According to Merriam-Webster, foolish means “having or showing a lack of good sense, judgement, or discretion” and fool means “a person lacking in judgement or prudence.” Whether you say someone is being foolish or acting like a fool, Brown’s op-ed gave me no rational or biblical reason to think evangelicals who support the president are being anything other than both when it comes to their perception of the most powerful man in the world.
I read and re-read Brown’s op-ed, thinking the whole time about the old Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the beef?” What is Brown’s beef with what I wrote? The best I could come up with is when he says, “Thurman seems blind to his (Trump’s) strengths and his potential to help America greatly.” I assume this is Brown’s main problem with what I wrote — that I’m blind to what’s good about Trump. From there, he goes on to call me out for being hypocritical about the whole matter given that I criticize evangelicals for being blind to Trump’s defects as president. Brown’s criticism is disconcerting on two levels.
First, why is Brown talking about me given that my op-ed was about evangelicals who foolishly support Trump in spite of the fact that he is a deeply mentally and morally disturbed person? This is a common tactic employed by many Trump supporters — go after the accuser rather than the accused.
I don’t have the space to go into it in much detail, but many of the people who disagreed with my op-ed (either at the end of my article, writing me via email, or calling me on the phone) said I was a baby-killer, immoral, disgracing the cause of Christ, and not even a Christian. Those were the nicest criticisms I got. Personally, I am growing sick and tired of Trump-supporting evangelicals attacking the messenger rather than the message. To fire back at the many disturbing aspects of what I said about Trump with “Well, he’s got some strengths, and you’re too hypocritical to acknowledge them” is weak at best.
Second, Brown is making an erroneous assumption about me, in this case that I am “blind to his (Trump’s) strengths and his potential to help America greatly.” I’m not blind to Trump’s strengths. I don’t believe he has any. I agree with Peter Wehner in his op-ed in the Atlantic, “Trump is Not Well,” that Trump is “a terribly damaged person, a broken man, a person with a disordered mind.” Please, don’t talk about his strengths when he has none. And, I’m not blind to Trump’s “potential to help America greatly.” I believe his malignant narcissism makes him a serious threat to harm America greatly. Honestly, hasn’t he already?
If Trump is a malignant narcissist as many of us believe, he is an evil person and has no redeeming qualities. Throughout human history, we have seen one evil person after another cause great harm to our world. Would anyone look at an Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Putin, or Kim Jong Un and say they have “strengths” in the sense of positive character traits? When are Trump-supporting evangelicals (and Republicans in general) going to admit they have hitched their wagon to someone with a severely disordered personality about whom nothing good can be said characterologically?
Trump-supporting evangelicals need to be much more discerning about the difference between someone doing good (for example, some of Trump’s court appointments have been positive) and Trump having strengths. Whatever “good” Trump has done in the eyes of evangelicals, I don’t believe it is coming out of any characterological strengths, because, once again, I don’t believe he has any. I believe that everything Trump does is based on whether or not it will fire up his base, further empower him, and ensure his staying in power.
Let me approach this from a different perspective. I would like to challenge Brown and the others who criticized the op-ed I wrote to come up with one positive character trait Trump possesses. Just one. Remember, I’m not talking about the good things he has done. Doing a good thing doesn’t automatically mean there is an underlying positive character trait in play. I’m talking here about a positive trait — something good about his character that shows up in his actions on a regular basis.
Please, take me up on my challenge. Give me one single example of a true positive trait in our current president. Go to the Fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). Do any apply to Trump? Go to the Beatitudes (poor in spirit, meek, mournful, thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure of heart, a peacemaker, persecuted for righteousness sake). Do any of the these apply to Trump? Go to the Ten Commandments (no other gods before God, no graven images/no worshipping them, don’t use God’s name in vain, remember the Sabbath, honor your father and mother, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness against your neighbor, and do not covet you neighbor’s house, wife, servants, or anything that belongs to him or her). Has Trump spent his life trying to obey these commandments or regularly breaking them with no sign of godly sorrow that leads to repentance? I think Brown and all those who support Trump know the answer to these questions but are simply unwilling to admit it.
Brown says “Trump’s very evident shortcomings are what mark him as a man raised by God,” comparing him as other evangelicals have done to King Cyrus in the Old Testament. I simply don’t know what to say to that. From my perspective, it is a fallacious and unbiblical argument at best. Brown goes on to suggest that Trump defeating all his primary challengers and the fact that so many leading evangelicals supported him when he ran for president (“How is it, I wondered, that so many good people could be duped?”) are further evidence that Trump was raised by God to be president. Again, I have no idea how a person having dangerous mental and moral defects, abusively bullying his way through the 2016 primaries, and being supported by so many “good” people is a biblical basis for arguing that Trump is God’s choice for the White House and that evangelicals are supposed to support him.
Does it ever occur to Brown that the flip side of his argument is just as compelling? Is it possible that Trump ended up in the Oval Office empowered by spiritual forces of darkness and that God permitted him to be president but didn’t desire it? And, is Brown oblivious to the fact that a lot of “good” evangelicals strongly oppose Trump being president. For every Franklin Graham, there’s a Peter Wehner, author of The Death of Politics. For every Jerry Falwell, Jr., there’s a Ben Howe, author of The Immoral Majority. For every Ralph Reed, there’s a Bandy Lee, author of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. For every Mike Pence, there’s a Max Lucado, pastor and popular Christian author of almost 100 books.
I’m anticipating a similar response to this op-ed that I got last time — a smattering of “I’m glad you said it and completely agree with you” but a greater number of “Who in the world do you think you are, you arrogant, godless man?” I’m also anticipating that some Trump-supporting evangelicals will call me out for judging Trump (“Do not judge, or you will be judged,” Matthew 7:1). Scripture teaches us not to be judgmental toward others, meaning that we are to avoid any hint of looking down our noses at others as if we are better than them and make sure we take the plank out of our own eye before presuming to point out the speck (in Trump’s case, the plank) in someone else’s eye. I take full responsibility for making numerous judgments about Trump in my op-eds, but I want you to know that I am fully aware of the fact that compared to Christ none of us, me included, are any better than him.
I’d like to restate, one final time, the major points in my first op-ed so there is no confusion about my stance on Trump and the evangelicals who support him:
*Trump is a malignant narcissist, and, consequently, an evil person. He is not different in degree as many evangelicals seem to think, he is different in kind.
*As an evil person, Trump is extremely dangerous and poses a grave threat to our democracy and the world at large.
*Trump’s mental and moral pathology are only going to worsen over time, causing even more damage to everything he touches.
*Trump is unwilling to acknowledge that he has any serious flaws (he won’t even admit to having minor ones) and is militantly unrepentant before a Holy God.
*Evangelicals who support Trump (defined in my op-ed as those who “continue to hold Trump up as a great leader, say he is God’s chosen one for the presidency, applaud his appalling words and actions, ignore his glaring moral defects, and enable his dangerous presidency to continue by giving him their time, talents, and treasure”) are being foolish and being played for fools by Trump and his sycophants.
Brown and I can’t both be right. Trump is either a person who is “as flawed as he is” as Brown believes or someone who is truly evil as I believe. Trump is either a King Cyrus-type figure as Brown believes or a malignant narcissist as described in 2 Timothy 3:2 as I believe. Trump either has a great deal of potential to help America as Brown believes or a great deal of potential to harm America as I believe.
If Trump is just a deeply flawed person doing the best he can to run the country, we evangelicals should give him our full, undivided support and do everything we can to make his presidency a success. If Trump is evil and doing the best he can to tear our country down for selfish and malevolent reasons, we should have nothing to do with him, remove him from office as quickly as possible, press the reset button, and get someone elected to the presidency who truly shares our core values as Christians.
Chris Thurman, Ph.D., is a psychologist and author of The Lies We Believe.