Give Donald Trump credit. Has anyone in recent memory so thoroughly captured our collective imagination? You’d be hard pressed to find any adult who would admit that they just haven’t given him much thought. Love him or hate him, virtually everyone has an opinion – and usually a strong one – about him. You might regard him as a genius or a dunce, an abomination or a divine gift, but you are “regarding” him either way. Say what you will about his ability as a politician; he is undoubtedly the most successful celebrity that we’ve ever seen. Ronald Reagan was a sort of celebrity, but he was elected President as a politician. People like LeBron James and Beyoncé are celebrities with name recognition and millions of dollars and followers, but they never were elected President of the world’s lone superpower. Celebrity doesn’t necessarily mean “beloved,” but it does mean well-known and famous. Is there anyone more well-known and famous than Trump? Unlike most celebrities who only feign at power, Trump has uniquely combined his fame with real power. This alone is no reason to love him or hate him, but it is reason enough to pay attention to him.
I haven’t really blogged about Trump or his Presidency for a few reasons. First, I haven’t been blogging about much at all lately because of life stuff. Secondly, I never wanted this to be a political blog. But mostly, there just wasn’t much incentive in it. No matter what you say about him, you will take arrows from someone. No matter what you say, someone will be outraged, indignant, and disappointed. Our political discussions nowadays are often so ugly and sub-Christian; I just haven’t been that interested in either defending or rebuking the President on this platform.
I’ve decided to change that. In a recent episode of the Every Thought Captive podcast, we spend some time talking about Trump – particularly his public demeanor. It was a spirited conversation, but like most of our conversations, it left me frustrated and wishing to say more. One of the points that I made at the outset of the episode is that the exhortation from 2 Corinthians 10 to “take every thought captive” doesn’t exempt unpopular or controversial topics like politics or Donald Trump. In fact, because he is a controversial topic with so many polarized views, it is more important that we think well and think biblically about the topic. We don’t want to be dictated to by what is “in the cultural air” at any given moment. Sometimes what is in the air is silly and banal and not worth much of a passing thought. But we also don’t want to be mute on a topic that continues to capture the thoughts of so many followers of Jesus especially as we enter into what is sure to be a very contentious political season.
Before I go any further, I want to be transparent and a little vulnerable. Before 2016, I was what you might call a typical Fox News/talk radio Republican. It pains me a little to admit that now, but the 2016 election changed me for the better I think. I’m still much more likely to vote Republican than Democrat. I consider myself a traditional conservative on most political issues, but I have disavowed allegiance to the GOP. To the disappointment of some of my more liberal friends, this doesn’t mean that I’ve “gone over to the other team.” No political party owns my vote. In 2016, I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. I also didn’t vote for Hilary Clinton. It was a crisis of conscience for me. The flaws in each candidate were so profound, I couldn’t stomach voting for either. I truly have not decided who I will vote for in 2020. There is a world where I would vote for and against Donald Trump. There is also a world where I would make the same decision I made in 2016 and vote for neither party’s candidate. Like millions of other Americans, I feel politically homeless right now. I don’t want to be melodramatic. There are much worse things in the world than being politically homeless, but it is incredibly frustrating to care deeply about certain life and death issues facing our communities and our world and not feel like either party represents you. I guess I’ve become one of those “undecided” voters that each party fights over. Only it doesn’t seem like either party is interested in fighting for my vote.
Evangelicals have a complicated relationship with Donald Trump. According to most polls, around 80 percent of self-identified evangelical Christians voted for Trump in 2016, and that support has not slipped by very much in the last 3+ years. Even though I’m a little suspicious of how pollsters are identifying “evangelicals,” there is little doubt that Trump enjoys solid support among those whom I would consider my close theological brothers and sisters. Indeed, some of my closest friends and family are unapologetic Trump supporters, and their support is not just a byproduct of their politics. It is a byproduct of their religious commitments. Nevertheless, there are many evangelicals, including many of those who voted for Trump, who are extremely uneasy with him and the way he has conducted his presidency. My own thoughts on Trump are complicated and occasionally confused.
I will often use this blog as a platform for sorting through my own thoughts on various things, so I’m dedicating my next two posts to sorting out the case for and against Trump from an evangelical perspective. I’m calling it “an evangelical’s case” not “the evangelical case” because I speak only for myself. You may find yourself occasionally agreeing or disagreeing, but I want to be as fair and honest as I can. It’s in our best interest as a community and as the body of Christ to try to understand each other. I don’t want to think my brother or sister is an evil person just because we voted for different people. The reasons why a person votes for any candidate are often complicated and personal. I try to not condemn a person by who they did or didn’t vote for even if I may strongly voice disagreement with their politics. If you are the type of person who cuts people out of your life because of their position on Trump might I gently suggest that you have allowed Trump to have much more power over your life than any person should rightfully possess. It is especially egregious that we who call ourselves the body of Christ would allow terrestrial politics to permanently divide us. You may feel compelled to argue about politics. That’s fine. Believe me; I totally get it. These issues are important and sometimes demand a robust argument. But I’d also suggest that Jesus’ command for us to love each other does not stop at the voting booth.
So, with all of that as a preface, I move on to an evangelical’s case for Donald Trump.