avoid it much longer.