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.

30 Responses to Why more evangelicals may need to follow CT’s lead

  1. buddyglass October 11, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

    Hypothetically speaking, I can see myself supporting a candidate who had committed adultery. While adultery is obviously immoral, I don’t consider that one transgression, in a vacuum, to be automatically disqualifying. So I can’t get on board with the idea that Christians should only support a candidate who “isn’t immoral”.

    That said, Trump is a whole other ball of wax.

    • Chris Ryan October 14, 2016 at 11:33 am #

      Whole other ball of wax. Indeed. Have you seen him comment on his daughter Ivanka? It was the last straw for me. Google “trump ivanka daughter media” and check out the first link. Jaw dropping. How a man could debase himself talking about his own daughter is beyond me. And not just once, many times–on video even. Who says they would date their daughter if only she wasn’t their daughter???? Ewww…

      I can’t vote for Hill but I certainly can’t vote for this man. No, Jesus wouldn’t do that. It’s write in time.

  2. Andrew Orlovsky October 11, 2016 at 3:36 pm #

    I wonder if many of the “Evangelicals” who are supporting Trump even know what an Evangelical Christian is? It is possible that many Americans simply believe it to mean someone who identifies as a Christian who votes republican. Therefore many Republicans who attend are Biblically illiterate and attend Church (often Catholic or Mainline Protestant) only on Christmas and Easter are telling pollsters they are Evangelicals.

    • buddyglass October 12, 2016 at 7:19 pm #

      For most people I think it means, “At least nominally Christian, not Catholic, and not theologically liberal”. So basically protestant but not mainline. For those outside the church, Mormons and JWs are often included.

      • Lynn Burgess October 17, 2016 at 12:05 pm #

        Buddy: I’m not arguing with your statement but Mormons & JW’s being included in the definition of Evangelical rather proves the point that the term means nothing in the media & culture at-large.

    • Scott Shaver October 13, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

      Evangelicals supporting Trump are wondering the same thing about you.

  3. Babs Tigrett October 11, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

    I love how you only focus on the sins of Donald Trump and never Hillary. She is just as despicable, if not more so. If Hillary gets elected and fills the court with “Lewinskyites” the so called evangelicals are toast. Oh and by the way, I am a Christian. I have a son in the military and I will not stay home and not vote or write in a candidate. I was not for Trump in the primaries but he is the nominee and I will vote for him as a vote against Hillary and the establishment of the Republican Party.

    • Babs Tigrett October 11, 2016 at 5:13 pm #

      Correction! “Alinskyites”

    • Christiane Smith October 13, 2016 at 8:05 am #

      Have you considered this: if Trump WERE to win, your vote would in actuality be a vote against the Republican Party that has an honorable past ?
      Let’s not align Trump WITH Republican values that have been treasured by many conservative people over a long period of time. Please don’t do this.

      If you respond to his rhetoric, then own that you do. But don’t say you support the Party by voting for HIM. Write someone’s name in who is an honorable Republican. Please.

  4. James Bradshaw October 11, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

    My own intention is to vote for Hillary for President and Republican down the line for all other candidates running. Hillary would make a less problematic and risky President than the irrational and narcissistic (and quite possibly deranged) Trump, while the Republicans will (most likely) keep Hillary’s more liberal excesses in check.

    At least that is how my conscience seems to mandate I approach this awful election.

    • buddyglass October 12, 2016 at 7:23 pm #

      Are you in a “safe” state? If so, consider writing someone else in. Take your pick.

  5. blakerymer October 11, 2016 at 6:50 pm #


    I read what you are saying and agree with your assessment of Trump’s private life. We don’t have a good choice this time around, few would disagree. However, we are not electing a pope. We are electing a person to serve as leader of our political nation. I do not for a minute believe that a vote for Trump is an endorsement of his lifestyle any more than I believe a vote for Clinton is an endorsement of hers.

    If Trump is not a believer, we certainly can’t expect him to live as though he were. If he is a believer, he is an immature babe, like very many of the people we are trying to influence from the pulpit or the classroom or the counseling office. In fact, his life might well be more reflective of the church at large, than the lives you and I claim to live as evangelical “leaders.” No one is experientially free from the entanglements of the flesh.

    Of course, we can choose not to vote. But when have we ever had “a fair and nuanced portrayal of “evangelical” attitudes from the secular world. With just one exception, God has used flawed people throughout man’s history. I think you’re wrong to suggest that it would be the right thing to vote for no one. We are not electing a church elder, but a president. Indeed he may be a fool, and not the first fool that evangelicals have sought to elect.

    Blake Rymer

    • Denny Burk October 11, 2016 at 10:02 pm #


      In this post, I’m not really making a case for how someone should vote. I don’t do endorsements, but I do point out disqualifying characteristics for certain candidates. As I’ve made clear in this space before, I think the candidates from both major parties have moral character that disqualifies them from the office they seek.

      Having said that, this post is not really about how someone should vote. I think people are going to have to grapple with their consciences about how to vote when both candidates are reprehensible. I understand that some Christians will cast a vote for the person that they believe will do the least amount of damage to the nation. I understand that reasoning. I disagree with it given our two alternatives, but I think it’s understandable and even reasonable.

      What I do not think is defensible or reasonable is the idea that Trump’s character and fitness can be defended in any way. Christians defending Trump by overlooking and/or minimizing his character defects are doing a great disservice to the gospel. Those who are brushing off his misogyny, racism, and basic lack of decency are doing no favors to the truths we hold most dear. They are communicating that evangelicals aren’t really people of principle, but people of partisan interest.

      The bottom line is this. All evangelicals need to speak with moral clarity about Trump–even those evangelicals who think they might begrudgingly cast a vote his way. No evangelicals should be speaking as if what he’s said and done is okay. That’s my point.

  6. Lauren Law October 11, 2016 at 7:47 pm #

    I’m glad when I became a Christian that I did not have other Christians like the “evangelical leaders” to help me become…because I never would have become with all the discouragement and unwillingness to allow for change. No wonder Saul had to hide out so long…and change his name…before he could/would be accepted by a baby church in the making. What I now see among evangelicals is that a great divide has arisen over evangelicals willing to forgive and evangelicals sitting in places of judgment because their lives have been so much more perfect. And THAT is what the world has always seen about us. We’ve certainly never been known for our love…and we’re not about to be known for our love with continued scathing editorials by “evangelicals” who have forgotten that they will be forgiven as they have forgiven.

    • Lynn Burgess October 12, 2016 at 1:55 am #

      Lauren: First, forgiveness does not mean there are no consequences for one’s sin. You will remember that the repentant thief on the cross still died. There are many examples of consequences that remain after one repents and is forgiven. Why there is so much confusion on this point I do not know but it seems to arise often.

      Second, with Trump we are talking about a lifestyle and a long history of the vilest kind of living which seemingly many people are missing… and in spite of what a few of surrogates say there is no indication that there has been any change. He is an evil and wicked man. I spent a great deal of time researching several of the GOP candidates during the primary and Trump’s life and values are nothing short of shocking and that includes his business dealings. Anyone who believes that he represents the “little guy” is simply deceived; his first and only interest is himself.

  7. Christiane Smith October 12, 2016 at 8:01 am #

    some reports are saying that 80 % of evangelical Christians are supporting Donald Trump . . . . . and people DO think it is a matter of partisanship over principle, I’m afraid

    I don’t know what can be done now to change this perception, but I am very grateful for the sake of the whole Church when evangelical people speak out for what is honorable and decent

    It is horrifying to see how many prominent evangelical Christians have praised Donald Trump and are still supporting him. I have no words for what these people are doing to their witness.

    Thank you, DENNY, for providing a forum on this topic.

    • buddyglass October 12, 2016 at 7:24 pm #

      Exit polls should be interesting.

  8. Jeff Rickel October 12, 2016 at 3:45 pm #

    Denny, Thank you so much for your post. You have spoken with clarity and most of all you have shown respect, love, and mercy to those Christians who disagree with you.

    My one concern in this election is that the church show light to Donald Trump, to the body, and to the outside world.

    You are also clear in differentiating between supporting and endorsing a candidate. We support a candidate, because we believe our country is better off than with another candidate. We endorse a candidate because we admire his character and and respect his accomplishments

    Please see Jeremiah 29:4-7. Israel was living in a Pagan nation with a Pagan king, but they were commanded to seek what was good for the country. One should also read Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar and Darius had Daniel and his friends as Godly advisors. Donald Trump has Mike Pense, and Ben Carson among others. If Trump is elected he would probably rely very heavily on Mike Pense even more so than George Bush relied on Dick Chaney and Pense would probably be at the top of the ticket and another Christian on the second rung in 2020 or 2014. So in my mind I am largely supporting Mike Pence and working for his eventual election. If Hillary wins, we don’t know what will happen to the Supreme Court, the Powers of the Presidencey, the Country or even the electorial process.

    Finally Trump has apologized for remarks he made in a previous life and we are commanded to forgive even as we are forgiven. We are not commanded to vote for them afterwards. That is a separate issue.

    More than who gets elected it is important that Christians show themselves to be salt and light in this election. Many people have witnessed to Donald Trump and I don’t want anything the evangelical community does as a whole to take away that witness. God has shown us much grace ang mercy, and forgiveness and love. We need to show that to each other. This is such an opportunity for the gospel. All Trump is we once were and still are except for God’s grace. That has to come out and our own need every day for that grace and the need for Donald Trump and everyone else. That grace has been so lacking, and the church has so resembled this world and our message so much like it. I think that this is the main test for the church in this season not whom we decide to vote for as long as we are each trying to make a moral and godly decision and people are voting or not voting based on moral decisions which I think is what God is asking of everything we do.

    Matthew 5:13-16

    “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

    “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

    Colossians 4:2-6

    Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

    (John 3:17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

    1 Corinthians 1:10-11

    I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought…. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.

  9. twebb2 October 12, 2016 at 6:45 pm #

    I’ve heard it said about this campaign that one of the candidates is a godless liberal Democrat, and the other is Hillary Clinton. #NeverTrump #NeverClinton.

    Tim Webb

  10. Ian Shaw October 13, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

    Potentials for 2020:
    David French
    Trey Gowdy
    Ben Sasse
    Ben Shapiro (he’ll be old enough then)

    • Lynn Burgess October 14, 2016 at 9:04 am #

      Ian: I don’t know much about Gowdy except that he has endorsed Trump so he has no credibility with me.

      Sasse is a class act but has said no because he has young children and that may well be he his answer in four years.

      Shapiro would be fun.

      • Ian Shaw October 17, 2016 at 11:10 am #

        Yeah, just caught the big on Gowdy. I’d cross him off.

    • buddyglass October 14, 2016 at 9:36 am #

      Nominating someone from the pundit class is probably not a good idea. Especially if, like Shapiro, their bread and butter is being inflammatory.

      Sasse is the only one of those I’d consider supporting.

      • Ian Shaw October 17, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

        I would consider Hannity to be inflammatory. Shapiro, not so much. He just doesn’t care about your “feelings”, “safe-spaces”, or “trigger warnings”

  11. Karen Hoppers October 16, 2016 at 5:48 pm #

    “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.”

    As a Christian who has experienced sexual harassment and sexual assault, this will not be forgotten, ever. It reminds me of many previous times in Church history that the Church stood silent on issues of great importance. The fact is that this time it’s about women, not worthy for anyone, much less a Christian, to draw a line in the sand for, or to even be concerned about. I have been in turmoil since the video was released and because of Trump’s behavior since then. And in my pain, I have questioned how Christians who think of themselves as moral authorities could give such poor excuses for a man like Trump. I continue to pray for deliverance from the rage and disappointment of the proof that it’s now become acceptable for Christians to buy into the excuse of boys will be boys and locker rooms. Thanks to your (those who will still vote for Trump) condoning his behavior, because that is exactly what you are doing, sexual harassment and assault will increase because of this. But who cares? Not many, it appears.

    A heart-felt thank you to Denny Burk.

    • Gus Nelson October 17, 2016 at 10:20 pm #

      Karen: I am sorry to hear about your circumstance and how much this bothers you. Perhaps an analogy might help here. Do you believe that when many evangelicals voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 they were necessarily endorsing or condoning his Mormonism? Clearly, such was not the case for many. Wouldn’t the same logic then hold true in the case of Donald Trump? As Denny notes, there are rational reasons why one might find Trump despicable, yet nonetheless vote for him. As a lawyer, I have grave concerns about a Hillary Clinton Supreme Court and federal judiciary. Trump does not appear to be leaning the same direction she is in that regard. Thus, it matters greatly which one of them is elected. In other words, I might cast a vote for Trump because of who will get to the Supreme Court, not because I condone his behavior. Maybe I think Hillary Clinton wants to move medical insurance to a single payer program, which I believe will be harmful to many, but Trump has indicated he will go along with Republicans in Congress and repeal Obamacare. Again, such a vote is directed at an issue, not toward the man.

      I have not decided yet how I will vote. But maybe this helps you see that some will vote for Trump for reasons completely unconnected to his character and are, thus, not condoning those flaws.


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