Evangelicals and Character
Hopefully, as an illustration of saged wisdom, I believe this type of blog post requires some critical caveats stated upfront:
Caveat #1 is I freely acknowledge when I stand before God; there is a real chance that God may find me Weighed and Wanting, not salvifically to be sure, but still of heavy gravitas.
Caveat #2 is I am not attempting to persuade anyone or for someone to try to convince me. This is the quintessential secondary type theological topic that men and women of goodwill acknowledge are acceptable and even advisable to allow others to come to their own convictions without suspicion or accusations of betrayal.
Caveat #3 is we (Evangelicals) must be intellectually and theologically savvy enough to dismiss fallacious arguments (more on that later) when they present themselves and believe me, and there are plenty.
When writing, it is imperative to educate the reader on the author’s thesis so let me clearly articulate what this blog article will discuss. Under no circumstances will I vote for Donald J Trump for President of the United States in 2024, if the Lord should tarry His coming. I did not vote for him in 2016; I did cast a ballot for him in 2020 after much consternation and soulful contemplation. I am sure that many of my Conservative cohorts will disagree with my current position, some with bravado and scorn and others with reluctant resignation and shared angst about the Evangelical validity of a DJT candidacy. If there ever was an issue with the Biblical warrant to let everyone be convinced in their own mind (Romans 14:5, see below), this is that case.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind [emphasis mine].
I would hope Conservatives, especially Evangelical Conservatives, would agree our intramural debate about the best course of action concerning legitimate Republican candidates does not translate to supporting Democratic candidates. I will continue to contend most vigorously, no Evangelical, seeking to be faithful to the Word of God, can, in good conscience, align themselves with the Democratic Party, as presently constituted.
Remember Caveat #3. One of the prevailing philosophical paradigms advanced by far too many professing Evangelicals is narratives like I am an Independent. There is no difference between Republicans and Democrats, or both parties are flawed, so no one can claim the moral high ground. I am appalled and aghast at such intellectual and philosophical dishonesty when I hear alleged Evangelicals advancing this false narrative. To speak as the young ‘em would say, I give such people nothing but “the side-eye!”
There is a profound and substantive difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties in America. I strenuously submit there is no Biblical warrant whatsoever for an Evangelical to align themselves politically with a political entity whose platform legalizes the intentional destruction of life from the moment of conception.
That issue and that issue alone should suffice to end the discussion without further elaboration or the need for debate. Of course, there is more as the Democratic Party Platform makes legal the practice of same-sex marriage, an open and explicit rebellion to the clear and undeniable teaching of the Word of God (Genesis 2:14, see below)
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (emphasis mine).
For over six millennia, no one claiming fidelity to the Word of God would have ever raised an eye to the gender-specific language of a biblical passage like Genesis 2:14. Yet, the growing secular narrative is it is not women who get pregnant; somehow, we forsake Biology 101 and allege people get pregnant.
Every person born after Adam has come into the world due to a union between a biological man and woman. Marriage is and will always be the union of a man and a woman, and no Supreme Court or human institution will ever change that revealed reality of God.
No people, especially people alleging biblical fidelity, can change what God has created. Just as man can not change the Laws of Gravity, man can not change God’s ordained manner for human flourishing and the continuation of the human species.
As if things could not get worse, the Democratic Party has legalized rejection of the gender binary revealed in the very beginning of God’s revelation to His creation (Genesis 1:27, see below), exemplified most dramatically with then Presidential Democratic Candidate Joseph Biden openly campaigning for the legal right of someone as young as six-year-old to declare themselves opposite the gender assigned to them at birth by their Creator. You may remember Candidate Biden making this declaration during his last presidential debate with then-incumbent President Donald J. Trump.
God created humans in his own image, in the image of God, he created him; male and female, he created them (emphasis mine).
Thus, no one can authentically declare ignorance or deception. The Democratic Party and only the Democratic Party openly and brazenly take positions on social matters directly contradicting God’s Word on first-order theological issues. While it is permissible to postulate no political candidate will ever possess absolute and theological impeccability, I submit there is no legitimate charge that one can advance for any Republican candidate or the Republican political platform concerning first-order theological issues.
Thus, the advocation of the claim of one being a Political Independent is both a red-herring and a gross obfuscation of what should be the unanimous proclamation of all Evangelicals seeking to be faithful to God’s gracious means to experience human flourishing. Any Evangelical who is not willing to make their nays nay and their yays yay with a clear and absolute rejection of the Democratic Party is not seriously seeking after the things of God. I understand my position to be a stern and audacious claim, but it is both a claim I make humbly and simultaneously boldly.
Consequently, I reject the sophomoric refrain I hear so ubitiquously that there is no real difference between the Republican and the Democratic Party. Sadly, I can still remember one of my former Pastors making this specious argument. I will forever be committed to the narrative the Democratic Party, as presented constituted, is persona non grata for ALL Evangelicals, period, full-stop, and end of story.
Now, with these introductory comments advanced, let me proceed to the essence of my argument. As presently constituted, I submit an Evangelical has three real political options:
Option #1 Vote for the Republican candidate
Option #2: If there is no suitable Republican candidate, search for a third-party candidate and vote for them
Option #3: If there is no acceptable third-party candidate, then Evangelicals should consciously abstain from voting as a biblical/theological manner of protest directed to the Republican Party leadership.
The remainder of my blog post will cover my theological reasoning, given all I have stated beforehand, why I will not cast a ballot for Donald J. Trump in particular and anyone of his ilk in general henceforth as long as I retain my mental and theological faculties.
Theological Reasoning #1: Christianity centers on Who Not What
Christianity rightly understood and practiced is more concerned about the “Who” than the “What.” Hell will be littered with people who practiced and exhibited meticulous moral compliance. I freely grant there are Muslims who pray more diligently, fervently, and frequently than me. Some Mormon men love their wives far greater than I ever will. There are Buddhists who do far more to advance peace and tranquility than I would ever aspire to pursue.
The grounds of Christianity are exclusively the Birth, Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Salvation is from the inside out, not the outside in. The Gospel is a finished act of the past and has nothing to do with any past, present, or future action: good, bad, or indifferent.
Yes, Evangelicals will exhibit proper moral conformity to varying degrees, but our assurance is because of what Jesus Christ has accomplished in time and space, not due to any of our flawed human efforts. Evangelicals understand all of our works, no matter how allegedly noble and exemplary, God still regards those actions as nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6, see below)
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away (emphasis mine).
Theological Reasoning #2 Evangelicals refuse to move or allow the goalpost to move. If Character Matters for the Goose, then it matters for the Gander.
In the 1980’s the Religious Right and the Moral Majority loudly and justifiably condemned the moral foibles of those from the Democratic Party. They correctly adduced and proclaimed that Character Matters ubiquitously. They lambasted the actions of leading Democrats like Gary Hart and William Jefferson Clinton, and rightfully so.
So, one who is thinking biblically, as well as critically, must ask themselves, how did the narrative change when we placed the moral actions of Donald J. Trump under the same microscope?
The best illustration of this gross hypocrisy is Franklin Graham, son of famed Evangelist Billy Graham:
Franklin on William Clinton, “Mr. Clinton’s extramarital sexual behavior now concerns him and the rest of the world. If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public (emphasis mine).”
Franklin on Donald J. Trump, “I think some these things – that’s for him and his wife to deal with… and I think the same with Stormy Daniels and so forth is nobody’s business (emphasis mine).”
I believe the aforementioned example does not require any detailed commentary, so I will move on to my next point. if it does then you are not seriously engaging with the material and not worthy of serious dialogue to begin, at least not with me.
Theological Reasoning #3: Evangelicals do not put the Cart Before the Horse
If Evangelicals live in fidelity to the Word of God, “B” can never occur if “A” never transpires. As one example, I will label President Trump’s appointment of three Conservative Supreme Court Justice as “B.” But remember, “B” can never happen if “A” never occurs.
I am going to label Character as “A.” Evangelicals do not make decisions because they believe the action (B) will work; biblical fidelity only permits Evangelicals to make a decision based on what is true (A) (Philippians 4:8, see below)
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true (A), whatsoever things are honest (A), whatsoever things are pure (A), whatsoever things are lovely (A), whatsoever things are of good report (A); if there be any virtue (A), and if there be any praise (A), think on these things (B).
It is wholly irrelevant what actions President Trump was able to accomplish if he did not possess the requisite Character in the first place. As just one example, let me advance the office of Pastor. God decrees that local Churches choose Pastors NOT on what the Church believes the Pastor can accomplish, for example, by growing the Church through his dynamic preaching, charisma, or leadership style. The Word of God only permits the Church to choose the Pastor based on his demonstrated Character. I understand America is not selecting a Pastor for the Officer of President. I only offer this scenario as an analogy. Bottom-line, Evangelicals do not make pragmatic choices. Evangelicals only make faith-based choices, grounded in what is true, honest, pure, lovely, good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. In a word, what is Character-based.
Using Philippians 4:8 as my slide ruler Donald J. Trump is a severely flawed individual who I understand causes great consternation for many Conservative Evangelicals. Again, I did not vote for him in 2016, and I did in 2020 but my position going forward is I will no longer compromise or violate my conscience by voting for someone who is nowhere in the team picture of a passage like Philippians 4:8.
In conclusion, here is my warning to my fellow Conservative Evangelical: I will not be held hostage to the Party’s wayward political choices. I know there are viable candidates who sincerely and genuinely possess the same ideological and theological worldview a Donald J. Trump candidacy has without all of the embarrassing baggage a Trump candidacy possesses.
The singular action of Donald J. Trump’s refusal to participate in Joseph Biden’s Inauguration convinced me I cannot stomach the coarse and boorish behavior of someone holding or seeking the highest political office in the land. Even as contentious as the Presidential Election of 2000 was, Albert Gore displayed the sense of nobility and honor we would hope all of our elected officials would hold, whether sincerely held or not. Since I cannot read Albert Gore’s heart or anyone else’s except mine, I will regard Gore’s action as genuine, praiseworthy, and a standard-bearer for all political interactions.
We all have our line we will not cross or allow others to cross. Donald J. Trump and anyone, be they Republican or Democrat or Independent, will not secure my political support from this point forward. My last word is this: Character does MATTER.
Maybe I have done a good job of advancing my argument; perhaps I have not. Only eternity and God’s judgment will settle the matter, but with fear and trembling, I will proceed as best I understand the matter, to the hopeful glory and majesty of the One who will one day sit upon the throne and rule with exquisite impeccability. There will be no doubt as to His legitimacy and bona fides. Until then, all of us are groping in the dark, trying to find our way. Thankfully for the Evangelical, we rest in Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
As always, feel free to let me know what you think. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.