The Right is a big tent. It has been for many years, but recently the fabric has begun to fray. The latest symptom of this growing separation emerges in the Evangelical-shaming reaction to the Stormy Daniels imbroglio. Here’s David French’s well-written piece at National Review and The Resurgent's own Steve Berman following up.
If French’s open letter seeks to rebuke only Evangelicals like Jerry Falwell Jr., we’re on the same page. Proclaiming that Trump’s affair with a porn star while his wife is pregnant is fine because King David sinned the same way is an incoherent, nonsensical twistification of Scripture.
Yet French also seems frustrated that Evangelicals won’t refuse political support to Trump given his past sins, and worries that support of Trump’s agenda compromises the Christian witness. After all, the reasoning goes, the Trump administration's agenda is associated with Trump’s person, and Christians shouldn’t hew so close to the stench of Trump’s unrepentant guilt if they want to be taken seriously.
This feels like an exercise in windmill-jousting. I can’t find a single self-described Evangelical pundit on the Right who has straight-up said that Trump’s apparent philandering is a good thing. Quite a few of them (save Falwell and his ilk) have publicly disapproved of it, and I’m sure many more would condemn it if asked. Perhaps they should be louder.
Regardless, as I have said elsewhere, the Trump administration’s achievements over the past year and a half are admirable. When I refused to vote for Trump in 2016, I did so not only because I couldn’t justify casting my ballot for a man as morally vulgar as him. I did so because when Trump promised to fulfill swaths of the conservative agenda, I perceived only vapidity and dishonesty, especially given his past political contributions. I honestly did not believe that Trump would appoint conservative judges, cut regulations, or get serious about conservative policy.
Then Trump appointed a solidly right-wing cabinet that began pursuing a Heritage Foundation-approved agenda and delegated judicial nominations to the Federalist Society. Their hard work has resulted in legal and political gains for Christians and the wider conservative movement, gains that simply would not have occurred with Hillary Clinton in office.
Like many other Christian conservatives, I think that it is entirely possible to condemn instances of Trump’s glandular, uncaring deceit while supporting the continued good work of his appointees. The policy achievements of the Trump administration can be separated from the moral state of the man in the Oval Office. Actually, I would go further: Trump himself is never worthy of our support except when he himself does something morally or politically praiseworthy.
Trump is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Evangelical praise for the Trump administration’s efforts in service of the broader conservative movement does not entail simultaneous adulation for everything Trump does, says, or tweets. Christians can (and should) be vociferous in their condemnation of Trump’s affair with Stormy Daniels, but should exercise caution. Partisan devotion to anti-Trumpism is just as poisonous to the Christian witness – and to conservative community – as partisan devotion to Trump.