Are Donald Trump’s Sins Worse Than Other Presidents?


In my last post I began pushing back on Chris Buskirk’s thesis that one’s support of Donald Trump doesn’t compromise their personal or our collective Christian testimony. He claims that it would take a “major breach of public trust or endorsement of public evil [on the presidents’ part]” to negatively effect the public witness of the Church. As I said before, I can’t imagine what more the president would have to say or do to fall into those categories. I absolutely do believe he has acted in such a way and that those Christians who continue to run interference for him have already damaged the reputation of the Body of Christ in America.

But let me proceed with some more objections to Buskirk’s article. He says:

“Are Trump’s sins greater than those of many other presidents? … George H. W. Bush’s or Lyndon Johnson’s or FDR’s reported adultery? How about John F. Kennedy’s serial adulteries in the White House? Warren Harding’s love child?”

My short answer is a qualified “yes.” It’s qualified because there’s only One who really knows the sins of all people, yet I do believe Donald Trump’s culpability to be greater than most, if not all previous presidents. (Please don’t stop reading here and bang out your rebuttal. Give me a chance to explain.) Let’s talk about the “sin is sin” meme.

All sins are not created equal!

Sure, small sins and big ones are both sins. In that sense it’s true that sin is indeed sin. I’m a sinner in the same way Donald Trump is a sinner but are both redeemable by Jesus. The difference between him and me might be that I try my best to live repentantly and routinely confess my sin to God. I don’t know if he does. He said one time that he doesn’t. That aside…

There is a sense in which, all sin is sin as James 2 affirms. Break any link in a chain and the chain isn’t a chain anymore.

But in another very real sense, there are sins that drive a deeper wedge between us and God, and between us and others, and that cause more damage in the world than others. Jesus said: “You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matt. 23:23).

Apparently he didn’t see every command as equally important. The command to do “justice, mercy and faithfulness” outweighs the command to tithe. If someone tithes but has no mercy in his heart or is unfaithful to his friends or his spouse, and his sin is greater than not tithing.

So not everything commanded by God is of equal importance. And if commands vary in importance, it follows that violations of those commands also differ in gravity.

Jesus also taught that the “greatest” command is to love God and our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:37–40). Therefore, rejecting God (instead of loving him) and hating people (instead of loving them) are greater sins than failing to tithe or attend church or keep the speeding limit or anything else for that matter.

Threatening a special drowning by millstone judgment for the damage they do Jesus seemed to have a particular issue with those who “cause little ones to stumble.” (Matthew 18) Metaphorical? Sure. But he makes a point that some sins carry a greater weight than others.

In our own justice system there are crimes that carry more weight than others. We know this because the retribution for them varies according to the seriousness of the crime. Murder is worse than speeding and incur different penalties as a result.

Buskirk asks, “If personal sin were disqualifying, who could lead?” OK, everyone sins. Everyone falls short of God’s standard. But his argument is ridiculous and he knows it. One’s personal transgressions are judged against the task a person has. I wouldn’t trust my child to a pre-school teacher given to rage, while that kind of anger might fit well in an NFL player or a cage fighter. Alcohol abuse might not be grounds for a farm laborer’s dismissal, but he’s probably not be the best candidate to drive a cross country truck.

Then he jumps into an ill advised use of the Bible, “Was David disqualified from leading Israel because he murdered Uriah in order to take Bathsheba as his wife?” I suggest that had David not repented so thoroughly (Psalm 32 and 51) he would have been disqualified, as was Saul for his lack of repentance for much less grievous sins. But the fact is, he came with all his heart back to sanity and his love for God.

From my vantage point, Mr. Trump’s unfaithfulness to his wives, paying off a prostitute to keep quiet, his petulant tantrums in press conferences, his narcissistic refusal to listen to advisors who know more than him about how the world works, his unremitting lying, and much more are, to my mind, personal sins that disqualify this president for the job. His predilection toward white nationalism and narcissistic behavior is revolting all by itself, but when it enters the public arena and leads to lying, obfuscating, and flirting with other dictators, I draw the line.

And it’s not just the gravity of Mr. Trump’s amoral lifestyle behind closed doors, it’s the unrelenting cascade of inhumanity to man that distinguishes him from all his predecessors, to say nothing of the impunity with which he does it!

Are his sins greater than other presidents? As I said before, since I’m not God, all I a say is a “qualified ‘Yes’.” From my vantage point, of all the presidents in my lifetime Donald Trump is the most dangerous and least qualified. And when Christians overlook his amorality in favor of a better economy and a few conservative judges, they damage our reputation as Christ’s representatives.

Let’s leave it at that for now. Next time we’ll look at some more of Mr. Buskirk’s theological non sequitors with which he attempts to prove that supporting Donald Trump’s presidency has no negative impact on our Christian witness.

In the meantime, feel free to chime into the conversation. I’d love to hear your thoughts…

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