In the wake of sagging poll numbers in Iowa, Donald Trump assures Iowa voters that he is a “great Christian.” At a rally in Sioux City, he declared:
Will you get these numbers up? I promise you I will do such a good job. First of all, I am a great Christian. And I do well with the evangelicals, but the evangelicals let me down a little bit this month. I don’t know what I did.
NPR reports that Trump’s campaign has been handing out pictures of his 1959 confirmation ceremony in an attempt to establish his Christian bona fides.
I doubt that anyone is buying this. I’m not questioning the fact that he is Presbyterian or that he goes to Christian churches when he goes to church (which is very rare by his own admission). I am questioning the suggestion that what he means by Christian is what evangelicals mean by Christian.
Evangelicals define a Christian as one who has been born again, who trusts in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and who seeks to follow Christ through the power of the Spirit. I don’t think Trump is claiming to be a Christian in the evangelical sense, and I’m not even sure he would know the difference anyway.
What is clear is that he wants the votes of evangelicals in Iowa, and he thinks that this is the way to do it: “See, I’m just like you!” And that’s the part that evangelicals should be skeptical about. They should also be skeptical about the suggestion that a candidate has to be an evangelical in order to be qualified for President.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see a bona fide evangelical assume the presidency. But I don’t believe that evangelical faith ought to be a prerequisite for our vote. Instead, we ought be looking for a candidate who has proven his commitment to the issues that we care about most: life, marriage, and religious liberty. For me personally, the life issue is the most important of all. And it is precisely here—on the life issue—that Trump fails miserably. To wit:
1. Trump has recently said that he’s open to funding those parts of Planned Parenthood that do not involve abortion. But this is not a good argument. He’s a businessman, so I assume he understands that money is fungible. And that is why we cannot tolerate a single dime of federal money going to Planned Parenthood. But Trump has argued otherwise. His remarks led the The Daily Beast to declare that “Donald Trump is Planned Parenthood’s Favorite Republican.” His openness to support Planned Parenthood in any measure is not a pro-life position.
2. Trump claims to be pro-life, but the position he recently articulated on CNN follows pro-abortion logic. In his own words:
“I am pro-life and I am strongly about pro-life, but I also feel that you go with the exceptions… I’m for the exceptions and the health of the mother and the life of the mother and so is Ronald Reagan for the exceptions, by the way.”
Did you catch that? He said that he not only favors exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother but also for the “health” of the mother. Anyone who knows anything about the legal situation on abortion understands that the Supreme Court has interpreted “health” so broadly that it allows abortion for any reason at any stage of pregnancy. Does Trump realize that he not only just made the case for funding Planned Parenthood but also for the continuation of Roe v. Wade? This is unacceptable. I suppose it is possible that he didn’t realize what he was saying, but ignorance on abortion politics is equally unacceptable.
3. Trump has said that he thinks his sister—who is a federal judge—would make a great Supreme Court justice. And yet his sister is a pro-abortion extremist who once wrote a heated judicial decision in favor of giving constitutional protection to partial-birth abortion (source). How can a candidate be pro-life when he supports the appointment of judges like his sister—a defender of Roe v. Wade and of partial birth abortion?
As far as voting is concerned, evangelicals should be far less concerned about Trump’s claim to be a “great Christian” than they are about his claim to be pro-life. It wasn’t that long ago that he was openly pro-choice. But even now that he claims to be pro-life, we have more than enough reason to be skeptical. If the sanctity of human life is more than just a slogan to you, Trump is not your candidate. And no amount of confirmation pictures will change that.
UPDATE (1/16/16): In 1999, Donald Trump said this about his views:
Even though Trump claimed then to be very pro-choice and okay with partial birth abortion, now that he’s running for President he says he’s pro-life. What should we make of his recent “conversion” to the pro-life cause? Color me unconvinced. I share Scott Klusendorf’s skepticism:
Pro-life advocates shouldn’t immediately assume the worst when a candidate pivots and identifies as “pro-life.” Sometimes the change is indeed for the better. For example, G.H.W. Bush changed his view when Reagan made him VP. Later, as President, he vetoed pro-abortion bills sent by the Democrat Congress.
That said, when you are Donald Trump and your paper trail suggests a firm commitment to unrestricted abortion, you owe the public a minimal explanation for your change of mind. It might be as simple as, “Ya know, it finally dawned on me that it’s un-American to hurt people because they are small. I want this country to be great again and it won’t be as long as you can be killed because you’re in the way.” He might also add: “President Obama said ‘we need abortion because this is a nation where everyone has a right to pursue their own dreams.’ But he never told us if ‘everyone’ includes the unborn. He just assumed it did not. I was just as bad. For years, I was talking out both sides of my mouth. I called abortion appalling, but said people had a right to do it. I never asked why it was appalling. I finally did and that changed everything.”
So far, I am unaware of Trump doing anything of the sort. Until he does, his pro-life critics are not unreasonable to question his alleged pro-life convictions.
Denny, I know you believe most people aren’t buying this, but the real problem is….so many are. The low information voter (either party) and for the average American who thinks they are a Christian because of some infant baptism/conformation, but have no real fruit, they will buy this hook, line and sinker.
There are people that are eating right out of the trough with him and buy this tripe. But his comments I think tell that he thinks he has the Christian vote. When he said, “I’m a great Christian and I do well with evangelicals”, I think he was meaning recognition and polls exclusively.
Being Christian for many is simply another form of identity politics and so we have politicians simply try to check the boxes for all the issues that so-called Christians care about. What’s clear here is that many Christians, and even some Evangelicals, have no idea what being pro-life means or simply don’t agree with the elite definition of the term.
In any case, Donald Trump is a creation of the know-nothing movement that dates back to Sarah Palin. The GOP and the right-wing media created the environment in which he is flourishing.
Hi JAMES STANTON,
I found your comment to be a very thoughtful one.
I have wondered how it is that we who identify ourselves as ‘Christ-followers’ frame our identities often according to those things that are more of ‘tribe’ than ‘of Christ’. . . whether we understand why we do this, or how in doing this we have failed Him, I am sure our behavior is rooted more in our need for ‘belonging’ than our need for Christ . . . we seek the safety of ‘the group’ we find comfortable for ourselves, and not the trials of sojourning with the Body of Christ in a land that is not our final home . . .
we all seem to have different ideas of ‘who belongs’ and can be called ‘Christian’
but I do know one thing . . . most of us have been given the grace to recognize those who stand with those who are not able to do so on their own . . . and in this recognition, we can see in those people the strong reflection of Our Lord in their lives . . .
we know ‘Christ-like’ when we see it 🙂
. . . no words are needed
IF it is true that Mr. Trump “does well with the evangelicals,” I doubt it’s because of a perceived solidarity in Christian brotherhood. They are responding to other things, probably the man’s penchant for brash speech and willingness to give as good as he gets.
Carson has overtaken him in many places, but I feel the republican party status quo and their mainstream will not want to give him the nomination.
Are these reasons for Christians to support a candidate, “penchant for brash speech and willingness to give as good as he gets?” I’m not saying you are wrong, but surely those who support Trump for those reasons are wrong.
They’re certainly not good enough for *this* Christian. My point is that there may be many Trump supporters who bear the name of Christ and are not especially picky about Mr. Trump’s beliefs because they like his attitude above all else. Political and social conservatives have their low-information subset, too.
“Does Trump realize that he not only just made the case for funding Planned Parenthood but also for the continuation of Roe v. Wade?”
That would depend on how he defines “health” right? I mean, I can at least imagine a narrow definition that would not allow for the prevalence of abortion we see today.
I so agree that Donald Trump does not know the biblical/evangelical meaning of the word Christian. Fox News recently asked Rev. Robert Jeffress about evangelical support for Trump and Carson and his response was that those who think being a strong leader is most important support Trump and those who think being a Christian is most important support Ben Carson. I was horrified. Trump a strong leader? Carson, a Seventh Day Adventist, a biblical Christian? I generally support Carson for president because of his integrity, biblical worldview, and proven position on the issues, but not because I believe his faulty theology makes him a biblical Christian. I hope that he is born again but I have questions.
Dr. Ben Carson said something on Fox News a number of weeks ago that was truncated, misunderstood, and widely disseminated by some Christians claiming he did not believe life began at conception and was not prolife when in fact he has a long history of being prolife and of supporting prolife causes. There also has been a faulty claim of Dr. Carson using aborted fetal tissue in his medical work when the truth is simply that he sent patient tissue to the lab where fetal tissue was among their samples used for comparison. Dr. Carson recently clearly stated he would love to overturn Roe v. Wade, he does not support exceptions for rape and incest, and pregnancy truly threatening the health or life of the mother is very rare and he would be willing to discuss that as an exception in that rare case. Carson has also said that a mother’s right to choose abortion exactly parallels the slave owners “right” to do anything he chose with the slave he “owned.” Here he is asked does life begin at conception, who has the greater right, the baby or the mother, and more: tinyurl.com/qy8enfz
I agree with Denny’s statement, “we ought to be looking for a candidate who has proven his commitment to the issues that we care about most: life, marriage, and religious liberty. For me personally, the life issue is the most important of all. And it is precisely here—on the life issue—that Trump fails miserably… If the sanctity of human life is more than just a slogan to you, Trump is not your candidate. And no amount of confirmation pictures will change that.” I would add only that I find Trump, an arrogant man, to be deficient as a presidential candidate for a host of reasons.