The Spiritual Dangers of a Trump Presidency
For Christians rightly repelled by the candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, with their unapologetic embrace of the culture of death, same-sex marriage and a host of other cultural ills, the questions is, should we take a best-of-a-bad-lot approach with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump? You may think you’ve already heard all the arguments against voting for Trump. But if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, there is one little-discussed hazard of a Trump presidency that may be even more critical than weaknesses in the man’s proposals or even character per se: namely, the message we deliver as Christians to the skeptical world around us, if we support Trump.
Christians worship God alone. We honor His holy love. We echo Jesus’ words about repentance of sin. For Christians, what we are is inexplicably linked to how we treat those around us. “By their fruits you will know them,” said Jesus. James asked, “Can a mouth which curses man praise God?”
What fruit do we see in Donald Trump’s life, and what kind of language do we hear from his mouth?
Trump is willing, when asked, to mumble a few obligatory words of “support” for the Almighty. He has been seen to wave a Bible and claim (without ducking lightning bolts) to have read it “more than anyone.”
Yet from that same mouth, at far greater volume, pours an endless stream of crudities: “crazy,” “liar,” “bimbo,” “spoiled brat without a functioning brain,” “look at that face! I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on! Are we serious?” “coming out of her — whatever.”
A good insult can feel satisfying; Shakespeare used them to great effect. Trump is no Shakespeare, however. His insults remind us more of the vocabulary-challenged bully wadding up spitballs in the back of Mrs. Compton’s seventh-grade Health class. Surely with 320 million Americans, if we want an Insulter-in-Chief, we could do better!
And even more surely, if we Christians forget our standards, non-Christians will remember them. If we support a man whose mouth spews so much bile, who boasts of doing everything he could to harm the career of a woman he fired, and even gloats over her divorce (“kick them in the teeth!”) why should they respect the Lord’s Prayer when we loudly pray on Sunday morning, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”?
Why should any non-believer take the Christian faith seriously, if members in good standing of that faith support a man so unabashedly cruel, vile, vengeful and dishonest, who repudiates everything the name of Christ stands for? One could almost wonder, based on some of Trump’s statements, whether he has on his Bucket List to break each of the Ten Commandments and get away with it, and that he’s gunning for president so that, with an assist from the Marines, he can legally cross the last one off his list: “Thou shalt not commit murder.”
The Church faces grave spiritual danger when it publicly supports evil. Two contributors to my 2012 anthology, Faith Seeking Understanding, Philip Yancey and Bill Prevette, had been pushed away from the Gospel by the poor example racist Christians set in the South where they grew up. Both re-converted to Christianity when they saw the full truth of the gospel.
Of course racism and slavery are antithetical to the way of Christ. William Wilberforce understood this when he campaigned for the end of the slave trade in Britain, based on biblical principles. He was not the first. The example of Jesus provided the impetus for great reformers who began to better the conditions of slaves beginning in the earliest days of Christianity. By the early Middle Ages, slavery was almost absent from swaths of Western Europe. The abolition movement was birthed in the gospels, and changed the world for the better.
From the beginning the Bible emphasizes that we’re all created in God’s image, and the New Testament makes clear that all nations and races are equally worthy and equally loved by God. But by compromising their faith for cultural pride, racist Christians harmed the name of Christ in the eyes of the world.
Do we now want to make a similar mistake? Do we want to associate ourselves — and thereby the name of Christ — with someone so shamelessly, unrepentantly cruel, profligate, and contemptuous of truth as Donald Trump?
Christianity played a major part in bringing about the Geneva Conventions. That’s a fact known by very few (thanks to the anti-Christian prejudice of the public education system). Many will remember, however, if we vote for a man who wishes to repudiate the letter and spirit of Geneva (“Go for the jugular so that those watching will not screw with you”). The media will make sure everyone gets the word on where we stood on that.
When much of the “evangelical vote” in some Republican primaries goes to a man so palpably misaligned with the character of the man we call “Savior,” it tells the world we’re not serious about holiness, or even minimal standards of civic decency. It sends the message that for us, the end justifies the means. It supports the world’s belief that hatred is a Christian value after all.
Jesus told us, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your father who is in heaven.” What will our record after this election be? Will those around us, instead of glorifying God as Jesus said, instead exclaim,
How foolish these Christians behave! Here’s a man with a long record of justifying his reprobate lifestyle, yet waves a Bible in public and calls himself a Presbyterian, and these suckers lap it up. So much for being “wise as serpents, harmless as doves!” These believers are gullible as lemmings, choosing a snake for their leader.
Consider by contrast what can still happen, even after Trump’s last viable Republican opponent has left the race, if Christians take a principled and consistent stand for what even the world recognizes as higher standards.
Of course one may agree with what Trump says about immigration, or his robust approach to national defense. Still, what stays with us about leaders, above their policies, is character: the dignity of George Washington, the courage of Abraham Lincoln, the revolutionary kindness of our Lord. If we oppose so dishonest, ruthless and self-idolatrous a leader, our principled stand against him may serve as an opening for the Gospel to those who like Jesus but are repelled (as most Americans say they are) by Trump’s verbal crudities and cruelties.
In sum, the present election cycle may serve, in part, as a plebiscite on American conservative Christianity in the sight of the world. Do we believe our own message? Are the virtues taught and modeled by Jesus, is the call of the prophets to love rather than exploit those on the margins, and to practice kindness, purity and humility, relevant to America as a nation?
If we Christians help elect a self-regarding narcissist, a cruel, dishonest libertine who spews venom at reporters and competitors alike, American Christianity will rightly be weighed and found wanting in the sight of the world.