“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)
I wrote this three years ago and IMHO it applies today as much, no, more than it did then. That was before his two impeachments and January 6!
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.
Can Christians Support Donald Trump Without Risk to Their Witness?
Are Donald Trump’s Sins Worse Than Other Presidents?
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…
2 Replies to “Trading Our Testimony for a Bowl of Stew and a Few Federal Judges”
Dear Barney, brother that I respect and love—Many Christians are pro-Trump because they see that he is against abortion. I do believe the sanctity of life would qualify as a Biblical ethic. Also, they appreciate that he wants to stop wholesale migration of undocumented immigrants into the country. You have stated that this shows that believers who support him do not understand or embrace Biblical compassion for the poor and the stranger. But many Christians support Trump for this position precisely because the DO believe in the values of helping the poor and the stranger. How you ask? We have major cities with streets lined with homeless; some of whom are drug addicts, some who are mentally ill, etc. These people, many of whom are citizens, are not getting the help they need. Those who are compassionate want to see help given to them, and to others who are coming into our country, but without overwhelming the systems of help to the point where we lose the ability to help ANY of them. Also, letting people in with no controls allows people to conduct human trafficking with ease (I am sure you are against sexual exploitation of children and women), to come in with communicable diseases that could easily start epidemics, and to make it easy for those who have terrorist motives to cross into our country. It is common sense to control the border for these reasons, and it is not a “fear-based” reaction. It is plain common sense. Controlling the border crossings allows us to help those who need it without stressing the system to the point of collapse. Many Christians feel that there are NO good options on the Democratic side: All of the current candidates are pro abortion, pro open borders, and for increased government control over almost every area of life. Given that choice, many choose to champion Trump. Yes, there is hypocrisy that you rightly pointed out with some who were critical of Clinton, Kennedy, and other presidents who were womanizing philanderers but who excuse the same behavior in Trump. But most Christians that I know that are Trump supporters do not approve of that behavior, or of his often childish rhetoric and name-calling toward his critics. But they see no option to supporting him because of his positions on moral issues such as abortion and on caring first for Americans in need, then for others as resources responsibly allow. He is not the president of the world, he is the president of the United States, and his first priority is for the welfare of this country’s citizens. Should we be compassionate and help those outside our citizenry? Yes. But we cannot be the only country to do that, nor should we do it at the cost of leaving so many of our own to languish in a living hell; even if it is mostly of their own making. I don’t like Trump’s style but I think many of his positions have merit. And one thing that ameliorates even my dislike of him is the fact that I personally know someone who worked in his organization in NY. I trust the integrity of this person because I have known him long enough, and in enough various situations, that he has proven to me he is honest and trustworthy (by the way, he is not a Christian). He told me that the esprit-de-corp in the workplace there was the best he had ever experienced, and that it was a direct reflection of Trump and his relationship with his executives. I have a hard time reconciling that with some of what I see in his administration, but it has given me pause, and made me think that maybe there is more to this man than is presented to us by a media that is very obviously biased against him. It has made me less quick to be so certain in my judgement of him and firm in my resolve not to castigate any Christian who supports him.
I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts. On some things we agree, on others we’ll have to agree to disagree, and then there are areas in which I think you might be misrepresenting the “other side” a bit.
We certainly agree in a pro-life ethic, although I prefer to think of my view as both pro-inside-and-outside the womb. I’m sure you do too in a way that makes most sense to you. BTW, I don’t think our president has any conviction one way or the other about abortion. He wasn’t “pro life” until he began courting the evangelical vote to get elected. And then when he “came around” he proposed punishing not only the abortionist, but the women too. Be that as it may…
Speaking of abortion, I’m not sure that holding our nose to elect Donald Trump for the conservative judges he’d appoint is good judgment on our part, since there’s no guarantee that they’ll be successful in overturning Roe, and even if they did, there’s no assurance that fewer women would have abortions, and those who did would certainly not have “safe” ones.
And even if it did overturn Roe, what is the pro-life community doing now to prepare to care for the numbers of those not aborted babies? I’m hoping somebody is ramping up somehow now in preparation. I just don’t think the possibly of overturning Roe is worth the risk of all the horrific things that Mr. Trump brings to the table.
Speaking of which, it’s certainly not just his sex life or abusive mouth that makes him to my mind the worst of the worst presidents in my lifetime. It’s his constant lying about everything from crowd size to Russian interference in our democracy. Some of the things he lies about are not only disgusting, but dangerous to national security… I’ve written extensively about before so I won’t do it again here. It’s his denial of climate change and unconcern for earth-care. It’s his dangerous posturing with nuclear powers like Iran and North Korea and China. It’s his degradation of the Republican party, his demeaning of opponents, his complete lack of understanding of history and cultures with which he has dealings. It’s his refusal to call out clear racism (Charlottesville, etc). It’s his fawning over and flattery of murderous dictators (Putin and Kim and Xi). It’s his juvenile Twitter wars with people he doesn’t like when there are matters of state to attend to. Cynthia, I could go on and on.
You said a lot about immigration, on which you know we disagree. First of all, you pose the common trope that anyone who disagrees with his border crossing policies, including “all of those on the democratic side” propose “open borders.” As I’ve said many times before, I know of no candidate or serious elected official who poses “open borders.” That is unless “open borders” means something other than what it sounds like, you know, like borders that are totally open to anyone anytime. It’s similar to the gun advocate’s trope that “they want to take all our guns away from us.” It’s just overreach and untrue.
You refer to borders with “no controls” fostering human trafficking, terrorism, and disease. I’ve seen no data that warrants those fears, Mr. Trump’s manufactured “alternative facts” notwithstanding.
I remember this anecdote of yours from a few years ago about your friend who worked in a Trump org. While I appreciate the sentiment and am glad that he had a good experience but it’s hardly an adequate critical mass to make a valuable assessment of him as a person or president. As you know, anecdotal evidence is quite limited versus evidence based conclusions, like the ones that could be drawn from over two years of Mr. Trump’s juvenile bullying, blame shifting, outright lying, and fear mongering.
You said we shouldn’t be the “only country” to take migrants. Actually Canada resettled more migrants last year than we did (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/19/canada-now-leads-the-world-in-refugee-resettlement-surpassing-the-u-s/) “The U.S. resettled about 70 refugees for every million of its own residents in 2018, lower than the rate in many other nations. Canada led the world on this measure by resettling 756 refugees per million residents. Australia (510), Sweden (493) and Norway (465) also had much higher resettlement figures per million than the U.S.”
As you know, millions are fleeing starvation and violence from more places than Central America, i.e., Syria (5.6 million have been taken by Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt), Afghanistan (2.4 million), Venezuela (4 million, 1 million of them have crossed into Colombia for refuge), South Sudan, Myanmar (over a million Rohingya refugees are now in Bangladesh), Congo (about 250,000 refugees have been received in Uganda)… it’s a global crisis, not just a local problem. Notice the socioeconomic condition of many of the receiving countries above. You talk about not being able to take care of our own citizens. These are impoverished nations taking in people even worse off than themselves. We are the richest and most powerful country in the world and as such, in my opinion, have a responsibility to wield our influence in humanitarian ways. We’re not the only ones taking refugees, but we should figure out a way to do our part.
Like I said, we might not agree on these things, but can agree to disagree agreeably. Blessings to you.