Why Donald Trump is a Discernment Issue
…and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. (Matthew 14:11 ESV)
The crime of John the Baptist was opposing King Herod on account of his adultery. Herod’s response, prompted by his mistress’ daughter, was to cut off John’s head. The first century Christian political ethic seemed clear…no compromise. Prince or pauper, beggar or king, all should be brought to repentance and no one was above the law of God. The Baptist gave his head to prove it.
Fast-forward two thousand years and evangelicals are actually trying to elect a serial and unapologetic adulterer to political office. It’s surreal to watch. Cliche phrases like, “We’re electing a president, not a pastor,” has somehow come to mean, “So lay your Christian principles aside and vote for the most vulgar and blasphemous stench to God that has ever run for presidential office.” After all, if John the Baptist had only realized that Herod was mere king and not pastor, John’s cap may not have been detated.
Likewise, evangelical Trump supporters seem to have lost all perspective when their favorite candidate is challenged on his lifelong fornication, celebration of greed, habitual lying and general filthiness, saying things like, “Everyone is a sinner.” That excuse, however, could be offered for literally any ornery cuss under the sun, from Jeffery Dahmer to Adolph Hitler. Is that what we’re doing now? Are we excusing public bad behavior because “everyone is a sinner”? Were ‘conservative’ evangelicals saying this when Bill Clinton was being impeached? Were ‘conservative’ evangelicals saying, “everyone is a sinner” when we were laughing our heads off about Anthony Weiner’s…[insert pun]? Since when did evangelicals start using the apologetic prosaisms of fourteen year-old girls who went to youth group that one time? Evangelical supporters of Donald Trump sound like charismatics explaining why they still watch alleged rapist and confessed adulterer, Jim Bakker, sell Apocalypse survivor supplies with his new
mistress wife…hey man, everyone is a sinner. While it is true that everyone is a sinner, it doesn’t mean that everyone drinks in sin like water, breathes in iniquity and expels the gasses of transgression from their bowels. That man is Donald Trump.
And then we regress to the apologetic of basically every lost person everywhere with what might be the chief defense of Donald Trump by evangelical Christians, “Nobody is perfect.” Theologically a step down from “everyone is a sinner,” this defense is best left to antinomians, libertines and moral gnostics. Of course, our argument isn’t that anyone is perfect, but that “Trump’s not perfect” is a massive understatement for the Playboy-posing, adultery-bragging, filthy mouthed, sex-obsessed, misogynistic bigot who has changed literally every one of his political opinions right about the time he decided to run for president on the Republican ticket. Being “not perfect” is something you reserve for the guy who’s exhibited a lifetime of civic responsibility, compassionate citizenship, a high moral character, fidelity to his spouse and has generally avoided building a career on porn and gambling, but who you are sure Romans 3:23 applies to. Being “not perfect” is not something you apply to nerfarious spiritual and moral scoundrels whose life testimony is one continuous murderous threat breathed out against God upon another.
Perhaps the most obnoxious trait of the evangelical Trump supporter is their incessant attacks on his opponents on moral grounds, betraying their epic, Olympic-sized obtuseness regarding Matthew 7:3-5. We’ve all seen their Facebook posts in our social media threads. We’ve all seen their “gotcha” tweets in opposition to clear-headed opposition to the candidate who oozes sin from his every pore. Did you know that Cruz lied about Ben Carson getting out of the race in Iowa!?!?! He’s a liar! A liar, I tell you! Yeah, this is a speck and plank type of situation. I have to ask, “Are you serious?” Like, you realize you’re advocating for Donald Trump, right? It’s like an Andy Stanley supporter complaining that John MacArthur was wrong on the exposition of some random, obscure scripture at some point in his life. Our attitude would be, really? Coming from the guy who’s never exposited a text in his life? Hello, Pot. Let me introduce you to Kettle. It’s like if a Mark Driscoll supporter complained that the 9 Marks promote an unhealthy ecclesiology. The mere accusation, considering the source, would seem absurd. This is the evangelical Trump supporter in a nutshell (with emphasis on the first part of that conjunction).
In recent days I’ve seen evangelical Trump supporters incensed that Mitt Romney mentioned that Trump seems to get his wives from the foreign adultery pool (my paraphrase), and while that accusation might seem trite, pales in comparison to Trump’s continual mockery of women and most recently – just this week – threatened to release “secrets” on Heidi Cruz. This is a world record type of cognitive dissonance. I’ve seen evangelical Trump supporters in recent days decry Cruz’s supposed change of mind regarding corn subsidies in Iowa or his change of mind regarding birth certificates or reference the poison pill he injected into the Gang of Eight amnesty bill (that was designed to destroy it) as smoking guns that Cruz has flip-flopped on this issue or that. Whether or not they’re right (they’re mostly wrong), the fact is that their candidate is a walking, talking contradiction who just a couple years ago was a rabidly pro-choice, anti-gun liberal (by anyone’s definition). In recent days I’ve heard evangelical Trump supporters claim that Cruz is “owned by the banks” because he took out a mortgage once and his wife worked for a bank, while Donald Trump is many millions of dollars in debt to banks currently and the entire “art of [his] deal” has basically been to owe so much to banks that they couldn’t afford to repossess his property. While claiming conspiracy theories that the most anti-illegal immigration candidate in the party is somehow secretly for amnesty and open borders, evangelical Trump supporters overlook the fact that Trump Towers – the icon that holds his name – was built by one thousand illegal immigrants. I’m sorry (not really), but the glaring hypocrisy of each and every Trump supporter on these issues reeks of a severe lack of self-awareness.
Trump voters need to understand that their support has real-life implications and they need to count the cost before siding with
Herod Trump in this election cycle.
First, evangelical Trump supporters have lost every ounce of moral high ground to attack Hillary Clinton (Trump’s most likely opponent) on the grounds of immorality or poor character. What they’re doing is running the one candidate in political history who is more scandalous than Bill and Hillary Clinton. It’s really absurd, if you think about it. Hillary Clinton is God’s gift to the Republican Party. She is any public relations firm’s nightmare. There are likely actual dead bodies behind the Hillary Clinton Bus. Whitewater. Travelgate. Filegate. Bimbogate. Emailgate. Benghazigate. However, evangelical Trump voters can only preface their support upon the presumption (and explicit assertion) that character does not matter. And all of those beautiful, wonderful scandals we could beat over Hillary’s head have been rendered moot by evangelical support for a character with far worse moral shortcomings that haven’t been vetted yet. While some would argue that Bill Clinton or even Hillary are arguably more immoral, there is a stark contrast. Although it’s not commendable per se, it’s clear that the two wretches had enough shame to cover their sin and deny it (again, not commendable per se). Donald Trump, on the other hand, is not guilty of lying by saying, “I never had sexual relations with that woman, Miss [fill in the blank].” Rather, Trump’s attitude has been “I did have sexual relations with that woman, I was phenomenal, I was the best she ever had, and I have huge hands.” He boasts in his depravity, which is even something the Clintons have not done.
Secoond, evangelical Trump supporters are greatly lacking of discernment. Whether we’re talking polemics or just plain “street discernment,” there is absolutely no reason a discerning soul should think it possible that a person do a complete 180 on worldview ideology without some kind of born-again experience. Considering Trump’s an avowed pagan (that’s what you call someone who’s never asked forgiveness), I don’t think he’s had a born-again experience. The only thing that has changed in his life that would provide substantial reason to explain his worldview shift is that he’s running for president in the Republican primary. This is a man who has said – on video – that he will advance the LGBT agenda (to an LGBT reporter) and will change his views once nominated. Wake up, people. Use discernment. This is either someone “seeing the light” in a spiritual sort of way or this is a charlatan who will lie, cheat or steal to win the White House. Considering that Trump has explicitly celebrated greed (literally), I think any discerning soul should know which one of the two it is.
Third, evangelical Trump supporters have lost the right to ever again complain that a candidate isn’t a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ or isn’t practicing of Christian values. While we polemicists have been throwing temper tantrums over evangelicals like Eric Teetsel, Russell Moore, Greg Laurie and Wayne Grudem calling Marco Rubio (a Roman Catholic) a “Christian” and while we’ve been having hissies over Glenn Beck turning Cruz campaign events into Holy Underpants hour and had the vein on our angry foreheads bulge over Kenneth Copeland’s anointing and some of Cruz’ nefarious New Apostolic Reformation connections (and we’ve published articles on all of the above), we’ve come to admit that there is no “perfect” Christian candidate. Heck, when we found out that Rand Paul’s Presbyterianism was of the PCUSA variety you could have heard an audible moan from the discernment community. We’ve smashed our foreheads against our keyboards each time someone called Carson (a Seventh Day Adventist) an “evangelical.” We get it. There’s no perfect Christian candidate, and sometimes there’s no Christian candidate at all. However, no candidate has been so bold as to aggressively deny the need for forgiveness. That’s utterly shocking in every way. In the mean time, there’s never been a candidate whose life is so startlingly opposed to what we would call “Christian values.” To support this man is to remove your right to ever discuss the relevancy of faith among the civil magistrate.
Donald Trump has done the impossible. He has made “character doesn’t matter” an evangelical slogan.
[Contributed by JD Hall]