A claim has been going around that one Donald J. Trump has converted to Christianity. A man I looked up to as a child, Dr. James Dobson, is asserting that prosperity theology preacher Paula White has led him to a born-again faith. While I try to pray frequently that Trump does indeed come to a point of conversion, turning from darkness to light, from selfishness to care of neighbor, from self to God, that this has occurred now seems (by virtue of the evidence) false. Did he pray a prayer with Paula White? Yeah, probably. Did he actually change? Well, look at the news reports and see for yourself.
Now, consider what Trump has always done in order to sell what he wants to sell: tell people what they want to hear. This from the Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada:
“I play to people’s fantasies,” Trump explains. “. . . It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.” Perception is reality, he writes, and achieving an “aura” (a recurring word in his writings) around his projects, his ideas and himself is essential.
The fantasy that Christians would like to believe is that a major Presidential candidate has actually committed his life to Christ and will not commit himself to protecting and empowering them. And making them relevant again! Why, he’s practically a Saul of Tarsus (minus the life change)!
That many Christian leaders have bought this charade, hook, line, and sinker is unbelievably dismaying and speaks poorly to their powers of discernment. “Do not believe every spirit,” John wrote, “but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1 NIV). Jesus tellingly observed:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.–Matthew 7:15-21 NIV
So, how would we be able to tell whether Trump is in fact now converted to faith in Jesus Christ? We might consult, for wisdom, the fruit of the Spirit and compare that fruit with the fruit of the flesh:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.–Galatians 5:19-23
Surely it is plainly obvious which fruit we are seeing here?
Where is our allegiance, Christians? To a political party (Republican, Democratic, or other) or to Jesus Christ? Whenever we begin to place our primary allegiance to a political party, we lose our prophetic voice. And when we trade our integrity for an elusive hope of continued relevance or protection or power, we have forsaken God’s kingdom.
We are told this election season that our choices are binary: Hillary or Trump.
The Bible tells us that our choices are indeed binary, but not between those two candidates. Rather, our choices are between two masters:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.“–Matthew 6:24 NIV
So, are we going to regain a prophetic voice, or are we going to bow the knee to another master? Which will it be, Christians?
Whatever we choose this election season, we must remember that those outside the Church are watching. We can damage the Gospel for decades if we give up integrity and bow the knee to Caesar. But if we choose Christ and his kingdom, and in some way retain our prophetic voice in culture, showing it by how we vote and what we honor and reject and who we protect (just self? the lowly? our neighbor?), we can begin the long road back to regain some of our moral credibility.
This election season, who are you serving? And what fruit do you see in the leaders you vote for?
P.S. Anybody who reads this as an endorsement for Hillary Clinton is not paying attention. I have a lot of ethical issues with her and am most likely not to vote for her, as my considerations currently stand. However, as this piece is being written to fellow evangelical Christians, I hardly think I need to argue a case against Hillary.
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