There are many reasons not to back Donald Trump, including his lifetime of abuse and mistreatment of fellow human beings, breaking up families, his conduct unbecoming of a presidential candidate during this campaign, the depths of his ignorance on matters of policy, his pathological dishonesty and his poor judgment fueled by a massive ego.
Despite this many people are supporting for Donald Trump for one reason; of all the troubling things he is there’s one thing he’s not: Hillary Clinton. Plus, there’s the slim possibility he’ll fulfill his promise to appoint pro-life judges. However, his lack of integrity makes that promise hard to take seriously.
Party officials and politicians will mostly fall in line behind Trump either because of pledges they’ve made or because they believe in party loyalty. These decisions are understandable if not commendable.
Many Christian leaders, mainly evangelical, seem ready to jump on board the Trump train despite his total lack of trustworthiness because he’s not Hillary Clinton. That’s troubling. Christian leaders riding the Trump train may pose a greater risks to the future of evangelicalism in America.
There are four greatest risks of evangelical leaders backing Donald Trump:
4) Marginalizing the conservative Christian movement
These Christian leaders should examine the history of black support for the Democratic Party before deciding to embrace the idea that whoever the GOP nominates must be supported no matter what.
black voters are a reliable voting block for Democrats. In every modern election (except for 2004), they’ve given 90% of their votes to Democrats. Why? What exactly have they gotten out of their support for Democrats? This community has record high rates of unemployment, poverty, illegitimacy, and imprisonment, while Democrats support teachers unions over the interests of black parents and their children in schools that don’t educate.
Why do Democrats do so little to address the needs of black Americans? For many it’s unthinkable for them to support the Republicans or vote for a third party because of their disdain for the Republicans. In return black Americans get self-appointed leaders who enjoy “seats at the table.” This reward doesn’t educate any children or solve the many ills black Americans face, but it does enrich and aggrandize those who fill the seats at the table.
The same thing is happening with evangelical conservatives. The Republican Party has nominated a man who is the antithesis of everything we’ve stood for. It’s a bookend to the history of evangelical politics that Jerry Falwell, Sr. entered politics to represent a “moral majority,” and Jerry Falwell, Jr. has argued that moral concerns about him posing next to a copy of Playboy in Donald Trump’s office are “Pharisaic.”
If evangelicals fall for Trump, party leaders will be assured they’ll fall for anything. Evangelical spiritual advisers will get seats at the table to hobnob with the powerful party leaders, but will party leaders save unborn children? Will they protect religious liberty? Will they stand up for the traditional family? No, and why should they? Evangelical leaders will have signaled they’re wholly owned subsidiaries of the Republican Party and are too afraid of the Democrats to stand up to their saviors and masters.
3) Evangelical leaders become fear leaders rather than faith leaders
There’s something contradictory in the idea of a faith leader whose argument is that Christians have to compromise their principles and values because Hillary Clinton is so terrifying. James Dobson has said that thoughts of a Hillary Clinton presidency “haunt my nights and days.”
It’s a bit of a misnomer for such leaders to be labeled “faith leaders.” I appreciate so much of what Dr. Dobson has done in the past, and how many people he’s helped. However, at present, he’s leading people in a decision that reflects fear rather than faith. It seems as if the battle cry of conservative Christians has gone from “Onward Christian Soldiers!” to “Not in the face!”
The prospect of President Hillary Clinton is a depressing one. However, it is the likely outcome when Republicans decided to choose the only candidate who could lose to Hillary as the nominee. In the likely event that Hillary Clinton is elected, what are Christians going to do? Curl up in the fetal position under the bed for the next four years? Stock up on guns, ammo, and food storage, and move into survival bunkers?
If Hillary Clinton is so bad that we have to sell our principles down the river to stop her, how will we continue to stand if she is President?
The way these leaders talk, it seems as if they believe Hillary Clinton is greater than God. Their statements imply If Secretary Clinton’s elected, then that’s all she wrote, and there’s no more hope in this country and this world.
When you’re a Christian leader it makes sense to prepare people for likely scenarios; not to make them so desperately afraid of them that they lose heart and lose faith when those events come to pass. Christians should have confidence that, regardless of the election results, God is still on His throne and He will enable his people to stand.
Perhaps we’ll find lost courage and proclaim as one man did back in the 1990s to warn that, if parties or politicians don’t stand for truth, we won’t stand for them:
Does the Republican Party want our votes? No strings attached? To court us every two years and then to say, don’t call me, I’ll call you? And to not care about the moral law of the universe? Is that what they want? Is that what the plan is? Is that the way the system works? And, if so, is it going to stay that way? Is this the way it’s going to be? If it is, I’m gone. And, if I go, I’m not trying to threaten anybody because I don’t influence the world, but if I go I will do everything I can to take as many people with me as possible.
That leader was James Dobson back in 1998. Hopefully he, and many others like him, will rediscover that courage rather than urging Christians to take counsel of our fears.
2) Alienation of youth from older Christian leaders
There are already many younger Christians who are dissatisfied with conservative Christian leaders. It’d be easy to write them off as being liberal, but many are not. They have legitimate concerns about the way some have allowed Christianity to be relegated to being the “Official Mascot Religion of the Republican Party,” or the lack of concern about other issues that should be addressed.
One of the bigger issues is hypocrisy and lack of love. This concern is about pastors who would preach fire and brimstone about homosexuality while winking at cohabitation and gratuitous divorce in their churches, or ignoring other sins of greed and dishonesty. Evangelical leaders should know the younger generation of Christians stand in doubt of them already. The issues of Trump’s character go to abuse and bullying, things that younger Christian are far more sensitive to.
Backing Trump will confirm their worst fears. Upon seeing the bulk of politically active evangelical Christian leaders joining a coalition with white nationalists and conspiracy theorists to elect an abusive bully as the next president some young Christians will move radically to the left. Others will exit the political sphere entirely concluding that over the decades politics has done far more to influence Christians than Christians have done to influence politics.
The best case scenario is that the few younger Christian leaders are embraced by younger Christians such as Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, but young evangelicals have little use for old school “faith leaders” who sided with Trump.
Many young evangelicals will welcome the idea of the old school “religious right” being completely discredited. I don’t. Clearly, there are some leaders I wouldn’t mind seeing discredited: heretical TV preachers and scandal-plagued charlatans who have used Christian activists to gain “seats at the table” of powerful interests that they’ve been more than happy to fill.
However, many others have labored long and hard in the fight for the family and for life. While they haven’t done everything perfectly, they have much experience to offer in explaining what works and what doesn’t. I sincerely hope that such good people don’t put their credibility on the line backing a bad man. While their peers may forgive their endorsement for Trump as an election-year necessity, they may lose any chance to influence many younger evangelicals.
1) Reproach on the name of the Lord and the Church
If Trump gains the endorsements of the country’s most prominent evangelical political leaders, this becomes a huge problem for the church.
It should bother us when anything we do might give people an occasion to blaspheme Christ. Christian endorsements of Trump, unfortunately, threaten to do just that. Donald Trump’s association with bigotry and bullying will be a turn off to non-believers who will assume Trump is representative of Christianity. This will make Christianity something they want to avoid. From this election on any Trump-supporting Christian leader had better never complain about morals or the coarsening of the culture, because there’ll be a late night comic ready to call them hypocrites based on their support for Trump
If evangelical leaders end up backing Trump, it may be a case of ‘what you fear may come upon you.” It’d make Christian persecution a whole lot easier in the Clinton years. Many voters are scared of what Trump’s presidency could mean. If Christians are seen as backing it, it’ll make non-Christians feel far less sympathetic to the oppression of people who were willing to elect a President who they believed would have oppressed Muslims and Hispanics. Turnabout will be seen as fair play even though Christians who didn’t vote for Trump will also end up suffering
Christian leaders who back Trump will be making a horrendous mistake. This isn’t to say that we should back Hillary Clinton in becoming ardently #NeverTrump.
At minimum please refrain from trying to persuade people to vote for Trump against the judgment of their own consciences. Instead, encourage Christians to vote as a reflection of individual conscience and also let voters know that if they can’t, in good conscience, support Trump they can cast a third party protest vote to make their voice heard. More importantly let Christian voters encourage one another to put their ultimate faith in God no matter what befalls our country in the years to come.