Disclaimer: These views are my own, and do not represent the views of the church I serve, or the network of churches with which we associate.
I have been interested in politics and national events since I was a kid. I remember being in kindergarten, sitting in my dad’s lap and watching President Carter on the news. I would eat my Lucky Charms and ask questions about national politics. My interest in politics never waned, even though I’ve never run for office and have no intentions of ever doing so. I did a little campaign work years ago. I even got to ride in a presidential motorcade once, but that’s another story for another time.
I consider myself to be well-informed about current events of consequence, especially about the current presidential race. It’s not that I’m smarter than most. I’m just passionate about politics, like other people are passionate about sports or movies. Those who know me best would affirm that I’m not given to hyperbole, I’m not really excitable, and I rarely use exclamation points in normal communication. I’m writing now because this political cycle worries me more than any in my lifetime.
Specifically, Donald Trump worries me. I blocked off some time today to write a post about why Trump is dangerous, and how he inspires false confidence. I was going to document how he is a narcissistic, yet ultimately spineless bully. Like many bullies, Trump has a big mouth and likes to pick on the weak. But also like many bullies, Trump backs down when punched in the mouth. He follows a regular and predictable pattern of blustering about somebody, but backing off his comments when the inevitable pushback comes.
Trump angered me with his “Mexicans are rapists” rhetoric, trying to pander to white nationalist fears. My daughters attend an elementary school in Southwest Arkansas that is 80% Hispanic. My Hispanic neighbors are hardworking people who want a better life for their kids. They risked their lives for a shot at the American Dream, just like most of us would if we had not been born in America.
We could talk about how Trump is not really any of the things that people claim to support him for being. We could punch holes in his conservatism, his family values, his faith and his business success. But in the end, I decided not to write about all that, because all that’s already been said. And it’s been said by people who are much better at it than I am.
The simple, sad fact of the matter is that it doesn’t even matter. Donald Trump doesn’t lose support, even when he’s proven to be false, or says the most cruel, vile, hurtful, narcissistic, un-Christian and misogynistic things. I can only come to the conclusion that his supporters don’t care what kind of person he is. And if they don’t care, I can’t make them care. Trump is probably the nominee that we will get, because he’s the nominee that our reality-TV-loving society deserves.
I’m writing today because my state (Arkansas) holds its presidential primary tomorrow, as part of the so-called Super Tuesday vote, or as we call it down here, the SEC Primary. As I write, Senator Cruz holds a four point lead at 27% in the polls, followed by Trump and Senator Rubio, tied at 23%. I will take it as a small consolation if my state does not end up in the Trump column when it’s all said and done.
If Trump does become president, I will do my best to be respectful. I’ve often been disappointed in my fellow pastors for their lack of respect for President Obama. We are not called to agree with our leaders, but we have a biblical mandate to honor them. If the New Testament commanded believers to honor Nero, then surely we can honor our leaders. But for now, Trump is not the president, and so I can openly say that I have zero respect for him whatsoever. I pray that he does not become my president. And until he is my president, I can say without reservation that he is one of the most dangerous individuals to attempt to enter public service in my lifetime.
I suspect that many evangelicals support Trump because of a deep-seated fear that our Christian-American way of life is in danger. If that’s true, and believers are looking to Trump to somehow preserve American Christian liberty, then it demonstrates an abject lack of faith. If Trump is the answer, we’re asking the wrong question. The New Testament clearly shows that political power is absolutely unnecessary for the church to be both pure and effective.
“The church” was most spiritually anemic and malicious at the times when it wielded the most political power. If Jesus had intended for the church to marry the state, He would have said so. Instead, Jesus told the disciples to honor and respect the pagan governments under which they served and suffered. And lest we forget, Jesus turned down the opportunity to be king (that’s a lower-case k, a politician).
And so I write this so that I’m on record, not with hopes that I’m going to change anybody’s mind. Instead, I write this to publicly state my disappointment in a Republican base that seems bent on destroying their own party, if not the nation which they claim to love. Intellectually, I’ve been a conservative all my life, and yet I do not rail against liberals and Democrats for being what they are. But I’m railing on Republicans for what they’re about to do. At this moment, I’m ashamed of the Republican Party.
I’m ashamed for an abject lack of leadership within the party for not getting ahead of the Trump problem. I’m ashamed of Republicans who’ve listened to so much Fox News and talk radio that they’re willing to trust Donald Trump to save Christmas, Christianity, baseball, apple pie and western civilization. Finally, I’m ashamed of Baptist pastors who endorse Trump. At best, they’re aligning themselves with the man they think will win. At worst, they actually agree with him. I don’t get it.
Trump scares me, but not just because of what he represents and the implications for America today. Trump scares me because of the lessons of history, and a much bigger prophetic principle at work. If we correctly understand Revelation, a powerful, dynamic, wonder-working leader is coming, and he will convince the majority of the world to willingly follow him. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again, on a grand scale.
People feel scared and downtrodden. Give them a powerful leader who serves up a scapegoat, along with promises of greatness in exchange for overlooking his obvious character flaws.
Watch interviews of Trump supporters, and you’ll routinely hear a form of, “Well I really like him because he says what he thinks.”
There’s a reason why sewers have covers.
Jesus said, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:33-34).