68 thoughts on “Evangelical Support for Trump? Bereans VLOG (3/14/2018)”

  1. I was wondering if this article would get any mentions from the Bereans.

    I feel the broad-brush criticism is warranted given that the ‘evengelical’ position has, broadly, been one of support. We’ve heard Franklin Graham make these comments. We’ve heard Wayne Grudem (who did indeed recant before returning to the trough) make these comments of support. He may not have been their first choice, but there’s a united voice of support behind him.

    I don’t understand why we’re so focused on the distinction between ‘actual’ support and pragmatic support: Isn’t that his whole point? That the church is reactively supporting someone who is not good, for pragmatic reasons? I don’t see how this distinction addresses his critique. I’m sure it makes people feel better, but this doesn’t avoid the problem of Christians invoking their principles and institutions (as Graham, most prominently, does) in defense of something ugly. And even if there is this distinction, and Christians can meaningfully draw a line between pragmatic and ‘actual’ support, the optics of this administration are such that the alignment is damaging broadly, since most people aren’t interested in listening to our nuanced reasons for why it’s okay.

    I also think there’s a danger in the Christianizing of Trump’s behavior, which is definitely happening in the circles I run in. The thoughtful folks here on the Bereans might be able to strategize about how and when to drop Trump, how many justices we should milk out before kicking him to the curb, but I think we’re going to find ditching him to be a difficult task. The rank and file evangelicals I know are only getting more supportive of this administration. After all, people they trust defend it and tell them what a godly job he’s doing. The Grudems of the movement might be able to pivot at the right moment, but the rest of the church is incorporating this ideology into their worldview. I think that will be the enduring legacy of this era on the church, unfortunately.

    1. At great risk of starting another weeks long drag-out, slug-out, I’m going to raise a point to you.

      The “actual” vs. “pragmatic” support makes perfect sense to me, but I think I can guess why it wouldn’t hold any water with you. When I wake up tomorrow morning, here’s a couple things that I know. I know that I’m going to church where I will worship the Creator of heaven and earth to whom I owe my eternal salvation. I know that because he is worthy of such worship he is worthy of my full life’s work, which I aim to give every day by his help. I know that my life’s sole aim is to bring him glory in all that I do, and my focus in life is to be bent fully on that aim. This is primary. This is where my true citizenship is.
      I also know when I wake up tomorrow, my taxes are going to be a little lower than they were before. I know the economy is growing a little faster than it has been in past years. I know the Supreme Court is still and may get a little more conservative. I know that the regulatory burden on this country is being lifted, and that is helping businesses. I know the individual mandate has been repealed, and I no longer will be penalized if I ever to decide to go without health insurance. I know that ISIS has been squelched in the middle east. I know that the sanctions on North Korea are starting to bite. I also know that the recently imposed tariffs will hurt the economy. I know the President’s advisers keep churning. I know the free trade deals we have constructed over many years are at risk. I know that partisanship is ripping this country apart, and it’s only getting worse. And, finally, I know that this is all largely the result of a Trump presidency. This, however, is secondary.
      The person who sits in the Oval Office is of secondary concern to my primary goals in life, which do not change based on who sits in power. Yet, none of that precludes me from making a decision to vote for someone who agrees with my policy preferences. I’m not going to stand on the rooftops and shout, “Praise the Donald!” but neither am I going to hang my head in shame over who gets my vote. I chose to vote for Trump in the general (not primary) election because (1) I don’t care for third-party voting, (2) I agreed with many of his policies, and (3) I did not want Hillary Clinton to be President. I defend none of Trump’s shortcomings; he has many. But if I want to vote for someone on policy and preferences, keep that vote to myself, and aim to bring glory to God in my daily activities, then that’s what I’m going to do. It’s one thing to invoke Christ and his church in defense of everything Trump does, regardless of first principles. I don’t dispute that. But, to paint all evangelical Trump voters under the same banner is to do great injustice to our brothers and sisters in Christ. There’s a lot of people who just voted because of what Dr. Haymond said: They didn’t know what else to do. I firmly believe this is a matter of Christian liberty, and I defy you to tell me and others we’re sinning by voting for Trump. Honestly, would we even be having this discussion if people didn’t poll this statistic?
      But, more to my point about understanding your position, I think you may want to call us sinners on this point. You see us as damaging the image of Christ by association with Trump in any form. Not just the ones who stand on the Liberty University stage and sing, “Kumbaya” while linking arms with Trump, but also the ones who voted for pragmatic purposes. We don’t have enough faith to trust the Lord’s provision in this case, and our testimony has been damaged as a result. We are called to be distinct from the world, and you see us as falling into the trap of special pleading and reliance on government instead of Christ. You believe we have mixed our primary and secondary concerns, and we no longer have the proper mindset for true voting. Am I correct?

      1. Matthew,

        It comes down to optics, really, and a problem I’ve tried to point out a dozen times in as many conversations by now. You and Nathan and Daniel and Dr. Haymond may all have your academic reasons for supporting Trump. Grudem has his, too, that’s all fine and good. And you may sincerely believe that you do not support the bad things Trump does, which is also fine.

        The fact is, however, that the evangelical church’s approach to this administration has been ‘Well, it’s not the best, but look at the bright side! Look at all the things we’re getting!’ And this does not sell your commitment to your principles to outsiders. You cannot fault everyone else for only hearing how the church supports Trump, because that is the bulk of the message that Christians broadcast. This isn’t a condemnation of all Christians: Matt Lee Anderson is not bad because the rest of the evangelical world is swept up into Trump’s orbit. But the people who are committed to distinguishing their values from this political movement are not the ones representing evangelicalism. Most evangelicals I know are uncomfortable with Trump, sure, but they are still defending him long after they’ve gotten what they needed, and that looks like support to most people.

        What I see as damaging is the constant lack of witness, not the pragmatism itself. A pragmatic person could vote for Trump, knowing he was bad, and then be committed to dismantling his evil once we avoided a Clinton presidency, which we have done. But this wave of pragmatism does not seem to care about mitigating Trump’s obvious faults. Having avoided one problem, evangelicals appear to be fine with the problem they are now stuck with, which gives most people the impression that, whatever they said about marriage and respect for others, they must not have really meant it, or at least not enough to slow down the pace of tax reform and deregulation over it. And like I said above, even if there is some sort of intellectual distinction to be made, the ‘average Joe’ evangelical is not thinking on an abstract strategic level: They’re integrating Trumpism into their worldview now.

        Put bluntly: If you were really FORCED to make a bad decision, you would be acting differently now. Trump isn’t necessary anymore, he never was except as an obstacle to Clinton, and defending him now isn’t required to keep Clinton out of the White House, which (I am told) is why evangelicals felt like they needed to vote for him. The continued commitment smacks of something else, something more like an embrace. So I’ll believe evangelicals don’t support Trump when ‘we don’t support him’ becomes the loudest voice in the room. At the moment, the silence of the majority speaks for itself.

      2. “What I see as damaging is the constant lack of witness, not the pragmatism itself. A pragmatic person could vote for Trump, knowing he was bad, and then be committed to dismantling his evil once we avoided a Clinton presidency, which we have done.”

        How exactly do we do this? Advocate impeachment? Oppose any of his agenda even if we agree with certain things? Until his next election there is not even an opportunity to get him out legally (removing someone from office illegally is not a moral solution either regardless of their personality) . And it is very unlikely a sitting President would face a serious primary threat in today’s age, though if there’s anyone that might it would be Mr Trump. And I would likely be inclined to vote against him in the primary if the opponent is reasonable. Unfortunately the vast majority of Democrats that would be nominated against him would present similar problems, though not as many, that Mrs Clinton did.

        I don’t get what hurts my witness. Aside from blogs like this I don’t go around discussing who I voted for or put an “I voted for so and so” plaque on my chest. I do not discuss politics in potential witnessing situations. Our politics should be informed by our faith not vice versa. Even then it can be different but not defining. I think a Christian can agree with certain of Trump’s stances and disagree with others without affecting their Christian witness. Being a Christian does not mandate exclusion of any ideas an ungodly person may have.

      3. I’m sure it looks different for different people. Impeachment might be good. Pence would be better, no doubt, and I’m not even a big fan of his. Probably doing our part to distance ourselves would be good. Refusing to endorse him, refusing to let our leaders defend him, castigating people who do. I mean, in the current environment you wouldn’t have to do much to be making progress. It might help if we stop using banal euphemisms for his sins. Being open about how he doesn’t represent your values and getting outraged when he does something outrageous would be a constant drain on your energy, but would probably help clarify for outsiders that you disagree.

        “I don’t get what hurts my witness.”

        I’m afraid I can’t help you there. I’d encourage you to be vocal about your disagreements. I think it’s the refusal of evangelical leaders, and evangelicals broadly, to vocally disagree that is giving people the impression that they don’t have a problem with the status quo.

      4. Just to add on impeachment, you need a legal reason to impeach, not just a dislike of the person or their methods. That is not a Biblical way to treat those in authority. What legal things are impeachable about Trump to you?

      5. That’s actually debatable. “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” has a rich history in common law, and means something much broader than ‘breaking a law.’ There’s no requirement that a law be broken for impeachment to occur, and the framers seemed to look at impeachment as a safeguard against negligence, incompetence, and incapacity.

      6. There’s nothing to show Trump is incompetent to the point of impeachment. That’s grasping at straws. Otherwise every opposition party would claim the President is incompetent for wanting policy that to them seems incompetent. It would be beyond ridiculous to suggest impeachment right now.

      7. We disagree. I’ve explained numerous reasons, beyond policy, that bring his competence into question.

        But okay. That was one thing I suggested. Are you writing off everything because you don’t think impeachment is a good idea?

      8. The way to remove someone from office is to vote them out. That opportunity does not exist until 2020. If he is challenged by a more competent Republican in the primary I will vote for them. In the meantime I will say what I agree or disagree with him on but not lose logic in the process because of a fanatic dislike of the man.

      9. Right, but Obama was president for years of resistance from his opposition. They couldn’t impeach him, but they still did something to slow him down. I’m not hung up on getting Trump impeached. There are lots of other things you could do to demonstrate that you don’t tolerate his behavior, and that’s not an illogical thing to do.

        So the short answer is, yes, you’re writing off any suggestions of potential ways to be distinct. Because you support him.

      10. Ok, just stop please. You are not going to tell me who I do and don’t support. You’re acting like Jeff Adams. I don’t support politicians, I support my beliefs and by extension am not going to let personal views of a person affect my beliefs because of a petty hatred. Nathan is right. It seems you don’t think there is a middle ground between support and opposition. That’s simply not true. It is a case by case basis not a blanket all or nothing issue.

        Let’s take an example. Trump fired Rex Tillerson. I don’t like that he fired him over twitter before informing him in person. That is rude, classless, and uncalled for. But that does not necessarily make the decision itself wrong.

        Character issues aside, what is incompetent about Trump’s job performance to the point of removing him? Certainly nothing compared to Obama who left alot to be desired as a President. Yet it would have been wrong to impeach him without a legal reason.

      11. Of course I won’t tell you who you support. You’re telling me who you support. You’re going to vote for him again, you like his policies, you don’t think his ‘petty’ ‘character issues’ are worth doing anything about. I’m just telling you that, to most people, that sounds like support, whatever you call it. Taking a ‘middle ground’ approach that is functionally identical to supporting him IS supporting him, and it’s not the liberal media’s fault it looks that way.

        I agree, Rex Tillerson’s firing was weird. Good point.

        I’m inviting you, again, to tell me what YOU think could be done. I’ve made suggestions. We know you don’t like the idea of impeachment (which was, I’ll remind you, your idea), and I’ve told you several times I don’t care if he gets impeached. What you have yet to make clear is if you actually want to be distinct from the pack, and, if so, how you would do that. Telling me my ideas aren’t good ones is fine. If we agree something should be done, we could put our heads together and come up with even better ways of separating our principles from Trump’s legacy.

        You seem to agree that we shouldn’t just blend in. But telling me that Gerson is being rude by saying evangelicals are letting their leaders hand off their religion to the regime does nothing to deal with the problem he’s observing.

      12. I may vote for him again, I may not. Until I know his opponent(s) I have no idea. I was not calling his character issues petty, I was saying I would be petty to oppose a good policy just because he was in favor of it.

        “What you have yet to make clear is if you actually want to be distinct from the pack, and, if so, how you would do that.”

        Who is ‘the pack’ in this instance? Any Christian who voted for Trump, Christians who campaigned for him, or Christians who agree with him on any issue?

      13. I’m not saying tax reform is bad. You’re misinterpreting an argument against Trump for an argument against whatever policy you’re protecting. Defending tax reform or deregulation does not require that you defend Trump. Oppose him, and defend your policies. Win-win.

        And it’s not exactly true that you have no idea. You’ve already said there’s virtually no chance the Democrats could run someone you would vote for, and we know he’s probably not getting primaried. So you do kinda know who you’re going to vote for, unless he decides not to run again.

        ‘The pack’ is the evangelical community, as represented by people like Graham and Jeffress and Grudem. It sounds like we all agree that cozying up to Trump and defending his behavior is a bad idea, regardless of policy, so their association, it would seem, is bad. They are speaking for you. People are judging us based on the message they are getting from these guys. If you don’t like what they’re doing or saying, you should make that clear.

      14. “I’m not saying tax reform is bad. You’re misinterpreting an argument against Trump for an argument against whatever policy you’re protecting. Defending tax reform or deregulation does not require that you defend Trump. Oppose him, and defend your policies. Win-win.”

        Glad that’s clear between us then. You and I have better conversations about policy when we are not including the President and just keep it about the ideas themselves.

        It’s not my fault if the Democrats nominate horrible candidates. If Trump is the better candidate I will vote for him. If he is not, then I won’t. Pretty simple. Whether that’s a 3 vs 2 or an 8 vs 7 on a 1-10 scale I will take the best option.

        These individuals do not speak for me. Christ is my ambassador. If people judge me based on what other people are doing and saying that is not my fault and not fair to me. But we’re to expect that as Christians. My message as a witness to unbelievers would not have anything to do with politics. That is where I see the distinction. I’m not going to witness with a political endorsement. If they ask me about it I would explain it thoroughly how I integrate faith into my political decisions.

      15. Yes, what a strange coincidence that people who disagree with you politically are universally bad at governing. That definitely cannot be helped. Still, like I said, you do in fact know who you’re voting for, unless Trump doesn’t run. It’s a question of which Republican is put in front of you.

        I’m glad it’s clear between us that opposing Trump, loudly and consistently, is something that can be managed even by someone who supports much of his agenda, and that this combination is a win-win. So, what can we do to work this out, and distinguish ourselves from the pack? I really am interested in your ideas, since mine are apparently not very good ones.

        You can tell yourself they don’t speak for you, but they do, to some extent, whether you consent or not, just like liberal folks have to concede with Trump. People will judge the Christians of this era the same way they’ve judged Christians in other eras. We’ve been silent in the face of evil before. It’s generally not reflected well on us.

      16. If you genuinely want to keep your faith distinct from your politics, you should be very angry with Grudem and Graham right now. If you’re going to be consistent, you should insist, loudly, that they do not represent you, and encourage others to do the same.

      17. I’m not sure what you mean here. I will agree people can be good at governing but bad with policy at the same time. The ability to get an agenda passed does not make the agenda right. There are democrats I have voted for locally. The likelihood of these types of democrats winning a national nomination is minuscule given the direction the party is taking.

        When he does something I don’t like I’ll say so and when he does stuff I like I’ll say so.

        Another problem is we disagree with the scope of the evil in this case. The way you talk about Trump it’s like he’s a Nero or Mussolini or something. I’d compare Trump with a Nebuchadnezzar in some aspects though not a perfect analogy. Maybe even a King Saul in some ways too.

        “If you genuinely want to keep your faith distinct from your politics, you should be very angry with Grudem and Graham right now. If you’re going to be consistent, you should insist, loudly, that they do not represent you, and encourage others to do the same”

        This is precisely a wrong approach. Shouting matches and anger won’t help anything.

      18. “When he does something I don’t like I’ll say so and when he does stuff I like I’ll say so.”

        Good. As long as you’re clear that you disagree, then you’re not contributing to the problem.

        “Another problem is we disagree with the scope of the evil in this case. The way you talk about Trump it’s like he’s a Nero or Mussolini or something. I’d compare Trump with a Nebuchadnezzar in some aspects though not a perfect analogy. Maybe even a King Saul in some ways too.”

        Analogies seem unnecessary. He’s unapologetically mean. He mocks veterans and disabled people. He’s had multiple affairs on multiple wives. He calls his citizens names and equivocates between white supremacists and those who oppose them. He doesn’t have to be as bad as Nero to be bad enough to distance ourselves. There is no excuse for his behavior. On this, I’m sure, we agree.

        “This is precisely a wrong approach. Shouting matches and anger won’t help anything.”

        False dichotomy here. You don’t have to be insensate. But you can be insistent. If you really think they’re representing you badly (which, it seems, you do) then there’s nothing wrong with making that very clear. You’re not this meek dealing with Democrats, there’s no need to put on gloves when handling Republicans.

      19. I’m not sure I have ever commented on non-politician democrat Christians that would compare to Grudem, Graham, etc. I know Democrats who voted for Obama and Clinton that I also know are good Christians. Their witness is not being hurt in my view because of that.

        The white supremacist line is not reported right, not that it matters. I’m not going to go into it in any depth since I figure it’ll just be another unnecessary back and forth.

      20. Obama is, morally, quite different from Trump. That’s not something we can debate, it’s self-evident. The point, however, was that I think you’re using a different standard here for some reason, than you would use if Obama were doing something objectionable. I’m suggesting that you can be as opposed to specific Republicans, and especially Trump, for their failures as you would be with someone else. We seem to be, slowly, reaching an agreement of some sort. 🙂

      21. No, he’s not anymore, or at least that’s what he said on the campaign trail. He was for most of his life, though, and I think his change of heart was probably a political one. But you’re welcome to be irritated at that as well. Whatever motivates you to speak out and distinguish evangelicalism from the rest of Trump’s supporters is fine by me.

      22. ‘Obama is, morally, quite different from Trump. That’s not something we can debate.’

        After you said this I brought up he is pro-choice, I think that’s relevant to moral discussion. But enough beating a dead horse

      23. Right. Obama is not a factor in the decision to voice your concerns about a different person.

    2. Actually Theophilus is quite correct here on impeachment. Impeachment is a political tool, not a legal one. So, yes, we could advocate impeachment, but, honestly, that’s a pipe dream.

      Theophilus, I don’t think we even have the same type of witness in mind if you’re not a fan of Pence. Pence is just about as straight of a shooter as it comes in politics. No fluff, no drama, no sexual misconduct. He’s vanilla…I mean he even looks like vanilla. He’s just about as boring, bland, old-fashioned, up-standing, straight out of “Leave it to Beaver” era, conservative as you can get. And you’re not a fan? Understand, it’s not that I’m questioning your faith in any way, I just don’t think we even have the same witness we’re trying to promote. We have a metaphysical disagreement, and I don’t think there’s any convincing that’s going to take place.

      Moreover, does the immorality from the Left never concern you? Does Hollywood sicken you in the same Trump does? I hope it does, simply because I think many people are disgusted with Trump simply because he’s Trump and have turned a blind eye to all the other wickedness going on. Not defending his failings, but still, can you honestly say there are not people of equal disdain on the Left, and yet we never talk about them?

      1. What’s our metaphysical disagreement? I don’t understand.

        Mike Pence doesn’t excite me. Mike Pence probably doesn’t excite anyone. I’m not a big fan of Pence in the same way I’m not a big fan of Rubio or Cruz. I’d prefer someone else, sure, in an ideal setting. I have qualms with all of them, but I’d prefer any of them to Trump. I think you’re reading too much into what I said.

        I don’t know where you get the idea that I think liberals are fine. Everyone on the blog agrees that Anthony Weiner is disgusting. No one is defending anyone here, except Trump. And you know what’s interesting to me? When Hollywood’s scandals came to light, they purged the most powerful people in their world from their positions. They distanced themselves from entrenched figures in their institutions and kicked the corrupt people out. Hollywood, it seems, has the capacity to challenge immoral authorities. So of course there are other bad people out there, but no, I hear about these people all the time. And so do you. Whataboutism won’t deal with the current problem.

        I notice you have said nothing about my initial reply to you. Was it clear?

      2. We quite apparently have two different starting points for dealing with our politics. That’s the difference. If we agreed, I doubt we’d be having this discussion.

        Fair enough. Who does excite you?

        Forgive me, but I think you’re giving Hollywood far too much credit. Weinstein stayed entrenched for years while others covered up for him. It was only when they pinned him to the wall with over 80 accusers that he was run out of town. And, forgive me again, but sending Weinstein and others to the Meadows resort, where it costs $37,000 per month for “sex addiction treatment” doesn’t sound like courage to me. Moreover, there are plenty of individuals who have been accused and are still entrenched (Jeffrey Tambor was defended by the entire cast of Arrested Development, James Franco hasn’t been budged, etc.). And, if we’re going to play this game, I’d point to all the Republicans in Congress who have been removed for sexual misconduct. You’re right; whataboutism won’t solve this, but that’s not what I’m trying to focus on here.
        Look, full disclosure, if I get a chance to primary Trump, I’ll take it. But, what if I don’t? I’ll answer your point in a second, but you haven’t answered mine. Am I sinning by voting for Trump? Can I just vote and not tell anyone? Is that acceptable? If no one was collecting statistics on this election, would we even be having this discussion? Because the main theme I see in this whole debacle, regardless of how ridiculous some evangelicals have been in defending Trump, is that the media and the leftist culture wants to smear, denigrate, and destroy Christians, irrespective of whatever motives, goals, changes of heart, etc. they had, have, or will have. See the David French article that Nathan posted.

      3. What I’m saying is that out of all the people who could have been castigated in this election, Christians seem to have been singled out for execution by association, and to see fellow Christians treat their brothers and sisters, weaker though they may be, like second-tier beings is disgusting. Not saying that about you per say, just a general observation.

        Anyway, about your original response, Daniel basically preempted my response. I just don’t see a reason to go for impeachment when (a) the Democrats may do the dirty work for us if they get the House/Senate, and (b) the primaries will be coming round the mountain when they come. But more to the “average Joe” point, I don’t we do that person any favors when we write article after article about how banal and narrow-focused he is. All that does is push him back into the corner and make him bring out the claws. It’s not that we can’t disagree with him, but the tone has been so condescending it’s no wonder Christians are doubling down on Trump. So, yes, depressed and reluctant Trump voters have a problem on their hands, but it cuts both ways. Remember, the reason Trump came into the power in the first place is because of 8 years of high, liberal culture looking down on rural, common man America as dirt. Throwing on a facade of spiritualization over the insult doesn’t take any of that sting away.

      4. Put yourself in their shoes briefly. Imagine a lower-class Christian from Appalachia who’s been told for 8 years that he is dumb, that he’s behind the times, that he’s stuck in the stone age, that he picks his teeth with hay like a monkey, that he’s a racist, that he’s a bigot, that he’s homophobic, that’s he a misogynist, and that he’s not welcome in the big city. And then one day, Trump comes along and offers a rebuttal that he can latch onto. He latches on. He sees someone who finally cares. What do you think happens when another Christian then comes along and eloquently tells him, not with loving compassion and sympathy, but with biting accusation that he’s ruining the church and possibly sinning?

      5. If you say you’re not deflecting by bringing up Hollywood, I believe you. I’ll pretend you never brought them up.

        If you’d rather not be held to a high standard, you’re in the wrong movement, friend. I don’t expect unregenerate people to act regenerate. I expect the rest of the world to have a difficult time recognizing blatant evil when it pops up. I’m saddened when Christians seem to be doing a worse job than everyone else at identifying and decrying corruption.

        And no, you’re not sinning by voting for Trump. You’re exercising bad judgment, and you’re not paying much attention to what the Bible says about picking godly leaders, but those things aren’t sins, even if they’re bad.

        You can blame the bad name Christianity is getting on unfair treatment from the mean-spirited leftist media. I’ll file that under ‘things Trump does that are becoming ‘Christian” while I’m at it. I would suggest that they’re coming to their position honestly. We’re the ones that say we have a higher moral reasoning, but it doesn’t take much of a compass to figure out something is wrong with our heading at the moment.

        I’m not interested in arguing with a persecution complex, especially because I suspect it’s pointless. White American Christians are among the most privileged human beings that have ever existed. That we would style ourselves as ‘second-class’ anything is silly; I’m not sure where you’re getting that idea.

        And don’t patronize me, as if I am not empathetic. ‘Average Joe Evangelicals’ are my relatives and friends, people I talk with frequently. You set up a false dichotomy, in which we can either be mean to them by disagreeing with their choices or be quiet. I prefer to talk to them and change their minds, albeit slowly and with understanding. I think this is the way civilized people disagree. How would you propose changing the minds of people who are deeply, gravely wrong, if not by talking with them?

        And do not mistake what Trump has done for offering an argument. He has most emphatically not defended the position of the mistreated person. He has embraced the ugly things angry people wish they could do to other people. He’s not provided an argument for why traditional family values aren’t misogynistic, he’s just a misogynist. He’s not shown how unfair it is to call a rural community racist bumpkins, he’s just said inexcusable, racist things from the highest office in the country. Trump’s message is not an argument, but an assertion that people who disagree with you don’t matter.

        But you see, we now reach the real problem: I’ve demonstrated that Trump isn’t necessary anymore. All the arguments that are used to defend him are based on stopping Clinton, something that’s already happened, and I’m not hearing anyone argue that it’s still just as important to protect him as it was. And we all agree that he’s a horrible representative for our values. So now we’re in the weird place where we agree that Christians shouldn’t blend in with the rest of the Trump crowd (everyone here seems to agree, at least), but now you’re just shooting down any suggestions as to what that could mean.

        Apparently it’s not impeachment. Fine.

        Apparently it’s not being frank and honest about what we think is so bad about him.

        Apparently it’s not insisting on our principles, since that could hurt people’s feelings.

        And apparently no one else can come up with anything to suggest for themselves. Which suggests, to me, that what’s really happened is that we don’t actually agree that something should be done. We look at the same facts and agree on the moral level, that something is wrong, but only one of us thinks something should be done in response. And that’s the real problem. We can argue in circles about whether impeachment is fitting, but that’s really just to distract from the fact that Christians are uncomfortable actually doing something about Trump.

        But if that’s the case, you really shouldn’t care what Gerson or French have to say. If you think there’s nothing wrong with being indistinguishable from the rest of his supporters, then you’re not really arguing with me about what would be the best way of being distinct.

      6. You know, my relatives are “Average Joe Evangelicals” too. Try taking the heat out of it next time.

        We’re arguing past each other. I think you misrepresented my position again, but I don’t care. If I misrepresented you, then I’m sorry. We might as well call it quits.

      7. I’d love to know where I fell off the rails. It seemed very uncharacteristic of you to be so evasive. I’m doing my best to answer what I take to be your meaning. I’m just stumped because, as I said, you don’t want to be lumped together with ‘regular’ Trump supporters, but are also unwilling to distinguish yourself.

        I wasn’t aware that ‘average Joe’ or ‘rank and file’ were biting labels. In my experience they’re not insults, so I apologise that it came across that way. I meant no heat.

        But it’s clear I am frustrating you, and I’m sorry.

      8. Theophilus,

        You are correct in one thing, that impeachment, since its first usage against Andrew Johnson, has been a political tool. In fact, that first usage was the most political of all of them since Congress passed a law (that was eventually declared unconstitutional) expressly designed to trap Johnson.

        That said, in every case impeachment has been used there HAS been a law broken. Andrew Johnson violated the Tenure of Office Act, Nixon, not actually impeached but only because he resigned first for obvious reasons. Bill Clinton lied under oath (that was why he was impeached, not because of his immoral conduct itself).

        So far, Donald Trump is guilty of no criminal offense, so impeaching him now would most definitely be different than any previous case. But in any event, impeachment is merely the process of indicting and under the impeachment process Trump would not be guilty under the law unless convicted by the Senate. And, frankly, this is something that is just not going to happen.

        Yes, maybe the founders felt that impeachment could be used in extreme cases when no law had been broken, but we are so very very far from that whether you accept it or not. That is why they required that a very high threshold of two-thirds of Senators be necessary, precisely because I think they wanted to avoid politicization of impeachment. And the plain truth is that, at this moment, impeaching Trump would be precisely that, political.

        As for evangelicals and support of Trump, for me, at least, it simply comes down to this. I will not excuse the behavior and policies I disagree with because I voted for him or because I think Hillary would have been worse or that there are things I support him on, but also conversely, I will not refuse to support Trump on the issues I agree with him on because of the things about him I do not like.

        Simply put, I, apparently unlike you, believe it can be just as wrong to constantly trumpet his faults to the exclusion of what he does that I like as it is to constantly sing his praises to the exclusion of his faults. To me that is unfair to the him and really does not follow the Biblical example for how to view our leaders. The example set by the records of Israel’s leaders in Kings and Chronicles is one which records both their successes and failures. It does not ignore sin, but yet does not exclude their achievements either.

        A really good example of this, I think, is the record of Jeroboam II of the Northern Kingdom in 2 Kings 14. It records that Jeroboam was an immoral man who sinned and did evil but yet it also acknowledges and gives him recognition for several notable military successes and how God used him to save Israel.

        In the run up to the election, when I, like many others, were expecting a Clinton victory, this verse gave me the comfort that it was possible that, despite her moral failings, Clinton might be successful in doing some good, and that if she did, it should be acknowledged even though she would likely do many bad things as well. After Trump won, the first thought that entered my head was that this passage can just as equally be applied to him.

      9. Nathan,

        We’ve agreed that impeachment is not necessary, and is certainly not likely to happen. It was one of many suggestions. I’m not telling you to be upset about tax reform, either. Be happy about it, that’s fine.

        If you’re a Trump supporter, more power to you, but then don’t get mad when people call you one. My argument only matters if you don’t want to be lumped together with the rest of Trump’s supporters. If you don’t think that’s a problem, if you don’t think it’s a bad thing that evangelicals are the most solid part of the base at this point, then you don’t need to spend your time convincing me you’re not a supporter when you are one.

      10. The problem I see is that according to you someone must either be a total supporter or a total opponent with no middle ground. I am not trying to convince you I am not a Trump supporter. The phrase from the article I posted below which says “Even today there are millions of Evangelicals — people who still count themselves reluctant Trump supporters — who are deeply uneasy with the president and the state of their own religious movement.” describes me (and, I would argue, the majority of evangelicals) perfectly. What I am trying to show you, or convince you off, is that one can reluctantly vote for Trump, and support specific policies one agrees with and at the same time condemn wrong behavior and be uneasy with the praise heaped upon him by a minority of outspoken and media-selected “leaders” of evangelicalism.

      11. I merely insist that we not mince words. You don’t seem uneasy, you seem like you’re fine with the way things are going. What are you uneasy about? Perhaps if you spend more time explaining your misgivings instead of what you like, we would have a better impression of your misgivings.

  2. I found a lot to agree with in the article. I would point out this quote: “But it would be a mistake to regard the problem as limited to a few irresponsible leaders. Those leaders represent a clear majority of the movement, which remains the most loyal element of the Trump coalition.” Gerson is claiming that the influence of these leaders is even as broad as the majority of evangelicals (probably white evangelicals as you mentioned).

    I would have written more, but I will just second Theophilus’ second paragraph about pragmatism and final paragraph about evangelicals he knows.

  3. Good discussion. Many good points made on all sides.

    I am curious if any of you Bereans might have any thoughts on this article. It agrees with a number of Gerson’s points but is far more sympathetic (which you all were to an extent than Gerson was) to those people (like myself) who do not excuse Trump’s faults but made the decision to vote for him based on other factors, not least being that which you mentioned… the opponent.
    https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/03/evangelicals-support-donald-trump-political-realities-2016-election/

    1. I hope someone answers you. It was an interesting read, although I think it doesn’t quite understand the thrust of Gerson’s argument, or how his counter fits right into place.

  4. I have an issue tracking evangelical voting practice as a whole. Sure, in the US they seem to be united on many fronts, but I think you’ll find a lot more political diversity in the evangelical camp if you actually speak to individuals. Many of them have one issue that trumps (haha!) the other issues in their voting choices. A good amount of my friends are primarily abortion based voters, and they chose not to vote because neither candidate appeared strongly pro-life. There are others, like myself, who attempt to vote based on the holistic picture of a candidate, but do believe that there is a dichotomy (republican or democrat). Still others, like some Bereans, do not believe that you need to vote for one of the two major parties to participate.

    1. “I have an issue tracking evangelical voting practice as a whole.”

      I would agree, but I would expand that to include tracking and publicizing the voting practice of ANY group. For instance, being a conservative Republican, when I consistently see/hear the media, etc. telling me that African-Americans or Latino-Americans mostly vote Democrat then when I see someone falling into one of those “categories” out in public my first thought is often “there is someone I have probably have very little in common with”. I don’t like that I think that way at all, but it happens nonetheless because of voter group tracking and how overly publicized it is. I would much prefer that pollsters, etc. would remove any kind of “demographic” element from their polling.

      1. “… when I consistently see/hear the media, etc. telling me that African-Americans or Latino-Americans mostly vote Democrat then when I see someone falling into one of those “categories” out in public my first thought is often “there is someone I have probably have very little in common with.’”

        That’s your first thought? Because of their political ideas? You don’t have much in common with people if they disagree with your politics?

      2. Okay, I should have phrased that differently because your takeaway from that was not the idea I intended to convey. I get along quite well with a number of people who politically are very different than I am but with whom I share other common interests. But until I actually get to know a person I have no idea what that commonality, if any, might be and what I am saying is that because of how ingrained voter group partisanship is in our culture, when I see someone from a “group” that I am told holds values and views different from me, it does affect how I view the chances of finding commonality. Like I said, it shouldn’t be like that. I want it to change and I think getting rid of voter group polling, etc could greatly help different “groups” not automatically think “there is someone different from me”.

      3. Thanks for clearing that up, and fair point. I don’t know how you’d avoid the problem though, polls are a tool to show what people are thinking, rightly used. Campaigners want to know what people think and who they need to reach. What could you change without taking away things we want to know?

  5. “You cannot fault everyone else for only hearing how the church supports Trump, because that is the bulk of the message that Christians broadcast.”

    @Theophilus
    This is the very point I deny. I am not seeing this general broadcasting. The reality is that almost every church is pretty much silent on the day to day things happening in Washington. I haven’t heard a single reference to anything remotely related to Mr. Trump since he was elected in my own church, a pretty conservative Christian church here in Ohio. Almost no pastor in America (and there are tens of thousands) ever makes public statements on politics. But because the media can go to a few here and there (like Mr. Jeffries), and because “80% of Evangelicals voted for Trump”, you seem to think that is the Christian message. Can you offer some more compelling proof aside from media created anecdote of systematic Christian public support for Mr. Trump?

    1. I don’t understand why you dislike polling. The guys at Pew aren’t trying to tar and feather Christians. Barring polls, the vocal leadership and anecdotes (except for your church), what evidence would you permit? Is everyone else wrong to conclude that there is support for Trump in the evangelical wing if that’s being borne out in voting patterns?

      But to the point: what message is drowning it out? The loudest voices in the room are behind the Trump cause. I’m not saying that the ‘pro-Trump’ folks are the only folks, but that they’re the only ones being heard. It’s hard to hear indifference. There doesn’t need to be a systematic effort to promote Trump for people to come away with the impression evangelicals support him.

      1. Theophilus, sometimes I am at a loss to understand exactly what you wish evangelicals to do?

        Do you want us all to write letters to Trump telling him how immoral we think he is? Do you want the pastors and churches across the nation who never endorsed him as a church or religious body (which I believe is the vast majority of evangelicalism) from the pulpit to denounce him from the pulpit? Do you think that my church, which has for decades observed a long-standing policy not to endorse or condemn specific political parties, persons, or government officials from the platform or as an official church position, is now required to break its policy and publicly condemn the President of the United States just because a few so-called “leaders” vocally support him?

      2. Goodness, I’ve gotten that question three times now on this thread.

        I don’t know that I’m a wise enough authority to tell people what they must do. But they must do something. We’ve seen from history that the silence of Christianity is often regrettable in hindsight. Do we need political sermons? I hope not. I think it would be appropriate for Christians to emphatically and vocally reject these leaders who (apparently) are misrepresenting us. If we let them dominate the airwaves we cannot be surprised that people think we’re complicit.

        So do something. Make yourself heard if you really disagree.

        Or don’t, if you’re fine with the way this looks.

      3. Theophilus
        My point is not against polling, but let’s be honest about how these polls are being used. They are currently being used in a very manipulative way. Even in the way you phrased things–and to be clear–I DON’T think you meant to be manipulative*. But to say that 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016 (and let’s leave aside genuine ??s about the validity of said statistic) in no way is the same as saying “how the church supports (notice this is written in present tense–and yes that matters greatly) Trump, because that is the bulk of the message Christians broadcast.”

        Again, I challenge you to show that the bulk of Christians are currently broadcasting support for Mr. Trump. The fact that many voted for what they considered the lesser of two evils in 2016 certainly doesn’t indicate ongoing support for his behaviors. Yes you can come up with anecdotal support of this reality in your own personal experience–experience I don’t deny. But let’s not pretend its not anecdotal. Most people I know like some things Mr. Trump is doing while shaking their heads, sometimes in disgust, at other things he is doing.

        * You are clearly among the most thoughtful of commenters on here—genuine thanks for your contributions, even when on this point I think you can are wrong!

      4. Thank you Dr. Haymond.

        I’m not sure how else I can say what I’m trying to communicate. I’m not arguing that everyone in church is singing praise to Trump. I think most evangelicals are ambivalent. But that leaves the loud voices of people like Graham to speak for us. It’s an issue of perception, one that our silence makes worse. Being quiet is tacit support for a view that most of us would reject. Maybe it’s in the phrasing: I don’t mean the bulk of evangelicals are sending a message of support. I mean there are a few people who are giving the bulk of the message, and they are supporting the regime. So I can’t support the idea that Christians are chomping at the bit, collectively, to lick his boots, but then that’s also not what I claimed.

        Even without the polls (which are not able to tell us how cheerful or begrudging the support may or may not be), the perceptual problem remains, and it’s not something we can let quietly fade away. I can understand if you think there’s nothing to be done, that there is no way to avoid the perception that we’re complicit, but I think it’s a shame if we let these guys tarnish our principles without a fight. I can say confidently that they are doing real harm to our reputation, at least if my interactions with my neighbors are anything to go by.

      5. @ Theophilus
        I definitely agree the perception problem remains. I just don’t think there is much Christians can do about it directly because there is an agenda to create this impression regardless of what we do. The media will go to Mr. Jeffries or Mr. Falwall and not Russell Moore when they want to paint a particular picture. So…what do we do? The thing we’re always called to do–we need to be the hands and feet of Christ in a lost and dying world. Then as Jesus said, they may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven, and as Peter said, that “that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” I’m quite confident that no matter how much we condemn Mr. Trump, we will still not be liked. But by all means, we should rebuke him where appropriate, but we should also praise him where appropriate.

        Part of my reason for not directly rebuking him more on this blog is like, what’s the point? There is no one that reads this that needs to be told that many of his behaviors are totally unacceptable. There is no false idea out there among Christians that this is good behavior and we need to correct it. Look up quotes from Mr. Falwell and Mr. Jeffries; they’ll condemn the very specific ugly things while still supporting Mr. Trump overall. When I try to rebuke things here it is precisely because there is a large number of people that think that the position I’m rejecting is actually a good thing (e.g., tariffs). I don’t know anyone that thinks that Mr. Trump’s reprehensible behavior (especially regarding comments and actions with respect to women in the past) is acceptable.

      6. It’s the veneer of respectability that I think repels me the most. We’re making him normal, and people are using our religion to do it.

        I completely understand the idea that it’s just exhausting, and that there’s little hope we’ll fix Trump by staying outraged with him. I just worry that there is a price to pay for deciding it’s just too much, that we’ll let it slide now because there’s not anything to be done. This is not normal, and I think we should be extremely careful not to let it become normal. I remember things being less polarized, and I want to be able to return there at some point. Letting Trump numb us to indecency and insulting behavior is not good for our prospects, in the long term.

  6. Theophilus,

    You have made your point loudly and clearly. And with their silence, so have your detractors.

    If they truly believed something was wrong with where this nation seems to be going, they would not need to ask you what they should do. They would already know what to do and would be doing it.

    1. I don’t know. I believe they’re honestly uncomfortable with supporting Trump, that becomes clear every time it comes up. I just don’t understand why this cannot translate into action, why taking a vocal stand against Trump is a non-starter.

    2. Our silence? Do I need to count the comments in this discussion we’ve had back and forth? I was not asking Theophilus what I should do, I was asking what he thought I should do differently cause he obviously has questions with my approach which I understand. If there is something I don’t like that Trump has done I will say so (like above with the Tillerson firing). If there is something he has done that I like I will say so also. But I am not a writer on here I can only comment on specific articles and issues as they occur.

      As for evangelicals as a whole I would agree with another comment above that we should not be approving or disapproving of particular parties and politicians from the pulpit. When a sermon is given on how to live, my pastor does not call out particular individuals by name regardless of affiliation.

      1. But this is, again, a false dichotomy. The question is not, should our pastors denounce Trump from the pulpit, or should we resign to being misrepresented. We have a voice. If most Christians were very uncomfortable with what is happening between Trump and evangelical leaders, there would be enough of an uproar that people could tell. That’s not happening, and that is what Gerson (and French, and myself) think should change.

      2. Perhaps our response should be guided by Scripture. How did Christ and other Biblical figures approach leaders who were ungodly? When dealing with kings in Israel itself God was more involved through his prophets (Samuel, Nathan, Elijah. Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah to name a few) in a direct approach to kings. During the time of the Roman Empire Paul wrote his letters during a time when the Emperor was decidedly more ungodly and had much more power than Mr Trump. Paul’s concern was saving souls. We change the world with the gospel and Christian values. If we win souls and teach Christian values properly it is then up to the people to apply those values to their lives. But even our ungodly leaders we must respect their God-given authority even when we disagree.

      3. One problem I have on here is not having the space to adequately respond all the time. I could write paragraphs upon paragraphs to properly respond but it doesn’t fit well in this forum. Generically speaking, my solution is to try to change things from the roots up, not keep attacking the trunk and let it grow back in other people over and over.

      4. You’re right, that might need more explanation to make sense. Surely we could advocate for individual reform while also publicly defending what we value against threats, though. I imagine that your suggestions are probably also compatible with vocal opposition to Trump.

  7. In a new Pew poll, President Trump’s approval rating among white evangelicals is 78%

    That’s up from 72% in January, when allegations of the Stormy Daniels affair and hush money payments were first coming to light.

    Can’t make this stuff up.

    1. The problem with such polls is that they typically do not allow a person to draw a distinction between job performance and personal approval. If you asked white evangelicals if they liked or disliked that Trump allegedly had this affair and arrangement with Stormy Daniels, I figure the numbers would look very different.

      Feel free to disagree on that score, as I am sure you will, but I am just speaking from my own experience and the fact that most of the Christians I know who generally approve of his job performance but do not condone, and in fact, are greatly disappointed by such things.

      1. My experience with many of those who claim they are evangelicals is that they like condemning the very sin they enjoy. The worst sexual sins I have seen in my personal and professional life were committed by those who were evangelical–and proud of it.

        I do not think that it is an accident that Stormy Daniels has not hurt Trump one bit. If it had been Obama with Stormy Daniels (a black man with a white woman–egad!), this would be considered scandalous. Double standards abound.

        I have talked about the sexual harassment (homosexual) that I endured at Cedarville here. I ‘d rather not repeat it. Let’s say that it opened my eyes, which have been wide open since.

      2. Jeff, if your point is that Christians are sinners, then I entirely agree. My church runs an average attendance of 1500. In a crowd that big, do not think I am unaware that some of them have done some pretty bad stuff. One was even a local public official who had an affair and a child out of wedlock. However, a number of them (including that now ex-public official) acknowledged their sin and have since been restored. Have you ever heard the saying “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints”?

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