Archive | Politics

Where does #NeverTrump go in a Trump presidency?

Dan McLaughlin is a #NeverTrump conservative at The National Review, and he asks and answers the following question: “Where Does Never Trump Go in a Trump Presidency?” He argues that there are three options for conservatives now that the party belongs to Donald Trump.

  1. Leave the Party
  2. Remain in the Party and Embrace Trump
  3. Remain in the Party to influence it

McLaughlin makes a solid case for number three. He argues that conservatives haven’t been evicted from the party and still have an opportunity for influence. He says that conservatives are now in the same situation they were in before the Reagan-era GOP.

This is a reminder that movement conservatives are rediscovering that we have a relationship with the Republican Party that is similar to the one our movement had between 1952 and 1976: the party is sometimes on our side, but it’s not consistently guided by our principles, and we have to work to turn it our way. Maybe in retrospect, that was truer in the past 20 years than some of us wanted to admit at the time.

So what is the role for conservatives who decide to stick it out with the party? He says that conservatives should not concede the GOP as the “party of Trump.” Rather, they should view it as the “party with Trump.”

We will and should view the incoming Trump Administration not as a natural friend but as a transactional ally to be kept at arms’ length, kept honest by criticism, done business with on an issue-by-issue basis, and fought forthrightly when it deserves to be. We can’t fool ourselves: those fights will sometimes be lonely and losing ones.

I think this is a thoughtful piece and worth your time to read the whole thing.

Some late-night thoughts about the most stunning election of my lifetime

I have stayed up to the bitter end on election night. Secretary Clinton has just conceded the race, and President-elect Trump is delivering his victory speech as I type. There will be much to say in coming days about tonight’s result. Before turning-in for the night, I offer five quick thoughts on what we have just witnessed.

1. This is the American Brexit. It’s a populist realignment of the American two-party system. Donald Trump won 44% of the vote during the GOP primaries, and he has achieved a stunning victory tonight. The GOP is now the party of populism, not the party of conservatism. A similar populist strain runs right through the Democratic Party as well. That strain is reflected in the 47% who voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, and that strain will endure for the foreseeable future. This populist divide runs right through both parties and has changed everything this cycle. Will it endure? I don’t know. But there’s no question about what just happened. The people spoke, and their voice astonishes the ruling class. This result leaves the nation’s media and political elites as the shocked victims of their own presumption.

2. I have been an outspoken opponent of both major party nominees. That means that no matter the result of this election, I was going to be disappointed. I thought both candidates to be uniquely unqualified for the presidency. But what now? I don’t regret opposing these candidates. I continue to believe both candidates to pose real challenges to the common good. I trusted neither of them on the issues I care about most—sanctity of life, marriage, and religious liberty. I also believe both of them to have character flaws undermining their fitness for office. In light of that, what is my duty now? If the Apostle Paul told Christians to honor Emperor Nero, then I know I certainly have an obligation to honor the president-elect (Rom. 13:1-7). I will be the loyal opposition when necessary. I will also be praying that I was wrong about him and that he will do better than what I have expected him to do (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

3. I hope that evangelicals who have been divided over this election can reconcile and come together again. To that end, I want to repeat something I wrote last week. I have many friends and loved ones who made the decision to cast a mournful vote for the GOP nominee. They care about the unborn and religious liberty just as much as I do. They have no illusions about what the GOP nominee is. They did not wish to endorse his character, and they weren’t making a public discrediting defense of the indefensible. They too were dismayed about the alternatives before them. But they made a prudential judgment about the best way to do damage control with their vote. As I have said, I disagree with their decision, but I understand and respect them. The last thing I want is to be divided from them now that the election is over. This has been the most divisive campaign I have ever seen. If this election somehow were to result in a lasting division among Christians who should otherwise be together, that would be lamentable. For my part, I want to do what I can to keep that from happening.

4. I have black and brown friends and loved ones who are deeply distressed by the result of this election. They and others are justifiably concerned about what the future holds given what president-elect Trump has said and done during his campaign. Our country is deeply divided, and many people are terrified by tonight’s election result. I have not and will not forget them. I am thinking about and praying for them tonight.

5. God is still running this show. “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?'” (Dan. 4:35). “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps. 115:3). Nations come and go at the sovereign ordination of God. For those of us who love our country and the good it has stood for, patriotism means celebrating a heritage handed down to us by a smiling providence. But we also know that this great experiment in ordered liberty can be a tenuous thing. That is why Benjamin Franklin defined our system of government as “A Republic, if you can keep it.” So I will be praying that we can keep it a little while longer. We don’t deserve it. But then we never did, did we?

David and Nancy French opposed Trump, and it cost them.

David and Nancy French are evangelical Christians and two of the most outspoken conservative opponents of Donald Trump in the country. Taking this stand has not been without a cost for them. Today, they have both written searching reflections on what their opposition has cost them. The pieces linked below are difficult to read, but I think that they are necessary to read if you want to understand the darkness lurking just beneath the surface of this election season.

Thank you for fighting the good fight, David and Nancy. There are many of us who admire you and your principled stand this past year. Your moral clarity in the midst of a blinding fog has lit the way for many. Thank you.

Robbie George calls for charity among conservatives currently divided

Dr. Robbie George of Princeton University is regarded by many as the leading intellectual of conservatism. In a Facebook post today, he calls for charity among conservatives who are currently divided over how to vote in the 2016 presidential election. George writes:

Lincoln famously said: “With malice towards none, with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right.”

Friends, we are in a terrible fix here. And it is putting some of us at each other’s throats. it must not be permitted to do that. Donald Trump is dreadful. Hillary Clinton is horrible. One called for the killing of the innocent family members of terrorists. The other promises to protect the killing of unborn babies up to the point of birth. One shamefully denies that John McCain is a war hero. The other shamelessly lies to grieving families about the circumstances of their loved ones’ murders in Benghazi. Neither of the two is fit to be president. Either would be a disaster.

Faced with this appalling choice, some good people find it obvious that Donald Trump, vile though he may be, is the lesser evil. Others find it no less obvious that Hillary Clinton, odious as she is, is the lesser evil. For some of us, it just isn’t obvious which of these two scoundrels would do greater harm in the long run. But this is where charity is required. There is no point in getting angry at people for whom what is obvious to oneself in these appalling circumstances is not obvious. Every single one of us needs to do his or her best to think this thing through carefully and then follow the dictates of conscience, acknowledging and appreciating the fact that conscience might lead other reasonable people of goodwill to a different conclusion.

Whatever happens, whichever of these people is elected, those of us who believe in limited government, constitutional fidelity and the Rule of law, flourishing institutions of civil society, traditional principles of morality, and the like are going to have profoundly important work to do. And we will need to do it together. Let us not break the cords that bind us together in friendship and conviction.

Hear, hear. And I would add that many of us evangelical Christians would do well to hear George’s call for charity. Perhaps there are some “evangelicals” who have defended or minimized the character flaws of the GOP nominee. I think that is inexcusable. But that certainly is not the attitude of every evangelical who may be deciding to cast a reluctant, regretful vote for the GOP nominee. Many of them are simply trying to do “damage control” in light of two bad alternatives. I disagree with that, but I understand that.

I have many friends and loved ones who are going to cast a mournful vote for the GOP nominee. They care about the unborn and religious liberty just as much as I do. They have no illusions about what the GOP nominee is. They do not wish to endorse his character, and they aren’t making a public discrediting defense of the indefensible. They too are dismayed about the alternatives before them. But they are making a prudential judgment about the best way to do damage control with their vote. As I said, I disagree with them, but I understand and respect them.

I also wish them to know that the last thing I want is to be divided from them on the other side of this election. The GOP nominee has presided over the most divisive campaign I have ever seen. If he somehow were to achieve a lasting division among Christians who should otherwise be together, his rout would indeed be complete. I for one have no interest in letting him achieve that.

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Why more evangelicals may need to follow CT’s lead

Christianity Today has published an unusually scathing editorial by Andy Crouch. Crouch makes the case that “Evangelicals, of all people, should not be silent about Donald Trump’s blatant immorality.” He writes:

Since his nomination, Donald Trump has been able to count on “the evangelicals” (in his words) for a great deal of support.

This past week, the latest (though surely not last) revelations from Trump’s past have caused many evangelical leaders to reconsider. This is heartening, but it comes awfully late. What Trump is, everyone has known and has been able to see for decades, let alone the last few months. The revelations of the past week of his vile and crude boasting about sexual conquest—indeed, sexual assault—might have been shocking, but they should have surprised no one.

Indeed, there is hardly any public person in America today who has more exemplified the “earthly nature” (“flesh” in the King James and the literal Greek) that Paul urges the Colossians to shed: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry” (3:5). This is an incredibly apt summary of Trump’s life to date. Idolatry, greed, and sexual immorality are intertwined in individual lives and whole societies. Sexuality is designed to be properly ordered within marriage, a relationship marked by covenant faithfulness and profound self-giving and sacrifice. To indulge in sexual immorality is to make oneself and one’s desires an idol. That Trump has been, his whole adult life, an idolater of this sort, and a singularly unrepentant one, should have been clear to everyone.

And therefore it is completely consistent that Trump is an idolater in many other ways. He has given no evidence of humility or dependence on others, let alone on God his Maker and Judge. He wantonly celebrates strongmen and takes every opportunity to humiliate and demean the vulnerable. He shows no curiosity or capacity to learn. He is, in short, the very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool.

I cannot stress enough how unusual it is for CT to publish an editorial like this, but I think they were right to do so. Furthermore, I would suggest that other evangelical leaders and writers might consider following suit. Why? Many evangelical Christians are content to stay out of the political fray. I in no way fault them for that. We all have different callings and interests, and that is fine. But we are faced with a set of very unusual circumstances in the candidacy of Donald Trump. Impressions often don’t match reality. Many people are assuming that evangelicals in toto are supporting Donald Trump, that evangelicals are willing to turn a blind eye to disqualifying character defects, and that they are willing to endorse reprehensible character so long as the candidate is Republican and not Democrat. In short, it appears that evangelicals have no principle only partisan interest.

I know that many evangelicals would object to that characterization saying, “But that is an inaccurate view of things. Evangelicals are divided over Trump. And many of the ones supporting him are only doing so grudgingly because the alternative is also morally reprehensible.” I get that. But that is not the perception of outsiders. Outsiders are viewing us as a piece. One measure of that is revealed in an anecdote I just heard yesterday. A friend of mine was talking to a very well-known religion writer who assumed that evangelicals like Russell Moore and Albert Mohler were endorsing Trump. I think it is astonishing that a journalist could be so misinformed about the evangelical landscape, but there it was.

Do you think that the media and the general public are going to be any less confused about the evangelical landscape in the wake of Donald Trump? I don’t. Even though some of us have been making the case for his unfitness since the primaries, that fact is lost on many. I guarantee you that after this election is over, the media narrative will place a large part of the blame on “evangelicals” for Donald Trump’s malignant candidacy. And that narrative will treat “evangelicals” in an undifferentiated way.

What does that mean? It means that all of us will bear the dishonor of his candidacy, even those evangelicals who never endorsed him and even some of us who made the case against him. I’m simply saying that we should not expect a fair and nuanced portrayal of “evangelical” attitudes in the aftermath of election 2016. There will be blame and shame going around, and “evangelicals” will bear much of it—some of it deservedly, and some of it undeservedly.

That is why CT‘s editorial is so necessary. We are in an extraordinary moment that calls for extraordinary moral clarity. In fact, I think that more evangelical leaders and writers who are usually silent on such matters would do well to follow CT‘s lead here. It is important to speak with moral clarity now for the sake of evangelical witness later. Max Lucado and Beth Moore, for example, have both weighed-in, and I think it would be tremendously helpful if more would join them. This can be done without endorsing any particular candidate—just as Crouch has done. But I think now is the time to speak up. What we say now will shape the public impressions of evangelical Christianity later. And conscientious evangelicals need to be heard.


UPDATE: Since posting this earlier today, evangelicals have begun weighing-in. I’m going to try to keep a running update of statements below.

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Last night’s debate and my burden going forward

The measure of last night’s disgrace is measured by the lengths I had to go to to conceal it from my children. When there is a presidential debate, our usual routine is to turn it on in the family room and to watch it. The kids may be in and out of the room if they are not in bed already. But it is a conspicuous viewing in the middle of our home if it is anything else.

Last night was different. I retreated into a room by myself to view the debate. On two or three occasions, my children came into the room. And on each occasion, I had to shew them out as quickly as possible to conceal from their tender consciences the ignominy unfolding on the debate stage.

It is not easy trying to explain to them why they cannot watch our two presidential candidates debate. Nor is it easy trying to explain to them why our family cannot support either of them. All they know is that we should respect our leaders, no matter their political party. They also know that we usually have a favored candidate who most represents our ideals. But they also know that there is no candidate for us this year from either of the two major political parties. This is a first for us.

This election has made me acutely aware of a weighty burden that I feel for my country and for my children. If evangelicals have felt at ease in Babylon until now, that ease has passed. Our culture is post-Christian, and so are our politics. We are strangers and aliens here (1 Pet. 2:11). That is nothing new. Indeed it has always been the case. But the contrast between the church and the world is becoming increasingly stark in our nation.

The burden I feel is not that Christians have lost the culture or that we need to figure out how to recover some pristine era in the past (no such era ever existed). The burden I feel is for preparing my children and the church that I pastor for the world that we live in now. To be in the world, not of the world, for the sake of the world is what God has called us to (John 17:13-21). To love our neighbors and our enemies and to do so faithfully and joyfully in the face of open opposition and cynical indifference—that is the burden of our time. And that is what we must prepare our children, our churches, and ourselves to face in coming days.

We live in sad times. But the debacle of the 2016 presidential election is not the cause of our times. It is the sign of our times. And we need to have our eyes wide open to the world and our hearts full of gospel joy and our feet swift to our great work. This does not mean a retreat from public life or from our democratic stewardship. It just means that we know where we have pinned our hopes for this life and the next. And believing that, we bear witness to a coming King who will one day make all things new (Rev. 21:5). For here we have no lasting city, but we are seeking a city which is to come (Heb. 13:14).

Is Trump accelerating evangelical break with the GOP?

The video package above was produced by Jon Ward for Yahoo News. There are a variety of personalities that appear in it. What struck me while watching it is how the label “evangelical” is being pulled apart at the seams.

The apparent break-up with the GOP is but one sign of a larger conflict that evangelical Christians are facing in post-Christian America. As we move from “moral majority” to prophetic minority, we are feeling more uneasy in Babylon. That is not altogether a bad thing. Christianity’s contrast with the world is becoming more evident and will compel us to theological clarity. And that is happening now.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Should “headship” determine who we vote for in the presidential election?

I taught 1 Corinthians 11:3 this morning in my New Testament Survey class at Boyce College. One student asked what implications a text like this one has on our thinking about the presidential election. If the Bible teaches male headship, should a Christian vote for a female running for president? I want to share how I answered that question, but before doing that I should stipulate that what follows should not be construed as an endorsement or non-endorsement vis a vis the current candidates for president. I should also stipulate that the Bible has much more to say on this question than is contained in a single verse. Still, it is instructive to think through what this text means and how it might relate to our thinking about our democratic stewardship. Here’s the text:

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. –1 Corinthians 11:3

One thing that is clear in this text is that “head” refers to a relation of authority (cf. Eph. 1:22; 5:23; Col. 2:10, also see BDAG). Thus to say that “Christ is the head of every man” is the same as saying that Christ is the authority over every man. Likewise, to say that the man is the “head” of the woman is to say that man is the authority over the woman. Continue Reading →

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Is there a need for “sexual orientation and gender identity” laws?

Over at The Public Discourse James Gottry argues that these laws are an answer to a non-existent problem. According to the article, there is no evidence of systemic discrimination against gay or transgender persons. These laws then have the effect of coercing people who hold traditional views to violate their conscience. You should read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:

In recent years, laws that provide special privileges to individuals based on their self-proclaimed gender identity or sexual preferences have emerged across the country. Commonly known as SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) laws, these legislative undertakings are typically fueled by activist groups and represent a subversive response to a nonexistent problem. Available data confirm there exists no significant social pattern or practice of unjust discrimination against these groups. This is not only because the vast majority of Americans already respect each other and are fair-minded, but also because anyone engaged in baseless discrimination faces the prospect of social and financial consequences brought on by public pressure and boycotts.
SOGI laws, however, use the full force of the law to punish individuals who seek to live peacefully and to work in a way that is consistent with their consciences. Elaine Huguenin, Barronelle Stutzman, Jack Phillips, and Blaine Adamson are just a few of the small business owners who gladly serve all people without exception, but who also face legal punishment because they declined to participate in certain events or to create custom art that would have violated their consciences. In Elaine’s case, she politely declined a request to use her expressive photography skills to tell the story of a same-sex commitment ceremony. Her attempt to remain peacefully true to her faith’s teachings about marriage led to a seven-year court battle that culminated in a ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court against her and her husband, Jon. One justice stated that the Huguenins “now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” and added that this compulsion “is the price of citizenship.”

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