“We should pray for presidents, critique them when they’re wrong, praise them when they’re right, and never, ever impose partisan double standards. We can’t ever forget the importance of character, the necessity of our own integrity, and the power of our prophetic witness.” (David French)
Here are my “closing arguments” on Chris Buskirk’s article on the “American Greatness” site. He claims that by supporting Donald Trump’s presidency our Christian testimony is not at all compromised. I beg––even plead––to differ! Please see my last two posts for context.
I hate it when people misuse the Bible and to justify their preconceived political notions. It’s up to you to decide whether or not my interpretation of Scripture falls into the same category.
Buskirk says that some people, “wrap themselves in pious, Christianist rhetorical flourishes and scriptural references. But by conflating the role of the secular and the sacred, by attempting to immanentize the world which is to come, they misrepresent orthodox Christian teaching about the role of Church and the practice of secular politics to the detriment of both.”
In English he’s saying that they use the Bible to back up their view that we are supposed to actually be used by God to change make the world a better place. And that’s a problem?
His $50 words notwithstanding, if we’re not here to improve the world, then why are we here? Jesus said, “Greater works than mine shall you do…” and that the world will “see our good works and glorify the Father in heaven…” We’re “ambassadors for Christ” says Paul. And Jeremiah says, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).
By the way, to “immanentize the world” means to bring the contents of heaven here on earth. Is that not what Jesus meant when he told us to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? If our kingdom priorities don’t impact our political ideology then I doubt they’re truly kingdom.
Buskirk says, “Voters have both a right and an affirmative obligation to prioritize public virtue. And that’s exactly the calculation that Christian Trump voters made in 2016 and are almost certain to make again in 2020.”
Are you kidding me? In what universe does Donald Trump serve as an example of “public virtue”? I don’t know what faith to which Buskirk ascribes, but for a man who quotes the Bible and tosses around grandiose theological terms, I can’t begin to imagine his version of “virtue.”
He rails on Nancy French for referring to Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” He claims that she takes the verse out of its context, which he says is, “the redemption offered by the Gospel to which Isaiah was pointing.” All you have to do is skim that chapter to see that it contains nothing about redemption or the gospel. The whole chapter is about God’s judgment for his people Israel for their sin, and in my view very much applies to the values and policies of Donald Trump.
I can only imagine that Buskirk is banking on his readers either being unfamiliar with Scripture or won’t check up on his use of it. He’s definitely got his own preferred “alternative facts” method of biblical interpretation!
Then Buskirk has the audacity to say, “Using gratuitous, out-of-context quotes from the Bible to support one’s preferred political program is an abuse of scripture.” I couldn’t agree more, but isn’t it exactly that which he does throughout his article?
For example, he uses Bible characters Joseph, Daniel, and Esther in the most bizarre way:
“Did Joseph undermine his public witness as a prophet of God by serving Pharaoh even as he held the Israelites in captivity? What about Daniel, who served the fantastically pagan Nebuchadnezzar? Or Esther, who married the murderous, libertine emperor Xerxes?”
I don’t get his point at all since those three served in their posts with integrity. Plus, Pharaoh didn’t, as he suggests, hold the Jews in captivity during Joseph’s lifetime. They were guests of the Egyptian leader who deeded them choice property. They weren’t slaves in Egypt until Joseph was dead and the next Pharaoh took power. And what about Daniel and Esther? That they served pagan kings has nothing to do with his argument that Mr. Trump’s sins don’t disqualify him as president. It’s a weird mix of non sequiturs.
He seems to think that if he throws out a bunch of Bible names and stories that people will swallow what he’s serving without testing it first. He must not think much of either the Bible itself or of Christians’ knowledge of it.
As though it lends him credibility, he quotes a seminary professor: “Scripture says nothing specifically about the concrete decisions that Christians must make about voting, party affiliation, details of public policy, or political strategy. These are decisions of moral gravity, but they are not decisions that one Christian can impose upon the conscience of another Christian.”
I agree that the details of policy and strategy aren’t spelled out in Scripture. It is, however, our job to hold lawmakers and law-enforcers accountable to set the nation’s course in the direction that best benefits ALL of its citizens. Tell the African slaves and their progeny plus the citizens of Flint, Michigan that the Bible doesn’t speak to their plight and that God doesn’t expect specific action to be taken to fix it through voting, advocating for justice, and applying as much pressure as is needed to get our elected officials to do the right thing.
So, when Christians advocate for President Trump do they risk eroding the integrity of their testimony, and by association, our collective witness? To my mind, absolutely!
John Fea writes: “Too many of its leaders (and their followers) have traded their Christian witness for a mess of political pottage and a few federal judges.* It should not surprise us that people are leaving evangelicalism or no longer associating themselves with that label—or, in some cases, leaving the church altogether.”
*In case you’re not familiar with the reference…
Well? What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts…