I don’t really read the NYTimes, but I ran across this article by Frank Bruni earlier: Trump-ward, Christian Soldiers?
I don’t agree with a lot of what Bruni says here, but he makes a good point. I applaud Trump for blowing up the PC culture in this election cycle, and I’m all for a patrolled wall at the border. However, the fact that Trump as a person embodies very few Christian moral traits seems surprisingly irrelevant to many evangelicals. It’s not just that he has changed his political stances, but that even his character seems irrelevant. He is being lionized for some of the conservative things he says, while other, un-Christian statements don’t seem to matter as much. This is particularly odd when you consider the other options available. Bruni puts it well:
“He’s more beloved than Mike Huckabee, a former evangelical pastor, or Ted Cruz, an evangelical pastor’s son, or Scott Walker [another pastor’s son], who said during the recent Republican debate: ‘It’s only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I’ve been redeemed.'”
Ben Carson should probably be somewhere in that list as well, although he has gained on Trump recently.
It’s not that Christians have to vote for other Christians. I’m not suggesting that there’s a perfectly pious candidate out there or that we should vote (or not vote) strictly based on a moral checklist and ignore policy. Some moral issues should be non-negotiable (e.g., abortion), but there are times to vote for someone who doesn’t match up perfectly with our beliefs. However, it’s not like evangelicals are “holding their noses” and picking Trump at the end. He has become the top choice for the biggest Bible-loving, church-going Republican Christian voting bloc.
Just take one verse out of many which could be applied here:
“Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 16:5 (ESV)
Is Trump not arrogant? I would argue no one loves Trump or what Trump has done more than the Donald himself. It may come across as charming or funny, but I haven’t seen any of his events yet where he doesn’t praise himself or his deeds. And yet the Bible makes it clear that such haughtiness is an abomination to God. That’s the same word used to describe homosexuality in Leviticus 18. Does he get a free pass on arrogance because he’s the loudest political outsider on our side?
Are Christians falling for Trump’s shallow attempts to paint himself as one of us? He claims the Bible is by far his favorite book, way over the second, his own The Art of the Deal, but won’t (can’t?) quote a verse or say which Testament he likes best because “it’s very personal.” That’s a cop out. What’s too personal about giving a cliche John 3:16 answer (as great a verse as it is) and moving on to the next question?
Worse than the favorite verse answer is his response to whether or not he’s ever asked God for forgiveness:
“I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”
That’s about as far from the Christian ideas of repentance and forgiveness as it gets. It is, however, very American. Is it also evangelical at this point?
I’m not judging Trump – that’s not the point at all. I think Bruni’s article does a good job at highlighting the disconnect between evangelical moral standards and how evangelicals are lining up so far in this election cycle. Trump’s un-Christian rhetoric and lifestyle don’t seem to be pushing them away. Is he saying some good things right now? Definitely. I think he’s great for the process. Should he be the front-runner for evangelicals, though? Or is the religious right more political than religious? Of course the one with the loudest microphone is going to get the most attention, but I’d think in having so much air-time he would be turning Christians away with some of the things he says and does.
Sure, let’s vote for him if no better option were available, but I don’t think that’s the case. Are Cruz, Carson, and Walker really softer against the D.C. status quo? Are any of them bowing to political correctness? Or is the desire to make the biggest show of sticking it to Washington outweighing the desire for a more wholesome (still competent) head of state? America’s problems are ultimately moral–why not support someone who is more closely aligned with God’s moral standard?
This isn’t intended to be a shot against anyone in particular–it’s just not good when an outsider can accuse Christians of being morally selective.