In his speech a few nights ago, Donald Trump described an apocalyptic vision of America I could barely recognize: a nation filled with fear and anger; a nation with 3rd-world airports, crumbling highways, and a victimized people. It exuded a national ethos of blame, anger, fear, and vindictiveness which runs counter to everything Biblical Christianity has always espoused: humility, self-control, courage, and reconciliation: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galations 5. 22).
And yet many evangelical Christian spokesmen have come out in full support of Trump simply because of their deep fear of another Democratic Presidency, thus placing single issues above character; an unbiblical rubric for assessing leadership (most notably James Dobson, Jerry Falwell Jr, and Dr. Wayne Grudem). Their voices however do not represent all evangelicals. Many conservative Christian leaders have rejected this disturbing acquiescence to “the lesser evil” of Trump — ranging from The Southern Baptist Convention to the Catholic Church.
In “The Theology of Donald Trump,” theologian Michael Horton points out four ways in which our Christian faith has been distorted by the Trump Campaign. (See the March 2016 edition of Christianity Today.com). I have taken his points and tweaked them here in light his recent RNC speech:
- Rights: In Trump’s world, the State must defend our rights by any means necessary — -including torture. Trump describes our rights as needing to be enforced — -going beyond mere waterboarding to “the unthinkable” — as he phrases it. In the Biblical world our rights are not ours by conquest; they are given to us by our Creator and are intrinsic and “self-evident” — -regardless of citizenship or worth.
2. Evil: In Trump’s world, Evil R Them! In the Biblical world, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.” (Solzhenitsyn).
3. Identity: In Trump’s world, our American identity Trumps everything. In the Biblical world, our Christian identity trumps everything — -nationality, gender, race, and yes, every letter in the ever growing LGBTQ list.
4. Greatness: In Trump’s world, greatness is accomplished through military and economic power. In the Biblical world, greatness is achieved through servant-hood and humility.
You may be, like myself, disappointed in the presidency of Barack Obama: he had promised so much, yet delivered so little. Yet his speech a few nights ago triggered an avalanche of Republican tweets — filled with reluctant praise: “It was a speech WE should have given.” In it, our president admitted the slow and painful form of government we have chosen for ourselves. But his words describe a nation which echo back to the vision of our founding fathers, and seemed to me to be about an entirely different country:
We’re not a fragile people. We’re not a frightful people. Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order as long as we do things his way. We don’t look to be ruled. (Applause.) Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that We the People, can form a more perfect union.”
America has never been about what one person says he’ll do for us. It’s about what can be achieved by us, together — (applause) — through the hard and slow, and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring work of self-government.