Evangelical Christians have been strong supporters of President Trump.
The reason is clear: Trump gives them things they want, most importantly, conservative Supreme Court justices. These justices may one day reverse Roe v. Wade, the decision that held there is a constitutional right to abortion.
I share the view that Roe was a terrible decision and that abortion is a great evil. But is determining God’s will as simple as concluding that God must want believers to support Trump because his Supreme Court nominations may bring about a reversal of Roe?
Trump is a dishonorable man. He lies continually. Jesus made it clear what he thought about liars when he called Satan the father of lies (John 8:44). Trump also bullies and belittles people. He has bragged about groping women. He has had affairs. He dehumanizes immigrants. He stirs up racial tensions. The list goes on.
Would God nevertheless have Christians support Trump because of the assistance Trump can give them in the battle on abortion?
I believe an answer is to be found in a sermon given by Francis Schaeffer.
Francis Schaeffer was a conservative theologian whose influence on evangelicalism, Christianity Today claimed, was second only to C.S. Lewis and Billy Graham. In a sermon entitled, “The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way,” Schaeffer wrote:
The Lord’s work in the Lord’s way is the Lord’s work in the power of the Spirit and not in the power of the flesh.
Is it not amazing: though we know the power of the Holy Spirit can be ours, we still adopt the world’s wisdom, trust its forms of publicity, its noise and imitate its ways of manipulation! If we try to influence by using its methods, we are doing the Lord’s work in the flesh. If we put activity, even good activity, at the center rather than trusting God, there may be the power of the world, but we lack the power of the Holy Spirit.
To the extent that evangelicals trust Trump’s political power to end abortion, are they trusting more in the ways of the world than the power of the Holy Spirit?
It is true that if Trump’s Supreme Court nominees assist in reversing Roe, the lives of many unborn children may be saved. So then, are not the lives that may be saved more important than Trump’s moral failures?
This, in my view, is the wrong question.
The question is not which is more important, saving lives, on the one hand, or Trump’s immorality, on the other. The question is—as Schaeffer has forcefully set forth—what is the path of faith? If we truly trust God, do we trust God enough to do God’s work in God’s way, rather than in the world’s way?
Does God want us to compromise our moral values—continuing to support Trump, remaining silent about his outrageous behavior—in order to accomplish what we believe to be good results? Or would God have us act in moral and honorable ways, including denouncing Trump, while trusting that God will deal with the evils in the world in God’s own way and in God’s own time?
I do not think there is any question about which of these God would have us choose.
Jesus called Christians to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus did not limit this command to non-political activity only. When Christians enter or have influence in the political realm, they are to be salt and light there. Does this not mean that Christians should demand that their leaders be fair, reasonable, and decent?
As it is now, the world sees Christians supporting and defending a morally corrupt leader. It gives many a reason to reject the Christian faith out of hand.
What if evangelicals took a different path? What if we insisted that our political leaders be decent, honorable, and fair—and we started trusting in God, and not power politics, for results in the political arena?
If we did, we would give the world a reason to view the Christian faith in a different light. We would be inviting God to accomplish things far beyond anything that can be done through the ways of this world. We would be inviting God to demonstrate what can be done through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“God must want believers to support Trump because his Supreme Court nominations may bring about a reversal of Roe?”
Manipulative Theology … God needs a little human help (don’t you know).
“now, the world sees Christians supporting and defending a morally corrupt leader. It gives many a reason to reject the Christian faith out of hand.”
… as our own young people are doing … choosing an even more dangerous theology – universal tolerance and acceptance – “as long as people just stop judging, arguing and name-calling!”
Trump’s personal blur between rightness and wrongness is inadvertently transferring to the next generation …
I am a single issue voter. It’s abortion. If a pro-life Democrat runs against a pro-choice Republican, I will vote for the Democrat. It happened in 1998 in Illinois (Poshard vs. Ryan). I voted for Ryan, and I was wrong.
Your assumption, however, that Evangelicals voted only on the abortion issue is flawed. I contend that many Evangelicals voted for Trump because, while he was crude, he was better than Hillary Clinton. His subsequent performance as President (support of Pro-life, judges, foreign policy, economic policy, attempt to dismantle Regulatory State) is much better than many of us expected. He also, it must be noted, seems to lead a chaste lifestyle in office as that of a typical CRC pastor. Although, his use of Twitter still gives many of those same CRC types the vapors.
Here is my takeaway from your essay: I look forward to joining you in support of Pence 2024.
Steve, have you listened to the “evangelicals”? Have they been silent? Do you know how much noise they are petitioning God with? Have you witnessed the compromise you mention? Have the evangelicals become “of the world”?
It seems you have used a very suspect premise for your musings today.
If Alan Jacobs is right, the term “evangelical” may be defunct, a term emptied of theological meaning in our culture. (This, from an “Ideas” essay in the Atlantic). Schaefer is right about matching means to ends, but the starting point will be less on the policy side and more on the conversion or sanctification of our political imagination.
Given a choice between two terribly flawed major party candidates, most evangelicals voted for the perceived lesser evil. Others, like me, opted for a third party choice. In light of former President Obama choosing to celebrate the Obergefell v. Hodges decision by lighting up the White House in rainbow colors traditional Christians felt under siege. If the Democratic Party is interested in calling a truce in the culture wars, I suspect they could peel away many of these believers in light of Donald Trump’s serious character flaws in 2020. I am not holding my breath for that any more than I am expecting Trump’s Twitter rants to end though.
Thanks, Steve. I appreciate your insights.
Thanks so much for helping me understand my beliefs. Well said. Thanks again.
Spot on Steven. Thanks.
As a Reformed Minister of the Word and Sacrament, I would pose a question: what would happen if, instead of fighting so hard over the question of a RIGHT to abortion, we Christians focused on taking away the REASONS for abortion? Chief among those reasons is the attitude that men can do what they want with women (“grab them by the p***y” has been a popular expression, I believe) and then move on to another. Not far behind that is poverty, hopelessness, and the belief that no one owes anyone anything except themselves, all conditions arguably supported and propogated by this administration.
While we are at it, would Jesus find it acceptable to kill actual children and adults, or leave them to die by refusing to take them in, for the possibility of perhaps saving potential children someday? The foreign policies, and perhaps the criminal justice policies, and certainly the gun policies of this administration do exactly that. Is God okay with that because some really good child might be saved if we get the right justice on the court? Is God okay with dispelling the law for this president when God would not do that for the Word Incarnate? I see a disonance here.
As a purveyor of building materials, I would pose a question to you: which REASONS you listed justifies an abortion?
Thank you for this posting. I think that the Evangelicals supporting Trump have had their Esau moment. They have traded their integrity and morality for a pot of political gain. The arguments used here and elsewhere to justify that support ignore the despicable moral behavior of Trump except for some tepid suggestion that maybe he shouldn’t tweet so much. Is their any difference between supporting Bill Clinton because one liked his political decisions and supporting Trump because one likes his? What about the next Presidential election? Is it now the position of the evangelical right that the end justifies all, so the character and morality of candidates no longer matter? Why does the Evangelical right not make it clear that Trump’s behavior and personal morality are unacceptable to Christians, regardless of his politics?
I teach and work on a secular campus where having a Christian witness can be challenging. Unconditional Evangelical support for Trump has made that witness far more difficult.
Thanks for your comments. I do not doubt that this has made your witness more difficult. May God bless you in it.
Thank you Mr. Skahn for your essay. While I recognize that there is no easy way to look at the complicated political scene, you voiced my thoughts precisely that it is a matter of trusting God to work out his plan in his way, and he doesn’t need us to depend on the flawed political system and, in this case, a seriously morally weak president. The ends do not justify the means, and I agree that the support by Christian leaders of this man and the toleration of his overtly un-Christlike behavior has not made it easier to present the gospel of Christ to others.
“Trump is a dishonorable man.” You and I have different standards when it comes to honor. Trump has not misrepresented himself to me – I have a pretty clear understanding of who he is. He has lived up to his political promises as well as any other Republican presidential candidate in recent memory. Beyond that, he is not ashamed to have me as a supporter and regularly defends my political/religious positions where many others have caved in the past. And so in return, I have no intention of caving in the face of the weak sauce, hypocritical, cry-bully shame game that gets trotted out from time to time. I could write something every day about the despicable nature – unnoticed around here – of what he’s up against. Donald Trump is like Democracy, the least worst form of government/politician out there.
“What if we…started trusting in God, and not power politics, for results in the political arena?” This is funny to me. Usually we have lib/lefties justifying theft in order to address the cause of [insert oppressed group here] while righties promise that ‘His eye is on the sparrow’. Here the roles are reversed – ostensibly in the name of preserving our Christian witness. But if Jesus called Christians to be salt and light, someone needs to show me where the salt (or light) is in the religious left. You are indistinguishable from the secular left. Your political influence is negligible at best. Is there anything the lib/left does because of your influence?
It’s easy to pontificate when you consider only what you oppose without consideration of the alternatives available. In the real world, we had only two options and neither Pope John Paul II nor Vern Ehlers was on the ballot.
“What if we insisted that our political leaders be decent, honorable, and fair”? I suspect more often than not that would involve choosing not to vote at all. That was my choice in 2016. I fold myself that was an act of moral courage, but I have a nagging feeling it was actually cowardice.
Tom, I cannot answer for you re. your last paragraph, but I know for me, who made the same choice, I felt it was a decision made from a long, agonizing process and moral conviction that I could not support either candidate. I will not vote for Trump in the next election and my hope and prayer is that the Democrats will nominate someone I can vote for.
I recognize that determining an appropriate alternative to Trump may be difficult. My argument is, nevertheless, the moral case against Trump is sufficiently compelling that the option of voting for or supporting Trump is one that for Christians should be taken off the table.
Exactly. I realize this is a left-leaning forum, but I would think that Christians who are on the left politically would be capable of a bit of introspection i.e. “Why would so many of our brothers and sisters vote for such a charlatan over the political party we support?” The desire to try to force the Catholic healthcare system to perform abortions and other procedures at odds with RC teachings to name one example ought to be at least as concerning as Trump’s may failings.
When the Lord was grieved most over Israel’s sin was when they offered up their children as the nations around them did and He said that He had never told them to do that nor Did it ever even enter into His mind. I feel like if I were to vote for a man or woman! who didn’t really care about the sanctity of life asGod does then their blood Life lost! would be on my head. I don’t want that.