Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Big Picture: Why Evangelicals Support President Trump

A man sat in a park playing checkers with a monkey. A crowd assembled to watch as the two played game after game. People stared, dumbfounded at this remarkable monkey that played checkers. When they finally stopped playing, the exasperated man exclaimed, “I don’t know what the big deal is. I beat him seven out of ten times!”

Sometimes we miss the big picture when focusing on the obvious details.

Donald Trump was my last choice during the Republican primary.  I groaned and grieved when the Donald received the nomination.

However, voting for Hillary 
would have continued Obama’s disastrous economic and foreign policies.  She would continue his dismissal of the Constitution and rule of law and extend his massive overreach of government. Eric Metaxsas illustrated at the time (see his excellent article,"Should Christians Vote for Trump?"), Hillary as President would push America over the cliff to disaster and ruin. Trump would not be the country's messiah, but he could pull America five feet back from the cliff's edge. 

In 2016, I wrote a blog article entitled Why a Southern Baptist Pastor Will Vote for the Unvirtuous Donald Trump. People quickly shared the post, and during the first week the article received over 17,000 hits. Not an eye-raiser for the big leagues, but for my small-scale blogging, it made waves. What mattered more to me than the numbers were the Christians who stopped me the next several weeks and shared I was really struggling as a Christian whether or not I could support Trump. Your article helped me see that voting for him did not mean sacrificing my integrity.

One interviewer asked former Secretary of Education William Bennett, well-known for his books on virtue, how the “virtue man” could support the unvirtuous Trump.  Bennett answered, “I understand how you feel about some of the things he said, but it may be better to lower your standards on things the guy says temporarily than to lose your country permanently.”

Evangelicals and President Trump

Evangelical Christians represented a large portion of Trump’s support in 2016. After enduring eight years of a President who not only was not one of us but did not even appear to be a friend of evangelical Christianity, how relieved and excited were many Christians to have a friend of Bible-believers – even if he did not seem like “one of us.”

Prominent evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Franklin Graham embraced President Trump, eventually considering him the greatest friend to fighting for legislation that reflects a biblical worldview than any President in recent history. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, New York Times bestselling author Eric Metaxas, and James Dobson of Family Talk exhorted Christians to vote for Donald Trump because the platform adopted by the Republican Party consistently reflected values in keeping with the Bible.

The Democratic Party, on the other hand, consistently adopts a platform inconsistent with biblical Christianity. 

However, among serious Christians there remains a group dubbed the “Never-Trumpers.” Appalled by the immoral background of The Donald, these people could not – and some still cannot – throw their support behind this man. Another evidence from that camp emerged this week in David French’s National Review article called Franklin Graham and the High Cost of the Lost Evangelical Witness.

French’s argument goes something like this: It is wrong to enthusiastically support as a leader someone with an immoral past. Evangelical leaders like Graham play too much to partisan politics. These leaders have “seared the consciences of the culture and the church, and granted their secular opponents all the ammunition necessary to question our sincerity as believers.” Resultingly, evangelical Christianity is experiencing what French calls losing “the collapsing Evangelical public witness.”

French's main example seems to be that while Franklin spoke against Bill Clinton's sexual sins, he has not done so about Trump's.  Yes, without question, both men were wrong for their sinful behavior. However, there is a huge difference. Clinton's sinned sexually while President of the United States, his sexual sins occurred in the Oval Office, and he lied under oath to cover his sexual sins. President's Trumps sexual sins occurred in the past before he became President. That is a significant difference that French overlooks.

I would fully expect, if Trump were caught having sex with an intern in the Oval Office, Franklin Graham and other preachers would put on their prophetic pants and call out those sins. However, it is not Graham's nor any other preacher's job to begin rebuking every sitting President for all of their past sins. 

Graham's ministry Samaritan's Purse continues to do incredible humanitarian work, and he continues preaching the gospel of Christ around the world, like his father did. It excites me that some Christian leaders like Graham have added to that mix another prophetic role - speaking into the political and moral climate.

I think in reality, it's the Never-Trumpers who have lost faith in the pro-Trump evangelical leaders.

His warnings are not new. He has been writing these warnings for four years, ever since it appeared Trump would win the Republican nomination. 

Like many Christians, during the last Presidential election cycle, I experienced a frustrating time of getting behind a candidate. With sixteen potential Republican choices, I hoped to see Mike Huckabee or Ted Cruz win the nomination. With the success of Donald Trump, I had to majorly reevaluate the game. The ideal was not going to happen.

Like many evangelicals, I had to think of the big picture, realize the greater good, and make voting choices in the real world vs. the ideal one. I had to see there was a monkey winning games of checkers – even only 3 out of 10.

Christian Leaders Sound their Warnings

At the time our choice was Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said, "She would be horrifyingly corrupt as President. And she would be a disaster in public policy. Remember, this is not about politics. The cost of Hillary's dishonesty could be the loss of America as we know it."

Pastor Dutch Sheets correctly states,"The damage [under the Obama administration] has been so great that America is now one president away from a complete transformation to secularism, a loss of our Judeo-Christian foundation, the loss of our position as the stabilizing force for good in the earth, and the leading voice of the gospel to all the world. If elected, Hillary Clinton will be the president who finishes the job. She stands almost entirely against everything we, the church, are for, and for everything we are against. Hillary is pro-abortion, including partial-birth abortion, the most insidious evil of the last century; will raise taxes while continuing out-of-control spending; will further weaken our military; is for completely open borders; is pro-gay marriage; supports Obamacare; has no respect for our Judeo-Christian heritage; sells influence; and is a proven liar. Do not be fooled—she will completely finish what Obama started."

Governor Mike Huckabee said, "If Hillary is elected, we have a real good shot at losing religious liberty, the Second Amendment, the Fourth and the Fifth, having open borders . . . .  This country is going to take a very, very negative direction." 

Dennis Prager writes,"The left is successfully undoing every one of those founding principles [of our nation]. . . . [W]e are at the most perilous tipping point of American history."

A Morally Good Choice

Wayne Grudem, my favorite modern theologian for twenty years, penned an excellent article, which can be googled, entitled Why Voting for Donald Trump is a Morally Good Choice.  Grudem shared the angst of a Christ-following, Bible-believer choosing to vote for Donald Trump – a very flawed candidate.  

Grudem challenged us to see the big picture – what a different nation would result from a Hillary Clinton presidency and her far-left radical agenda.  The worst consequence of all of voting for Clinton: “you will be contributing to a permanent loss of the American system of government due to a final victory of unaccountable judicial tyranny.”

House on Fire

When the house is on fire, it would be nice for the firemen who come to be God-fearing, Bible-believing Christians.  But I will take the most qualified firefighter who gets to my house.  

If I suffer a heart attack and the EMS carries me to the ER, my wife does not walk in the door and exclaim, “If you are not an upstanding, morally pure, God-fearing, born again believer, you can’t work on my husband.  If you have had a sordid past, then just leave him alone. I’d rather stick to my principles and not having anyone touch him than let someone beneath  my standards help him.  Just leave him alone if you don’t match my criteria.”
That would be nonsense.

If my child falls of the monkey bars and suffers a head injury, it would be great if the ambulance driver can quote Scripture and listens to Charles Stanley, but I’ll take a cultist who worships crystal angels if she can drive my son safely and quickly to the hospital.

Ronnie Floyd, former President of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote, "The problem with this election is that w
e have lost sight of what’s really on the ballot. We don’t vote for personality but for policy. Vote not for a man or a woman, but for the future of our children."

Churchills and Chamberlains

Stephen Strang, President of Strang Communications, follows the trail of the evangelical community’s relationship with Donald Trump in his books God and Donald Trump and Trump Aftershock:  The President's Seismic Impact on Culture and Faith in America. Strang tackles head-on the reality of Trump being an unlikely candidate to win the support of Christians. One of the most telling parts of the book is Strang’s comparison of Donald Trump to a George Patton, Abraham Lincoln, or Winston Churchill:

None of these men were conventional Christians, and they had many detractors in the clergy, yet each played a pivotal role in history. They stood strong against the enemies of freedom and helped safeguard our way of life and our Christian heritage.

Patton was no choirboy, but he was a strong-willed and powerful man who trusted in the authority and compassion of a powerful God. Donald Trump, with his swagger, cocky self-assurance, and ruthless determination, may well be the George Patton of our age and the one man who could stand up to the leftist insurgents who have done so much damage to the republic over the last fifty years. His language and behavior may be disagreeable, but he possesses an undeniable passion to make America great again, and the people have responded to his message.

Jezebel and Samson

The Bible character of Samson was an unlikely choice for God to use as His tool. The unethical, sensual brute delivered the Israelites from the Philistines. Many evangelicals 
believe Donald Trump was a Samson-like tool to protect our nation from falling off the cliff in the disaster of a Hillary Clinton presidency who resembles Queen Jezebel in the Old Testament. 

Samson was a dishonorable, narcissistic, immoral man characterized by frivolity and sexual conquests. Samson, however, was able to rise above his personal failures in order to do good for the nation.  The queen could never rise above her culture of deceit and corruption.  She died doing what she did best - trying to protect herself.  Samson, however, died sacrificing himself to destroy the enemy.  Samson as leader was the most likely to do good for the people.

Surprisingly, Old Testament Samson is recorded in Hebrews 11, The Hall of Faith, asa faith-hero.  It seems the grace of God has a way of covering our past failures and shortcomings.
As Dennis Prager said, "I’m not defending Trump.  I’m voting for him.  I’m defending America from Hillary Clinton who will fundamentally do much more damage to our beloved country."

And later he writes, "There is no defense for Donald Trump’s comments or alleged sexual misbehavior. But in terms of damage to America, 
there is no comparison between what he has said and allegedly done and what she has done and advocates for the future."

Today and Beyond

Trump’s 2016 victory was stunning.

As I share in my article, Once in a Century: Reflections on the 2016 Election, Trump overcame the media establishment, the political establishment, and the globalist establishment.  The Trump voters reacted against the mainstream media, the Hollywood and Miley Cyrus self-proclaimed pundits, the out-of-touch establishment of both parties, and the arrogant elitism of the last eight years. 

Since then, the vitriol vomited from the Left and the. Democratic Party toward Donald Trump and conservatives motivate me all the more to throw my support behind him. Last fall in Decision Magazine, Franklin Graham aptly wrote,

Today, the direction of the Supreme Court is still the single most crucial issue facing our nation . . . .

The spectacle surrounding the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh is just a foreshadowing of what we can expect if progressive-liberal socialists rule our country. And believe me, they are doing whatever they can—no matter how devious and disgusting—to see their own godless agenda forced upon us.

The entire rationale behind the controversy in these hearings, seen around the world, wasn’t about what Judge Kavanaugh did or didn’t do as a teenager. It was really about the ideological advance of progressive socialists who were intent on stopping a judicial conservative from being appointed to the Supreme Court.

For several decades, the highest court in the land has grown decidedly liberal. Worse, the court has rendered ruling after ruling that rejected the Biblical foundation for our laws, allowing hostility toward Christians to grow. . . .

When the American electorate put Donald Trump in our nation’s highest office, he did exactly what he promised to do in his campaign, and exactly what our nation needed. He appointed a conservative judge to the Supreme Court to fill the seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Already, Justice Neil Gorsuch has proven to be a friend of religious liberty, and no doubt will be for many decades to come!

It’s no surprise, then, that the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace the retired Anthony Kennedy was marked by vitriol from progressive leftists who were scared to death the confirmation will constrain the court to rulings that faithfully reflect the wise underpinnings of our founders. Socialist progressives know what is at stake—including the possible overturn of Roe v. Wade—and they have been willing to employ any scheme conceivable.

The further our nation moves away from God, the quicker our descent into greater moral depravity and chaos. I fear for what is in store for our children and grandchildren.

I am afraid that what we saw during the recent televised hearings has embarrassed our nation before the world. We’ve sunken civility and reasonable dialogue in the political arena to stunning new depths. As Judge Kavanaugh remarked during the hearing, we have “sown the wind” and will “reap the whirlwind,” a familiar Biblical phrase from the Book of Hosea.

Since President Trump was elected, he has appointed more than 120 judges—virtually all judicial conservatives with respect for the Constitution as originally written, including the First Amendment right of free exercise of religion.

Kavanaugh’s eventual confirmation by the Senate on a 50-48 vote will certainly be advantageous in a host of key upcoming decisions coming before the Supreme Court. But make no mistake, the progressive left is not giving up.

Social Hysteria

In just this year, we are witnessing social madness as the left continues its socialist march across America, uprooting our values and trying to change the very fabric of our society. George Orwell’s 1984 seems more and more at home among us as progressives try to purge us of anything they deem offensive.

The Left (as opposed to classic conservatism and classic liberalism) poses the greatest threat to America, freedom, and religion. Today the Left has taken over many of our colleges and universities, and it is doing a good job taking over the Democratic Party.

Michael Brown writes, “Our moral framework is collapsing, and our kids and grandkids and great-grandkids will pay dearly. How can I hold my tongue from speaking or restrain my pen from writing?  . . . Wherever we turn, there is confusion. Deception. Darkness.”

Donald Trump is a voice for the unborn. He is a voice for religious liberty. Again, Franklin Graham writes, 

In just two years, his administration has accomplished more than any other president in decades to defend religious freedom, turn the tide of the Supreme Court and protect ordinary Americans who have been under siege for practicing our Christian beliefs.

When you think about what has happened over the past two years, it’s incredible how the entire federal landscape has changed from a previous administration that was openly hostile to people of faith, to the one today that not only welcomes evangelicals but aggressively fights to protect our religious liberty.

“In recent years, the government tried to undermine religious freedom,” the president told us. “But the attacks on communities of faith are over. We’ve ended it.”

I’m thankful for leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr., James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Franklin Graham, and others who are able to see the big picture.

Worth Celebrating

In his article, Why Conservatives Still Attack Trump, Prager shares the following:

Had any Never-Trump conservative been told, say in the summer of 2015, that a Republican would win the 2016 election and, within his first few months in office, appoint a conservative to the Supreme Court; begin the process of replacing Obamacare; bomb Russia’s ally, Assad, after he again used chemical weapons; appoint the most conservative cabinet in modern American history; begin undoing hysteria-based, economy-choking EPA regulations; label the Iranian regime “evil” in front of 50 Muslim heads of state; wear a yarmulke at the Western Wall; appoint a U.N. ambassador who regularly condemns the U.N. for its moral hypocrisy; restore the military budget; and work on lowering corporate tax rates, among other conservative achievements — that Never-Trump conservative would have been jumping for joy.

So, why aren’t anti-Trump conservatives jumping for joy?

I have come to believe that many conservatives possess what I once thought was a left-wing monopoly — a utopian streak. Trump is too far from their ideal leader to be able to support him.

There is also a cultural divide. Anti-Trump conservatives are a very refined group of people. Trump doesn’t talk like them. Moreover, the cultural milieu in which the vast majority of anti-Trump conservatives live and/or work means that to support Trump is to render oneself contemptible at all elite dinner parties.

In addition, anti-Trump conservatives see themselves as highly moral people (which they often are) who are duty-bound not to compromise themselves by strongly supporting Trump, whom they largely view as morally defective.

Finally, these people are only human: After investing so much energy in opposing Trump’s election, and after predicting his nomination would lead to electoral disaster, it’s hard to for them to admit they were wrong. To see him fulfill many of his conservative election promises, again in defiance of predictions, is a bitter pill. But if they hang on to their Never-Trumpism and the president falls on his face, they can say they were right all along.

That means that only if he fails can their reputations be redeemed. And they, of course, know that.

But there is another way.

They can join the fight. They can accept an imperfect reality and acknowledge that we are in a civil war, and that Trump, with all his flaws, is our general. If this general is going to win, he needs the best fighters. But too many of them, some of the best minds of the conservative movement, are AWOL.

I beg them: Please report for duty.

We cannot always make ideal choices.  Sometimes rugged realism is needed.  

At times we can't say, "What is the pure choice?"  Instead, we have to ask, "What choice will likely do the most good, or, what choice will likely do the least amount of damage?" That is part of living in the real world. Maturity involves embracing some ambiguity. 

At the end of the game, let’s be excited that a monkey won 3 games!

See my article Christians: Engage Politics and the Public Square here.

Also, Bryan Fisher responded to David French's article. See it here.

And John Nolte responded to French. View it here.

See these excellent articles about the greatest threat to America, freedom, and religion: The Left . . .

Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.

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