The GOP Debate Made Clear: Trump is Taking Some Positions Evangelicals Cannot Support in Good Conscience
I have just one point for this piece: evangelicals should think hard about their view of Donald Trump. On the heels of last night’s debate, I am only shored up in this conviction.
Evangelicals need to evaluate carefully the politics of resentment. We have concerns when we hear a candidate advocate the killing of the families of terrorists, and threaten to bar all Muslims from immigrating to America. The very floating of such bromides shows us that Trump sometimes prefers to surf the wave of popular anger instead of crafting policy that responds realistically to very real problems.
Faced with justly frightening circumstances and all-too-real national decline, it is natural to feel deeply and respond strongly. We’re emotional beings. But politics begs for more than emotions. It calls for discretion and careful planning. It asks its practitioners to create policy, to address the roiling conditions of a fallen world with stabilizing ballast grounded in conviction and informed by data. Trump sometimes offers his own platforms, and they surely deserve consideration. At other times he confuses a one-liner for a coherent strategy.
Trump’s personal behavior also should give us pause. His multiple marriages, poor financial practices and callous treatment of fellow candidates leave some of us cold. Trump conducts himself like a bully. He insulted Carly Fiorina’s looks, which no gentleman — to say nothing of a Christ-shaped man — does. He sometimes goes ad hominem when challenged on his views. He preens, exuding arrogance in his public moments.
Voters do not select a pastor-in-chief. We elect a politician. But we have much to consider here. There are numerous candidates running for president at present who have witnessed the precipitous decline of this country under two Obama terms and who have substantive policy, and relevant experience, to offer in response. There are several candidates who are faithful husbands and fathers. There are several candidates who treat their interlocutors with respect, not disdain.
I understand Trump’s appeal. He is an accomplished businessman and unafraid to speak his mind. But he has no political experience, evinces a lack of strong morality and makes explosive statements. In his defense, America definitely needs a vastly improved immigration plan, a credible and coherent foreign policy, and a reignited economy.
Further, many of us do wish to see America great. But we want a viable path to greatness. We also hope for a leader whose character is great. We may not know exactly who to support at this time, but we do know one thing: the time for choosing draws near, and this calls for our minds to be engaged, and our eyes to be wide open.
Owen Strachan is a professor at Midwestern Seminary and the author of The Colson Way: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World (Thomas Nelson, 2015) and Awakening the Evangelical Mind (Zondervan Academic, 2015).