As Mr. Trump continues to hinder our reputation as a nation around the globe, he also is destroying the reputation of the modern-day Church in the process. Those who attend church these days, cannot say they were not warned.
Make no mistake: I do not write this article to proselytize the reader, but to hold to account those within the modern-day church, an organization I served faithfully for over fifteen years of my life. Prior to the 2016 election, I warned my audience of the perils involved when voting for Mr. Trump. Others did too.
Leaders such as famed author and pastor, Max Lucado, Dr. Russell Moore, leader of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission from the Southern Baptist Convention, and evangelical social activist, Tony Campolo each provided a clear warning to White Evangelicals across this land.
Despite these warnings however, 81% of White Evangelicals voted for Mr. Trump, despite their having two clear alternatives; Ron Johnson and Jill Stein. Mr. Trump enjoyed and continues to have near historical support from the White Evangelical community.
Let me be clear: These White Evangelicals easily could have voted for either Johnson or Stein while maintaining the Church’s integrity. They neglected to do so. Why?
That depends on who you ask.
If you ask any given church-goer why they supported Mr. Trump, they are quick to point to the social issue of abortion. However, research from The University of Chicago Divinity School demonstrates the mythical nature of this claim.
In fact, the number one priority in this past election, for White Evangelical leaders according to the study was as follows: “Personal character of the candidate.” Yes, you read that correctly.
Which begs the question: If the leaders of these churches believed Mr. Trump had the personal character to serve as President, how else should we have expected those within our pews to vote any other way?
Circulating around social media circles prior to the election were articles titled, “We Aren’t Electing A Pastor But A President.” Fair enough.
But those who voted for Trump while dismissing the plethora of indiscretions Mr. Trump had been accused of had better answer a question:
“Why did they demand the former President, Barack Obama be a born-again Christian, accuse him of being a Muslim, and publicly doubt his spiritual commitment, as Franklin Graham and a host of others had done?”
Opinion columnist for The Washington Post, Elizabeth Bruenig, writes in today’s edition, how Christians offer Trump cheap grace.
Rooted in the work of German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bruenig persuasively points to the cognitive dissonance White Evangelicals find themselves confronted with, while pointing how their support may cost each of them all they believe.
Personally disagreeing with Bruenig’s analysis, as a licensed and ordained minister, and social psychologist, I want to extend her analysis using the very Scriptures we as evangelical leaders preach from each week.
Paul when addressing the Church of Ephesus had these words to offer:
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:11).
But rather than expose Mr. Trump’s “fruitless deeds of darkness,” White Evangelical leaders such as Dr. Robert Jeffress, wealth and prosperity gospel preacher Kenneth Copeland, Rev. Joel Osteen, Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson have married their followers to him.
Listen to Joel and Victoria Osteen effusively praising Trump:
While Joel Osteen and his wife merely offer praise to Mr. Trump, other leaders have been more vocal. Dr. Jeffress, Pastor of First Baptist Church justified Trump’s “s$$thole” commentary, Franklin Graham has defended Trump even after the Stormy Daniels story surfaced telling Alex Witt from MSNBC:
“President Trump I don’t think has admitted to having an affair with this person.”
My question to Mr. Graham is how comfortable he would feel if his pastor were accused of such an allegation? How long would that pastor remain in his position?
Dr. James Dobson, famed Christian psychologist, and radio personality took things a step further. He called for a “day of fasting and prayer,” to protect Trump “from those that hate him,” to avoid Trump’s impeachment.
And while many believe that television wealth and prosperity gospel evangelist Kenneth Copeland did not accuse “those who refused to vote for Trump to be murderers,” I’ll allow you to watch the video and judge for yourselves.
Watch Copeland below:
So what is driving these leaders to support Trump? I contend that the issue is not an issue of cheap grace, but one of blatant hypocrisy coupled with a desire for control for our nation. Diversity? Who needs it? Trusting the God we preach of each week to do His work versus us legislating our beliefs? Bingo!
While Bruenig’s piece is persuasive, it fails to consider the well accepted belief among White Evangelicals that in order to experience the grace of God which Boehoeffer references, one must first ask forgiveness for one’s sin.
Mr. Trump has failed to do so. On Saturday, July 18, 2015, Mr. Trump when asked by moderator, Frank Luntz whether he had “ever asked for forgiveness for his actions, he responded as follows:
“I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”
And it is here that we in the faith community come to the crux of the problem with Mr. Trump: He has not repented of his sin. And without repentance, there will be no difference in our behavior. Our own Bible tells us so.
The Jesus of Scripture reinforces this point in Matthew 3:8 when he states:
“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
Additionally, Mr. Trump appears to believe it is his own works which provide him with the forgiveness of Christ. But according to our own faith, works do not lead one to salvation because it is a “gift from God, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:9).
He must confess belief in Christ, which will bring forth forgiveness for his sin.
Whether agnostic, atheist, or believer, one thing is clear: It is well past time for evangelical leaders – particularly those of us who are White – to divorce Donald Trump.
How about those calling ourselves evangelicals get off of our high horse of privilege while confessing our own sin of leading the flock astray?
It is Easter after all.
A social psychologist by day, political analyst and journalist by night, Dr. Mark Bear has built an established audience by printing facts, without click-bait, sensationalism, or hyperbole. He is married to his wife of 34 years, and both he and his wife, Susan, have a Schnauzer named Shadow. Follow along by connecting with Doc on Facebook or Twitter under the handle Dr. Progressive!