Moral Values

Moral Values May 15, 2019

So David French took Franklin Graham to task for his hypocrisy in defending President Donald Trump’s moral failings while attacking the morality of Pete Buttigieg because of his homosexuality. I mean what is wrong with French’s argument. No matter how much you may believe homosexuality is wrong, you have no moral grounds to attack it and then defend a multiple adulterer such as Trump. If you are a Christian, you do not get to pick and choose what part of the Bible to uphold based on your own partisan desires.

It seems clear cut to me that French is right to call out this hypocrisy. So what does he get for his troubles? Oh he gets to receive an attack from the American Family Association (AFA).

What sort of Bizzarro world do we live in? I will defend the AFA, and likeminded organizations from the unfair charges of being a hate group launched by the SPLC in a heartbeat. But this is inexcusable. I keep hearing from my Trump friends lines such as, “He does good things but is crude and I wish he would not tweet some of the things he does” and “Just because Trump engages in sexism and race-baiting does not mean that I am defined by those things.” Well kinda yes, you are defined by his gross actions and comments. If you not only fail to critique the immorality of Trump but also attack those who do call him out, then you are rightly linked to that immorality. You are a hypocrite. Just own that reality so that you are not lying to yourself.

After recovering from the shock of seeing Trump elected, I have worked really hard to understand how so many of my Christian brothers and sisters could have voted for him. I have not entered into a Trump Derangement resistance stance where I unreflexively condemn Trump supporters. And you know what? I am almost there. Not that I would vote for him, but I am understanding some reasons for that vote. I mean when the media goes hogwild over the possibility that Catholic kids harassed a Native American protestor but ignores a state senator harassing an elderly woman praying at a Planned Parenthood building and threatening to dox teenagers then something is wrong. It becomes easier to see how some Christians can hold their nose to vote for Trump rather than allow progressives have control of our government. I think they are wrong for voting for him, but there are reasons for their vote.

Let me take this a step further. The best reason my conservative Christian friends gave me for supporting Trump was that they feared that Clinton was out to get them and at least Trump would leave them alone. I cannot deny that Clinton showed no interest for them or their concerns. I suspect that she sees conservative Christians as one more group of deplorables who can be ignored, or even mistreated, for the greater good. When a candidate will not even talk to Christianity Today, which is as moderate a periodical as you will find among conservative Christians, then it is not unreasonable to think that she does not care one bit about them. So while she may not be literally “out to get them,” I suspect that there will be some in her administration who will act out on their anti-Christian animosity and they will suffer from that.

However, that is not a good enough reason to vote for Trump. It does not offset putting such an unworthy, low class man in office. Furthermore it is incredibly short-sighted. In the long term Christians should be doing all they can to retain their legitimacy and cultural relevance as we move into a post-Christian society. The political gains from Trump will be short term. The losses connected to the hypocrisy of supporting a race-baiting, sexist moral degenerate will be long lasting. So while I do not deny that Christians have justified concerns that they hope Trump will address, I still maintain that their support for Trump is not a good way to meet those needs.

But for the sake of arguing, let us say that I became convinced that Clinton was so bad that I felt I had to vote for Trump. Say that I had a crystal ball and knew that Clinton would turn into a Stalin. Would I vote for Trump to stop someone I knew would become Stalin? Yes I would. I would go with the race-baiting, sexist moral degenerate if I knew that his opponent was going to kill millions of people and plunge us into unending wars on the chance that Trump might not do that. But what I would not do is then unconditionally support him. Having held my nose with both hands and cast the ballot for Trump, I would continue to critique him and hope that with enough criticism, he would stop with the race-baiting, the insulting, the lying and so forth. So I admit that there are limited situations (say against a Stalin or a Hitler) where I could see myself vote for Trump. But I do not see the situation where I would continue to give him nearly unconditional support and attack those who criticize him. Yet that is precisely what too many of my fellow Christians are doing today.

I cannot understand this automatic support of all things Trump. I cannot understand this attempt to attack other Christians who call out Trump’s immoralities. In 2016 I had hoped that Christians voting for Trump did so while holding their noses. They did not want to have a man as immoral as Trump, but their fear of Clinton drove them to vote for him. But given the reaction of so many Christians, they are more than accepting the moral values of Trump. They are defending those values.

I feared that support for Trump would alter his supporters rather than change him. Trump is a con man, and the more one interacts with him, the more one is convinced he is right. That is what tends to happen when you spend time around someone who is used to conning others. Christians think that supporting Trump will allow them to be protected. However, what is more likely to happen is that their association with Trump will corrupt their ultimate mission.

So I implore my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to stop reflexively defending Trump. Stop attacking those who criticize him and those, like Franklin, who give him cover for his moral failings. If you feel that voting for Trump in 2016 or again in 2020 is important, then you will do that. I have just about given up hope that I can persuade you otherwise. But you damage our image and make it harder for us long term by hypocritically defending Trump in ways you will never defend a progressive politician. We are supposed to answer to a higher authority than the president of the United States. We need to start acting like it.

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16 responses to “Moral Values”

  1. This will only get worse in the next election and the fear of the left will further drive Trump support among evangelical Christians. Like you, I get why. The left offers nothing and I stand against their policies. They will vote and then be silent because their fear and hatred of the left is louder than their call to take a stand. For them, too much is at stake politically and they cannot clearly grasp their silence as compromise. Confirmation bias and they cannot hear your argument.

  2. “…They will vote and then be silent because their fear and hatred of the left is louder than their call to take a stand…”

    I’m not sure what you mean by silence, but the fear and hatred that consume the president’s Evangelical supporters is not just focused on “the left.” They hate everyone who isn’t white, conservative, Republican and Christian. I know that the hatred itself doesn’t have its origins in Christianity, even if they use Christianity to justify their bigotry and cowardice. It’s a human illness that, at this point in history, has gripped the Evangelical Movement and its allies.

    Those Evangelicals who can see where this is headed must start challenging your brethren to wake the hell up. You’re the only ones they might listen to, though you may soon find that, in their eyes, you have joined the hated “left.” The president’s supporters are not given to nuance and shades of gray, so you’re either in lockstep with them, or you’re “the left.”

    Fairly or unfairly, history is going to blame the Evangelical Movement for the blood shed and lives destroyed by this president. I don’t see anything that can stop the coming violence, because your brethren can only hear their own hatred. But each of you who stands up against this president and his enablers will help undercut the justification for hating Christians in the future.

  3. Just like Trump, once you no longer support them or take an alternate position, then evangelicals will turn on you. To take a middle position is to be shot by both sides. Still, I do like to challenge their assumptions and rational thought process. But what I also find at work is the underpinning theology. Meaning, they equate policy with conservative Christian morality. To compromise in the public policy area is to compromise with biblical truth. They believe they have a calling or a required biblical position to enact their morality on the greater society. They will even equate Trump to biblical figures as if he is chosen by God or being used for higher purposes. Thus, they can hold their nose at his character because his actions are on a higher purpose. It is a convoluted way to interpret scripture, but it is very entrenched.

  4. “…To take a middle position is to be shot by both sides. ..They believe they have a calling or a required biblical position to enact their morality on the greater society…They will even equate Trump to biblical figures as if he is chosen by God or being used for higher purposes…”

    We’re watching something develop that could happen to any group of people under the right circumstances, especially if we’re not careful to remain open.

    I think what you’ve described in your comment is accurate, and I also think it’s part of an authoritarian mindset that Umberto Eco described as “Ur-Fascism.”

    Authoritarianism comes in a lot of different flavors, but they all have common elements. He describes those elements in his essay. It’s things like action for actions sake, us-against-the-world thinking; irrational heroic narratives(my paraphrase); obsession with plots; they’re -out-to-get-us; a warped version of the masculine ideal; fear of difference; disagreement is treason, etc…

    What those of us watching this happen need to remember is that it could happen to us, too, if we forget that it’s not caused by Christianity or any other religion or ideology– it’s a human group dynamic that is driven by irrational fear and hatred. It’s a natural impulse to want to punish those who’ve heaped abuse on everyone else, but that’s a trap. If we let ourselves think that all Christians are evil, and that they all deserve punishment, we’ll dehumanize them and become blinded by our own fear and hatred: just like so many Evangelicals and Republicans have done.

  5. Removal via the 25th Amendment is clearly justified based on Trump’s obvious cognitive impairment. That White Evangelicals prefer Trump to Pence tells you everything you need to know about their real values.

  6. Exactly what more would conservative evangelicals have to do before it becomes reasonable to assume that the acceptance of bigotry and moral failure is not motivated by adherence to faith, but rather that the claim of faith is just a culturally conditioned performance used to justify the underlying bigotry and moral failure? Like, in this very post you mention an organization which *claims* that its prejudice against queer people is religiously motivated, but then curiously ignores that religious motivation the moment it would target someone they don’t have animus for. Do you have a reason why I should view that as an inconsistent application of faith rather than as a consistent application of bigotry with faith as a thin rationalization?

  7. I don’t agree with a lot of what you say, but this is surely right – if evangelicals were voting Trump due to a (I think frankly irrational, but hey) terror of Clinton, what you’d expect to see is a vote for Trump on election day and back to decrying the horrible stuff in the hope of limiting the damage the day after. What you get is people still strenuously declaiming about him being near on the second coming and defending to the death everything he does. It is not a good look for those calling themselves Christian.

  8. I would generally agree with the pathology you describe as I believe there is a skewed or irrational fear at play. It is an us versus them mentality, but that is true of both sides. Each side dehumanizes the other. But from my background, I understand where they are and how they got there. Again, I personally see a deep theology at play in which they see biblical mandates to behave and act toward a certain outcome in terms of government power and policy. Though I would not necessarily say they are all full of hate and bigotry, they are blind and deaf to really see that they do indeed come across that way, and it is a big problem. Accusing them of those things only further justifies their belief in being persecuted and ridiculed. I wish they were open to a better grasp of their faulty beliefs, such that they would see Christianity as an us-for-them perspective on life. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  9. ” It is an us versus them mentality, but that is true of both sides. ”

    If you think that, then you don’t recognize the scope of the problem. This is not a matter of two sides disliking each other, and there is only one side dehumanizing the other. The rest of us don’t say that Evangelicals and Republicans are not “real Americans,” and we don’t think they should be stripped of their voice in government.

    “But from my background, I understand where they are and how they got there.”

    What is your background? Because if you think this is about theology, you’re, again, not recognizing the scope of the problem. It’s not a matter of intellect ot theology: it’s a matter of losing control to their fear and anger. Any brand of theology or philosophy can be hijacked and perverted when we give ourselves over to fear.

  10. No, I think you would have to be blind not to see how both sides have an equal disdain for and dehumanize the other. Sure, the words and reasons may differ, but the result and goal is the same = get power and enact your views. And yes, theology is a definitive aspect of this issue for evangelicals. You seem to be saying that fear is the determining factor and that theology can be manipulated from that fear. I have no disagreement with that. My approach in Christian circles when I encounter this mindset is to address it from a theological perspective because whether you agree or not, I do see how theology is a point of leverage to address the fear. Because I grew up in churches who espouse this kind of fear based belief, I see when they use theology to justify their positions. That is how I choose to address it. We are not at odds here. Your points stand as true.

  11. Like you, I don’t think we’re at odds. We disagree about the cause and scope of the challenges ahead, which means that we also disagree in our approach to them. I think we both recognize that, whether it’s both sides or just one, a bad situation is developing.

    “I think you would have to be blind not to see how both sides have an equal disdain for and dehumanize the other. ..”

    I don’t know how to quantify the disdain many of us feel, but there is no fair comparison that justifies both-siderism. The president and his supporters are hostile to facts, evidence, and any objective source of information. The “other side” can’t even be clearly defined, because it includes everyone who even suspects that the president has lied, obstructed justice, or betrayed his country. This group includes many Republicans and former Republicans, as well as many conservatives and some Evangelicals. As soon as anyone doubts the president, they become the enemy.

    “My approach in Christian circles when I encounter this mindset is to address it from a theological perspective because whether you agree or not, I do see how theology is a point of leverage to address the fear.”

    I didn’t grow up in Evangelical authoritarianism, but I was immersed in it for several years, and I believed in that theology myself. What I observed was the fluidity of “God’s Word” and dogma when the Church was motivated toward a certain goal. What got through to me was when people busted the authoritarian narrative in small or large ways. I suppose for some, theological discussion might work, but it seems unlikely. Once people reach that closed-circle mindset, no one outside their circle can often be taken credibly on theology or any intellectual argument.

  12. What the Author does not comprehend is that most Christians are hypocrites. They exhibit this in myriad ways, e.g. Trump support, abrogating Women’s Rights, those of LGBTQ Individuals, minorities, and immigrants. Little wonder the non-believers grow in strength every day.

  13. It’s much simpler than your take. Elections reduce to binary choices. The left’s ideology has consequences regardless of the virtues of various Democrats. I could vote for Pete Buttigieg if he were a Republican, for the same reasons I voted for Trump.

  14. I like Dinesh D’Souza’s approach. He doesn’t defend Trump morality. Instead, he recognizes that Trump likes to mud wrestle. He learned to mud wrestle in our current ruthless world. But, unlike most who like to mud wrestle, he is conservative and a Republican. Give him a listen and see what you think: This may not include the the mud wrestling statements but gives you start on D’Souza and who he identifies as the experts in mud wrestling. I actually heard him say the above about Trump and mud wrestling at Lincoln’s Pregnancy Center fundraising dinner on April 30, 2019.

  15. In my observations, there’s a subsection of liberals who do hate Republicans and conservative Christians and some who even dehumanize them. I think it’s more widespread among conservatives, but liberals are not completely innocent of this, and Trump’s election has only made it worse. I am horrified to hear so many of my peers preach tolerance and then fail to have any tolerance for conservatives. My dad says the border wall is dehumanizing of migrants because it assumes they are unable to reason well enough to find ways around/over it. I find the way many of my fellow liberals, particularly progressives, talk about conservatives to be similarly dehumanizing: they claim that all non-wealthy conservatives are being duped into voting against their financial interests; that pro-life women are being controlled by the patriarchy, as though women couldn’t POSSIBLY decide abortion is bad for themselves (

  16. Re: Moral Values
    The Bible tells us to be aware that Satan is constantly at work deceiving and creating conflict. Too many of my fellow Christians are not discerning in what they watch, read, and pass along. The hate and fear of all things “liberal” is indicative of shallow thinking.

    My thoughts on the subject of Christian support of Trump align closely with those you’ve described in this article. My frustration is that I haven’t found any way to have open discussions with Christian’s on this. We need some town hall style meetings at some off-church site where we can discuss Christian responsibilities in response to cultural trends, politics, and voting.