Will Evangelicals Pass the Test of Authenticity?

By George Yancey Published on October 17, 2016

The year was 1998. The Clinton controversy with Monica Lewinsky was in full rage. Republicans were milking it for all it was worth. Democrats were in full defense mode. All that was to be expected, of course; these are the games politicians play. But there were other groups who did not have to play that game, most notably feminist organizations such as NOW, who had brought the issue of sexual harassment to the forefront.

To fully understand 1998 we have to go back to 1991, the year that NOW and other feminist organizations had used the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill controversy to draw attention to sexual harassment. On the basis of a single accuser, Thomas was subjected to severe vilification by feminist groups. So what made 1998 so different? President Clinton had several women pointing accusing fingers at him, creating an even greater opportunity for feminist groups to demonstrate their faithfulness to their cause. If they would hold a pro-choice Democrat’s feet to the fire, then no one could doubt the authenticity of their stand against sexual harassment.

With few exceptions, however, they did not pass this test of authenticity. Major feminist groups kept silent. Could the presidency of Bill Clinton have survived had feminist groups attacked him with the same vigor they attacked Thomas? The accusations of an ally can be devastating in the political sphere. Sadly, we will never know. Choosing power over principle, feminist groups maintained their cozy relationship with the president rather than the integrity of their support for sexually harassed women.

Today’s Test of Authenticity

Why this history lesson? It was clear at the time that feminists’ desire for political power outweighed their commitment to protecting women from sexual harassment. That realization has tainted my perception of organized feminism ever since. Today we evangelicals face a similar test of authenticity.

The recent “hot mic” revelations from Donald Trump add to what we already knew of his moral character: his willingness to degrade women, dismiss his wedding vows, and tolerate sexual assault. These are clear violations of the values we evangelicals espouse. Yet many evangelicals have minimized his words and actions. Are we setting our values aside as we try to protect the candidate we think will put us in the better power position? Will we pass the test of authenticity, or will we fail it as feminists did almost twenty years ago?

Unfortunately some evangelical leaders have already failed this test, in my view. One reminds us that “we are all sinners” — a nice sentiment, but I do not think he would have let Bill Clinton off so easily, for comments like Trump’s. Another prominent leader advises, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” With such a standard, Christians have nothing to say about any moral failing at all.

Consistent Standards Are Called For

I remember many Christian leaders arguing that Clinton was no longer fit for office because of his sexual “adventures.” We need to treat Trump’s actions the same we would treat anyone else and not let him off because we hope for power through him. Otherwise we show that power matters more to us than our values. I fail to see how anyone using Monica Lewinsky to say that Clinton was unfit to remain as president can now rationalize support for Trump without looking like a hypocrite.

Fortunately some important voices have spoken up for evangelical values. Many evangelical women have pointed out the humiliation created by attitudes like those that Trump displays. Other Christians have called for Trump to step aside from the race. Others, like I, have pointed out the cost to our Christian witness that may come if we support Donald Trump. I am so glad that there has been this pushback against Christian voices that marginalize our stated values for the sake of preserving Trump’s candidacy.

The Credibility To Lead

I do not know how Christian leaders who fail the test of authenticity can continue to be viewed as moral leaders in our communities. They are twisting themselves to minimize the verbal atrocities of Trump; how can we look to them to lead us and represent us to others? It is understandable that many Christian leaders did not see all of Trump’s failings early in this election cycle. He was new on the political scene. The only thing many of us knew about him was that he was a rich reality TV star. By now, however, it is clear that he has said and done many things over the years that are simply indefensible, and has yet to publicly denounce them or show real contrition. To defend them or minimize them is to put at risk our integrity among the larger culture.

We must maintain our Christian witness, emphasizing our values over power. I do not want others to have to feel toward us the same way I feel about organized feminism. Christian leaders should not attempt to downplay Trump’s disgracefully sinful words. It may cost us political power in the short term, but I am confident that maintaining integrity will provide us a far better basis for long-term cultural influence.

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  • Hmmm…

    As unlikely as it may seem, the barrage of attacks coming against Trump are being disproven in several significant examples. It is part of the Clinton machine to orchestrate such smears to this degree. These are the natural follow up to the release of the tape, which has been held in readiness for the “right” moment. There is more credible evidence that Trump is very much not the same person who used to think, talk and perhaps act like that.

    Mr. Yancey: Do not automatically drink the kool-aid the Clinton campaign is passing around. Be aware enough to pick up on the proof of what we know that almost every single print and broadcast media outlet is with them, willing to say, do and fabricate to get their sort back in office. Wake up to the violence against the N. Carolina Republican committee office and continual backlash against Republicans, especially this critical top spot. Please be aware of how much protection is needed from evil in this matter.

    • Good post. So glad to see one educated person here pointing out the fabricated lies. Read my posts above. I have several links to prove the lies of the Hillary machine. As I say, go to Drudge Report and Infowars and other whistleblower sites, if you want to learn something other than the mainstream propaganda that easily deceives Christians and Catholics down the wrong path. If you knew how evil Hillary, and how many lies are out there, you would not struggle or question voting for Trump. “The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” No where is that more evident than in this election with Christians “wondering” what to do. Wonder no more. Stand against radical Islamic terrorism that will murder you, your children, and your grandchildren in the name of Allah. Vote Trump. Good post Hmmm…

  • rick_w55

    Many Trump voters agree with you about how bad he is. All the scolding will avail nothing because they see Clinton as even worse. So they will hold their noses and vote. What else can they do but not vote at all? Or do you think they should vote for Clinton? I see no chastisement coming at Christians who will vote for Clinton. And why not? She not only has her own moral problems; she has policies that aren’t morally acceptable as well.

    So please address this issue: What are Christian voters to do who value their democratic right of participation through the vote, and see it as a duty, and who want to maintain their fidelity to sound Christian beliefs?

    (Incidentally, I’m not a Trump voter. For the first time in my 42 years of voting age, I will not vote for a president, a sad situation indeed.)

    • Charles Burge

      If you haven’t heard of Tom Hoefling, google his name and read about him. He’s associated with the Constitution Party, but now is running a write-in campaign. (The CP nominee, Darrell Castle, is too libertarian for my tastes). I’m not sure it a write-in vote for Mr. Hoefling will even count in my state, but it’s what I’ve decided to do anyway. That way, I can express my support for more candidates like him.

      • This is not the election to get creative or go with the Democrat’s strategy of splitting the vote. If Trump is not voted in, you won’t need to worry about future elections because they won’t matter.

        • Charles Burge

          Donald Trump is not going to save our country. The moral rot in our society is a cultural problem, not a political one. At this point, I doubt anything will turn our country around save a full scale Great Awakening style revival.
          I love my country and I’m proud to be an American, but my first allegiance is to God’s Kingdom. I simply cannot, in good conscience, lend my support to someone as morally bankrupt as Mr. Trump. I feel that to do so would taint my witness and bring shame to God’s name. And I refuse to be held accountable for electing Hillary. That’s not on my shoulders. It’s on the shoulders of the millions of people who nominated a juvenile misogynistic ignoramus to oppose her.

          • You mean like Cyrus, the king of Persia who was called “God’s anointed” whom God chose to deliver the people of Israel (Isa. 45:1). He was a ruthless, idol worshiping heathen but God used him to formulate the deliverance of captive Israel. You have an allegiance to God’s kingdom but you live in a country that is about to take a gigantic left turn that will cost the lives of many more unborn babies and probably the freedom of worship we have enjoyed. It may well be that our disobedience has resulted in this mess but God may be using the mess to awaken us. Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things that belong to Caesar and to God the things that belong to Him.” Both can and should be done.

    • And so you vote for Hillary by holding your vote for Trump. If enough people do this she will be president and you will share the blame.

      • rick_w55

        And people vote for Trump by not voting for Clinton. Seems like not voting for either is voting for both.

        The blame rests on the people who voted Trump into the nomination. I won’t be manipulated into thinking I share it.

  • Christian Cowboy

    A good article – requires a great deal of prayer for the wisdom needed to make a decision. We need also to pray for the candidates – God can make a miraculous change in one or both of them before Election Day. God can save this country and change the downward spiral of the standards that are being accepted and called good.

    • There is no real decision to make. You either want radical Islams to eventually take over the nation or you don’t. See my replies above. The Christian church has been so weak in the past, it needs someone like Donald Trump to restore religious liberty by getting rid of the Johnson Amendment. Probably many people do not realize the reason the church has been so weak has been because of the Johnson Amendment, which Trump will seek to reverse. If you don’t know what that is, you should. It means your pastor can’t be strong with political views or talk politics because the IRS will take away the 501 c(3) tax deduction. There is no separation of church and state. There is the 501 c(3) that has muzzled pastors into submission. The separation of church and state is a scam perpetuated on people who don’t know history.

  • Greig Altieri

    George,
    You make some excellent and valid points. I would disagree that we didn’t see the blemishes in Trump’s character. He is a soiled man whose image has been built by destroying others. The same Saul Alinsky tactics that Obama , Hillary and the rest of the Democratic party have used have been prominently demonstrated by Trump. That being stated, Hillary will steal the last bit of religious liberty we have left. The choices aren’t good but the consequences of a Hillary Presidency will be catastrophic!

  • Evangelicals tried to be authentic in 2006 and 2012 by not voting for a Mormon. Some stats show as many as 12M evangelicals did not vote for president. Obama won by only a few million votes. The Democrats are playing us like a fiddle and we do not know how to be “wise as serpents but harmless as doves.” We are simply harmless doves who lose elections and it is costing Christians plenty.

    • Thank you for being honest and read my reply above to other comments. The fact is, what Christians will lose this time will be their heads, and the heads of their children and grandchildren if they don’t vote in a way to keep radical Islamic terrorists out. Muslims and Sharia law will overtake this nation if Hillary has four years or more to open the doors and borders even more. We all should know which candidate is standing against radical Islamic terrorism, but I will say it for the ignorant, that is Trump who will stand up for Christians. He will even work to get rid of the Johnson Amendment, which muzzles your pastor/priest. Do not expect him to be your next priest or pastor. A priest or pastor would not have done the job of Patton. However, Niemoller, a theologian, realized that in times of war against extreme evil, he had to move out of the theological box and fight Hitler. Expect persecution and world-wide Islam eventually if you don’t vote Trump. He is your LAST, BEST chance. There will not be another. If you are pro-life, be pro-life enough to keep out Muslims who will eventually kill your Christian children or grandchildren as they have in the Middle East. If you tell God that you don’t care about keeping them out by either not voting or voting for Hillary, do you think you will be able to ask the Lord for protection if you were part of the problem in bringing them in? I am not writing this to the gentlemen who wrote above, but to those who are still confused about pro-life. Bringing in a radical group that believes in killing infidels is not pro-life. I just have to blow the smoke of confusion away.

  • Bryan

    I’m going to echo some of the comments below:
    Mr. Yancey, I agree with your points about the Clinton (’98) issue and would like to see the same people that condemned President Clinton, condemn in the same way Mr. Trump for what he’s said. (I don’t know about any allegations of behavior other than the divorces and extra-marital affairs. I really only know about the tape.) That said, you’re article doesn’t really offer any solutions. I infer from your article that you will not support Mr. Trump. I am interested in your position on who you would vote for, Republican, Democrat, 3rd party, or write-in?
    I am genuinely interested because, like you, I don’t care for Mr. Trump. However, Mrs. Clinton isn’t a viable option for me either. I am tired of voting against a candidate and am looking forward to a day when there’s a candidate I can get behind without regrets. However, based on the current system, I’m not interested in giving my vote to someone who, because of our electoral system, really becomes a vote for one of the mainline candidates. Can you publish a follow up to this article addressing a solution?

    • Those “affairs” have been rebutted. I put links somewhere either above or below. People were paid to be false witnesses against Jesus. Nothing has changed.

      • Bryan

        Ms. Jones, I can see that you are very passionate about your support for Trump. And I apologize if I implied incorrectly about any affairs Mr. Trump may or may not have had. I do have a couple of concerns though:
        1) You likened Mr. Trump to Jesus. Maybe it was accidental. Or maybe you were thinking of how God will sometimes take upon himself the response to the sins committed against the righteous. (Think “Vengeance is mine says the Lord”.) I don’t know the condition of Mr. Trump’s heart but it doesn’t seem like he is to be counted among the faithful yet and certainly not during the time when “people were paid to be false witnesses”.
        2) In other replies, you say that we should support Trump because he will repeal the Johnson Amendment and that the Johnson Amendment is the reason that the church has been weak. I disagree with both parts of this. First, laws need to be established by the legislative branch and executed by the executive branch. If Congress will not make a law, then it is up to the States to bring forth an Amendment to the Constitution if they feel strongly enough about it and go through that process. If Mr. Trump were to start issuing executive orders to change anything on a whim he would be no better than our current President.
        Second, the church is not bound to obey human laws if it goes against God’s law. So the reason the Church has been weak recently, is not because of a Johnson Amendment. That’s an excuse. The Church is losing it’s power because we have stopped putting God first in everything. I am including myself in “we” as well.
        Thank you for your passionate support of Trump. He is certainly the direction I’m leaning but not because of who he is, but rather because of the likely alternative.

  • Dean Bruckner

    Was George Patton fit to be General of the Third Army in WW2? How about ADM Ernie King as Navy Chief of Staff? Was it right to ally with Stalin against Hitler? With the Saudis against al-Qaeda and ISIS?

    No, Donald Trump is not fit to be President. But he is infinitely more fit than the demonic Hillary Clinton. At least he loves America, when he’s not loving himself more. But Hillary Clinton loathes America and every American. The choice we have, it seems, is not an an absolute one, but a relative one.

    I will likely vote for Trump because of this, and in legitimate self defense.

    No policeman worth his badge likes to apply deadly force, but sometimes that is the best available option. Voting for Trump can be like that. Like a police officer’s use of deadly force, it may go horribly wrong. But not to use it is, in my judgment, even worse.

    • Good post and I would say he loves this nation more than himself because he could just keep making money and have an enjoyable life. He didn’t have to do this. He is doing it for love of country.

      It is legitimate to defend yourself. People need to realize that without Trump, it is only a matter of time before Christians are killed in this nation as in Syria and elsewhere.

      • Charles Burge

        Do you really believe that? I am convinced that this entire campaign of his was nothing but a vanity project to stroke his own ego.

  • Authentic Christians will stand against the most satanic candidate. That is Hillary. No question about that. She has a trail of dead bodies behind her, lies, and destabalized nations. Current and past people in the news have said she will start WW III. Trump has said he will rollback the Johnson Amendment. Christians should be flocking to him because of that, but they are too ignorant to even know that. Trump is good for religious freedom and for the protection of Christians.

  • Marolyn Bean Gray

    I will vote for Trump because of democrats’ stance on abortion. I would not have chosen him but republicans do not have abortion in their platform. Also, democrats are very critical of christians.

  • JON CHO

    Each believer is supposed to live in this world as “light & salt” under Biblical integrity but not of this world. However, there is no such word “vote” in the Bible. In facing of this earthly corrupted political system, my assessment: 1. Trump willing to be surrounded by a circle of believers, 2. VP Mike Pence, 3. Party platform on life and family traditions. “Few tares among the wheat or being choked by too many tares in the field?” You got choice.

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