Timothy Dalrymple, president of Christianity Today, offered an update to outgoing editor-in-chief Mark Galli’s editorial calling for the removal of Donald Trump. I appreciated the tone of his piece more than I did Galli’s who said over the weekend on Face the Nation that his editorial was, “in a sense,” hyperbole.
Dalrymple, in his editorial, concisely stated what my primary problem with evangelical support of Trump has been: when it crosses the line from support to undying loyalty.
Reasonable people can differ when it comes to the flagrantly partisan impeachment process. But this is not merely about impeachment, or even merely about President Trump. He is not the sickness. He is a symptom of a sickness that began before him, which is the hyper-politicization of the American church. This is a danger for all of us, wherever we fall on the political spectrum. Jesus said we should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. With profound love and respect, we ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to consider whether they have given to Caesar what belongs only to God: their unconditional loyalty.
This echoes my concern. It’s not pointing out the positive things he has done in office. It’s not even voting for Trump. Dalrymple notes that the problem is “wholeheartedness of the embrace” some evangelicals have with Trump that prevents them from pointing out when Trump goes astray and defending things they shouldn’t be defending.
I think we are all susceptible. When I’ve made endorsements in the past, it’ was easy to go on the defensive for candidates I’ve supported even when the criticism may have been justified. It’s easy to let it become personal.
I’ve been there and done that. It’s hard to be objective when you’ve invested so much personally into a candidate.
I want to be clear that I’m not saying every criticism of Donald Trump is justified or that every defense is wrong. We need to be discerning.
Part of my personal journey is whether or not I’ll publicly endorse candidates. I don’t want to say that I never will, but, for me, I’m leaning no and have committed not to offer endorsements this election cycle and I didn’t endorse anyone last election cycle.
I don’t want an endorsement to hinder what I write or cast doubt about my sincerity and motivations. It’s just not worth it, and I question how much it helps those candidates anyway.
I also appreciate what Dalrymple said about the 2016 election:
The 2016 election confronted evangelical voters with an impossible dilemma: Vote for a pro-choice candidate whose policies would advance so much of what we oppose, or vote for an extravagantly immoral candidate who could well damage the standing of the republic and the witness of the church. Countless men and women we hold in the highest regard voted for President Trump, some wholeheartedly and some reluctantly. Friends we love and respect have also counseled and worked within the Trump administration. We believe they are doing their best to serve wisely in a fallen world.
I submit 2020 offers the same dilemma, but we also have a little more clarity. For starters, the entire Democratic field has gone further to the left of Hillary Clinton. I didn’t think that was possible, but here we are. Secondly, in 2016, President Trump was a hypothetical president. Now that he has been in office it removes the mystery, and voters can see past rhetoric at the policy the Trump administration implemented.
Even so, my only encouragement to Christians is to vote their conscience in the ballot box and then hold accountable whoever is elected. There are no perfect candidates, they are all flawed. And then, regardless of who wins in 2020, we must uplift and praise good and call out the bad policy and bad decisions. We must maintain our prophetic voice. Evangelicalism, as Dalrymple points out is not a Republican Party PAC.
Also, regardless of one’s political views, we must be charitable to one another.