A counter argument to Chris Thurman's op-ed below can be read here.
It’s not a word to throw around carelessly. Some Christians erroneously believe the Bible forbids the use of this word toward others and that we risk eternal damnation for addressing people this way. What the Bible actually teaches is to never call someone “racca,” which means “empty one” or “worthless.” The Bible also teaches that it is always wrong to call someone a fool if you are doing it out of sinful, unrighteous anger.
Jesus Christ used the words “blind fools” to refer to the Pharisees regarding how they were grossly misguiding the Jews about how to have an intimate relationship with God (Matthew 23:17).
The Apostle Paul reprimanded Christians in the province of Galatia, saying “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3:1) because they had fallen back into trying to be justified by works rather than faith in Jesus Christ.
When either Jesus Christ or Paul used these words, it was a stinging rebuke of a group of people for not looking spiritually or morally at reality the way God looks at it.
I believe evangelicals who support Donald Trump are being both blind and foolish to do so and that labeling them as such is not sinful but appropriate and necessary. By support, I’m not referring to evangelicals who voted for Trump in 2016. I’m referring to those evangelicals 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 treasures.
As a Christian, I don’t have much hope that evangelicals who enthusiastically support Trump will have ears to hear what I say in this piece. My personal interactions with enthusiastic Trump-supporting evangelicals have, in general, been unpleasant and involved very little willingness to “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). Nevertheless, I feel prompted to comply with two verses in Scripture, “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and "If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault” (Matthew 18:15) when it comes to this matter. This article, however imperfectly written, is my best effort to speak the truth in love to my brothers and sisters in Christ who support Trump and point out why I believe the Bible says they are wrong to do so.
First, I am going to mention some of the leading evangelicals who have zealously supported Trump. Second, I’m going to discuss the key biblical passage that describes someone like Trump, a passage that many evangelicals seem to completely ignore. Third, I’m going to examine why so many evangelicals support Trump. Finally, I will conclude by challenging those evangelicals who support Trump to humble themselves, admit they made a grave mistake by backing a man so clearly psychologically and morally unfit to be president, and repent of their misjudgment of this man by vigorously opposing his re-election.
The Four Evangelical Enablers of the Trumpocalypse
Four evangelicals have been especially vocal in their support of Trump. I mention them by name not to demean these individuals but because I believe each one of them need to be held accountable for avidly supporting the president and acting like evangelicals who don’t do the same are unchristian and immoral.
Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition and founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, recently said that evangelicals “have a moral obligation to enthusiastically back” President Trump in the upcoming election.1 In my field of counseling, what Reed said is considered “gaslighting,” an effort to make someone think they are crazy or in the wrong if they don’t look at things the way you do. I believe the Bible teaches that we have a moral obligation to vigorously oppose someone like Trump and remove him from office as soon as possible before he does any more damage to our democracy.
Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, said in an interview that Trump earned his support because of his abilities as a businessman, that there was nothing Trump could do to endanger his support or the support of other evangelical leaders, and that he “can’t imagine him doing anything that’s not good for the country.”2 Trump is a demonstrably immoral and incompetent businessman, most of what he does as president is impulsively thought out and acted on, and one has to wonder just how bad he would have to act before evangelicals like Falwell would see him as a real and present danger not only to our country but to the world at large. Could Trump literally, as he has boasted,3 walk to the center of 5th Avenue in New York City and shoot someone before evangelicals would finally sour on him?
Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, when asked about Trump’s lying, refused to acknowledge that he lies, saying that Trump sometimes misspeaks “like all of us do.”4 Trump recently cracked the 13,000 false or misleading statements barrier.5 Doesn’t that fact alone suggest he is a pathological liar rather than a pathological mis-speaker? And, given that “The Lord detests lying lips” (Proverbs 12:22), shouldn’t evangelicals like Graham realize that God has a serious problem with a pathological liar leading our country?
Mike Pence, vice president of the United States, has been unfaltering in his support of Trump even though he has suffered one indignity after another at Trump’s hand since assuming office. In a cabinet meeting in 2017, Pence led everyone in offering effusive praise to Trump when he said, “You have restored American credibility on the world stage” when Trump has actually done the opposite.6 At Trump’s 2020 campaign kickoff in Florida, Pence introduced Trump by saying, “President Donald Trump is the real deal” when he is actually a disingenuous fake. Pence also said Trump is “a man who says what he means, and means what he says” when Trump rarely says what he really means because even he knows he would catch nine kinds of heck if he ever was foolish enough to do so.7
Ralph, Jerry, Franklin, and Mike, my brothers in Christ, I believe you are being blind and foolish to support Trump. From my perspective, you are significantly misaligned with what Scripture says about how we as Christians are supposed to deal with someone like our current president. You got “bewitched” by an exploitative, pathologically lying snake oil salesman, and your unrestrained support of Trump has not only turned off untold numbers of non-believers to the cause of Christ but brought great dishonor on Christianity.
Is Trump Morally Ill Beyond Normal Standards of Human Decency?
The simple answer is yes. Given how narcissistic and sociopathic Trump is, he fundamentally doesn’t believe that the rules of moral behavior or social norms apply to him. That is the primary reason he has spent his adult life breaking one biblical commandment, federal law, and social norm after another. As much as people hoped Trump would take a turn for the better after becoming president, he has only grown more mentally and morally disturbed and defiant since assuming the powers of the presidency.8
Allow me to lay out a biblical case that Trump is a deeply morally ill person by going into the core values of Christianity. The list of Christian values is long, but the core values we have as followers of Christ would certainly include humility, compassion, truthfulness, acting justly, behaving morally, and loving mercy. Trump doesn’t share any of these values with Christians in how he lives his life, frequently acting in the opposite direction.
Humility. Trump is an incredibly arrogant person. Perhaps the most arrogant statement he ever uttered during his run for office was “I alone can fix it” when referring to our country’s many problems.9 Trump has said he is “the chosen one,”10 done more in a shorter period of time than any other president,11 “so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius,"12 and someone who knows more than anyone else about technology, money, taxes, ISIS, campaign finance, renewables, courts, steelworkers, real estate, construction, banks, trade, nuclear weapons, lawsuits and a myriad of other topics than those who are experts in these areas.13
There is very little, if anything, that is humble about Trump. When questioned about whether or not he had ever asked God for forgiveness, Trump said he didn’t think he had because he hadn’t done anything bad enough to warrant God’s forgiveness.14 Admitting your sinfulness and asking for forgiveness is at the very heart of Christianity. Trump has never seen a need to ask God to forgive him for a life that has been chronically marred by immorality, and, yet, evangelicals continue to believe he is a Christian who holds to Christian values in how he lives his life? I simply cannot wrap my mind around that.
Compassion. Another core aspect of Trump’s moral pathology is his lack of compassion and empathy for other people’s emotional pain and suffering. Examples of his lack of empathy for the feelings of others are too numerous to go into here but certainly include his abusive verbal attacks on people who disagree with him, his cold-heartedness about ripping children out their parent’s arms at our southern border, and telling the wife of a soldier who was killed in battle that her husband knew what he had signed up for in becoming a soldier.15,16
Truthfulness. As I mentioned earlier, Trump has made over 13,000 false or misleading statements since assuming the presidency. Most presidents would be hung in effigy if they lied just a few times in office, much less thousands of time. In referring to Satan, the Bible says that he is the father or lies and that there is no truth in him (John 8:44). Among human beings, that could be said about Trump — he rarely tells the truth, and, when he does, it is usually to serve his ego and justify his actions.
Acting Justly. Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” To act justly is to be impartial, behave lawfully, and submit to authority. Trump does none of these. He is clearly partial toward certain people (rich white men to be specific), spent his life violating the law and social norms, and rarely submits to any authority other than himself for how to act. Trump has proudly proclaimed that he is his own advisor on various issues, that he has great instincts, and that his decisions are always perfect when there are dozens and dozens of examples of that being false.17
Behaving Morally. Trump is perhaps the most immoral president we have ever had. He is a serial adulterer and sexual predator, often doesn’t pay his debts, cheats on his taxes, pathologically lies, exploits people for his own ends, and lives his life as if God’s moral commands apply to everyone else but him.18,19 Rarely, if ever, does he practice what he preaches, something that incensed Christ about the Pharisees when He rebuked them for their blatant hypocrisy in how they lived their lives.20,21
Loving Mercy. Mercy means having grace and kindness toward others and forgiving the people who have hurt you. It means not returning harsh criticism from others with abusive insults. It means graciously bearing the negative effects of someone else’s sin against you. It means reaching out to the poor and neglected. It means, at times, not making someone pay the consequences of their wrongdoing. Trump is none of these things. He has little compassion for the pain and suffering others go through, hurls one abusive insult after another at people who dare to criticize him, is frequently aggressive and hostile toward his perceived enemies, and feels bitter and resentful toward those who sin against him.22
If actions speak louder than words, can any evangelical honestly say Trump truly shares our core values as followers of Christ? Sooner or later, evangelicals who support Trump are going to have to ask themselves why they so fervently believe Trump is a born again Christian and shares our core values when there is indisputable evidence to the contrary.
Does the Bible Have Anything to Say About Someone Like Trump?
Yes, the Bible has a lot to say about someone like Trump, and none of it is good. The passages in the Bible about a person like the president are too numerous to mention. Let me suggest that the key passage is 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
I believe this passage is almost a word-for-word description of our current president and that it’s not in the Bible by accident. I believe this particular passage was written for the very times we live in. God, being all-knowing, knew ahead of time this godless individual would ascend to the presidency of our country. In light of what the passage says, could God be any clearer about who He doesn’t want Christians to support when it comes to choosing a leader?
I also believe Trump is so malignantly narcissistic that he claimed to be a Christian simply to get evangelicals to vote for him in 2016. Evangelicals foolishly drank the Trump Kool-Aid and got conned into voting for him. Trump was cunning and conniving enough to know that without evangelical support he wouldn’t win the 2016 election, and he was more than willing to misrepresent himself as a follower of Christ in order to gain the presidency for his own personal glory and enrichment.
While only God knows who His “sheep” are, I believe Trump is no more Christian in how he lives his life than I’m a Nobel Prize winning physicist. God expressly commands His followers to have nothing to do with someone like Trump, and yet, millions of evangelicals continue to enthusiastically support him.
Tragically, with the 2020 election a year away, evangelical support for Trump appears to be as strong as ever, and evangelicals seemed posed to make the same horrible mistake they made in 2016 by re-electing him to the highest office in the land, a position for which he is clearly morally and mentally unqualified.
Why Do So Many Evangelicals Support Trump?
We shouldn’t fault evangelicals for being alarmed about the direction our country is headed and their desire to regain influence over it. Given some of the left’s most abhorrent views, especially on abortion and human sexuality, most evangelicals I have talked to felt painted into a corner when it came time to vote in 2016. Many of them felt they had no other choice than to vote for Trump, given that the Democratic alternative was Hilary Clinton, someone who many evangelicals understandably could never vote for.
Another reason so many evangelicals support Trump is that they have been repeatedly told by leading evangelicals that he is God’s chosen man for the White House, something I referred to earlier as gaslighting. Paula White, Trump’s spiritual advisor (whatever that means), said Trump was specifically “raised up by God” and that if evangelicals don’t support him, they will “have to stand accountable to God.”23,24 Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, said God was the one who placed Trump in the White House and that “'Never Trump’ evangelicals are morons.”25 Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s former White House Press Secretary, said God “wanted Trump to be President” and “that’s why he’s there.”26 Rick Perry said Trump was “ordained by God” to be president.27 I guess the strategy here is that if you, as a leading evangelical, tell your followers something often enough, they will have no other choice than to capitulate to your point of view or be destined to spend the rest of their lives walking around feeling guilty that they didn’t support someone as disturbed as Trump.
What we must fault evangelicals for is if they do it again. Evangelicals’ motto in 2020 should be, “Fool me once, shame on you, Trump; fool me twice, shame on me.”
Given that Trump’s moral depravity has glaringly and dangerously been on display in public for three years now, how could any evangelical continue to support a man for president who is causing such great harm everywhere he goes?
The simple truth of the matter is that evangelicals who supported Trump in 2016 got conned. To put it in biblical terms, they got bewitched (Galatians 3:1). They threw their full-throated support behind a morally bankrupt and psychologically disturbed person and are headed toward making the same mistake in 2020. They chose political power over Christian values and the cause of Christ has been paying for it ever since.
The word “evangelical” used to be a term of honor, referring to a person who brought the “good news” of Christ to a fallen world, cared about living out biblical values, and devoted to serving God here on earth. Sadly, it now refers to someone who excuses the inexcusable, believes the ends justify the means, feels entitled to getting what they want, believes in their own moral superiority, exploits others to achieve their goals, and lacks empathy for how their actions negatively impact others. There are more than a few of us who are no longer willing to use the term evangelical to describe ourselves because of what Christian supporters of Trump have done to denigrate it.
A Final Warning
The Bible says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:2). In supporting Trump, evangelicals have called him good when he is evil, light when he is darkness. This is especially disconcerting given that Christians have the Holy Spirit inside of them, part of whose function is to guide us to truth and convict us of sin. We, of all people, should be the most discerning about a wolf in sheep’s clothing like Trump. Trump-supporting evangelicals would be wise to ask themselves why so many secular mental health professionals who are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit see Trump as an evil, malignant narcissist while so many Christians keep sticking their head in the sand denying it all.
President Trump’s mental and moral condition are only going to worsen over time. Please, don’t think for one minute that he is ever going to turn a corner and become a more psychologically and morally healthy president. Not only is he unlikely to improve, Trump’s various forms of mental and moral pathology almost always deepen and become more intractable. The primary reason why this is true is that Trump doesn’t believe there is anything wrong with him. Consequently, he doesn’t believe he has anything to change. It’s why Trump never apologizes and frequently doubles down after having done something wrong. If you are hoping for a new and improved version of Donald Trump in the future, you are fooling yourself. As a country, we simply cannot afford to give Trump another four years to further take a sledgehammer to our democracy.
I want to end with a quote from one of the mental health professionals who contributed to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, psychologist John Gartner. This is one of many of the statements in the book that evangelicals would be wise to listen to and act on:
Trump is a profoundly evil man exhibiting malignant narcissism. His worsening hypomania is making him increasingly more irrational, grandiose, paranoid, aggressive, irritable, and impulsive. Trump is bad, mad, and getting worse. He evinces the most destructive and dangerous collection of psychiatric symptoms possible for a leader. The worst-case scenario is now our reality.
You foolish evangelicals, Trump has bewitched you. Stop calling him good when he is evil, light when he is darkness. Have nothing to do with him.
 “Unbridled and Extreme Present Hedonism” by Philip Zimbardo and Rosemary Sword in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, edited by Bandy Lee, M.D., M.Div. (Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press: New York, 2019).
Chris Thurman, Ph.D., is a psychologist and author of The Lies We Believe.