As we continue to examine the attempts of Christian Donald Trump supporters to baptize Trumpism and tie it to Christianity (see the previous article), we turn to the idea Christians who are #NeverTrump are fighting God.
This representative post from Facebook has been shared more than 14,500 times:
I’m discouraged by several Christian friends who are continuing to vow tonight “Never Trump.” I’ve been saying now for some months that we would ALL do well to remember the wisdom of Gamaliel. “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” Acts 5:38-39.
God has OFTEN used despicable men and unlikely rogues to achieve His divine purpose. This is nothing new and it should not shock any Christian who knows his Bible. Whether it’s for blessing or for judgment we cannot know for sure. But Trump’s candidacy has had all the earmarks of divine inertia for many months now: Everyone from career Republicans and professional Democrats to the liberal media to the intelligentsia and academia to the most despised world leaders such as Kim Jong Un to the elite of Hollywood have united to oppose Trump–and yet his momentum has continued to grow exponentially.
First of all, the reference to Gamaliel in Acts is off-base. #NeverTrump means we are against Trump in that we won’t ever vote for him. Gamaliel’s audience were Pharisees and priests who wanted to kill the Apostles. Gamaliel was not calling for the apostles to be left to advocate the Gospel. To be analogous to supporting Trump, he would have to have suggested that, because they might be of God, Peter should be elected head of the Sanhedrin.
Second, the argument of many Trump supporters is the Trump having won so much when he faced so much opposition was a sign of God’s favor. By that same standard, Barack Obama had “divine inertia” when he came from being in the U.S. Senate after only three years to defeat someone who had the support of the entire political class. By that same standard, Hillary Clinton, who is leading Trump, in places as unlikely as Arizona and Utah and leads nationwide by a large margin has divine inertia that may carry her all the way to the White House.
If such arguments were true, then Christian could best be involved in politics by assuming God is for whoever is winning the election and get behind them. If the poll shift, Christians should shift their allegiance as well because under this theory, the will of God can be discerned in the polls. That’s an absurd theory that makes Christian involvement in politics a completely pointless exercise.
God is sovereign. How this plays out is something Christians have been debating for hundreds of years. However you slice it, God is ultimately in control and knows what he’s doing. He could have stopped Donald Trump if he’d wanted to and he may still do so. However, the author confuses what the will of God is with what the duty of the Christian is. A Christian’s citizen’s duty is not to spend his days trying to discern what God may allow, but to be faithful to what is true and right as revealed in scripture. It could be Donald Trump will become President, but that God is calling people to stand against him anyway.
Nothing happens without God knowing about it, from a heart attack to a fire to a homicide. However, the fact bad things happen isn’t an argument to actively help bad things happen.
A few years back, a prominent pastor was concerned about the direction of his country. He met with the leading political contender and decided to endorse him, convinced the candidate only wanted to make the country great again and the candidate he endorsed would protect the church’s liberty. The pastor was Martin Niemöller. The man he supported was Adolf Hitler, the soon to be chancellor of Germany.
Hitler’s rise was the result of the hardness of hearts in Germany. It was something God didn’t stop and that Niemöller helped along. Niemöller lived to regret his support for Hitler and putting his trust in man to protect the Church from anti-religious movements. Hitler actually subverted the church and cast Niemöller into prison. He told a fellow prisoner, “Their hostility toward the Church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while. I am paying for that mistake now; and not me alone, but thousands of other persons like me.”
“Offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes.” If God has decided to allow Donald Trump to become the next President, that can happen without our participation.
Compromising the Christian Witness
However you argue the theology of God’s sovereignty, the decision of Niemöller and other Christians to back the rise of Hitler in Germany ended with the persecution and subjugation of the Church. Further, it hurt the witness of the Church to this day.
Vocal Christian support for Donald Trump is a threat to core Christian witness in several ways.
First, Donald Trump is a bully. Christianity, at its best, reaches out and lifts up the weak, the lowly, and the outcast. People who have been bullied because of their weight, their looks, or a disability could be turned off to the Church and the gospel because so many Christians are going to publicly go all-in for a man who is a prominent reminder of their tormentors.
Second, his tone is the antithesis of Christianity. His constant race-baiting and appealing to identity politics has made him toxic with many minority voters, while winning him praise from the KKK, Stormfront, and other hate groups. If Christians tie themselves to Trump, it will be a stumbling block for efforts to reach the whole community.
It’s one thing when people are offended when Christians take a stand in the public arena for ideas such as the sanctity of life and the biblical understanding of human sexuality. It’s quite another when we turn people off because too many Christians have formed an ad hoc coalition with white supremacists.
Finally, the nature of politics and political endorsements leads us to minimize and ignore faults. With Donald Trump, this has led to Christians blithely dismissing all the evil he’s done and all the people he’s victimized with a trite saying, “We’re looking for a president, not a pastor.” (Which I addressed in the last article.) This makes light of and dismisses serious sin and the abuse of others.
This will lead to Christians being charged with hypocrisy any time that stand up for any sort of morals or standards. Get used to hearing outsiders say, “You Christians have a problem with two men who love each other, but you had no problem putting a womanizer like Trump in the White House.” And “You get on me about my language. Hello? You backed Trump, and he dropped the F-bomb all over the place.”
In this election, we face a choice between two horrendous candidates and many Christians will conclude they have to support the lesser of two evils and that the lesser evil is Trump. I plead with any Christian who feels forced to vote for Trump to make every effort to avoid association between Trump and Christ or Christianity.
I’d advise well known Christian and pro-family political groups not to support Donald Trump, and focus on down-ticket races. If people in such a group feels a need to address the Presidency, they should form a separate entity to support Mr. Trump in the same way a legitimate publisher might have a separate imprint for pornography.
If you are a known Christian such as a pastor or minister, I would you not to publicly support Mr. Trump. If you are a known and active Trump supporter, please don’t mention your Christian faith until this campaign is over. Christian and Donald Trump bumper stickers do not belong on the back of the same car.
If you wish to support Trump, do it as a citizen making the best of a bad situation, or someone who is mad and won’t take it anymore, do it as someone who is frustrated with the establishment and willing to give Trump a chance, but for the sake of your Christian witness, do not do it in the name of Christ.