Kevin’s Conversations: Trump and the Gospel Witness
I have been vocal here on this blog, on Facebook, and in real life conversations. I have been more vocal in my opposition to Trump than I have Hillary Clinton.
Now why is this? Is it because I think Trump is a worse choice for president than Hillary? No, I think they both have huge problems and cannot make a qualitative judgment as to who I think is the worse candidate. Is it because I find the things Donald Trump does to be more offensive and revolting than Hillary Clinton? Again, no. Is it because I am concerned for the future of America? Yes I am concerned, but no more with a Trump presidency than a Hillary presidency. Is it because the political party I’m registered to ended up nominating who I believe to be an unbelievably bad candidate and so I am on a crusade to somehow reform the party? No, not really. Is it my pride in rejecting a man I find to be morally repugnant so that I can feel better about myself? Well, if I’m honest, this probably plays a part at times.
But no, far and away, the biggest reason I am outspoken in my opposition to Donald Trump is because I am concerned for the gospel and the name of Jesus Christ and our witness of Him.
We are human and we are going to fail. While there are of course plenty of times we succeed, those of us who are Christians also quite frequently fail in faithfully representing Jesus Christ. This would be not only in our political ambitions or proclamations, but in all areas of life.
However, I have never seen a time anywhere close to what we have experienced over the past year or so where there is such a large scale of publicly and loudly and proudly justifying and rationalizing and minimizing and intentionally ignoring wrongs from the Christian community, including by an appreciable amount of high-profile Christians. Where there is enthusiastic cheering and supporting and campaigning for a person of horrible morals and character. Where there is an intentional strategy to attack and tear down one person of terrible character while protecting another person of terrible character in cunning fashion. Many of these things often even done in the name of God. All for purposes of political expediency.
What must the unbeliever think? How can they take serious our claims of salvation and life in and through Jesus Christ when there is so much avid promotion of those whom are anti-Christ in their behavior? How can they believe our assertions of the morality found in the Word of God when we are so apt to excuse boorish and corrupt and misogynic and deceptive and sexual predatory behavior? How can they believe us when we say God is in control and Jesus is the only way and then turn around and say that we must elect this thoroughly vile or corrupt candidate in order to save our country?
What must Jesus think?
Now, of course, this type of behavior is coming from not only those Christians supporting Donald Trump but also those supporting Hillary Clinton. It is not any more wrong or right when it comes from either side.
But for me, there are a couple qualifiers here.
First, the cries of concern about the morality, most especially with sexual standards, of our politicians and government have long been much louder and plentiful from those on the conservative side of the aisle. You cannot be pounding the pulpit on this matter for years and years and then suddenly act as if it’s not very important. You cannot abruptly start rolling out clichés like, “We’re all sinners, only Jesus was perfect,” or “We need to learn to forgive,” or “We’re not electing a pastor-in-chief,” when you would have never used them before in the same context. (Ironically, these statements would apply equally to either candidate, thus they do nothing to favor the argument for Trump.) You cannot say that all that matters is where the candidates stand on the issues when for many years character has been a crucial consideration. You cannot blast Bill Clinton for his sexual ethics and behaviors and say he is unfit for the presidency because of them and then not say the same of Donald Trump. The list can go on and on. It is all rank hypocrisy.
Secondly, I identify as a conservative, both politically and theologically. And so when I witness this type of behavior from my own, it is more concerning and disturbing to me than when I see it from those who aren’t part of my “family”. And within my family, there are far, far more who are participating in this type of behavior in support of Trump than Clinton.
Therefore, for these two reasons I am compelled to speak out much more against Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton. (I still have spoken out against Hillary.) In actuality, many times my speaking out about Trump is more in concern with some actions of his Christian supporters, than it is even about Trump himself. Ultimately I speak out because I see Jesus’ name being dragged through the mud of this wretched political season.
I am not advocating that a Christian must not vote for either one of the candidates. I personally cannot, but everyone must vote their own conscience. Despite the extensive difficulties with both candidates, some may see one of them as the better (or less damaging) choice. And I understand the issues that may lead some to see one or the other as the better choice for our country. The purpose of my writing here is not to argue about the issues and the pros and cons of either choice and I would urge the follow-up discussion to avoid the same.
However, as Christians, we are part of a kingdom that is much greater than the temporary earthly kingdoms where we currently reside. A kingdom that transcends all others. Our concerns and enthusiasm for representing that kingdom and its King should far outweigh the concerns and enthusiasm we have for our temporary kingdoms. It is not wrong to be concerned for our earthly kingdoms, not at all. But it is a matter of focus and priorities.
I believe we are seeing that our desperation regarding our earthly kingdom affairs is throwing our priorities askew and causing us to sin. Our intentions may even be good in what we are trying to achieve in the end. But if the means to get to that end are wrongful and sinful, then we need to stop.
There even can be a frequent overlap between the kingdom of God and what is happening in our earthly kingdoms. We may be trying to achieve rightness and justice on this earth for the sake of the kingdom of God. But our lens of focus must always be through God’s kingdom first, not the other way around. I believe we are getting it backwards way too often in this election season.
We are Christians.
The name of Christ is prominently displayed in that label we take. When we are actively and loudly taking political action, we are doing so as representatives of Christ. Sometimes we even specifically attach Christ’s name to those actions. Navigating the muck of this current political morass and discerning what are appropriate and rightful actions has not been easy to do. However, much of what is happening right now should be a million miles away from having a connection to Christ. We need to do better.
Lord, help us to do so.