Trump-Voting Christians: Retribution for Liberal Pastors Who Cry “Wolf”?
The Republican presidential race could effectively be decided by the votes of millions of Christians across the South, many of whom would call themselves “evangelical” or “strongly pro-life.” Yet polls show that many of them, perhaps a majority, are supporting Donald Trump. So are many of my fiercely pro-life Catholic friends. Is such support a canny calculation about who’d be the most effective commander — not pastor — in chief (as Jerry Falwell, Jr., tells his people)? An angry reaction to years of sitting at the back of the GOP bus (per Rusty Reno)? A moral scandal (see Erick Erickson)?
There are elements of truth in each account, but there is something much deeper going on. I’m a longtime critic of Donald Trump — I was quoted in the Daily Beast story that called him “Planned Parenthood’s favorite Republican” — because I do not trust his character or his promises. I don’t think he means what he says. He is a salesmen, who is crassly using the legitimate fears of Americans to sell us a presidency that would deliver even less than his scam Trump University. He won’t full-throatedly denounce the hateful race zealot David Duke. I don’t think he’ll even build a wall.
But I must speak up in defense of some of Trump’s supporters and their motives, if only to help conservatives reach out to them more effectively. And the time for that is short.
Donald Trump is part of a worldwide reaction among Westerners — Christian, non-Christian, and quasi-Christian alike — against the hijacking and perversion of Christianity by the left. The Gospel call to promote real social justice, be kind to the needy, and look past race and nation, has been stolen and replaced with a milk-and-water humanitarian liberalism that George Soros could endorse. Indeed Soros funds it, pouring millions into leftist Christian groups that promote his leftist, transnational goals — from bigger government to lax immigration and “marriage equality” laws.
The worst instance I’ve seen in America of this distortion of Christian morals came from a Catholic, Chicago’s Archbishop Blaise Cupich, but I’m sure that readers could furnish plenty of Protestant examples. When the gruesome videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s profiteering in unborn children’s organs were released, Cupich wrote an op-ed where he smooshed together this ghoulish greed with utterly unrelated issues, and treated them as equal:
While commerce in the remains of defenseless children is particularly repulsive, we should be no less appalled by the indifference toward the thousands of people who die daily for lack of decent medical care; who are denied rights by a broken immigration system and by racism; who suffer in hunger, joblessness and want; who pay the price of violence in gun-saturated neighborhoods; or who are executed by the state in the name of justice. [emphasis added]
How could Christians take seriously warnings from someone like Cupich about the real excesses and extremes of Donald Trump, when he has worn out his voice crying “wolf”? I suspect that something similar is happening in Protestant circles, that real conservative Christians whose positions are perfectly compatible with the Gospel, rightly understood, suspect that those who warn them against Donald Trump are little Baptist or Methodist equivalents of Archbishop Cupich.
Nor is Cupich a lonely voice. The official statements of the U.S. Catholic bishops are no more balanced in their treatment of immigration, and are echoed by the rhetoric of (curiously well-funded) evangelical groups that take the same liberal positions. Tell someone he is not a Christian — not that he’s mistaken or misguided but that he is not a Christian, as Pope Francis sort of said of Donald Trump — because he opposes granting amnesty to lawbreakers, then giving them the vote and welfare benefits and affirmative action preferences. Tell him that for long enough, and eventually that man will throw up his hands and say, “Fine! If Christianity is what you say it is, maybe it’s just for church and not for politics. Because that’s just plain crazy.”
But Christianity is not crazy. Its politics aren’t utopian, and the demands it makes of us as citizens can never conflict with the verdict of prudence and justice. To say otherwise is to suggest that the God who made our reason never wanted us to use it, but to blindly follow emotion — or succumb to emotional blackmail. The method that Christians since the early Church — from Augustine to Thomas Aquinas, from Luther to William Wilberforce — have used to discern the meaning of what Jesus taught us in the Gospel is to apply the test of reason. That is how we know that Jesus did not really call for universal celibacy, or pacifism in the face of foreign invasion, or communism instead of private property.
Because He loved us, He knew that His Father had made us “good,” and that even our Fall had not completely destroyed our instincts — for instance, the urge to “be fruitful and multiply,” or our need to defend our families from violence, or our duty as prudent stewards of Creation. To say otherwise is to suggest that the heretic Marcion was right, that Jesus came to free us from the corrupt creation of a wicked or foolish “God,” rather than to reconcile us to our loving Father, and His.
We see the same revolt against pseudo-Christian utopian flapdoodle all across Europe, in the patriotic parties that are rising against their nation’s reckless elites, which are dissipating their democratic sovereignty and flooding their countries with bigoted Muslim colonists — some of whom rape women in Europe’s streets. Such parties are routinely and fiercely condemned by most Christian clergy in those countries, who echo Pope Francis’ utopian rhetoric on immigration — which differs from Catholic doctrine. Some of those Europeans, tragically, are letting their clueless pastors drive them out of the church altogether, and embracing crass neo-pagan movements, with names like “Soldiers of Odin.” This is a double win for the devil: disfigure the Gospel to make it seem repulsive, then harvest the souls of those who walk away.
The way that leftists unwittingly do this devil’s work is to take some element of Christian ethics and grossly exaggerate it, cut it off from any context, and make of it an idol. Hence “compassion,” “inclusiveness,” “social justice” or “equality” take the place of the person of Jesus and become the object of worship. C.S. Lewis warned against this temptation in Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters. In its fullest form, such political idolatry can be seen in Liberation Theology, which perverts the church into a revolutionary Marxist vanguard.
Of course, the devil is nothing if not subtle, and he can play both sides of the spectrum. Millions of Germans perverted the Gospel on Hitler’s behalf, adopting a “German Christianity” that pretended Jesus was an “Aryan” who came to save us from the wicked Old Testament Jews (there’s Marcion again). No doubt there are some Americans today calling themselves Christians who really care more about their race, or social class, or economic well-being. And some of them are voting for Donald Trump. But it’s unfair, futile, and frankly un-Christian to pretend that this accounts for all of them. Donald Trump is a symptom of a much deeper disease. If we don’t root it out of our churches, no one will listen to their political voice anymore, and no one should.