Trump has shown us he is depraved, prideful, unremorseful, and has the temperament of a petulant child. His enduring support from the Religious Right has laid bare the emptiness of their commitment to vote for Republicans out of a sense of morality.
Let’s make this clear from the outset: this is not an endorsement–religious or otherwise– of Hillary Clinton. I’m sure if Jesus were polled he would have many, many issues with Clinton.
This is, rather, an indictment of those leaders of the Religious Right who cling so dearly to the financial and political benefit of aligning themselves with the Republican Party that they are unwilling to part ways with the perversion of conservatism and religious morality that is Donald Trump.
The Long Road to Perdition for the Religious Right
For more than 40 years, conservative religious leaders have preached to their congregants and parishioners that it was their Christian duty to place opposition to LGBTQ rights and abortions above all other political concerns in pursuit of legislation that placed Biblical definitions of sexual morality at the center of America culture. This made the GOP and “Christian values” all but synonymous, and it was a foregone conclusion that if you were a serious Christian, you would vote with the Republican Party.
Just before his death in 2007, influential conservative pastor, D. James Kennedy wrote his final book entitled How Would Jesus Vote. In the book, Kennedy attempted to outline what political issues would and would not be preeminent for Jesus and, therefore, should be preeminent for Christians. Topping the list of political priorities for Christians included the only issues of Biblical morality that comfortably fit into Republican orthodoxy while either ignoring or undermining moral issues that conflicted with the GOP:
[Dr. Kennedy] asserted that God was pro-capitalism, pro-national security, and pro-defense. He went as far as to say that it was not the role of the federal government to assist the poor because it was the responsibility of churches and private charity.*
All that mattered for the last 40 years of the Religious Right’s political involvement has been leveraging the force of law to impose Biblical definitions of sexual morality on the nation.
But with Donald Trump’s rise–a man whose character is everything Sunday School teachers fear their worst behaved student will become–the true commitments of the Religious Right have become painfully transparent. They aren’t aligned with the GOP to accomplish anything on Christian values. They are aligned with the GOP because it benefits them personally to be so aligned.
Trump Isn’t Fooling All Evangelicals
Even before audio surfaced of Donald Trump casually joking about infidelity and sexual assault, it was painfully clear that Trump’s character was antithetical to the everything taught to Christians.
Trump’s character proved to be too much for young evangelicals who already questioned their connection with the Republican Party. Of younger evangelicals, Jon Ward of Yahoo! Politics reported:
…They view his character as repugnant and his temperament as dangerous. And while many of them do not like Clinton, they are not as alarmed by their policy disagreements with her as they are by the idea that the church would align itself with someone like Trump.
By embracing Donald Trump– a man who not only indulges in sexual impropriety but refused even to offer the appearance of contrition or remorse–the Republican Party has signaled that they have zero concern for the very same principles they seek to force down the throats of Americans.
Take away the pretense of “sexual morality,” and you must ask yourself, “What does the GOP have to offer Christians?” War? Profiteering? Inequality? Xenophobia? Climate Denial?
The list of Biblical principles Christians must ignore to vote with the Republican Party is extensive. And for religious leaders to now casually dismiss the very issues they used to convince their followers to vote with the GOP adds significant insult to injury.
And so what remains? All that remains for Christians supporting the Republican Party is the fear of higher taxes on the top 0.1% of Americans– the fear of a “godless progressive agenda” which, in the case of Hillary Clinton, includes all the hallmarks of Republican capitalism with only slight moderation of the excesses.
All that remains is the allure of a “law and order” president who rejects the very idea that Black lives are vulnerable to the implicit biases of the police. All the remains are the fear, xenophobia, Islamophobia and sexism that Donald Trump’s campaign has come to embody.
Without the appearance of sexual morality, the Republican Party has nothing to offer evangelicals that remotely aligns with Christ– unless, of course, they assign magnitudes to sin where they believe gay marriage and abortion are more sinful than sexual assault and depravity. This practice is as unbiblical as “Two Corinthians.” Yet, this is the only way Christians can justify embracing a man who shows no remorse for any of his actions while voting for him in the name of “Christian values.”
Nevertheless, Trump still has the blessing of leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, James Robinson and a “Who’s Who” of aging evangelical leaders clinging to the glory days of the Moral Majority along with a burgeoning new set of young and ambitious voices vying to replace them.
But God Can Forgive Donald, Right?
Faith teaches us that we can all be forgiven. But it is disturbing to see the swiftness with which the Religious Right demands absolution for someone with whom they politically agree while relegating all others to the category of godlessness. How convenient.
What’s even more disturbing is the quickness with which they are willing to minimize the seriousness of sexual assault.
They’ve insisted that we simply move along and offer forgiveness for Trump’s behavior because God would. But the first step to forgiveness is contrition — and Trump has shown none. Sure God can forgive Trump. But most of these believers would never elect Trump to be the pastor of their church, yet they want to elect him to be the President of the United States.
The Absence of Leadership
In the void of left by religious leaders abdicating their responsibility to sound doctrine by supporting Trump despite all he has shown us, conservative supporters and pundits have filled the space by comparing Donald Trump to flawed people in the Bible whom God used including Moses, Rahab, and King David.
Donald Trump is not Moses. Moses fell short while trying to pursue God. Donald didn’t begin pursuing God until he needed the Evangelical vote.
Donald Trump is not Rahab– the “harlot” that God used to deliver the Hebrew spies from Jericho. Rahab listened to counsel. Donald Trump advises himself.
Donald Trump is not David. David was a “man after God’s heart.” Trump has shown us that he doesn’t pursue God, but rather he pursues personal gratification.
Donald Trump has shown us that he is the rich ruler who could not bring himself to sell all his possessions to follow Christ.
Trump has shown us that he is the rich man for whom it is easier to pass through the eye of a needle than to enter the Kingdom of God.
In any other situation, religious leaders would say that Trump has been given over to a reprobate mind.
He is a man who thinks he can win “the Evangelicals” the same way he can win “the Blacks” — by pandering with empty platitudes. Sadly, his pandering to the religious community is as feckless and devoid of substance as his policy positions.
How Would Jesus Vote?
This is an absurd question for many reasons. Nevertheless, when asked by Joshua if He was for the Children of Israel or their adversaries, Christ declared “Neither.” God is neither for Republicans or Democrats, and it is preposterous to assert either.
And as absurd as the question of God’s political allegiance is, it is one that conservative religious leaders have scurried to answer in favor of the Republican Party for over 40 years.
Becasue conservatives have tried to convince believers that the GOP is the party of Christian values, their support of Donald Trump has exposed how fraudulent the “moral majority” has always been.
Any religious leader telling you that Donald Trump is the way you should vote because of your faith either never had faith to begin with or is setting that faith aside to manipulate your sincere love of God to secure their profitable positions in the Republican Party.
I would never try to tell you for whom Christ would affirmatively vote. But I’m confident that there’s no way in hell he’d vote for Donald Trump. And if faith is your preeminent concern, neither should you.
Featured image a composite of two images authorized for use with modification: Image 1 and Image 2 by Gage Skidmore.
*excerpt from Benjamin Dixon’s book, God is Not a Republican