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.

6 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.

  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.

  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”

  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.

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

    Denny,

    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

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