I went into the archives and reread the three articles I wrote about the 2016 election (Using Logic and Morality, An Honest Vote, & Lesser of Two Evils) and I remain proud of the content– if embarrassed by the typo’s. What spurred me to take the drive down memory lane was the revelation that 70% of those surveyed by CPAC said they would vote for Donald Trump in 2024. I found this number shocking, how could so many who call themselves conservative be willing to throw in with Mr. Trump? I know CPAC is not equivalent with white evangelical Christians but I also recognize there is significant overlap between these two groups. Though I do not like to disagree with John Wesley, he seems wrong when he wrote, “What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.” Or at least this is not true of modern American Evangelicals. I am sure that with little effort I could find the CBS poll taken before the election that said 80% of likely Trump voters were voting for him as the lesser of the two evils [see the post by that name]. My post Using Logic and Morality was a response to Dr. Wayne Grudem’s defense of voting for Trump based solely on his desire to see the Republican platform win. Dr. Grudem took the standard evangelical line of the time, Trump is an immoral person but we want to see the Republican policies carried on so we will hold our noses and vote for him. In late 2019, Christians were again torn during Mr. Trump’s first impeachment and I praised people like Peter Leithart who acknowledged Mr. Trump’s moral shortcomings, but who said the answer was to not re-elect him (rather than removal from office) [here]. Did I miss something? Did Mr. Trump show sudden signs of repentance and transformation? If so I am very sorry for writing this post but I still see the same man who won the nomination in 2016.
If Mr. Trump has not changed what can I say about Christians willing to endorse him now? I understood and continue to understand how Christians in 2016 and 2020 felt trapped by the system and voted for Mr. Trump as the lesser evil. I am sure that it was agonizing for many who were very uncomfortable with Mr. Trump’s character and voted for him anyway, and I feel for them. But, we are in 2021 and the next election is not for three years. There is plenty of time for Christians to find a candidate whom they can support. There is time to pressure both major parties to adjust their platforms to bring them closer to our ideals, providing a greater number of candidates from whom we can select. How do we go from voting for an individual simply because there are no better options to suddenly seeing that person as the best option? John Wesley spoke of two generations, parents who did not fight an evil and children who embrace it. How are we both the generation who tolerates the evil and the generation who embraces it? Have so many Christians forgotten their moral stance of 2016, have they been so numbed by mean tweets and harsh news stories that they now overlook the things which so unsettled them? Now is the time for Christians to prove their integrity and to reject what they called evil a mere five years ago. Five years ago 80% of voters said character matters but since neither candidate shows much character I will vote for policies. Today 70% of those voters are saying character no longer matters.
Have Christians forgotten that Mr. Trump began is term by turning our nation’s back on Syrian Christians fleeing a civil war, have we forgotten that he repeatedly tried to send Iranian and Iraqi Christians back to oppressive regimes and persecution? What about the two National Prayer Breakfasts where his speeches were full of pride, arrogance and a contempt for forgiveness? Surely we remember his forceful removal of a priest from his own church so he could have a photo op with a Bible? Even when I look at the issue which evangelicals care the most about (abortion) Mr. Trump had a poor record, overseeing growth in funding for Planned Parenthood and creating policies which directly lead to an increase in international abortions [links to sources are here]. These are signs of a lack of character, signs that a person’s temperament is not worthy of our support. Again, I hold nothing against those who voted for this man before, nor necessarily for those who supported him while in office– it is a Christian duty to support the actions of a leader so long as those actions do not violate a moral imperative. But to forget these events so quickly and to turn from out stated convictions of the past is foolishness.
As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Proverbs 26:11
Thankfully we are two years away from the next cycle of presidential nominations and so I am probably getting worked up over nothing. But, in 2016 I saw Mr. Trump’s lack of character and did not say anything because I did not take him seriously until it was too late. I will not make that mistake here; I recognize my voice is barely a whisper in the grand scheme of things but I do have an obligation to speak and if I fail to speak I will be labeled a fool returning to my folly in 2015-2016. But since most of the people who read this will already agree with me that Mr. Trump should not be nominated again (let alone re-elected) our responsibility to our brothers and sisters who support Mr. Trump is love and grace. We cannot look down on them right now, nor do we aggressively call out such supporters. These actions and attitudes lead to the hardening of support for Mr. Trump in 2020. Rather, we ask if Mr. Trump has shown any change of character in 2016 and simply remind people what they said in that year. People voted for Mr. Trump because Hilary Clinton was equally repulsive and they wanted to see Pro-Life policies. If that is true we should ask why these people are not looking into candidates whom they would have enthusiastically supported in 2016. Why not look for someone who would not have been described as “the lesser evil” in 2016. People might throw me into the “Never Trump” camp, but that is not accurate, what is accurate is that I am in the “Better than Trump” camp. I believe that there are better candidates for president, people with a stronger commitment to the policies that matter to evangelical Christians and stronger personal character. perhaps no matter which side of the political aisle we are on we can truly help our Christian brothers & sisters discover a candidate who is more worthy of their votes.