In a recent Christian Post editorial, Napp Nazworth claims that evangelical Christians who voted for Donald Trump have compromised their witness and hurt the work of the gospel. He also believes that evangelical leaders who have been brought into Trump’s inner circle have become nothing more than useful idiots (my words), being duped by the allure of power.
With all respect to Napp, whom I honor as a committed Christian and fine journalist, I believe he has overstated his points and confused the roles of politics and the gospel.
Before sharing my perspective, however, let me make clear that: 1) to the extent evangelical supporters of Trump have looked to him to change the moral fabric of the nation, we have made a gross miscalculation; 2) to the extent evangelical leaders have excused the President’s bad behavior (especially in the present, with his tweets and his treatment of others), we have compromised our moral authority (a major point made by Napp); and 3) to the extent evangelicals have exchanged voting for praying and preaching, we have lost sight of our mission.
As the author of the book Donald Trump Is Not My Savior: An Evangelical Leader Speaks His Mind About the Man He Supports As President, I am under no illusions when it comes to our Commander in Chief.
That being said, I differ with Napp’s thesis for four principle reasons.
First, he confuses our vote for a political leader with our personal morality and witness. He wrote, “Before the election, I warned my fellow evangelicals to not vote for Trump, that associating with a person of Trump's character would damage us.”
But you can vote for someone without tying your soul to that person. You can vote for someone with reservation, even expressing that publicly. You can vote for someone while having a moral difference.
One of the main reasons I voted for Trump (after opposing him strongly in the primaries) was because I was voting against Hillary Clinton.
I felt she would be a staunch opponent of our religious liberties, a zealous advocate for abortion, and a supporter of radical LGBT activism.
In my view, her presidency could have negatively affected our country for many years to come, impacting our kids, our grandkids, and beyond.
Despite my very real concerns about Donald Trump, I hoped he would keep his promises in these key areas (along with supporting Israel). Thankfully, he has, which is why I’m still glad I voted for him, despite the collateral damage.
In the last two years, I have had serious gospel conversations with Trump-hating non-believers, and when I explained why I voted for Trump, expressing my reservations as a Jesus-follower, those I spoke with were able to separate my vote for Trump from my witness for Jesus.
Second, some evangelical leaders have made a positive impact on the president without compromising their moral authority at all.
One of my dearest friends is close to President Trump, and on several occasions, he has lovingly rebuked Trump in strong and clear terms. My friend’s public ministry goes on just the same, affecting as many people as he has for years, and he remains unimpressed by the lure of the White House, having been in different presidential circles over the years.
And he is not alone. There are strong evangelicals on the Cabinet, along with strong evangelical voices like former Ambassador Nikki Haley, who often spoke with prophetic clarity to the UN on behalf of Israel. And there is Vice President Mike Pence, who recently penned a strong article condemning the infanticidal comments of Virginia Governor Northam, calling his position “morally reprehensible and evil.”
This is highly significant, helping to energize the pro-life movement as well. How different things would be if Hillary Clinton had been elected!
Third, I believe Napp downplays the role of the courts in American society.
It is not just the Supreme Court that Trump is impacting. He is also impacting many other federal courts, again, with the possibility of changing the face of the courts for the next one to two generations.
Before Trump, we were facing a rising tide of judicial tyranny – what Mark Levin famously called Men in Black – a tyranny that was rewriting the Constitution and threatening our most fundamental liberties.
And while having better justices in the courts will not win the lost or bring revival – who ever thought it would? – it will protect some of our most cherished liberties and institutions.
Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “The Christian gospel is a two-way road. On the one hand, it seeks to change the souls of men, and thereby unite them with God; on the other hand, it seeks to change the environmental conditions of men so the soul will have a chance after it is changed.”
We might say today that, while we seek to change the souls of men, we also want to preserve our right to live in accordance with our faith.
Not only so, but in my view (and the view of many), the issue of abortion is today’s slavery issue. How will we respond?
If Trump were a strong anti-slavery candidate in the 1850s, I would have voted for him. And I would have had no problem giving a Christian reason for doing so.
Napp argues that, at best, overturning Roe v. Wade would merely push the battle back to the States. But that is something we already know and we already embrace.
The alternative, which we are witnessing in front of our eyes, is the push to extend abortion “rights,” up to and including infanticide. Which do we prefer?
That, again, is why I can vote for Trump without compromising my moral authority. I was also voting for the lives of the unborn.
Napp writes, “But backing Trump won't end abortion. Just the opposite. In aligning with Trump, pro-lifers are only extending the time that will ultimately be required to end abortion because they're losing their moral authority to speak on this issue.”
To the contrary, the pro-life push under Trump has only highlighted the moral bankruptcy – and radicality – of the pro-abortion position, thereby clarifying our moral differences.
Of course, I agree that we will put an end to abortion on demand only by changing hearts and minds. But that also presupposes that, once someone’s heart is changed, they will then vote accordingly.
Fourth, while it is true that some of our witness has been hurt by evangelical leaders who defend Trump at every point, overall, I believe it is largely the leftwing media that is driving this narrative.
They are the ones shouting at every turn, “You must renounce Trump if you want us to take you seriously! No Christian can stand with Trump!”
I for one refuse to play this game (as I articulated in some of the chapters in my aforementioned book).
The fact is that this same media was mocking our position before we ever voted for Trump.
And I don’t believe for a split second that if we suddenly renounced him that these media leaders would say to us, “Please, share your views on abortion and homosexuality and the Bible. We would love to hear what you have to say.”
Not a chance.
Moreover, this same media despises Vice President Pence, in particular, because of his strong Christian views.
Had he been our president (or, if he one day becomes president), evangelicals supporting him would be accused of seeking to set up a theocracy, and we would be vilified day and night.
In sum, I believe we make a grave, fatal mistake if we look to the President to bring spiritual renewal or moral reformation to America. Perish the thought.
And I believe if we excuse his ungodly conduct or feel the need to become his defenders in chief, we do compromise our moral authority.
But if we give our souls to our Savior alone, to Him who died for us so we might live for Him, and if we give the President our vote, our witness remains firm and our integrity uncompromised.