I have serious concerns about Andy Crouch’s article in Christianity Today from several years ago entitled Speak Truth to Trump excoriating Trump as though he was the anti-christ, not the least of which is the fallacy that all government officials must by their very nature be guilty of idolatry. Since Crouch is bringing this point up in the context of Christians voting for Trump (which doesn’t mean they’re endorsing his sin, by the way), the only way to be consistent with what he is saying here would be to never vote for anyone in any election at all. If all government officials everywhere are idolaters by definition, it would be wrong to vote for any of them under any circumstances. The implication? Voting is a sin.
So we should congratulate Crouch for the monumental achievement of accusing millions of evangelical Christians throughout history of being complicit in the sin of idolatry, only because they chose to participate in the vile act of voting in a public election. That’s quite an indictment.
The irony is that he goes on to talk about what he calls “Christian voters.” But if all government officials are idolaters, voting for them must be a sinful act. So how can there be such a thing as a “Christian voter?” On the basis of Crouch’s suppositions, that’s effectively a contradiction in terms.
It’s important to be logically consistent in this discussion. We can’t abandon that imperative for the sake of being Trump’s pharisaic accusers, or the members of a self-appointed tribunal condemning any Christian arriving at the painful decision of voting for Trump, regardless of the reason.
Is Crouch saying the Gospel is at stake? His selective “summary” of the Gospel is “Jesus is Lord.” That’s true, Jesus is Lord. But it’s hardly an accurate summary of the Gospel. By itself the Lordship of Christ doesn’t speak to the redemptive and atoning nature of the Gospel. Those attributes lie at the heart of the Gospel and no summary of it is meaningful without them.
Therefore no assessment of Trump is meaningful without them either. Crouch calls Trump “unrepentant.” But I thought Trump went on national television and humbled himself by apologizing for his sin and admitting it was wrong. Was this just a dream I had? Ben Carson, who is a devout Christian, reported that a respected evangelist joined Trump in prayer before the one of the 2016 debates. Carson reported that Trump “asked God for forgiveness” in that prayer in preparation for the debate. Unless we wish to ignore these facts, I suggest we have no choice but to back down and give Trump the benefit of the doubt. In so doing, we will quickly realize saying Trump has “given no evidence of humility or dependence on others, let alone on God his Maker and Judge” is summarily unjustified.
These prayers and apologies from Trump are not huuuge items. Do they outweigh or make up for his sins and enormous flaws? Perhaps a better question is, do they have to? Even a small prayer containing a tiny particle of repentance carries more weight than all the sin and corruption in the world. Do we believe God can transform Trump’s life or don’t we? Do we really believe our assessment of Trump and of our present socio-political mess is the apex of wisdom and the final word on all things apocalyptic? How arrogant are we? Is it remotely possible God knows a few things we don’t?
Is the Gospel about grace or not? Does God hear even the most insignificant cry of contrition from those he loves or doesn’t he? Did Jesus say that he who is without sin should cast the first stone or didn’t he? Does the concept of God’s forgiving grace at the heart of the Gospel have any place in our modern discourse?
The issue is not Trump’s sin. It’s whether God loves him and desires to transform him. This is not about Trump at all. It’s about God. I might be just as cynical about Trump as Crouch is if it wasn’t for Trump’s apologies and prayers for forgiveness, paltry and infantile as they may be. It’s a start. It could lead to great things, these small seeds of repentance we love to dismiss as political theater. Trump is a child, but didn’t Jesus say unless you become like a child you cannot enter the Kingdom? Who are we to dismiss what could be the faint beginning of a transformed life? Crouch completely dismisses how some Christians have compared Trump to King David. Apparently Crouch’s arbitrary reasoning has rendered the comparison invalid. Evidently Trump’s situation and life must be identical to King David’s in every way or God can’t redeem him.
Crouch criticizes Christians who believe voting for Trump is the best option in a fallen world on the basis that doing so supposedly betrays our commitment to the lordship of Christ. He says those Christians who may vote for him are doing so in the hope that “his rule will save us.” I would call that a straw man before I would call it anything else. I, for one, am praying that God will use Trump to slow down the decline of this nation into Marxism. That’s a long ways away from thinking “his rule will save us.” And what does he mean by “save us” anyway? If we’re not careful, adopting this misleading terminology could lead to simplistic demagoguery.
I do think Mike Huckabee’s analogy about Captain Quint in “Jaws” is rather clever, and in a sense a picture of “saving” people from the shark. But if I vote for Trump, that doesn’t mean I’m making him my Savior (note the capital S). Nor does it mean I’m suddenly soaked in idolatry. It doesn’t mean my faith and hope aren’t in Christ. It doesn’t mean I’m silent about Trump’s immorality. If we make an effort to bring some discernment and critical thinking to this discussion, it won’t be difficult to realize my vote for Trump doesn’t mean I’m compromising the “integrity of my faith.” It just means I think Trump is our best chance of stopping the totalitarian rule of corrupt autocrats who thinks they are above the law. It means I may have a lot more faith in God than some cynical Christians do, because I believe God can use even a twisted buffoon like Trump to accomplish his purposes. I believe this because of the tiny expressions of crude repentance I hear coming from a certain flawed billionaire we are so quick to crucify. Those expressions may be weak and barely audible to me, but it’s not my hearing that matters here.
By contrast, there hasn’t been a hint of repentance, apology, contrition, or reform coming from any Democratic Party candidate I have ever heard. And I don’t need to rehash what should be obvious to everyone, namely, their monumental corruption and pathological lies, celebration of the murder of the unborn, not to mention their totalitarian agenda leading to the horrific decline and erosion of the Godly principles this country was founded on.
Instead of even the slightest faith in God’s ability to work miracles and draw morally disfigured men like Trump (and me) to himself, much of the Christian community seems to be expressing little more than scorching condemnation and judgment. If I didn’t know better (and I’m not sure I do), I would think these were the voices of the pharisees.