Anti-Trump Christians: To the Barricades! Christian Trump Voters: Repent!
Many years ago (i.e., just this past December), many evangelical friends of mine and I positively broke into hallelujah choruses following Christianity Today editor Mark Galli’s public declaration supporting the impeachment and removal of President Donald Trump, whose Senate trial started last month.
I know this sounds odd. Conventional wisdom says that people like us — evangelicals, in other words — supposedly constitute one of Trump’s most reliably monolithic, fervently loyal voting blocs. As proof of this, the press and the public constantly point to the 81% figure, the percentage of white evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, a dozen times a day. Its constant repetition has created in the minds of many an impression that essentially all evangelicals pulled the lever for Trump.
But hang on, though. That is just not true. Not even close.
The actual percentage of all voting evangelicals — whites and non-whites — who pulled the lever for Trump in 2016 is only 58%. A full 36% voted for Clinton, while 6% for other candidates. This means that 42% of evangelicals — almost half — voted for someone else.
We have remained largely invisible to the public from the get-go, but that has now changed. Christianity Today’s courageous public declaration has finally given dissenting evangelicals the platform many of us feel we deserve, and we definitely have some things to say.
First, a word to our secular brethren in the anti-Trump resistance.
You all need to know that we have stood with you from the very beginning although you may not have known it, and we will continue to stand with you until Trump and his baneful influence on American life is gone. Despite the stereotypes foisted on us by the inaccurate public narrative, we anti-Trump evangelicals have pushed back hard against Trump’s malevolent agenda like you have. We too have argued with Trump supporters, marched in the streets carrying protest signs, called our members of Congress and knocked on doors in an effort to dethrone not only the president but his enablers in legislatures and courts across the country from the federal level down to the local level.
We too have been utterly heartsick at the elevation of this wicked, viciously cruel, self-centered man to the highest public office in the nation. From the moment he descended the golden escalator in Trump Tower to declare his candidacy for president in June 2015, we could see, despite claims by Trump’s evangelical followers, no evidence of adherence to any of the teachings of Jesus which all Christians claim to embrace. Trump seems more like the man which the psalmist David describes when he said, “Why do you boast in evil, oh mighty man? . . . Your tongue devises destruction, like a sharp razor, oh worker of deceit. You love evil more than good, falsehood more than speaking what is right.”
Never were truer words spoken.
Trump bullies; threatens; incites hatred and violence against minorities, foreigners, journalists and political opponents; curses, mocks, insults; lies, lies about lying, doubles down and lies again. He heaps contempt upon truth itself.
Not content to merely speak evil, Mr. Trump has broken the law as both candidate and president. He has in fact broken laws so frequently and flagrantly that if he were not the president of the United States, most legal scholars say, he would have landed in jail months ago.
During the presidential campaign of 2016, Mr. Trump paid off a porn star — a mistress with whom he was having an affair— to stop her from making politically damaging allegations. Also, the courts have sanctioned president for fraud, self-dealing and misuse of funds through Trump University and the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
Then there is his conduct of foreign policy. Mr. Trump fawns over foreign dictators and strongmen, while insulting and utterly alienating our closest friends and allies abroad. He has also come close to provoking shooting wars with Iran and North Korea.
And now, his criminal actions have finally caught up to him, landing him in the middle of an impeachment trial, only the third in American history, after getting caught trying to extort the Ukrainian government for personal, political gain.
We see this—all of this—and it makes many of us shake with fury, as many of you do as you behold the awfulness of the Trump presidency unfolding. So know this, members of the anti-Trump resistance: we are your allies, not your enemies. Do not make the mistake of dismissing all evangelicals as irredeemable deplorables. We are with you in this fight. Heart and soul, we are with you.
Tomorrow, we will know the long-anticipated results of the attempt to impeach this out-of-control president. We all know that the sycophants of the Republican-controlled Senate will obediently acquit him, even though many of them openly admit that his actions in the Ukraine scandal were inappropriate, if not illegal. At the end of the day, then, the only option left to us for ridding ourself of this wicked president will be crushing him at the ballot box in November.
The countdown to the election has begun: Iowa’s down, and we’ve got dozens of primaries to go. We stand ready and willing to work hard side by side with you, the resistance, to help throw off the Trumpist yoke.
You’ve got most of the 42% at your back. Don’t forget that.
We are with you!
To my fellow evangelicals who voted for Trump, let me say this.
A healthy, strong, united Body of Christ in America could and should have stood together to oppose Trump’s lawlessness and moral corruption as one, but it did not. Instead, some of us, some of our own Christian brothers and sisters betrayed our country by unleashing Trumpism with their votes in 2016.
Truly, evangelical support for Trump in the face of his immoral, criminal behavior and his toxic, hateful rhetoric has seriously harmed our country and weakened our place in the world. But there’s more. The close association of evangelicalism with Trumpism has so badly damaged the reputation of the Christian gospel that for another generation or more, the church will have serious trouble playing its divinely-appointed role of revealing God to the world.
Few evangelical Trump supporters have either acknowledged their terrible mistake or committed themselves to rectifying it. To be fair, I have heard by word of mouth that some buyers remorse does exist out there among evangelical Trump voters. Besides a few examples friends of mine have brought to my attention, though, I see very, very little change of heart.
I see no self-awareness, but I do see tremendous, willful blindness among evangelical Trumpers to their moral complicity in bringing about this disaster. Again, we have taken note of this.
Consider the shocking level of denial expressed in the open letter by 200 prominent evangelical Trump supporters in the Christian Post responding to Mark Galli’s essay. “We are not ‘far-right’ evangelicals,” the signatories protested. “We are bible-believing Christians and patriotic Americans who are simply grateful that our president has sought our advice as his administration has advanced [various evangelical-friendly] policies … We recognize that our imperfect political system is a reflection of the fallen world within which we live, reliant upon the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is freely given to sinner and saint alike. We are proud to be numbered among those in history who, like Jesus, have been pretentiously accused of having too much grace for tax collectors and sinners.”
Just humble public servants dispensing wisdom to an utterly normal, Republican president in normal times, they say. Apparently, they are also blissfully unaware that this same president jails innocent migrants seeking political asylum. Unaware that he extorts foreign governments to perform him personal political favors. Unaware that he openly seeks to benefit his family and his business using the office of the presidency, and surrounds himself with shameless white-collar criminals who are doing the same for themselves.
Hear no evil, see no evil.
But it gets worse, for many of them revel in and even praise Trump’s selfishness and cruelty. Some even actively participate in Trump’s worst behaviors. Witness the recent boorish, contemptuous, profane behavior of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a self-proclaimed evangelical, towards the press and that of another fellow believer, White House counsel Jay Sekulow, who during the Senate impeachment trial has filled the public airwaves with a torrent of bald-faced lies in defense of his morally indefensible boss, Donald Trump.
Even worse, some evangelicals have come to virtually worship Trump as a divinely sent messianic savior figure, a modern-day Cyrus of Persia. Some evangelical Trumpers also claim that Trump’s ascendancy has unleashed spiritual revival in America, an utterly ludicrous claim that flies in the face of an obvious lack of evidence to the contrary.
Isaiah the prophet captured the spirit of our times well when he said of his own countrymen, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil. Woe to those who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, and who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
So, to my fellow Christians who voted for Trump, I ask you to consider this.
In those eras of history during which we Christians practiced what we preached, we rocked the world. We built hospitals and orphanages, gave our lives serving the sick during plagues, halted armed conflicts, confronted oppressive dictators, rescued paupers, addicts and prostitutes from Skid Row, you name it.
At our best, we Christians did great things, but this was not because we were great, but because God, Who lives in us, is great.
Remember the pearl of great price that Jesus told us about, the pearl which the pearl merchant sells everything he has to buy. Does this cynical, bitter, small-minded, rage- and fear-filled hell of an America that Trump built really look anything like this? Where in Trumplandia do you see the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control that is supposed to typify the kingdom of God on earth?
Nowhere. Nowhere at all.
Evangelical Trump voters, you have turned the pearl of great price into a turd and left it to the rest of us to clean up the mess.
Evangelical Trump fever has created a tremendous rock of stumbling for many outside the faith that has driven and continues to drive many away from the church. To be fair, many in America were already leaving organized religion before Trump came along, but the election of our so-called modern-day Cyrus of Persia has not just failed to stem the bleeding, it’s made it far, far worse.
As we watch this unfold, many of us non-Trump evangelicals feel hurt and saddened at the betrayal by you, our Trump-voting brothers and sisters. You have betrayed our trust in your moral judgment and character, and sadly, it will be a long time before many of us will be able to bring ourselves to trust you again, especially given the bad faith, denial, and even hard-hearted, sneering contempt with which you have responded to our cries of protest in the public arena during the Trump era.
A slow, quiet, and inexorable splintering of the Body of Christ in America has now begun because of this. Over the last five years, I’ve observed a multiplication of interpersonal conflicts and broken friendships among evangelicals. Meanwhile, a quiet exodus of moderate and liberal evangelicals from conservative congregations, fueled by disillusionment with the white evangelical establishment and its network of mega-churches, seminaries and media has been underway since the beginning of the Trump era.
We are headed, in a word, for a new Reformation moment, a bitter rift that may be as serious as that which began on October 31, 1517, the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg chapel.
American evangelicalism stands in the place where Catholicism stood 500 years ago. A large and growing percentage of evangelicals now reject the moral and intellectual rottenness within their religious tradition that Trumpism has exposed. Know, evangelical Trump supporters, that you face a stark choice: dig your heels in, stiffen your neck and be broken; or get yourself eyes to see and ears to hear, and repent of your disastrous choice before its too late.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear…