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Their Unwavering Faith in Donald Trump
A while back, long before the current brouhaha involving the editorial in Christianity Today magazine supporting the impeachment of Donald Trump, I wrote about white evangelicals who are among the president’s biggest allies.
Their enthusiastic backing of the president struck me as odd since Mr. Trump has spent his life mocking the supposed values of evangelical Christians in both his words and his deeds.
I’m revisiting the subject now because I just read a blog post by David French, a conservative Christian writer, who weighed in on the controversy the magazine stirred up with its editorial.
Here’s some of what that editorial says:
“We have reserved judgment on Mr. Trump for years now. Some have criticized us for our reserve. But when it comes to condemning the behavior of another, patient charity must come first. So we have done our best to give evangelical Trump supporters their due, to try to understand their point of view, to see the prudential nature of so many political decisions they have made regarding Mr. Trump. To use an old cliché, it’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence. And just when we think it’s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that’s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern.”
Donald Trump, predictably, wasn’t happy. And he was hardly alone. Many evangelical leaders circled the wagons in support of the president, condemning the magazine in the process.
But here’s the part of French’s blog that caught my eye, a paragraph that sums up much of what I’ve been thinking about the white evangelical community.
“While Christians can in good conscience vote for Republicans or Democrats (or for a third party), it’s simply wrong to condemn actions in the other party that you rationalize from your own president (or worse, to condemn actions from others even as you excuse or ignore more egregious conduct from your own side). It’s wrong to conveniently adjust your theology to meet the political needs of the moment.”
But that’s what Mr. Trump’s most loyal evangelical supporters have done. They’ve excused behavior they would never tolerate in a liberal Democrat.
How would white evangelical Christians react if President Obama had paid hush money to a porn star to keep her quiet about their sexual fling during his run for the White House?
What would evangelical ministers say if President Obama suggested that a female political rival was too ugly to be president? What if he publicly made fun of a journalist with a severe physical disability? Or at political rallies, telecast on national television, talked about how a rival was good at kissing ass, or said something his opponents did to him was bullshit? What if he bragged about grabbing women between their legs because he could get away with it?
Donald Trump did all those things, and a lot more, and all we got from evangelical ministers is silence, excuses or attacks on the president’s critics.
Yes, we understand that white evangelical Christians despise the progressive left, and in their eyes, Donald Trump – warts and all – is their protector, the man standing between them and a godless, soulless left wing America. We get it.
We understand that as long as he remains opposed to abortion and continues to appoint conservative judges to the federal bench, they’ll pay homage to him and ignore his cruelty.
But I’ve often wondered, why such a high-profile evangelical minister like Franklin Graham – whose father, Billy Graham, founded Christianity Today-- can’t muster the courage to at least gently tell the president that while evangelicals will support him in 2020 just as they did in 2016, for his own good and for the good of the nation, he needs to show some character, different from the character he usually shows.
I often wonder if any of these people understand that while they may be loyal to the president, they’re traveling on a one-way street? Donald Trump doesn’t know the meaning of the word loyalty. The very concept is alien to him.
Should the time come when he no longer needs his flatterers, if, on the outside chance they do something that displeases him, he will kick them out the door and humiliate them as they go. Their loyalty to him will mean nothing. Just ask Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump’s first supporter in the Senate, whom the president publicly and repeatedly humiliated before sending him packing.
So maybe we should cut his enablers some slack. They’re only human and fear, after all, is also a powerful force.
Still I wonder, is there is something (other than the president going on national television to proudly announce that he’s now in favor of late term abortion) that Donald Trump might do that would cause him to lose his most faithful followers?
At the moment, I can’t think of a single thing.