My wife and I attend a large Evangelical Christian bible church in the Chicago suburbs led by a prominent pastor. We love Jesus. We faithfully read our bibles, pray daily, serve in a variety of ways, and do our best to live the fullness of the Christian life. We are also liberal Democrats. That makes us unicorns in Protestant Christian America.
Since the Fall of 2015 we’ve been sideline observers of Donald Trump’s takeover of the Evangelical wing of the Church in America. What began as a curious social experiment that left us perplexed and mildly amused, has culminated in the daily horror of our Christian identity being systematically assailed and diminished in the eyes of the non-Christian world.
To be fair, my wife and I do not always agree on politics or policy, and I tend to be a much harsher critic of the President’s shenanigans. So I will only offer my opinions in this essay and not speak for her.
First, let me state categorically that I did not vote for Donald Trump nor did I vote for Hillary Clinton. While I hold to most of Secretary Clinton’s policy positions, I found her challenges with personal integrity to be a bridge too far. So I cast my vote for the person I wish had ran and won the nomination of my party; Vice President Joe Biden.
As a card carrying Liberal, it is no surprise that I do not agree with many of the policy positions promoted by Donald Trump. But the damage he can do to our nation via such policies, while significant and potentially catastrophic for all but the wealthy, are not the primary catalyst for my opposition to his leadership. No, indeed the most troubling aspect of his rise to power is the detrimental effect he is having on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Follow along and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
As a Christian, I am commanded by Jesus Christ—who by faith, I believe is God—to spread the Gospel and make disciples for Him all the days of my life. This means first and foremost, living in such a way that my life is a testament to His grace, power, and holiness. It’s the old “actions speak louder than words” axiom. Along with that life of modeling Christ-like behavior (which I fail at miserably most days) I am to radically love my neighbors, serve them, and put others before myself in all things. This will allow me to have genuine, loving relationships that afford me with opportunities to minister to people through the Word of God and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, bring people to a saving faith in Jesus. That’s the program you sign up for as a believer, and most of us take it seriously.
It seems obvious that for a person to be credible as a follower of Jesus, they must exhibit outward signs that they are transformed by the saving grace of Jesus (we call it becoming a “new creation in Christ”). Absent this external evidence, it is right and proper for other believers to question the sincerity of a person claiming to be a Christian but who has not turned from their sinful ways or admittedly made any effort to repent.
During an appearance at the Family Leadership Summit in July, 2015, Trump said that he has never asked God for forgiveness but that he does take communion, which he described as ,“[w]hen I drink my little wine—which is about the only wine I drink—and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed.” Um…no. That’s not how it works, Mr. President. And every person who identifies as a Christian should be appalled by his cavalier and apparently theologically bereft statement.
Why then do so many Evangelical leaders openly support Donald Trump and claim that he is a champion of Christian values? Anyone familiar with Mr. Trump’s very public life knows him to have engaged in behaviors that are not only regarded as sinful, but for which he has publicly admitted never having repented of and still often speaks of with pride. This is not Christ-like behavior. This is not the hallmark of man who is under the power of the Holy Spirit and who has been redeemed from his sin. Yet…he garnered the votes of 81% of white Evangelicals in the 2016 election. More than Bush, more than McCain, and more than Romney in the previous three election cycles. This is an abomination.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is carried forth into the world by the faithful. If we, as a Church are associated with a man who, by even the most generous standard, is a hypocrite, then how will the world view us? Our witness as Christians is our calling card to the world. Right now, that card is embossed with the face of a man who behaves and speaks in a way that is antithetical to Christ’s teachings and his commandments. If our witness is compromised, it is not us who are harmed, but instead the very Word of God.
In a world full of darkness, the Church and her faithful are to be salt and light. Familiar and approachable, but lighting the path toward goodness and hope. We are not called to align ourselves to the powers of this world, or to put our hope in the influence of men. We are teetering on a precipice. Behind us is the power of the Word of God to change the world. Before us is the chasm of worldly deception, power, and darkness.
What will our next step be?