I never thought I'd see the day when leading evangelicals would publicly espouse that character doesn't matter — and that promoting sexual assault is simply "bad boy talk." Yet, that's precisely what's happening in the wake of a newly released video showing Donald Trump gloating over his sexual exploits with married women.
I honestly don't know what makes me more sick. Listening to Trump brag about groping women or listening to my fellow evangelicals defend him.
Don't get me wrong. I get how disastrous a Clinton presidency would be.
It would mean that the U.S. would be up for sale to the highest bidder, which given the millions it's given to the Clinton Foundation, appears to be Saudi Arabia. A woman with close family ties to the Muslim Brotherhood would likely be chief of staff. The Hyde Amendment would be repealed; religious groups would be forced to endorse gay marriage — or else; the Supreme Court would be handed to a liberal majority for an entire generation; our borders would remain porous; and any hopes of repealing the fiasco that is Obamacare will be completely dashed.
So, I get it.
She's a disaster of historic proportions.
But let's face it. This election presents us with a Sophie's Choice. There is no moral vote. Only when compared to Hillary Clinton can Donald Trump come even close to resembling a decent human being. But, let's be honest, that's like saying I'm better-looking than Quasimodo. However, if we choose not to vote, or vote for a third party, then we can legitimately be accused of helping Hillary win the presidency (unless you live in a blue state like me where a vote for the GOP candidate doesn't count anyway).
So, let's stop claiming a moral high ground in this election. There is none. These are the two most morally depraved, power-hungry, and unfit candidates ever to win the Democratic and Republican Party nominations. They are a reflection of the moral bankruptcy of our nation. And, rather than waiving a party flag, every honest person of faith should be mourning the truly pathetic state of our union. Which brings me to my evangelical brothers and sisters . . .
Please stop defending and promoting Donald Trump!
If you feel you must vote for him to prevent a Clinton presidency, then go ahead, plug your nose and vote. But please, don't argue like Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition that "a 10-year-old tape of a private conversation" should "rank low" on our "hierarchy of concerns."
Seriously? Character doesn't matter?
Is that really the argument Reed wants to make, especially given that 18 years ago, he urged Christians not to vote for Bill Clinton based on character?
"We care about the conduct of our leaders," Reed said then, "and we will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character."
My, how our standards have plummeted.
Evangelicals also need to stop minimizing the horror of what Trump said and did. I was stunned to read a tweet by David Brody, Chief Political Correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network: "This just in: Donald Trump is a flawed man! We ALL sin every single day. What if we had a 'hot mic' around each one of us all the time?"
What exactly is Brody saying? Trump's comments are normal for professing Christians? The only difference between him and us is that he was mic'ed? Seriously? Most non-Christians I know were shocked by Trump's talk and behavior. What does it say when Christians are not?
I similarly was disheartened to hear Michele Bachmann, someone I really like and respect, dismiss Trump's reprehensible talk as "bad boy talk" and not "a real issue." When I interviewed Bachmann recently, she portrayed Donald Trump as a "decent guy" who simply talks "like a guy from Jamaica, Queens." But, Donald Trump is shockingly indecent — and we need to say so.
How on earth can evangelicals maintain any moral platform from which to speak out against abortion and gay marriage if we're going to dismiss and normalize adultery and sexual assault?
The evangelical hypocrisy meter is redlining right now — and the world, as well as our own children, are taking note. A former student I knew when I was in youth ministry posted to Facebook on Friday: "Nothing says pro-life like sexual assault as a lifestyle. Enjoy his SCOTUS picks, values voters." I hate to say it, but we deserve that.
I know some of you will argue that we're not picking a pastor-in-chief; we're picking a commander-in-chief. Robert Jeffress, pastor of a Baptist church in Dallas with a congregation of about 12,000 people, said as much in an article published in The Daily Beast. "I would not necessarily choose this man to be my child's Sunday School teacher," he said. "But that's not what this election is about."
Again, let's think about what we're saying. It's okay for everyday people to participate in sexual immorality — just not pastors and Sunday School teachers? If this is the standard we uphold, we should not be surprised when our sons and daughters embrace this standard too. Then, when we confront them for sleeping with their girlfriend or boyfriend, they'll throw this same line back in our face.
In Ephesians 5, Paul clearly states that we should not partner with the "immoral, impure or greedy person — such a person is an idolater." When we do, we not only lower our standard, but we destroy the church's witness. I don't think voting for someone necessarily qualifies as partnering, but certainly stumping for them does.
Recently, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, tweeted: "The damage done to the gospel this year, by so-called evangelicals, will take longer to recover from than the '80s TV evangelist scandals."
I fear he's right.
Donald Trump may do less damage to the country than Hillary, but he's done far worse damage to the evangelical church than anyone in recent history. And let's remember, the church — not politics — is the only real hope of reforming the character of this nation and saving it from destruction. That's why the witness of the church is simply not worth trading for a political victory.
Evangelicals who publicly supported Trump should follow the lead of conservative theologian and author Wayne Grudem. Earlier this year, Grudem argued that a voting for Donald Trump was a morally good choice. Yet, in an admirable show of humility, Grudem Sunday admitted he was wrong. "I previously called Donald Trump a 'good candidate with flaws' and a 'flawed candidate' but I now regret that I did not more strongly condemn his moral character," Grudem wrote. "I cannot commend Trump's moral character, and I strongly urge him to withdraw from the election."
Unfortunately, a man with Trump's ego will likely not step aside for the good of the country. So, we are stuck with this miserable GOP candidate whether we like it or not. The best each of us can do is prayerfully vote our conscience on November 8 and hope for the best. But, by all means, let's not exacerbate the problem by failing to show up to the polls and allowing godless men and women to take over the House and Senate too. Yet, let's refrain from embracing the person of Donald Trump or defending his misdeeds. Our integrity, and the reputation of the church, is simply too valuable to be sacrificed for a charlatan.