By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them

By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them July 1, 2017

Whatever one may think of the fruits of Barack Obama as a liberal Christian, the point here is that Republicans seem unwilling to judge these two candidates according to their fruits when it comes to how they characterize their religious affiliation. If nothing else, it seems that conservative religious people are applying Jesus’ saying about knowing people by their fruits in a very selective way. Either that, or they simply have a distorted view of what the fruits of each are. The fact that conservative Evangelicals in general have criticized neither president for their role in military actions overseas ought to be more telling than anything that is listed on the meme. But violence – in movies and in real life – is one of the big blind spots in American culture, and despite the tendency of conservative Evangelicals to present themselves as countercultural, as going against the flow in following Jesus, those who view them from a standpoint outside of American culture – and sometimes even those who had the privilege of living outside of the United States for a significant amount of time – can see clearly that that is simply not the case in any meaningful sense.

On this topic, see also Justin Tse’s exploration of what Evangelical support of Trump tells us about Evangelicalism. He emphasizes that Evangelicals think that Trump should be cut some slack as a recently-converted Christian, as well as viewing the experience of believing and receiving forgiveness as more important than personal integrity. This may be correct – but there is still a difference between how those principles are applied to Trump vs. how they are applied to Obama, or to Hilary Clinton for that matter.

And so, however one approaches it, Republican conservative Christians prioritize an individual’s political affiliation more than their personal faith and their overall ethics and lifestyle.

The saying “by their fruits you shall know them” should be applied to this conservative Evangelical hypocrisy at least as much as to the politicians in the meme.

Of related interest, see Morgan Guyton’s recent post about Jesus’s saying.


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  • Phil Ledgerwood

    Even though there are a jillion things that evangelicals could and should have latched on to regarding the disparity between Donald Trump and a follower of Jesus, I thought the thing that might actually do it would be his blatant statements that he’s never asked God for forgiveness because he doesn’t need to do that.

    Yes, I wish the racism, the views of women, the love of money, the overwhelming ego, and a host of other things would have done it, but I thought at least this fundamental rejection of what evangelicalism considers a core tenet of conversion would have done it. I mean, no matter how bad you are, at the very least, they’re looking for someone who has admitted they are a sinner and asked God to forgive them, right?

    But no, despite public statements directly contradicting that he has ever done this or ever needed to do it, evangelical gatekeepers bent over backwards trying to wrangle out some way in which Donald Trump might be a Christian, which to me tells the real story, here.

    • jh

      Christianity (white christianity) is just a political identifier just like the color of the skin.

      Look – I don’t think that JC was that extraordinary. I think Christianity is a bunch of bullshit just like any other religion with a new “skin”. His supposed teachings are the kind that various other people throughout history had already espoused. If anything – Christianity was a johnny come lately with regards to the golden rule. The point is this – we should stop pretending that Christianity is good or implying that Christians are “love your neighbor” sorts of people. Like any other human invention, it is a mixed bag.

      Sorry for the mini rant. I really hate it when people act as if Christianity = good. I truly believe that Franklin Graham is a Christian while he endorses the orange cheeto in the white house. I truly believe that MLK Jr. was a Christian and that his faith led him to his actions. I truly believe that Hitler was a Christian and that he truly believed he was doing his God’s will when he ordered the Jews’ deaths. I truly believe that former President Obama was a Christian as was former FLOTUS and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Being Christian just means they participate in one social activity that is no different from LARPing. (Actually four difference. People don’t get tax write offs for LARPing, people can make fun of LARPers without social/political retaliation, LARPing is more fun, and they don’t believe that what they do is actually real.)

      • I truly believe you don’t know what you are talking about.

      • Phil Ledgerwood

        Ok? Thanks?

        • John MacDonald

          jh said: “I truly believe that Hitler was a Christian and that he truly believed he was doing his God’s will when he ordered the Jews’ deaths.”

          That really wasn’t appropriate, but I think part of his point was that it scares the crap out of secular people when religious people suspend using their own moral compass and act according to their “prooftexting” of some sacred text.

          Also, it is a common argument among secular thinkers that prosocial behavior was a common feature of the thought of the ancient world, and so was not unique to Christianity. See, for instance,

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            Ok, but what does any of that have to do with what I said?

            Also, I don’t consider Carrier to be an authority on the ancient world. Or on anything, really. But I agree that prosocial behavior is found in all kinds of system of thought in the ancient world. Once again, I don’t see the relevance to my comment.

          • JenniferB

            If I can take a stab at what jh meant by: “I truly believe that Hitler was a Christian and that he truly believed he was doing his God’s will when he ordered the Jews’ deaths.”

            I think that what he meant was that no one has a right to consider themselves to be a gatekeeper for Christ. The single litmus test that we should have in determining whether someone is a Christian or not is whether they say they are (“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Rom 10:9) Now, with that said, there is a whole other discussion that could be had regarding how “good” of a Christian Hitler was!

            Of course, I am reading this through my own filters and perhaps jh didn’t mean that at all 🙂

          • Tony Prost

            “That really wasn’t appropriate,”
            What the hell do you mean by that weasel word “appropriate”?

          • John MacDonald

            Suppose we weren’t talking about Hitler. Suppose we were talking about some random criminal, like a child molester. Would there be any reason to bring up this individual’s religious affiliation?

          • Tony Prost

            because the thrust of the article was about the incongruity between the theory of the religion, and the practice of the adherents. Absolutely appropriate.

    • JenniferB

      I thought that would be a deal breaker, too. Franklin Graham helped “lead him to the Lord,” remember? A gullible group, they are. (The comment section here is particularly illuminating regarding the mind of the evangelical voter.)

      • Nick G

        Dishonest rather than gullible, I think: they know very well Trump is no sort of Christian and they don’t care. He shares their bigotries – or at least, gives a convincing impression of doing so – and that’s what really matters to them.

  • John MacDonald


    I’m not sure how this has anything to do with one’s moral character, or lack thereof. I know many people that have children with multiple partners.

    Anyway, happy 150th birthday Canada! #ProudCanadian

    • Laurie Ann Giampietro

      Number of times Jesus Christ directly mentioned homosexuality or abortion=0, number of times Jesus Christ directly mentions divorce=8

      • John MacDonald

        So you think it is immoral to fall out of love?

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          What did Jesus say about divorce?

          • John MacDonald

            As Daniel J. Harrington argues, by the criteria of dissimilarity and multiple attestation, the prohibition of divorce belongs to the corpus of Jesus’ authentic sayings. The prohibition of divorce went against Jewish practice and even against the permission of the Scriptures (Deut. 24:1-4), and it appears in Mark (10:2-12), Q (Luke 16:18 and Matt. 5:31-32), and 1 Corinthians (7:10-11). Of course, one must take account of the exceptions introduced by Matthew (see Matt. 5:32 and 19:9) and Paul (see 1 Cor. 7:12-16). One must also ask how Jesus intended this teaching to be taken—-whether as an ideal, a legal principle, a protection for women, a temporary measure (in the face of the coming kingdom of God), or whatever else. Nevertheless, it seems fair to say that Jesus taught “no divorce.”

    • Gary

      I think (hope) there was no implied connection with divorce and moral character. I think they are comparing Republicans (should have said some – not implying all) thinking Obama was Muslim (beer, bacon, pro gay). And thinking Trump is Christian (divorced, etc). Pretty much irrrlevant BS.

      • John MacDonald

        I find the meme somewhat offensive, suggesting there is something bad about: “HAS FIVE CHILDREN WITH THREE WIVES.”

        • Gary

          Perhaps Trump is secretly Muslim 🙂
          If he was Muslim, with three wives at the same time, then the Democrats would praise him – NOT!
          At some point, we have to sit back and laugh at all this stuff, from both Democrats and Republicans. Better to watch the Tour de France. At least there’s only one winner in that race. Even if the winner is on Steroids.

          • John MacDonald

            It’s truly bizarre to associate deficiency of character with “HAS FIVE CHILDREN WITH THREE WIVES.” I would hate to see what the author of the meme would have to say about the atrocious crime of having children outside of marriage. :S

        • Gary

          Just out of curiousity, checked stats on currently divorced congress members (doesn’t include married, previously divorced – can’t find that.)
          Out of 28, 7 are Republican, 21 are Democrats.
          I wouldn’t be too “preachy”, if I was a Democrat!

          • Tony Prost

            Democrats don’t care if everybody is not a “Christian”.

    • Gary

      Much like Tse’s implied comparison of Ted Bundy’s conversion/forgiveness to Trump. Show’s he is pretty much an idiot.

  • Gary

    1. Most Christians, I assume, don’t necessarily want a president that is a “good” Christian, showing Christian “fruits”. They want a tough leader, that can both lead, and delegate. FDR led the country throughout almost the entire WW2 (with the exception of Truman dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki). FDR placed Japanese Americans in internment camps. Not exactly a “fruit”, but tough decisions made under dire circumstances. Truman, as I remember, was Christian. He was partially responsible for supporting the establishment of Israel. Truman didn’t drop Christian fruit on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Trump selecting a Supreme Court justice, delegating much of the current wars to the Sec of Defense, and toughened immigration requirements for potential threat countries. Maybe not the best decisions, but clearly a change from “see no evil, hear no evil, do nothing”, from previous administrations.

    2. Christian Fruits’ focus is on the NT. The obvious emphasis in Conservative Christian minds tends to be more OT. Think of Trump as Josiah. Bringing back Deuteronomy laws (not by Trump, but by conservative Supreme Court justices). And the King (Josiah) riding off to Israel’s border, to prevent Egyptian militants from crossing the border. You may not like this version of being Christian, but it is “biblically” realistic in a threat environment. Try going to Syria, carrying a bible, and see how long you will survive saying the Lord’s Prayer out loud. Or go to Iran, and campaign for gay rights down a Tehran street, and see how long you remain out of jail. Christian “fruits” are irrelevant as leader of the free world.

  • HpO

    You should’ve published this writing sooner, and 3 times in a row at that, brother James F. McGrath, at the start of the presidential election cycle 2008, then 2012, then 2016. Your timely reminder to “Republican conservative Christians” of that passage in Matthew 7:15-16 would’ve been such a useful political tool of assessment for them, really. Because, right off the bat, you would’ve been cautioning them especially about Democrat nominee Barack Obama and Republican nominee Donald Trump that – who knows, right? – they might just be “FALSE PROPHETS, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits”! Then again, I can see where you’re coming from with the suggestion that both Obama and Trump may be “FALSE PROPHETS”, seeing as, irregardless, “Republicans seem unwilling to judge these two candidates according to their fruits”. I’m tempted to agree with you, then, that “the saying ‘by their fruits you shall know them’ should be applied to this conservative Evangelical hypocrisy at least as much as to the politicians in the meme.” Because all 3 – not just Obama and Trump, but these “Republican conservative Christians” themselves – are, according to Christ Jesus’ standard political profile on state-entities, “FALSE PROPHETS, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” It’s too late now, though. These “ravenous wolves” in “sheep’s clothing” have already taken over the White House and Capitol Hill.

  • kaydenpat

    Trump’s behavior is anti-Christian. His twitter account isn’t something that you would expect of someone who is Christ-like and believes in turning the other cheek and behaving in a humble manner. His ego is out of control and he has no filter.

    Evangelical support for Trump negates their claim that they are the “Moral Majority”. They have nothing to say to me about moral matters since they’ve openly supported a man who boasted about sexually assaulting women and encouraged violence during political rallies.

    They can go sit down somewhere with all their moral babble which boils down to being anti-LGBT, pro-gun, anti-immigrant and for forced births.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    I heard something the other day about how Trump was visited by some Presbyterian leaders. He was like, “What kind of Christians are you?” They tried to tell him they were Presbyterians. He says, so, like fundamentalists? No, they said, Presbyterians. He couldn’t get it.

    The irony, of course, is that he claims to be Presbyterian. He doesn’t even know what it is.

    And that, my friends, is the darling of the evangelical voters.

  • “Hates immigrants”? He stabbed his base in the back by keeping DACA.

    Trump does go to church on rare occasions.

  • Miguel Cruz

    In politics I think that there is always as one might call
    it hate speech where opponents try to find information that will be against the
    opposition. This was clearly seen in the last election. Any information that
    was at a disadvantage to a party was thrown out there to cause the other to
    lose the race. Clearly in this blog that not the case but we can see how “hate
    speech” as we might call it has a role here to create the other party to be
    perceived as deviant. Event the title headings suggest that there is an attack
    in character. Ethics will always be at a benefit when attacking someday as it
    is a reminder of permissible actions. Memes I think that sometimes provides
    hate speech which can be unethical as mentioned by Johannesen on page 233 hate
    speech by its very nature is unethical; is unethical in and of himself, it never
    is ethically justifiable. As it it’s also mentioned by Kale’s Human Nature
    Ethic, “the guiding principle of any universal code of intercultural
    communication should be to protect the worth and dignity of the human spirit”(Johanneses,
    227). Sadly this is not often seen in politics.

    R. L., Valde, K. S., & Whedbee, K. E. (2008). Ethics In Human
    Communication (Sixth ed.).