In the age of Trump, the Christian Right can be viewed in two ways:
1: Blindly supporting Trump
2: Blindly opposing Trump
Of course, that really isn’t true, most individuals are more nuanced than that, but the debate tends to be reduced to that. We have conservatives who oppose Trump because he is a vile wretch. We have conservatives who oppose Trump because they disagree with his policies. We have conservatives who support Trump because they know he is a vile wretch, but like his policies. We have conservatives who deny his depravity and support him regardless of his policies.
What obligation then does the Church have in addressing a political movement that is not uniform and political figures who may or may not be saved?
Supporters of the president generally respond with “it’s in the past,” “judge not,” and “his conduct is irrelevant to his presidency.” There are loads of comparisons to Old Testament figures in attempts to justify the president. The Babylon Bee recently posted an op-ed by King David asking the public to refrain from making Trump comparisons.
Here are some considerations for each retort:
It’s in the past… Trump’s views on forgiveness are concerning. That makes me wonder if he’s a false convert (if he ever converted). If he hasn’t, he desperately needs forgiveness for his past. However, what is more concerning is the present. Trump currently associates with Prosperity preachers. It makes no difference if he’s sorry about his past AND he has the Gospel wrong. The church has to look at the entirety of his character, not just the flaws that stand out.
Judge not… Generally, only liberals like to bring out this misconstrued verse, but we’ve seen it’s application to Trump. Paul clearly states we are to judge those who claim to be Christians, rebuking them and building them up. The church is not supposed to tolerate sin. That readily implies identifying and rebuking sin. This mandate is to the church, not to the civil government. This notion of not judging will be addressed again, not in theological terms, but in the way in which Christians develop standards for political figures.
His conduct is irrelevant to the presidency… I actually agree with this one unless we want to get into claims of certain behaviors being indicative of one’s character, but that will be addressed later as well.
Detractors lament that Trump is vulgar, he’s depraved, he’s an adulterer etc. With the exception of some Jeb!-ian views on immigration, free trade, and views on some other issues, I would be willing to assert that most conservative Christians don’t necessarily oppose Trump’s policies.
Let’s concede that the detractors are correct. There is no denying that Trump is an adulterer. The question becomes, what standard of conduct should be the hill that Christians are willing to die on? Society has liberal views on marriage, and this debate on Trump’s character has proved that Christians have already conceded so much in terms of worldview.
Who are the Christians that have conceded elements of their worldview? Not Christian Trump supporters (well maybe in other ways). I’m talking about Trump’s detractors.
Ask yourself, what instance proves Trump is an adulterer? Stormy Daniels? Any assortment of people who have claimed to have had an affair with him? Who is he cheating on? Melania?
Christians have lost the worldview game. We call Trump an adulterer because society says you shouldn’t sleep with someone you aren’t married to, ergo, Trump shouldn’t sleep with someone other than Melania.
Trump is not an adulterer because he did Stormy Daniels, Trump is an adulterer because he divorced Ivana and remarried. If everything that Trump is accused of did not happen, and all Trump did was divorce and remarry, he’d still be an adulterer.
This is the pinnacle of the Christian Right’s hypocrisy. Why? Because we only judge those who cross some imaginary line where all of a sudden our collective image is tainted by someone else’s brokenness.
There is another president who divorced and remarried. He is widely regarded as THE conservative president. Do we go around pooh-poohing his accomplishments because he was an adulterer? Do we even discuss it? It’s still adultery. You can be made one flesh with one person only. And unless we are talking about Paul’s exceptions for recent converts, those married to an unbeliever who leaves, and a few other scenarios, divorce leads to adultery if the individuals do not remain celibate. There is no possible way to remarry and not commit adultery in perpetuity. The only remedy is to divorce again and stop having sex.
Does the Christian Right care? No! we’ve already given up our worldview.
This isn’t “whataboutism.” I’m all for rebuking people, but if we are going to do it, it’s got to be consistent. I’m not saying we shouldn’t judge. it's for Trump’s church (if he has one) to address this.
We don’t get to make up arbitrary theological categories that suit our political views and then enforce them on a national scale.
Why stop at adultery? Romney is a Mormon, Rubio is Catholic, Cruz is Baptist. What level of doctrine do we enforce? Do we support heretics? Who defines heresy?
Ignore King David, let’s talk about King Asa.
1st Kings 15:14 “Although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life.”
Suppose the converse was true. Asa removed the high places, but was not committed to the Lord. Which one benefits the people? What does more to stamp out idolatry? Removing the high places or a king’s personal piety?
The civil government is distinct from the Church. There are different standards. One’s personal piety has little impact if there are not policies that reflect it. Policies from an unrepentant broken wretch may still be used for good.