This political season leaves me very uneasy as a pastor. Though history (and even political history) is a huge interest of mine, I’ve never been all that involved in politics. My focus on seeing change happen are on the personal relationship and local church level. I think a VBS or a Backyard Bible Club will do more for the future of our nation than politics. But I suppose I’m saying that as one who, at least at present, has the freedom to hold a Bible study in my backyard without much persecution.
So I write this knowing the fear of many believers if Hilary Clinton finds herself in office. I know what it will mean if Hilary gets to pick the Supreme Court. And I understand all of the arguments that voting third party is a vote for Hilary (I don’t buy the arguments, but I get them). I understand that drive to do anything to stop Hilary. I get why believers would vote for Trump and even support him. He seems like a better option than Hilary. So I can respect the position of those who will cast their vote for Donald Trump in 2016.
But I cannot in good conscience do that. I still believe that character matters. I fear what I will have to compromise in order to hold my nose and vote Trump (or even Hilary for that matter). So this leaves me a bit uncomfortable because I’m seeing more and more believers fall in line with Trump. And there is something which is bothering me enough to take to my keyboard and express my thoughts on the Christian response to Trump.
Again, I’ll say up front that my argument isn’t so much with those who will hold their nose and vote Trump. We just disagree on what to do with the lesser of two evils. That doesn’t bother me. It is the christening of Donald Trump at the expense of the gospel that is motivating me to write.
If you are a believer and can vote for Donald Trump with a clear conscience then go for it, but please I beg of you don’t make this a “Christian” decision or try to sanctify a man who doesn’t believe he has a need to repent. Here are a couple ways people are trying to Christianize Trump and why I don’t fall for a single one of them.
The Dobson Argument
After a group of evangelical leaders (Lord help us if this is the list of evangelical leaders) met with Donald Trump, James Dobson expressed his conviction that Donald Trump had become a believer:
“[H]e did accept a relationship with Christ,” Dobson said. “I know the person who led him to Christ – that’s fairly recent. “I don’t know when it was, but it has not been long. I believe he really made a commitment, but he’s a baby Christian.”
The assumption here is that we should treat Mr. Trump like we would a baby Christian. We should realize that he is going to be sloppy in his presentations of the gospel, often worldly still in the way he does things, and at times barely even identifiable as a believer. But we should take heart that he has prayed a prayer to accept Jesus and so things ought to be changing at some point.
For the sake of argument lets say that Trump is a baby Christian. What in the world are these evangelical leaders doing, then, putting such a vulnerable baby believer in such a precarious position? Ought he not rather be like the apostle Paul and spend a bit of time on the sidelines getting grounded in the Word? Shouldn’t he be nurtured and discipled? What about his local church? Is he getting placed into a solid Bible believing church to grow in Christ?
And do we really want someone who is a baby Christian to be representing us? The Bible speaks of not allowing new converts to be pastors because of the temptation to pride. We also see warnings against immaturity and the causes this could have if immature men in the faith are our leaders. So if Trump really is a baby Christian then you need to encourage him to be discipled and to step away for the sake of the kingdom and the growth of his walk with Christ. And if Trump really is a baby Christian won’t this be his great aim as well?
So let’s not try to pretend like Trump is a baby Christian to somehow get the evangelical vote. If he has then you are doing him a disservice and placing the gospel in a secondary position by not calling this baby believer to nurture his soul before taking on such a position as president of the US. You are subverting the kingdom and risking the soul of a man on the altar of what you deem political necessity. And if he’s not actually a baby Christian what are you saying about the gospel by pretending its all about praying a prayer and not about regeneration? Does being born again mean nothing to evangelicals anymore?
The Cyrus Argument
Some aren’t quite at the spot of calling Trump a believer but perhaps he is still God’s man for the job. After all, God used an idolater like Cryus the Great and so why can’t he use someone like Donald Trump to accomplish his purposes of making America great again.
I’ll set aside the fact that God’s mission is about furthering his kingdom and not fundamentally about making America great again. America does not equal Israel. We are not God’s chosen people. Believers in America are God’s people but the nation of America is not. And so this whole argument ought to collapse out of the gate.
But let’s say that God does use wicked men to accomplish his purposes. We do see this happen throughout the Scriptures. God did use Cyrus. He also used the wicked Babylonians to chastise His people. This was the problem Habakkuk had with the activities of God—how can God use sinful people to punish his people? I wonder, though, is that no longer a problem for us today? Haven’t we turned Habakkuk’s argument on its head? Are we now saying that we ought to vote for an evil man because he could turn out to be Cyrus? Why couldn’t this same argument be extended to Hilary Clinton?
God can use even the wicked to accomplish His purpose of furthering the kingdom. But woe unto us if we cast our vote on the side of the wicked in the hopes he’ll turn out to be a Cyrus. Good things never happen when the people compromised biblical principle for political expediency. That’s what got them in the spot of being plundered by God’s instrument (Nebuchadnezzar) and needing a Cyrus the Great to rescue them in the first place. If character mattered when Bill Clinton was in office then it ought to matter when we are talking about Donald Trump as well.
Trumping the Gospel
As I think about the Trump campaign I look to the historical situation in Hosea’s day. Israel was stuck between two super-powers, Assyria and Egypt. They could have easily been wiped out by either one. When you add the civil wars and political unrest going on throughout Israel it was a low time for them as a society.
A couple of their more shrewd kings devised a plan. If they would make a few compromises they could befriend both Assyria and Egypt. They’d convince Egypt they were on their side against Assyria and then do the same for the Assyrians. They’d reap a ton of profit in exchange for their loyalty. The nation started to prosper again. Of course, they now had a few new shrines in town—the gods of Egypt and the gods of Assyria were making their home in Israel now. But for many this seemed like such a necessary compromise—their very survival was threatened if they didn’t do something. It was political genius.
Unfortunately what they considered to be political savvy the God of the Israel considered to be prostitution. Their trust was no longer in Yahweh. Instead they were trusting in ungodly nations to protect them. They were pursuing other lovers and had forsaken their husband.
Is it possible that Donald Trump is a tempting Assyria/Egypt? And is it possible that some of the gifts the Lord has given us can never come from the hands of a political leader? Is it possible that we’ll be sacrificing more by surrendering our conscience and making America great again?
In the time of Ezra the people of God had a similar choice. An ungodly people offered help (it wasn’t to be nice, it was for bad reasons). The people of God chose to stand on principle. It cost them 16 years of building. But at the end of the story the temple was paid for by Artaxerxes. They didn’t bend. They didn’t sell out for the sake of convenience. They risked losing the whole thing in order to stand on principle.
I just wonder what is America if it’s not built upon principle? The Founding Fathers stood upon firm principles. They were unmoving. They stood upon their conscience even if it cost them their life or their prosperity. Are we willing to do the same? Or are we going to hold our noses? Are we going to try to ease our gospel consciences by muddying the gospel and pretending that maybe Donald Trump really is on our side—even though, he continues to hold positions which are contrary the teaching of Jesus, he refuses to acknowledge a need for repentance, and continues to celebrate a lifestyle contrary to the gospel.
See here is where I’m saying folks like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Robert Jeffress are muting the gospel. Remember when Falwell and his wife took a picture with Trump on the cover of Playboy in the background? It’s a cruel irony. But notice Falwell’s response. He continued to portray Trump as a King David or as one of those sinners and tax collectors that Jesus would have hung out with.
The problem, though, is that Trump has never repented. If I had ever been on a cover of Playboy then you had better believe once I came to know Christ that cover would not still be framed on my wall as a monument of my accomplishments. Trump has never repented. And yet he is now being promoted as the Christian option to Hilary Clinton. That is what I mean by trumping the gospel.
If you can vote your conscience and vote for Trump, then go for it. But please I beg of you let’s not pretend like this man shares our convictions as Christians. Let’s not sacrifice these Christian convictions so that we can pretend like we are on the same team as Trump. He very well may have the same vision for America as you—but I only ask does he have the same vision for America as Jesus would? If he doesn’t, then let’s not frame this as if Trump is the Christian option. You’re voting for Trump because of other preciously held values. That’s fine. But don’t trump the gospel by trying to Christianize those values or the Donald they represent.
Photo source: here