A recent column by Shane Idleman poses the question, “How can you follow Jesus and support Donald Trump?” Mr. Idleman takes the position that it is possible to do both, and he makes some valid points. I have given his arguments careful and prayerful consideration. I respectfully but vehemently disagree with his conclusion.
Mr. Idleman acknowledges but downplays the obvious fact that President Trump “lacks Christian character.” What, however, could be more important? As Christians, we ought always to have the Great Commission in the forefront of our minds. How does Christian support for President Trump make disciples of Jesus Christ? Mr. Idleman does not address that question. I think such support has the opposite effect, for reasons that I discuss below.
How, then, does support for President Trump advance Christian values? Mr. Idleman believes that it does, seemingly because President Trump is an ungodly means to godly ends. I respectfully disagree.
President Trump is a seemingly compulsive liar. He has a long history of immoral affairs and exploitation of those who are economically weaker. And he is a bully – especially a cyber-bully, which is an enormously important issue for young people today. Our children are watching if we praise and glorify Donald Trump; and whether we say it or not, that is a signal that he is a role model. How does that advance Christian values? Is he really someone whom we want to hold up as a model for emulation?
The secular world is watching as well; and many in that community gleefully shout “Hypocrisy!” – with much justification – when they see leaders and members of the “evangelical” community supporting Donald Trump, apparently because he is an ungodly means to godly ends. They can see, as well as we, that virtually everything in his life is a contradiction of Jesus’ teaching. How does that advance Christian values?
Mr. Idleman denies that the Trump administration is taking children from their mothers and locking them in “cages.” I can only question the source of his information. Granted, descriptions of well documented and widely reported events have sometimes been described in overly emotional language. The fact nevertheless is that the acts of this administration are highly contrary to numerous biblical injunctions to welcome the “foreigner” or “stranger” (depending on the translation) and treat him compassionately and justly. How does that advance Christian values?
Mr. Idleman’s strongest point is that President Trump’s judicial appointments may serve eventually to mitigate the holocaust of the unborn. But he ignores or overlooks the fact that President Trump’s political coalition yokes the evangelical community to the NRA, an organization which vehemently opposes even the most modest limitations on availability of weapons of war – instruments designed for no purpose other than to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. How does that advance Christian values? It is difficult indeed in today’s political climate to be consistently pro-life – certainly neither major party takes such a position – but let us not deceive ourselves by ignoring the pro-death positions to which this politician adheres.
Mr. Idleman also ignores many other aspects of this administration’s policies which, I submit, are toxic to Jesus’ teachings:
I pray each day for the world that my grandchildren – our grandchildren – will inherit. Anyone who has eyes to see must know that the world today is growing increasingly hotter and that there is no end in sight. Mr. Trump has the “bully pulpit” of the presidency, an ideal position to lead not only this country but the rest of the world in the direction of taking essential measures to preserve, as much as possible, the beautiful world given us by God for our grandchildren to enjoy. Instead, he almost literally advocates pouring more fuel on the fire. How does that advance Christian values?
Mr. Idleman refers only obliquely to current economic conditions as a reason for supporting President Trump. But that is an enormous factor in the president’s own reelection agenda, and let us face it: The fact is that we are enjoying prosperity on borrowed money. We are on an economic sugar high, and we are sending the bills to our grandchildren – with no expectation that the principal of our now $1 trillion annual borrowings will ever be repaid, only that the interest payments will endure as long as this country endures. How does that advance Christian values? Does this president anticipate bankrupting the federal government and leaving its creditors high and dry, as he has he has done repeatedly with his own businesses? How would that advance Christian values?
President Trump’s political strategy is based heavily on dividing this country against itself, to the point that he is threatening to tear it apart. No other politician since Spiro Agnew has come anywhere near the same level of reliance on the politics of anger and internal division, and President Trump’s anger, vindictiveness, and downright ugliness exceed even Vice President Agnew’s. How does that advance Christian values?
President Trump encourages and provides at least implicit psychological encouragement to the worst and most evil among us – the “very fine people“ in the KKK and American Nazis. How does that advance Christian values?
President Trump has shown utter contempt for the rule of law in numerous ways, including (but by no means limited to) his scornful refusal to enforce the Hatch Act against his employee (Kellyanne Conway) who blatantly violates the law by campaigning for him while she is a federal employee using federal resources. How does that advance Christian values?
President Trump abandoned and betrayed the Kurds, our allies, to the tender mercies of their avowed and vicious enemy Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Did that advance Christian values? Did it even advance American strategic values – to signal to the entire world that we are an untrustworthy and unreliable ally?
Let us acknowledge that there are no perfect people and certainly no perfect politicians. At the same time, however, let us not ignore the evil that this president is committing and encouraging, on the ground that in a few respects he is pointing us in the right direction as well.
George A. Somerville is an attorney with Harman, Claytor, Corrigan, Wellman, a civil litigation firm, with offices in Richmond, Va., the DC Metro area, and Denver, Colo.