I don’t want this blog to become political. Every other post is about my journey to become more like Christ and share my discoveries. To that end, I solemnly swear that his will be my only Trump-related post this year.
But after last week, I had to say something.
I can’t pretend the following thoughts are my own, though the pieces were. What snapped my scattered thoughts together was an article by Erick Erickson of The Resurgent. His work was much more eloquent, but pack-a-lunch long, so if you want the cliffs’ notes from a blogger with a parallel journey, read on.
Throughout this election cycle, I’ve been disgusted by the choices laid before us. Most of you can relate. It’s the culmination of a political system designed to reward ambition and sectarianism. Yet I felt compelled, by both duty and my fellow man, to make a choice. And the refrain generally foisted upon me has been, “It’s your Christian duty to keep Hillary Clinton out of office. The church will not survive her. Vote for Donald Trump.”
Yet I seethed against this argument.
I admit, it seemed to have merit in one sense. I certainly will not vote for Hillary Clinton. I have to embolden that sentence before I get dismissed as a liberal plant. Hillary is not even in the same universe as trustworthy to be president, and her agenda, typical of the political left, carries the threat of eroding our religious freedom and heritage.
Yet my conscience fought against the idea of supporting Trump, because by doing so, I would be endorsing a track record that I do not see as any more Godly – quite the opposite, in fact. You can scroll to the bottom of this post for my concerns on Trump’s character – it goes beyond just “saying mean things”, or even the lewd revelations of last week – because I’d rather just get to my point right now.
Which was…how could I look an unbeliever in the eye, after endorsing this sort of man, and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ with any credibility?
I sat on my concerns for a long time. I stayed quiet as Trump pulled even with Hillary in the polls. The voice inside said, Don’t bother. You’ll be labeled one of those panicky rabble-rousers you’ve learned to avoid. Jesus wants you to be tranquil and gracious about things. Let it go.
And maybe I was overthinking things. Maybe I was being too young and idealistic. Maybe some of these sins were fabrications of the liberal media (doubtful). And…just maybe, that conversion that Trump allegedly experienced a few weeks ago, in the presence of several well-respected evangelical leaders, was genuine and would lead to a change in his ways.
Then, last week, three things happened.
One was the revelations that Trump once had a cameo in a softcore pornography project and once pressured his soon-to-be-wife (the second of three) to appear in Playboy – even personally negotiating the fee. Great. Now he’s connected with this. If it were Clinton with “only” the cameo, we’d be all over
him her. “Is this the example we want our children to see?” The level of involvement in sexual debauchery is irrelevant, just as me reading that Playboy “for the articles” would be.
The second was another bellicose Twitter rant from Trump, directed at some celebrity, that showed that if Christ has come to live in his heart, there’s little evidence of it yet. (I know – we can’t know someone’s heart. But Trump’s not making it hard to guess.)
A Nation’s Foundation
But the third, and the most influential for me, was Erickson’s piece. He reminded me that the truest strength of a country – bar none – is the vitality of its church, and a church’s vitality relies on its witness. The church is commanded to witness to the world, and its calling card is virtue. We are ordered to love, forgive, and pray for all men, including our enemies. We’re called to decry corruption, deceit, and love of money. We’re commanded to be examples of honesty, diligence, prudence, purity, and good deeds.
And I realized this:
There might actually be a worse danger to the country than Hillary Clinton and the persecution she might bring.
A Clinton presidency might well prove to be the red carpet to a new age of religious decay. It’s not a stretch to think that. The greatest threat from her inauguration is that she’ll appoint Supreme Court justices who will join her in her party’s assault on Christian values.
But Donald Trump could cause damage to another aspect of the American church, one much more powerful – and to which we owe a greater allegiance. Donald Trump could cause irreparable damage to the church’s witness, just by gaining the vote of its majority and becoming its sponsored candidate (which Hillary cannot credibly claim).
And the loss of that witness could be a far greater damage than persecution.
How Persecution Works
We Americans have a backwards view of persecution. Our store windows say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry CHRISTmas” and we flip our lids. Believers in Iran and North Korea are shaking their heads from their jail cells at our idea of persecution. Don’t get me wrong – it can be hard here. My heart goes out to Dick and Betty Odgaard, an Iowa couple who were ostracized for denying a gay couple a wedding in their church. But in India, there are believers who are dragged into the streets and beaten for their faith.
And some of them pray that it will continue! Can you believe that? I certainly have not reached that point yet for Americans, which is why I won’t vote for Clinton. But their reasoning makes an uncomfortable sense. They’re looking at us. They’re watching the American church get poisoned by comfort, becoming more complacent, tolerant of evil, and infatuated with prosperity of the bank account rather than of the soul, with each passing year. And they want nothing to do with it.
When I read Jesus’ words to his churches in Revelation 2-3, I see something incredible, which I have to think those Indian believers have also seen. Jesus seems to regard loss of love, not loss of freedom, as the worst case scenario for his people.
Persecution does not destroy a church. It strengthens it, refines it, shakes out the chaff. Satan was deploying the “wipe ’em out” tactic against the church even as Revelation was being penned. It backfired on him epically. We know from history that the persecuted church exploded, swept throughout the empire and the continent. A millennia later, buried by years of false teaching, it reemerged through the Reformation despite more persecution, and through a series of events both fortunate and unfortunate, led to the formation of our own beloved United States – which now daily shames the martyrs who seeded it, with its decadence and loss of love.
A Damaged Witness?
For you know the next tactic Satan tried. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Infect the church. Institutionalize it. Fatten it. Corrupt it with attractive but false doctrine. Fill it with hatred for fellow man, both inside and outside. Make it repulsive to the unbeliever. I don’t think any of my esteemed readers would disagree that he’s been most successful on the American front.
Could the church’s support of Donald Trump be another mutation of that corruption?
What good is the freedom to preach to a people who won’t take you seriously anyway? The Telegraph just published a piece entitled “Sex, lies and erotic videotape: How could religious conservatives nominate Donald Trump?” Normally I wouldn’t care what a worldly rag has to say…except in this case, they might have a point. The world isn’t expecting us to tolerate this stuff, not to mention any of the other sins listed later, and for good reason. “By this you will know they are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). And here’s a guy who’s running for president on a platform that seems to include everything but love.
Yes, there are human problems that Trump says he can address. Islamic terror. Illegal immigration. The destruction of our Christian heritage. Specters, no doubt.
But if the cost of addressing them is surrendering our hearts to solutions borne in fear and anger, and undermining our witness as Christians…?
On the other hand, we don’t need freedom of religion to evangelize (isn’t that a wonderful truth?). All we need is the peace of the Spirit to lift our hearts when consequences come. The Christian life isn’t a bed of roses; it’s a crown of thorns. Paul certainly didn’t wait for religious mottos to appear on the Roman monuments. He sang before the prison guards. And both the Bible and history have shown that persecution only acts as seeds to a church.
Persecution is nothing to be feared, if come it must. Our souls are sealed.
But we should fear the destruction of our witness.
The Choice Ahead
The most important issue for the church in this election is not the Supreme Court. The most important issue for the church in this election – just as in any other issue – is how we can shine like Christ today.
Is voting for Trump a sin? I won’t go that far. We can’t predict what will happen; Trump may yet be seized by Christ (of course, so might Hillary). Besides, every politician has skulls in his closet. Although they didn’t trot them out like Trump and make puppet shows with them at the podium – going beyond excuse-making to uphold vice as virtue. By making Trump “the evangelicals’ choice”, we align ourselves with these vices when we should be distancing ourselves. Would it really be unreasonable for the world to then view us with a skeptical eye? How can we speak the name of the Lord before the masses when we have not done what he said?
I fear the choice in this election is coming down to this: avoid persecution or compromise the Great Commission. Neither is appealing. Maybe you don’t see our choices that way. I certainly hope you’re right. But there are many Christians who do, and you should not be surprised that it leaves them firmly #NeverTrump.
Your response might now be, “Then who will I vote for?” That is not the overriding question for the Christian. The overriding question is, “How can I shine like Christ today?” Vote in your downballot races. They matter. There are third-party candidates you could investigate. In the end, your vote is between you and God, and we will not be divided by your choice.
But our civic duty must never be allowed to trump (sorry) our spiritual duty. There will be no American flags in heaven. We are called, above any other priority and consideration, to honor God.
The only argument for today, then, is whether that dilemma truly exists for us in this election.
Based on neutral research, Donald Trump has:
* Swindled thousands of Americans through hotel-lobby Ponzi schemes and is going to court over it in November (google Trump University);
* Bribed government officials who tried to investigate him (google Pam Bondi);
* Would order the military to violate the Geneva Convention – and basic human rights – by committing the war crime of going after terrorist families;
* Been sued thousands of times by small business and contractors whom he refused to pay for their services;
* Lost almost a billion dollars in reckless and foolhardy business ventures;
* Been accused of self-dealing (using his campaign for financial gain);
* Ran an unlicensed charity that was just today ordered to cease operations;
* Broke American law by doing business in Cuba;
* Targets his political and journalistic opponents with mocking insults and low blows against their families (I’ve literally taught seventh graders more mature than this);
* Has consistently degraded women (I left this until last because nobody seems to care about “saying mean things” anymore)
Please keep your comments civil. We’ve had enough bile in this election.