Rethinking Trump and Faith

I was not at all sure how to write this, and I’m still not a hundred percent comfortable with it, but I believe it needs to be written. I need to rethink my position on President Trump and faith.

By “faith,” I do not mean faith in Donald Trump. As the president himself said in May to an audience at Liberty University and tweeted on Friday, “we do not worship government, we worship God.”

By “faith,” I also do not mean Donald Trump’s personal faith in God. That’s between him and his Maker. Far be it from me, or anyone, to stand in the middle between a man or woman and God.

Then, what do I mean? I mean what effect has President Trump, for all his faith talk, having on our country, and is that something people of faith in God (I’m mostly talking about Christians here, but it also applies to any faith group) should applaud?

First, my misgivings.

Trump is not, by his public actions and persona, a pious or God-fearing man. He has publicly stated that he doesn’t need to repent, for in his eyes, apparently he believes he hasn’t sinned. The Bible calls such a person a liar, or a fool. That doesn’t mean that privately, Trump hasn’t sought God’s mercy–again, this is not intended to be a faith inventory for our president. His public statements and actions stand for themselves before humanity and God.

Therefore, I have many general and specific misgivings about Trump’s value to people of faith. I’ve written warnings several times about not giving scorpions a ride across the river. But now the scorpion has ridden on the backs of evangelical Christian voters, and we can only pray and hope that we don’t get the stinger.

I have my own personal doubts about whether, and when, that will happen. I have many reasons to believe it will, at some point when Christians disagree with Trump.

Or worse, to avoid the stinger, many God-fearing Christians may malign their own faith and betray their own consciences.

My main misgiving is that Donald Trump may weaken American Christianity more than it already is weakened. And much of American Christianity is already lukewarm, uninspired, dead to sin, entranced by idolatry, and weak as a newborn kitten.

But that doesn’t mean God can’t use Trump.

Actions > Words

On Monday, the Trump Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (sans Secretary) released its strategic plan document for the years 2018-2022, including this language:

"HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception."

Scientifically, biologically, and medically, that phrase is indisputable. Politically, it’s the third rail, charged by lightning bolts and covered with burning lava. To say that “health care begins at conception” puts the conceived human being’s health care at the same plane as the adult woman who carries the conceived human being.

And we know, politically, that goes against the “women’s health” movement, which survives only on the premise that the conceived human being is entitled to nothing until its maternal host decides to grant it life, at which point they call it a baby. This benighted atrocity allows mothers to assuage their consciences when they kill the baby (but in reality, most experience a horrifying mental trauma).

Trump has also ended the Obamacare birth control mandate, and has successfully nominated and sworn Justice Neil Gorsuch on to the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. That wasn’t a “win” but it certainly was no loss either, to the cause of unborn life.

The Trump Administration’s (and the president’s) words from the bully pulpit give Christians reason to have hope that the slow and quickening erosion of religious rights in the U.S. would stem a bit.

But Trump has trashed the First Amendment when it suits him. Any erosion of the First Amendment puts religious freedom in danger. So when Trump threatens NBC or the New York Times, he is indirectly threatening your church pastor, who relies on the same Amendment, separated by a few mere words, for an unrestricted right to speak.

Should we celebrate? Not yet.

God is good

One point that came up in discussion of this topic is the Biblical and unchangeable nature of God as Good. If God uses Donald Trump, it is for good. It can be no other way. God is not responsible for evil, and is not a tempter of man to sin (James 1:13).

That raises the question: What is “Good?”

Good to us is our comfort, our freedom, our financial success, our health, our children, our nation. Matthew 6:31-33 tells Christians not to seek those things, but “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” Therefore, it’s “Good” when God withholds some of the things we of little faith crave in order to give us greater righteousness and His kingdom.

If God used Trump to humble Christians who have misplaced their faith, that, to God, would be “Good.” To those who are humbled, or humiliated, or persecuted, it would not seem good.

Therefore, God could have used Barack Obama for this purpose, or even Hillary Clinton. But God sovereignly allowed Trump to gain the presidency, and with it, Trump has the authority over this nation as the leader of the federal government.

Authority of leaders is from God

Another discussion point is that God appoints leaders and establishes governing authorities (Romans 13:1). Therefore, we must be subject to those authorities as citizens of the U.S. (or legal residents, or illegal residents who are not citizens, just the same).

Rebelling against “what God has instituted” brings judgment on those who rebel. This doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to disagree. It doesn’t even mean we cannot engage in constructive protest, or even civil disobedience. It does mean that–Christians, at least–cannot be anarchists.

So much for Antifa.

Let’s look at Trump’s economic achievements. There are really none we can directly attribute to him, but overall, those with the cash are sanguine about the economy. Therefore the stock market is bullish–very bullish. Investment is happily waiting for a place to profit, and corporations are gearing up to get a tax break.

If you’re rich, things are very good.

And that means if you are skilled in a job area where investment is going to hit, you’re also doing very well–or about to. If you’re not, you have the opportunity to move or retrain. If you’re counting on entitlements to make you happy, things may not be so good.

Either way, Christians should pray for President Trump, because he is in authority by God’s sovereign will (as Obama was), and we should not rebel against God.

Observations about opposition

The most interesting question for me is an observation about those opposing President Trump. On the whole, the greatest opposition to Trump and his administration comes from those who don’t simply lack faith in God, but from those who actively oppose God.

Those people who hate God and Christianity also hate Donald Trump, even if Trump did things that they would normally agree with. Trump says he has no problem with gay marriage (“law of the land”), but the LGBT community hates the fact that Vice President Pence is not a supporter of gay marriage. Even though the VP is essentially powerless to do–well, anything except break ties in the Senate, they still hate Trump.

They hate Trump because Trump is close to evangelical Christians. They say “white evangelicals” but that’s not true. A number of black evangelicals have also endorsed and become close to Trump–although one such minister, A.R. Bernard, resigned over Trump’s indefensible Charlottesville comments.

It really doesn’t matter, because Trump’s actions, such as they help any faithful Christians, help all faithful Christians, of any race. That being said, Trump’s words and actions, such as they hurt the cause of race relations, hurt all Christians, because racism is a sin, and God hates sin.

One thing we can observe is that Trump never attacked A.R. Bernard for his resignation. He made wry comments about those business leaders in his economic councils who resigned, but kept quiet about Bernard. And most evangelicals stuck with him. Faith and politics make terrible housemates, and many evangelical advisors wisely stayed out of the political fray.

Those who didn’t, compromised themselves and harmed the cause of Christ.

The Bible says to let the wheat and the tares grow up together. Not everyone who calls themselves “Christian” is in fact a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. And not everyone who appears to be aloof from faith is an unbeliever.

We must not divide everything into good and evil, day and night. There are surely satanic people and the demon-possessed who hate Trump because God may use Trump for good, and they oppose it. But there are others who, according to their conscience, cannot support Trump as an exemplar of Christian values, who are very serious disciples of the Christian faith. Both exist and do so without a paradox.

Conclusion

I had to go through this exercise because it was necessary to determine if I have misplaced my faith. Donald Trump may be a very powerful tool in God’s hands–as any POTUS could be. But if Christians or any with faith in God, misplace our faith in Trump, he can be damaging to that faith in the extreme.

For those evangelical leaders who pander themselves to Trump as he panders to them, you will meet your shame and humiliation. For those who rebel against God’s authority, you will meet your judgment.

But for those who rightly divide the truth–Biblical truth–we may find greater clarity with President Trump in office. We may find greater access to the Trump Administration, and great moral victories through its policies.

On the whole, I am much more pleased with Trump’s presidency that I expected to be at this point. Again, I’m not talking about Trump as a person–we could discuss his obvious flaws for tens of thousands of words. But as a person of faith in God, I am encouraged, for now.

My overriding prayer, as I recommend to everyone, is that Trump grow closer to God, and grow in wisdom, love, righteousness, humility, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Against these, there is no law.

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