I don’t anticipate making too many friends with this post. However, as a follower of Christ, a pastor of a conservative church, and an American, I can’t stay silent anymore. I know I haven’t been completely silent, but I have tamed down my thoughts on this issue. But near-silence is not an option anymore. I care about this country too much. I care about the church too much. I care about the witness of the Evangelical church too much.
My goals in sharing this article are this:
- To call Christians to put God’s Word before nationalism.
- To encourage Christians who are struggling with this issue that they are not alone.
- To show non-Christians that not every Evangelical is a supporter of Donald Trump.
- To start a dialogue (or at least contribute to it) about the future of Evangelical Christianity.
Please read the entire article before agreeing or disagreeing with me. Let’s show the world that civil discourse about ideas is still possible.
And, because it will be brought up eventually, just because I didn’t support Donald Trump for president doesn’t mean I voted for Hillary. It also doesn’t mean I don’t pray for the President of the United States. I do, and have almost every day since election night.
My heart grieves for this nation, the church, and the world my daughter is growing up in.
When Policy Trumped Principle
by Jerry Gramckow
“Policies are many, principles are few, policies will change, principles never do.” – John C. Maxwell
The year 2016 will go down in history as the year American Evangelical Christianity sold its collective soul for the proverbial mess of pottage. Don’t get me wrong: I love a bowl of stewed lentils—especially if some meat was diced and simmered into it. And, like Esau, after a long, hard day, with little to eat, I could easily be tempted to sell my birthright. I pray that when those temptations come I will remember the bigger picture—the long-term perspective over lentils.
Sadly, it seems to me, in the 2016 presidential election 82 percent of Evangelicals chose lentils. Faced with a choice between a morally bankrupt, power-hungry, socialist-leaning, woman, and a morally bankrupt, power-hungry, populist-leaning man (who claimed to be conservative), the vast majority of America’s voting Evangelicals chose the populist. In a binary world, they probably made the better choice. But the world is not really binary. We are rarely limited to choosing between terrible and dreadful. There’s almost always at least one other option.
Certainly, one of those two bad candidates was going to win. So, many calculated, better to choose the (slightly) lesser of two evils. It was, after all, the pragmatic thing to do. He might not be a great guy, but he has promised to enact policies we like.
But has God called His followers to pragmatism? Did God tell His people to put policies before principles? Are lentils now better than a righteous inheritance for future generations?
Eighty-two percent of Evangelicals knowingly voted for lentils, for a man whose entire life contradicted almost every imaginable biblical principle.
- Love God first? Everything about Donald Trump screams self-love as his primary focus.
- Sanctity of marriage? Which one? He’s had three and bragged about cheating throughout each marriage. And who can forget: “Grab ‘em by the pu***.”
- Integrity in business dealings? Two words: Trump University (although many more could be added).
- Love of money as the root of all evil? “My whole life has been money. I want money. I want money. Greedy, I was greedy, greedy. I want more money, more money.”
- Humility as a virtue? “It’s very hard for them [some women] to attack me on looks, because I’m so good looking.” “And I’m sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest—and you all know it! And I also have the world’s greatest memory.”
- Compassion for others? “You’ve got to see this guy: ‘Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember,’ he’s going like ‘I don’t remember,’” Trump said as he mocked the disabled reporter’s uncontrollable hands.
- Honesty? Too many lies to list here, but see https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/23/opinion/trumps-lies.html
Okay, you say, I get it; he’s no saint. But at least he’s better than Hillary. And now we’re back to that binary thinking. Hillary Clinton is a dishonest, immoral person, so the one who opposes her is good—simply because he opposes her. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That was what Churchill and Roosevelt believed when they cozied up to Stalin against Hitler. How’d that work out? But then, these days, Russia—ruled by an ex-KGB spy—once again seems to some to be a good bet.
So that binary thinking has, for the watching world, tied Evangelicals and all they say they stand for to a man devoid of principles. We stand for love of God, sanctity of marriage, business integrity, humility, compassion, and honesty … to a point. But when we are forced to choose between those principles and getting policies that benefit us (at least in the short term) … Well, a guy has to draw the line somewhere.
“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Well, what should we have done? Should we have let Hillary win and take us down the road to godless socialism?
Socialism is bad. No argument there. But if a Christian must jettison virtually every biblical principle to resist it, has he really won? I suspect that had Hillary Clinton won the election, she would have taken us further down the path to socialism and other evils. Instead, we have President Trump taking us down the path to white nationalism. Yes, we faced a horrible choice in November 2016. But, sometimes, when faced with two bad options, the best choice is neither.
Instead, Evangelicals put Trump over the top, and as a consequence, we will forever be remembered for that choice. People outside Evangelicalism now—and in the future—see Donald Trump, a man devoid of principles, as the standard bearer for Evangelicalism.
“If Donald Trump represents what Evangelical Christians hold dear, I want nothing to do with your religion.” Expect to hear that as a common refrain.
We got our bowl of lentils. We lost our birthright.