A Perfect President and His Christian Supporters

A Perfect President and His Christian Supporters February 7, 2020

Today I feature a guest post from my friend Sam Friedberg. He wrote a response and commentary on the following email which was sent out by the president to supporters, and which has fortunately found its way to others:

Sam Friedberg writes,

“I’ve been a PERFECT PRESIDENT”

I’d like some input from those who are more mature in their discipleship than I am please.

I fully understand that the majority of practicing Christians support Donald Trump, and I understand the reasons for liking him.

I’m having a hard time reconciling this letter – specifically the part with “I’ve been a PERFECT PRESIDENT” – with anything a Christian could approve of. Besides the obvious lack of humility (a vice/sin in itself), he places himself on a plane of *perfection* that should be occupied by no one other than Jesus.

I also get that we’re all sinners in need of grace and forgiveness. That’s the defense usually offered against accusations of “how can you support a thrice-married serial adulterer who bangs porn stars while his pregnant wife is at home?” That defense puts those sins in the past, and forgives them — and I can accept that.

But this letter is CURRENT. It’s soliciting campaign contributions *in the process* of blasphemy.

It’s comparable to a Christian baker not wanting to design a cake for a gay wedding (which, by the way, I don’t think they should be forced to do), because it involves participating in *current* behavior that’s against their values.

This letter looks un-Christian to me, in a bad way.

And I’d appreciate help in seeing another angle.

How would you respond to my friend, who is trying to make sense of what he sees happening in the political arena and in the church? For myself, my instinct is to push back and try to say that the majority of conservative Evangelicals, rather than the majority of practicing Christians, is where the problem lies. But if I did so, I’d be wrong. The Pew Research Center has released numerous studies which show that mainline Protestants have also supported Trump, even if not to the same extent.

Sam’s question is all the more pressing now that the effort to impeach Trump has failed, and some who voted along party lines to leave him in office said they hope he’s learned his lesson from this. The email Sam shared suggests that Trump has clearly learned nothing other than that he can get away with things and claim to be perfect in the process. The lack of humility and claim to perfection are at odds with Christian teaching in general, but probably most of all with the conservative Evangelical understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Isn’t gloating inherently at odds with throwing oneself entirely on the mercy and grace of God, for instance?

But enough from me. If you’re a Christian of any sort, how would you respond to what Sam wrote? I think he raises important issues, and I think his questions deserve a response. I hope he’ll hear from lots of readers of this blog and others who find their way here through the Patheos network.

There’s more to be said, however, before I conclude this post. After Sam shared the above with me, I watched the news and learned of what transpired at a prayer breakfast the president attended, along with Nancy Pelosi. The news report said something that I think would have cost any other president the support of Evangelicals. They said that the president attended a prayer breakfast in the morning, and then used profanity on live TV. I can imagine other presidents having the same thing reported about them. But I cannot imagine them retaining the support of conservative Evangelicals after that.

Let me conclude by sharing something else that came my way via social media related to the subject of Nancy Pelosi saying she prays for the president. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted the following:

Donald Trump Jr. doesn’t seem to have learned the scriptures, since the Gospels of Matthew and Luke depict Satan doing precisely what he seems to assume Satan would never do. But then we weren’t under the illusion that this family is steeped in knowledge of the Bible, were we?

See also:

FOX & Friends Host Shocked That Romney Cited His Faith When Voting Against Trump

Without Irony, Trump Trashes Faith When Used as a Justification for Wrongdoing

Christian Activist Admits Conservatives Would Vote for Donald Trump Over Jesus


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  • Susan Culp

    Wow… I came here out of interest for what faith leaders would make of Trump’s behavior at the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday, and his victory lap speech in the East Room. 0 comments thus far. Wow.

    • Well, the blog post just appeared, so hopefully that will change soon!

    • jh

      As an atheist, this is how I predict. Think of the most immoral disgusting power hungry evil corrupt people. What would they do? There. You have your answer. Of course, there will be a token who goes “X individual means that you can’t condemn all Christians.” That’s like saying that just because a serial killer was kind to puppies, that this ignores the “body of his work”. Even when religion does something that superficially looks good, it is corrupt inside. It’s like that perfect apple with a worm, or several worms, inside. At some point, one should apply the “fruit of the poisoned tree” doctrine or the “original sin” theology and understand that nothing Christianity produces, even if it is superficially nice, is fundamentally a good thing. it’s those charities … that misuse funds. It’s those orphanages where children are abused. It’s those hospitals where medicine is denied. You cannot escape the corrosive evil that is innate to christianity. (Other religions are equally toxic. There are very few that have sufficient checks on the believer so that the believer’s potential to harm others is greatly reduced.)

      I look forward to using the words and actions of Christians to prove my case that Christianity is immoral and opposes the very nature of a multicultural diverse, just and peaceful society. Oh.. and that religious believers are mentally insane. Their hypocrisy knows no ends.

      Of course the religious leaders will come out and say “Trump is amazing. Vote for Trump. Don’t judge Trump. Pelosi and the Dems are the Satanists. Judge them.” Who are we kidding? Only fools continue to think this religion is redeemable.

      • Charles Burre

        You are confusing some people of faith with all people of faith. Jesus tried hard to teach the “religious” of his day what the Friendly Atheist posts that Prof. Mcgraft cited are trying to teach.

      • Your observations seem valid as you seem to be a thoughtful, kind, and level-headed person yourself.

      • jekylldoc

        Of course you realize that atheism has an equally checkered history. Maybe worse. Religion refers to the ideas that link a society together (Yuval Noah Harari is good on the subject, in “Sapiens.”) Any ideology that links people together creates power, and any power can be abused. And probably will.

    • What made you think James’ blog was the best place to go to figure out what “faith leaders” would make of Trump’s behavior? I mean, James is a great guy and I enjoy his fun and informative blog, but it’s not like the Pope or Deepak Chopra hang out here. 🙂

      • Susan Culp

        Well…to be honest, I just googled “evangelical response to trump speech at national prayer breakfast,” and after a seeing only a couple of articles posted with a relatively muted response, I stumbled across this post. More has come out since… and apparently now they are talking about suspending the national prayer breakfast altogether. The man truly does desecrate everything he touches. I find the fervent support for him from the religious community baffling, and can’t understand why they don’t see him for the utterly self-absorbed flimflam man that he is. But I suppose that thing about the road to ruin being wide is true…

        • I certainly agree. I would throw in, though, that when we’re talking about Trump’s support from the religious community, it’s far and away white evangelical Protestants. That, to me, sheds some light on the subject.

          Trump offers white people a white America first policy, and that’s attractive to many white Americans. Plus, knowing he needs their support, he has promised evangelicals the moon in terms of their political concerns (while doing virtually nothing). For evangelicals, who feel American culture slipping away from them, the lure of a restoration to power is a very heady drug, and apparently many of them would vote for Satan himself if it meant they got the Supreme Court justices they wanted.

          Basically, for anyone who feels like “their America” (meaning basically the America of the early 1900s) is slipping away from their grasp, Trump represents getting it back, and they really don’t care what kind of person he is. They want their cultural supremacy back and will deal with the devil to get it.

          Of course, the obvious objection is that this is extremely hypocritical and seems like the exact opposite of Jesus’ concerns. To which I can only respond that we’re starting to see the priorities in white American evangelicalism, and it turned out following Jesus wasn’t the most important thing.

        • Uncle Dave

          It certainly seems DT has the “reverse Midas touch,” everything he touches turns to – well you know…

  • I am baffled by the corruption of political discourse in my southern neighbor. The number of lies on the surface of the media sea exceeds the plastic waste in the ocean. Decomposing lies have become part of the food chain for the brain.

    It is not new. It goes back to McCarthyism. The fear of actually organizing government for the benefit of the whole body has long been a part of US discourse. An obvious example is the bad-mouthing that Canada’s health care system gets from the US. The tension between ‘me first’ and ‘all of us together’ is not confined to any one nation-state of course. (I wonder if you have seen the Netflix series, The Messiah? I am part way through it. I don’t know if it will end well or not, but it does illustrate the phrase, I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. We might try walking on water to see just how the reflecting pool divides us.)

  • Charles Burre

    Here is the way I make sense of it (and BTW, I consider myself to be a person of faith):
    After watching the president’s victory lap in the East Room yesterday, I cannot believe that the several hundred supporters in that room could have sat through those eighty minutes without vomiting. Perhaps they were given a glass of koolaid on the way in. Most of these people have had high ideals about making our country and the world (yes, we used to be allowed to think that way) a better place to live. Many of them consider themselves to be people of faith. What I witnessed there and during the state of the Union address on Tuesday was Satan reaffirming the bargain that “all these kingdoms in their majesty would be theirs, if only they (continued to) worship him.”

  • I think my favorite part is where he refers to his election as a “crushing defeat” for the Democrats as opposed to “a defeat we barely pulled off by the skin of our teeth thanks to evangelical whites.”

  • How would you respond to my friend, who is trying to make sense of what he sees happening in the political arena and in the church?

    Quite simple, there is nothing Christian about American conservative Christianity.

    They have abandoned the teachings of Jesus, and replaced them with a love of money and a lust for political power.

  • jekylldoc

    I am a white male Progressive Christian, and I am getting weary of people pretending to be bewildered by Christian support for Trump. We know very well that abortion rights provide all the moral cover that Trump supporters need, that the traditional family is a value that is at the core of meaning in their lives, and that the courts have been used as a substitute for persuasion for decades now. All of these liberal victories make sense to me – I am pro-choice, and pro-LGBTQ for example. But the level of denial involved in “how can they claim to be Christian and . . .?” is nauseating.

    • US_Constitution RIP 1-31-2020

      Excellent comment. I am often amazed at the ignorance of what religious belief means and is used for in our country by believers. Romney claims his religious beliefs compelled him to vote guilty. I bet many other republicans claimed their religion compelled them to vote not guilty. Anyone can use religion for whatever purposes they want. There is not “right” interpretation of what it means to be Christian. The WBC is just as right as a progressive Methodist church on how to practice Christianity.

      • US_Constitution RIP 1-31-2020

        How can this comment get downvotes?! Wow. Especially by the same person who upvoted the comment it is in response to….is this what folks refer to as cognitive dissonance?

        • jekylldoc

          I appreciate the moniker, by the way.

          • US_Constitution RIP 1-31-2020

            Thank you! I was so depressed last week 🙁

          • jekylldoc

            Yeah. The hurt keeps happening.

      • jekylldoc

        Most Christians want to “use” their Christianity to lead them toward the Good. Obviously people tend to see the Good in vastly different ways, and are quite willing to make war over those differences. But in fact there is something less than legitimate (or less than fully honest, if you prefer) about “using” Christianity for any particular cause or political grouping. So when you say “Anyone can use religion for whatever purpose they want,” I only accept that as descriptive, not as prescriptive.

        In general I agree with your comment, though. There probably are ways to distinguish honest from manipulative interpretations about what it means to follow Jesus, and we should use them – on our selves. I take seriously Jesus’ admonition to remove the plank from my own eye before trying to take the splinter out of someone else’s.

        • US_Constitution RIP 1-31-2020

          “I only accept that as descriptive, not as prescriptive.”

          Very good point. I intended that as descriptive – that is, as practice, people use religion for whatever purpose they want. That makes it difficult to pin down what the “true” nature of religion is. Which is why I often have a problem with folks saying “so-and-so is not a true/real Christian”. When two groups are saying that to the other group, basing their statements on the exact same foundational text which is anything but straightforward, it is tough to know which group is “right”. (Answer, neither one is).

          But I completely agree that usually when you see people seeking Good through their religion, they are mostly likely closest to the right, or at least the best, interpretation of that belief system.

  • I personally consider Donald Trump to be a despicable person. It frightens me to think of the negative effects, globally and for our nation, if he is reelected for four more years.

  • Oscar Scott Oliver

    The underlying theology that is empowering this blatant hypocrisy is the pre-trib/pre-mil understanding of the end times. Well articulated for the masses through the “Left Behind” series. Since the book of Revelation prophesies that the world will get worse and worse, then let us help the world to be evil so that Jesus will come sooner to save his church from the Apocalypse. That of course is false because the opening chapters of Revelation is calling for the churches to turn around from their mistaken ways. This prologue to the Apocalypse makes the sins of our churches fully responsible for the Apocalypse NOT THE SINS OF THE WORLD. I also would label it the “Judas Spirit.”

    What do I mean? Judas NEVER intended to have Jesus die, otherwise he would not have committed suicide. Judas’ lament in “Jesus Christ Superstar” says it well. Judas as well as ALL the other apostles knew the Scripture saying that God would send legions of angels lest his Messiah should dash his foot. So Judas thought he would put Jesus in harms way TO FORCE GOD to send legions of angels to protect Jesus and institute the Messianic Kingdom.

    I always cringe inside when I hear people say that they worship God because he is omnipotent. I worship God because he is TRUTH and LOVE, compassionate and merciful to all humanity.