The most fervent of Donald Trump’s supporters view him as a messianic-type figure who will save Judeo-Christian civilization. Many of Trump’s detractors, ranging from pensive concern to outright hatred, see him as demonic, a “spiritual danger.”
Thus, Professor Ron Sider, with twenty-nine other evangelical scholars, has produced a book, The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelical Christians on Justice, Truth, and Moral Integrity.
Trump is a man of extremes and inspires or incites extreme responses and reactions.
Sider, in his Introduction, writes: “We are evangelical Christians, pleading with other Christians, especially evangelicals, to allow biblical principles to shape all our political activity.”
Sider and his colleagues have undertaken a risky business since their book could be dismissed as a gaggle of academics instructing us deplorables about how to vote for president. That would be unfortunate because there are important concerns here that deserve a wide reading.
I do not intend here a rebuttal. I summed up my own concerns in my newest book, Two Men From Babylon: Nebuchadnezzar, Trump, and the Lord of History. There I wrote that I wished Trump would:
- set a better example of personal morality
- be less adolescent
- be careful about setting precedent with respect to emergency powers
- not encourage a civil religion
- distinguish between authoritarianism, raw power, and true authority
- not stifle freedom of the press midst his efforts to point out fake news
- not fall into the trap of overwrought nationalism
I wish Trump would abandon ad hominem attacks and focus on his policies, many of which have been major successes.
Trump is a coarse man. According to Romans 1 there comes a point in humanity’s rebellion against God’s holy character when the Lord removes His hand of guidance and protection and gives them over to what their actions prove they really want.
In my seven decades of life I have never known such cultural coarseness as now. In a society where small children know and use the F-word, tragically, it should be no surprise that the national leader is the embodiment of the culture.
But there are other concerns that should bring even greater alarm than coarseness: the right to life, preservation of the biblically defined family, freedom of belief and speech, and the opportunity to work and enjoy the fruits of one’s labors.
The numbers related to these issues reveal why so many, including conservative Christians, continue to support Trump. Consider the following from an Internet search:
60,000,000 — This is the approximate number of babies who have died in America’s abortion chambers since 1973 and the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. In the Christian Post interview Dr. Sider asked, rhetorically, “What does God care about?” He then answered his own question: “God cares about the sanctity of life.”
If Joe Biden wins the White House because conservative Christians desert Trump, that staggering number of infant deaths will continue to climb. Biden will be under the sway of a Party that includes powerful politicians who want to push abortion all the way to birth.
5,000,000 — At least this many jobs were added to the pre-COVID American economy during Trump’s first term. Professor Sider identified as another of the things God cares about as “justice for the poor.” And that leads to another number.
4,500,000 — This is the approximate number of minority hires in the Trump years prior to COVID’s impact on the economy. The jobless rate for Hispanics fell to 3.9 percent, and for African Americans, 5.5 percent. Many of these individuals were classed as “poor.” It is better to give those suffering poverty a job rather than a handout.
80 percent — This is the estimated proportion of the global population living in places where there is restriction on freedom of religion. President Trump recently signed an executive order implementing strategies to promote religious freedom worldwide, and an end to persecution of religious people and groups.
Though I did not support Trump in the 2015 primaries I did vote for him in 2016. Considering the issues discussed above I plan to vote for Donald Trump in 2020. Often, I have wished that some more respectable leader were carrying the banner on these issues, but Trump is at the point on these concerns. Frankly, no one is perfect enough for the presidency.
Both Biden and Trump are volatile men. Biden might sink his campaign with one disastrous senior moment. Trump may torpedo himself through his hubris — so evident in Tulsa. Volatility can quickly deteriorate into campaign-destroying vulnerability.
Professor Sider fears that Trump is causing “the broader culture” to develop “a negative view of Christianity.” One wonders how such a fret would have gone over in the first century church in Rome. Trump aside, shouldn’t we expect the culture to hate us if we live and speak biblically regarding abortion, family, freedom of religion, productive work? Is being hated by the “world” not a mark of faithfulness to the values espoused by Christ? (Matthew 10:22)
I get it: We must be hated for the right reasons.
Sider’s scholars are right in calling Donald Trump and his supporters to biblical standards. Sider and his colleagues should continue to press Trump to model Christian character, especially if he is going to seek evangelical support for a second term.
But they also need to look at the data and face the hard issue: If not Trump, who? Will Joe Biden or another Democrat — or Republican — behave more Christianly, fight abortion, build an economy that benefits poor as well as rich, encourage policies that help strengthen the traditional family, and take a strong stand for global religious freedom?
If so, thirty PhD’s ought to be able to tell us who it is.
Wallace Henley is a former pastor, White House and congressional aide, and author of more than 25 books. His newest is Two Men From Babylon: Nebuchadnezzar, Trump, and the Lord of History, published by Thomas Nelson.