A modicum of sanity on President Trump, please

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:

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Only Nixon could go to China. Only Trump can go to Kabul?

I am somewhere in the neighborhood of J.D. Hall’s (Pulpit and Pen) perspective on Trump.

He is probably not a Christian. Charitable assumption goes only so far, and Trump has never indicated that he’s repented for anything. Plus his primary spiritual adviser seems to be Paula White. However he has governed in a way that is more pro-Christian than most of his predecessors. His relentless attacks on the infanticide industry are admirable and should leave any previous President who claimed Christianity, ashamed.

In my mind, his greatest sin for those Christians who loathe him is that he is an unapologetic, visionary alpha-male. Beta-male Christians (who seem to disproportionately occupy the Internet) hate confidence and assurance. They want wobbling suggestions, not proclamations. They hate clear statements that force them to take a position. They want platitudes that leave everyone thinking they’ve been agreed-with, but only vaguely. They worry about “tone” and “demeanor” over substance and action. They hate the fact that there is, in fact, a difference between legal and illegal immigration, and that one should be encouraged and the other should be punished. They hate the win-win world that Trump believes in, and instead see the world as a zero-sum construct where all inequity is the result of some sort of oppression. They hate the idea that there are successful, rich people who have things, and poor people who do not, and they think that disparity grants them license to help themselves to other peoples’ property. Trump is the vinegar that proves just how deeply left-wing baking soda has infiltrated our entire culture, including the Church.

There is stuff I don’t like about him; I think his diplomacy is wanting. For better or worse, we share the planet with other nations with whom we have to get along. Knowing something of European culture, I think his public bashing of NATO was extremely unhelpful. He is very weak on Russia (which puts him in the same bin as every President since Reagan).

But in the main, I like the guy. As a federal official, he is my boss and I’m reveling in it. He opposes all the right people. He is in a sense, hated by all the right people, if I can put it that way. I’m not throwing a celebration over it, but I am glad enough to cast my vote for him in 2020 (again).

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That’s not a fair critique. “Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them. For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.” (Prov. 24:1-2).

When it comes to politics, the one thing I am absolutely accountable for is my vote (to God and then to my wife and children). A “man of action” is worthless to me if I am bound also to defend his character in this case. I am as opposed to voting for a pro-abortion candidate as I am to voting for a genital-grabbing serial womanizer and pagan. If your conscience can swallow that, then more power to you - but I’ll take my vote, throw it down a well on a third party candidate, and go home.

I am pleased with a number of things Trump has done - though whether the good outweighs the bad is not something I have tried to calculate - but just because God “meant unto good” what Joseph’s brothers “thought evil against [him],” doesn’t mean his brothers were excused for their evildoing. That the Spirit of the Lord rested with King Saul for any length of time does not mean Israel did not sin in demanding a king.

I think Rod Dreher is probably right - that President Trump represents a respite from a coming tide of darkness in the US political landscape, barring sincere and widespread repentance, and that the bargain we, the evangelical church, have made in electing him as our president is a debt our children’s children will be paying (read: suffering).

SUMMARY OF MY RESPONSE: President Trump has done good and praiseworthy things, but I do not know how I would clear my conscience of voting for him.

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Eh, we disagree. I think it’s a perfectly fair critique and won’t withdraw it. You are welcome to vote for who you like, or not vote at all; that’s the beauty of our participatory Republic.

This may not transmit across the Internet with the genuine warmth I mean it to have, but I respect your conscience. If for you, this is a conscience issue, it is not safe to transgress that and I would not encourage you to. So my response here is not to convince you to vote for Trump. I only hope to demonstrate that there is another, valid way of examining this question. If we can agree on that, we can respectfully disagree elsewhere, for the Lord knows that this issue has divided honest Christians.

I hire people and sit on interview boards. Each individual has a past (though, typically the media apparatus and domestic law enforcement agencies are not cooperating to broadcast all of the sordid details of each person’s past). They are, broadly, not Christians. I disagree strongly with the lifestyle choices some of them make. But they come into work, they do an excellent job at their assigned mission, and they get a paycheck and a solid reference from me.

Under the U.S. system of government, I am hiring President Trump to do a job. The jobs I would like to see completed include simplification of the tax code, the ending of the EPA, the frustration and hopefully, dismantlement of the Department of Education, a wall on our southern border, reduction of illegal immigration, expansion of religious freedom, and political warfare to the highest degree prosecuted against infanticide. In that sense I am not hiring a pastor to minister to me. I am not hiring a king, nor is President Trump in any way whatever analogous to civil, Old Testament Israel’s king. The reason my conscience does not need to “swallow” a vote for Trump is because he is, by the explicit design of our Founders, an employee; one who works on the behalf of the people to execute a specific, limited agenda within the framework of extensive checks and balances.

For darkness, I am afraid we are already there my friend. God’s moral absolutes have already been tossed away. Sodomy is celebrated in the streets openly. Infants are torn limb from limb from their mothers’ wombs and around 50% of women defend this. Now we are seeing the emergence of “MAPs” (so called Minor Attracted Persons) who are attempting to soften society’s stance against pedophilia. The culture at-large has been given over to a reprobate mind. That in itself is not a precursor to judgment but it is a judgment. And, this is the culture we are called to live in but not of.

From this culture, I review resumes, of which a Presidential candidate is but one.

God bless you,

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@krk88, the Lord also raised up Samson (Judges 13:5). With your line of reasoning I wonder if you would say that Judah was right to turn against Samson in Judges 15:11-13, if only because of Samson’s moral failings—but in verse 14 of that passage the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Samson and gives him strength for the need of the moment. It seems clear to me that when Judah turned against Samson they were not on the Lord’s side.

Love,

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Don’t mistake the sidelines for the moral high ground. It’s easy to keep your hands clean if you do nothing. But darker times than this are on their way, and the leaders we will get in those times are likely to be much more unsavory than Mr. Trump. Let’s get used to the idea.

Who, after all, would vote for Cyrus, a literal pagan? Or US Grant, an inveterate drunkard and failure? Or Patton, a New Ager before there was a New Age?

The people determined to bring about the suffering of us and our children hated us long before Trump came down the escalator. I have been reading about Trump in my newspaper since the 1980s. He had a major hit TV show for over a decade. Which of those bien pensants ever spoke against him then? Had they not heard of his golden toilets then? Or his many wives? Or his lies and exaggerations? None of them gave a fig about Trump until he decided to champion the common everyday American. It’s those people whom the bien pensants hate, and Trump is merely an avatar for them (us).

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I’m willing to grant that you, @danielmeyer, and @FaithAlone may be correct. I will take time later today to more directly consider your responses and am open to having my mind changed on this matter. I will either respond in summary or several to each of you. It is not, nor will it ever be, my desire to ride out the culture war from my couch.

I appreciate each of your considered and brotherly responses.

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Brothers, said it before, but my vote for President Trump did not appear at the time categorically different in moral considerations than most every vote I’ve ever made across my lifetime. Nor do I think his actions are morally condemnable to a degree that is on a different plane than his predecessors, a number of whom I voted for. In my judgment, if the Christian wants to keep his hands entirely clean, voting itself is the question—not for whom he votes. I will grant that President Trump is likely worse than President Bush 2nd in terms of personal morality, but his leadership and policies have been much better than Bush 2nd… Then there’s Kings Saul and David and Solomon and Hezekiah and Judge Samson…

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I think much of the difference here is in the view of what the act of voting actually is on a moral level.

One perspective is that a vote is a moral endorsement of a candidate and the voter bears moral culpability (at some level) for all the actions of that candidate, if elected.

Another perspective is that a vote is more of a pragmatic matter than a moral endorsement, so the voter has a responsibility to use their vote to minimize the damage of a bad candidate, if possible.

There are more and less extreme versions of these positions and a gradation between as well as entire genres of books worth of nuances. But I think even these simplistic descriptions give us a sense of what the disagreement is really about.

Personally, I fall into the first camp. I didn’t vote for Trump because I view my vote as an endorsement not only of his policies, but his character. Perfection is not the standard, obviously, but the serial adultery and covenant-breaking was too far for me. I feel as though a vote for him would make me culpable for his actions in a way that I’d like to avoid, if possible. Maybe I’m completely wrong about this, but my conscience just wouldn’t let me go there. (I never have voted for a main-ticket candidate, by the way). But I don’t begrudge my Christian brothers who voted for him. And I don’t think the difference between us is anything other than a matter of Christian liberty.

And since Trump has been duly elected, I recognize him as my president. Lately I’ve also been trying to be more fervent in praying for him.

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Dear Zak, I can accept this as long as you never vote for anyone. But as I see it, this calls into question the entire legitimacy of Christians involvement in any democratic process since you would have been duty-bound to vote against Samson, David, Solomon. As a longtime pastor, I would disagree with you not because we have a different understanding of the Christian’s duty in a democracy, but a different view of the moral character of even hte best of leaders. Or a different understanding of sin. Or a different understanding of the Law. In other words, a quite-different perception of the moral qualifications and disqualifications of every candidate you wrote in. This does not mean I think President Trump or King David’s sins don’t matter, but that they need to be viewed in the context of how deep and wide depravity extends into the life of every worlding (the former) AND every believer (the latter). Love,

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For a moment there, I thought you were talking about many of the pastors who occupy the pulpits of modern Christianity. :slight_smile:

I honestly think this has less to do with the character of the candidate and more to do what the desires or expectations we (the people) demand that they fulfill. Are those demands fleshly or are they in sync with God’s created order.

We all have different reasons for voting for one guy or another. I’m not ashamed that I didn’t vote for Trump for the 1st go around. I won’t be ashamed when I do this second go around.

I don’t think your decision to vote for Trump was immoral, unless you honestly wanted his sinful baggage more than his potential benefits. This is one reason I think we can almost never vote for a Democratic candidate, because I can’t even conceived of a good desire for abortion, legalized thievery, and anointed perversion. No person can vote for a Democrat and claim they are staunchly pro-life, or pro-family, pro-traditional values, and or Christian. The official party platform is completely antithetical to those values.

So we conservative Republicans often times get stuck with imposters on the right, but the proof is when they pull their punches, which Trump doesn’t seem to do. So is he perfect, no! Is he repentant, no! Is he an imposter? All evidence is to the contrary, though he did have that grave slip up on LGBT stuff, it seems like a minority report. But it’s not the reason most people voted for him. So I’m willing to give him the job.

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One thing I’ve been hearing from pulpits lately is this sort of middling, mushy addressing of politics as if being in one of these two camps is a neutral thing.

The way I’ve heard it said by otherwise conservative pastors is something like this - “we should be salt and light in our culture, whichever side of the aisle we fall on” or “we should be like Christ in the way we hold our political convictions, whatever they happen to be” or even more euphemistically: “whether you watch Fox or CNN…” - and so on.

I think the GOP is deeply corrupt in many ways, but there’s no moral equivalence between the two parties anymore. Maybe in the 1950’s there was some agreement on fundamentals and differences in tactics. But today the Democratic party is the party of infanticide, sexual perversion and socialism. These three satanic elements are front and center in every Democratic party function.

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Perhaps I was unclear, but I think we very much agree.

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I did not vote for Trump in 2016, but I am planning on voting for him in 2020. I have walked in the Fourth of July Parade the last two years in my MAGA hat, in a liberal college town. In fact, I was the only one in the GOP parade entry with a MAGA hat. I say this to provide context for what I will say below.

What has been disappointing is an “all or nothing” mentality surrounding Trump. Pastor Bayly addressed the “never Trump” mentality, and the “always Trump” mentality is just as bad. We need nuance and perspective on the “never Trump” side, and the “always Trump” side needs it too. I do not care if secular Republicans adopt this mentality, but Christians must reject it.

Trump has removed funding for Planned Parenthood, protected religious liberty, and reversed Obama’s anti-Constitutional attack on due process for men accused of sexual misconduct. (See https://politi.co/2kolI59) While he has brought in bad people to work in his administration, he has also surrounded himself with good people, starting with Mike Pence.

It is one thing to say that given the political landscape, it is good to vote for Trump. Like I said before, I am going to vote for Trump in 2020. While some have derided this as making politics transactional, the fact is that all politics are transactional, even if that transaction is “I will vote for you because I trust you to leave me alone.”

It is another thing entirely to say that Trump’s life of immorality does not matter at all, that his pride does not matter, and that his bad behavior either does not matter or it is good. This is a betrayal of the Gospel. There are sexual assault survivors who have had their faith shaken by Christians who dismissed the Access Hollywood tape. Other Christians are frustrated by the silence of prominent Christians when Trump takes God’s name in vain.

To be 100% perfectly clear: I am not accusing anyone on this forum of having that mentality. I have seen no evidence that anyone in Sanityville has this mentality. But I have repeatedly seen this cult mentality across wider Christendom over the last four years. My point is not to call out a specific person, but a generic sin.

So what is the path forward? The right choice requires hard work, critical thinking, and a sincere commitment to Scripture and one’s principles. Support Trump when he is right (and he is right a lot of the time) and oppose him when he is wrong. Make it clear that while you will be voting for him, you absolutely condemn his life of immorality, his pride, his language and so forth.

We must not fall into a tribal mentality where it is “my guy, right or wrong.” That is idolatry.

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I can accept this as long as you never vote for anyone

I do not think that is fair. Obviously, everyone sins. We all deserve eternal damnation in Hell Fire. But we all draw the line somewhere. For some in 2016 and 2020, Trump is on the other side of that line.

Every vote ever cast is a compromise. Every single one. The question is where you draw the line, and that choice should be respected if made with sincerity.

And like I said below, I am voting for Trump in 2020. I respect the people who cannot make the same choice in good conscience.

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Dear Scott,

it was the above statement I was responding to—that a vote is a moral endorsment of a candidate—that elicited my comment Zak should/would/could never vote for anyone. A bit tongue-in-cheek, perhaps, but really, whom? Certainly not Reagan. Not Bush Sr. and hardly Bush Jr. Maybe Jimmy Carter if all we’re talking about is sexuality and marriage? So yes, I think it’s fair. To say there are some candidates one would never vote for because of their wickedness is not to agree that a vote is a moral endorsement of a candidate. My view would be, if so, only in the most extreme negative circumstances. Love,

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I am late to comment, but I absolutely loved what you said. In particular the last part that the evils we are seeing in the USA and western countries are judgements. They are clear evidence, at least to me, that God is withdrawing His restraining hand and giving mankind free reign to act on his free will. There you go, Arminians, you get your free will. People aren’t using their free will to ‘choose Jesus’ but they are using it to kill everyone they can. But what a wonderful time for us believers, we can now bravely stand in the gap, proclaim Christ, and likely do a bit of suffering for His name. It’s a bit scary, but the Lord said it would be hard.
I did and will vote for Trump for the policies he supports. I did and do pray that the Lord would graciously give him and his family salvation in Jesus Christ, while protecting him as he carries out his duties to the American people.

I do agree with you, Tim, that the statement you responded to is overly broad. No matter who you vote for, you are voting for a morally flawed person. I don’t think any of us truly understands Total Depravity, except for brief moments when we are repenting of something.

But I don’t think that Zak meant it in that broad of a manner - that we cannot vote for a sinner. We all compromise when voting, as I said, so the question is where you draw the line. For some people, Trump is on the other side of that line. I respect that. We have Christian liberty in how we vote.

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