Russell Moore has been very open in his opposition to Donald Trump’s candidacy for president of the United States. Over the weekend, Moore continued that opposition in an op-ed for the The New York Times and on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Trump noticed and tweeted out the following attack on Moore.
.@drmoore Russell Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2016
I think this is a more revealing moment than some realize. It would be one thing for Trump to disagree with Moore. That would be totally fine and appropriate. But Trump does more than that here. Trump criticizes Moore not for bad views but for being a bad evangelical!
The problem with this is obvious. Do Americans really want a president who thinks it a part of his job description to pontificate about who is and isn’t a good evangelical? Or a good Catholic? Or a good Muslim? Or a good Jew? This is totally outside the norms and traditions of the presidency.
Presidents are fine to have convictions, religious or otherwise. But to single out a political opponent and to define him as an unfaithful evangelical simply because he opposes the Trump candidacy is an absurd and dangerous precedent.
This latest evidence of Trump’s questionable character and judgment forces us to face a serious question. How would Trump respond to critics if he were to assume the presidency? What if those critics were making a religious case against some policy President Trump wanted to pursue? And what if those critics began to sway public opinion against President Trump’s policy? Does anyone think that a President Trump would restrain himself from using the powers of his office to punish his religious critics? If he becomes president, he’ll have more than a Twitter account to work with.
Whether or not Moore is a “good” representative of evangelicals is not the point (although I and countless others believe that he is). The point is that we don’t need our presidential candidates–much less our presidents!–appointing themselves pastoral overseer of evangelicalism. Trump isn’t just out of his depth on this. He’s out of bounds. At a time when religious liberty is under unprecedented assault, we need a chief executive who can defend our first freedom, not an autocrat who maligns and attacks the faithful.
One more thing. Trump is not the first opponent of Christianity to attack the faithful. The Apostle Peter warned us and them about what their attacks mean.
And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you; but they shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. –1 Peter 4:4-5
The opponents of the faith have always been “surprised” when Jesus’ followers don’t go along to get along. They expect Christians to get in line. When the faithful refuse, the faithless slander and attack them. That is what is happening here. Expect more of this in the days ahead. And know that God is not indifferent about any of this.