My Dear American Christians,
During the 2016 primary elections I wrote an article entitled, “Why I Won’t Speak Against Trump In God’s Name,” in which I argued that it is unwise to dismiss Donald Trump as against God’s will and approval for civil office, or declare unfit for office anyone who is not your desired primary candidate. A well-meaning pastor subsequently messaged me to offer his counseling services, admonishing that I was moving into spiritual darkness.
Before you toss me hogtied into a river to see if I float (or weigh me alongside a duck if that’s easier), it’s safe to consider there is some Scriptural obligation to not accuse brethren of immorality when they are not being immoral.
The irony of this election season is not lost on my occupation as a historian, and I frankly feel the presence of God’s laughter. After Barack Obama waltzed back into the White House as Mitt Romney awkwardly stumbled behind, Christian conservatives cried out for a presidential candidate who doesn’t fold to opponents’ attacks, who doesn’t act embarrassed of his own wealth, who stands up to pathetically skewed media, who isn’t afraid to name the dragons of Islamist terrorism and illegal immigration, who wants to cut federal departments and begin simplifying and reducing the tax code, who wants to repeal Obamacare, who wants to put Constitutionalists on the Supreme Court, who has honorable and supportive children instead of tabloid fodder rebellious offspring, who is a master of social media presence, who is somehow both outsider and comprehender of the incestuous insider workings of Washington, D.C., who can’t be bought, who usurps the establishment’s attempt to designate a dynastic heir apparent, who attracts new blood into the Republican electorate…
Little did we all realize that such a strategy in this year required the talent, pedigree, and resources of an unprecedentedly wealthy and world famous contender for the presidency, like Donald Trump. Unfortunately, he’s the type that is bound to not only have made acquaintance with Mr. Worldly-Wiseman and the towns of Carnal Policy and Vanity in his lifetime, but the sort that is bound to be a target of false accusers who seek wealth by way of lawsuit. Yet I see a few reasons why it has to be this way.
Trump is an embodiment of America itself. His immigrant grandmother Elizabeth Trump, as a widow with three children, enriched her household with her brilliant business mind, likely another indicator that empires are built on the prayers of desperate mothers. Trump was raised on a blessed foundation, as was the United States. Both he and his country became phenomenal successes who as momentary prodigals drifted from the founding vision. But Trump’s love for the country has prompted him to begin seeking out the godly heritage that is the true key to greatness, and I believe America is beginning to do the same.
It’s funny how easy it is to presume that God’s idea of working a miracle in the post-Ascension world leaves no room for Christians to vote for such a candidate, but would readily favor the launch of incompetent puritan ideologues to power. At this point I can’t help but envision the Christian indie filmmakers who, given all the opportunity in the world, would still hire a tone-deaf pastor’s kid as a composer instead of Elton John, because the latter is homosexual. Then they would embrace their resulting failure, and blame it on persecution for keeping themselves unstained by the world, instead of realizing that they failed because they produced poor quality art. This disconnect from reality is apparent in some folks’ reaction to their favorite political candidates losing primary races as well. They readily assume it’s because of some crisis related to their moral and intellectual superiority, instead of considering that maybe Trump beat out 16 other candidates because he’s somehow better at winning national elections at this time.
While caught up in the drama of failing for the glory of God, such individuals overlook that it wasn’t Jesus’ blamelessness that first startled and intrigued people. The religious establishment was most astonished that Rabbi Yeshua indiscriminately helped (and was often hosted by) their moral and political enemies (if paparazzi were around, He’d probably be photographed standing next to those who hit further decline than a Playboy magazine cover). The secular establishment and common folk respected Him for His ability to accomplish things, like healing and feeding people, probably manufacturing fine furniture as a carpenter, fearlessly calling corrupt people rude things like “crooked,” “perverse,” “vipers,” and “white washed tombs”, and for being mighty mean with a whip before Indiana Jones made it cool. Yeshua said we would do greater things than He did, and indeed, people flocked to the early church because these keepers of the Way did amazing things.
But as is common throughout history, too often the church has a tendency to flagellate and mull existential questions while the world crashes and burns, which sometimes results in God having to intervene with simpler-minded sinners of childlike confidence. This is why, as I explained previously, God may resort to working with the theologically naive, who understand cause and effect, rather than their religious counterparts who are all cause and no effect.
Afraid to win with imperfection, some Christians actually prefer to surrender the presidency to the most corrupt candidate in history, actually voting for Hillary Clinton or casting their protest (yet anonymous) ballot like a snowflake on a barren winter day, which clusters with so few of its kind as to melt into irrelevance. Yeshua once talked about a servant who so feared displeasing his Master that he buried his only talent. The servant kept himself and his talent untarnished, yet the Master declared them equally worthless.
I cannot render judgment according to someone’s voting logic. This may not be what’s on the heart of some who refuse to vote for Trump (unlike those who have indeed said it would be better that Hillary win instead, and those are the ones I have in mind). But I want those who are grappling in the final hour to rest assured that they should not feel this way. I want them to understand that in the end crying, “Lord, did we not refuse to vote for Trump in Your name?” isn’t going to score brownie points with the God who made an ill-tempered playboy a judge of Israel (Samson), anointed megalomaniacal, pagan tyrants to sing His praises (Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus), made a foul-mouthed fisherman the rock of His church (Apostle Peter), and aided Israel (and brought about the lineage of the Messiah) through a prostitute (Rahab). The ballot box is the place for a reasonable decision about secular civil office, not atoning vicariously through the candidate’s personal life. It is about a platform, not a person.
God mixes up the playbook sometimes, perhaps because the enemy, forever unable to comprehend the mystery of grace that defeated him, still doesn’t expect God to use the Narnian Edmunds out of left field that he thought belonged to his side. Trump isn’t immune to universal consequences anymore than the rest of us, but when vetting a prospective president there is a difference between sins against select individuals and sins against the country. Trump has sinned against God and some individuals in his life (and in his latest book he says he needs forgiveness, and he reiterated this last month), but Clinton has sinned against God, some individuals, and the United States in fairly recent history, and apparently believes she did nothing dangerous enough to disqualify herself from the presidency.
I’ll abruptly close with what I came across in John Adams’ April 26th, 1777 letter to his wife Abigail:
Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.
Here’s a fact list I’ve compiled based upon mistaken claims I’ve seen across new media during the election season…
- Donald Trump DID NOT say women should be treated like shit (a female journalist paraphrased his disgust with women allowing themselves to be abused by men, and a non-sincere source quoted him as saying such without context).
- Hillary Clinton DID NOT advocate literal gangs (she used the term “positive gangs” as a metaphor for strong communities).
- Trump DID NOT mock a reporter’s disability (a classic example of media narrative illusion; he made the same silly hand motions and facial expressions in reference to a flustered Ted Cruz).
- Tim Kaine DID NOT say whites must literally become a minority in America (in context he was saying they should become empathetic).
- Trump is NOT anti-Semitic.
- Trump DID NOT attack the Khan family. What he said in the actual interview with George Stephanopoulos was, “I saw him. He was very emotional, and probably looked like a nice guy to me. His wife, if you look at his wife she was standing there, she had nothing to say. Probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say, you tell me, but plenty of people have written that. She was extremely quiet and it looked like she had nothing to say, a lot of people have said that, and personally I watched him, I wish him the best of luck.”
- Trump is NOT misogynistic, as he has made equally scathing remarks referring to appearance when criticizing men over the years…not nice things to say, but not with the intent of degrading women.
- The sexual assault allegations against Trump have generally been debunked, shown to be unsubstantiated and ill-motivated; and accusations about his behavior have been countered by many women with whom he has worked (i.e. Chelsea Cooley Altman, Carrie Prejean Boller).
- Trump’s good character traits have been oft overlooked but not taken for granted by people such as Melissa Young, Little Megan, and William Campudoni.