Okay I admit that this came out during my mini-sabbatical, and I should just let it go. But it is stuck in my craw and I think I need to write about it so that I have had my say. So to be clear I am doing this for me and not my readers. But if my readers benefit from this rant, then so be it. Perhaps it will serve a double purpose.
Once again the pastor Robert Jeffress has taken upon himself to defend the indefensible. Of course what I mean is that he is going out of his way to defend President Trump. He is defending him as it becomes crystal clear for even the most ardent Trump supporter that Trump was engaging in carnal knowledge with a porn star while he was married. It is hard for me to think of an action that is technically legal but that Christians of all stripes, left, right and center, will see as being more immoral than cheating on your wife with a porn star.
So Jeffress, who was a Trump supporter from almost the very beginning, has never failed to defend anything Trump has done, and he does not fail to do so now. He reminds us that we did not elect an “altar boy” and that none of us have a perfect past. He is right you know. I do not have a perfect past. I was young and kinda stupid at one point of my life (maybe I still am a bit stupid). But even then I knew that you do not cheat with a porn star. Call me crazy but I have always known that to be wrong and was never tempted to do it.
I wonder if Jeffress would have pointed out that Bill Clinton was not perfect either. Perhaps he thinks that we evangelicals were too quick to condemn his harassment of woman and marital affairs. No. I am pretty sure that we would get a different answer if Jeffress were asked about Bill Clinton. I suspect that we would get the sort of answer provided to us by James Dobson. Sexual immorality is unacceptable unless you are pro-life.
Look, I get why many of my Christian brothers and sisters voted for Trump. I deeply disagree with them, but understand why they did it. If you are a progressive, think about it this way. What if the 2016 contest was between an incompetent, race-baiting Al Sharpton and the unlikeable (to progressives at least) Ted Cruz? Would you hold your nose and vote for Sharpton? If so, then you are making a similar decision which is understandable since Sharpton stands for a lot of issues you care about even though he has no training for the position of President of the United States and is as much of a publicity hound as Trump. I do not point this out to defend the vote of conservative Christians but to illustrate the nature of their choice.
But this reflective defense of Trump is something I do not understand. Indeed it is one of the things I feared would happen if he became president on the back of votes by Christians. What is happening is that we are destroying ourselves from the inside. Threats from the inside are worse than threats external to us. Those external threats cannot change our basic morality and values. They can drive us underground and force us into subordinate places, but we can keep our basic dignity as long as we do not compromise our larger valves.
Many of the Christians who supported Trump did so out of fear of Hillary Clinton. And they had reason to have such a fear. Clinton made almost no effort to solicit the votes of evangelicals. Think about that. You are running for president of the United States and your actions basically tell a group that is a quarter of the electorate that you do not care if they vote for you. Almost a guarantee that once that candidate is in office, your concerns will be filed in the trash. I am hard on my evangelical brothers and sisters for supporting Trump. I am not hard on them for not supporting Clinton since she did not act like she wanted their support.
Furthermore as someone who studies Christianophobia, I know that conservative Christians have legit concerns about being driven from the public square. The controversies surrounding all-comers policies, defunding Christian schools and discrimination against Christians in academia are all part of an attitude among those with Christianophobia that conservative Christians should not have access to the public square. I have no doubt that a Clinton administration would support such attitudes.
But once again external pressure is not as dangerous as internal corruption. We probably have staved off some of the worst legal impulses of those with Christianophobia with the election of Trump. But we have done so by allowing our faith to be linked to a coarse, race-baiting, sexist official. In the years to come we will pay a heavy price for such a linking. Our ability to shape the culture is not merely tied to having legal opportunities to do so, but also to the level of respect others have for us. I think it inevitable that when the eventual collapse of the Trump presidency occurs that respect for our faith will collapse as well as we are seen as the people who propped him up.
But if there were ever an argument for electing Trump in spite of his moral failings, and the costs to us in reputation, there is none for this consistent defense of his moral obscenities. It is one thing to hold your nose and vote for him. It is another to always defend him. I know of Christians who did hold their noses and vote for him, but still criticize him for these moral failings. But too often the ones who get the spotlight are the Robert Jeffress who has shown that indeed President Trump can shoot someone and Jeffress will defend him. How in the world will Christians ever speak about moral authority and leaders? I suspect that in the United States they will not be able to do that ever again.
To some degree one may not be surprised that having supported Trump that Christians are now seeking to justify that vote by defending whatever he does. There are certain social psychological theories that point to our need to find justification for the decisions we make. I heard a few Christians talk about voting for Trump and then influencing him to be a better man. I always thought that to be wishful thinking. I knew that the most likely outcome was that Christians would adopt Trump’s values rather than the other way around. Robert Jeffress appears to be going out of his way to show me that I was right.