March 26, 2020

I’m Not Against Trump; I’m Against the Mindset That Got Him Elected

I’m not voting for Donald Trump for president in 2020.

Statistics say that as a white, Evangelical Christian there’s more than an 80% chance that I will vote for him, but I won’t. I believe my Christian faith prohibits me from doing so.

I’m not saying a Christian can’t vote for Donald Trump, I have many friends who will and I’ll not question their faith for doing so. Sadly, quite a few of those same people may very well question mine – and the oppressive mindset that makes people think that way is what I’m against.

" Statistics say that as a white, Evangelical Christian there’s more than an 80% chance that I will vote for (Trump), but I won’t. I believe my Christian faith prohibits me from doing so.

My vote isn’t simply based on the idea that Donald Trump has performed poorly and without integrity as president, although I certainly believe he often has; my stand is against the mindset (in Christian circles we call that a ‘spirit’) that convinces Evangelical Christian people that they’re compelled to vote for him and to defend him at all costs. This religious/partisan mindset has been stealing the peace of evangelicals, and stealing much of our ability to be peacemakers, for the past 50 years.

The religious/partisan evolution of the Evangelical Church could have begun as far back as the 19th century, premillennial dispensationalist movement of John Nelson Darby, but the modern change began in the late 60’s. Richard Nixon tapped a victim mentality in evangelicals due to the vast cultural change taking place. Nixon called us the ‘Silent Majority’ and promised law and order to set things right again. In the late 70’s, political operative Paul Weyrich told us we were a ‘Moral Majority’ and handpicked abortion to activate us as a voting block. In the 80’s, Ronald Regan told us the government, humanists, and low self image were the enemy and he’d save us with religious fervor, military might, deregulation and trickle-down economics. In the 90’s, Newt Gingrich alerted us to a new ‘culture war’ and urged us to lay aside our integrity and use the same dirty politics as our ‘enemies.’ “It’s OK,”Newt said, “we’re the good guys.”

These fears became major drivers of evangelical thought and practice. Education was viewed as the manipulative lair of the ‘elites.’ Ideas that challenged ours became ‘deception.’ The idea of a Boaz-like, collective-will to care for the poor became ‘government theft’ through taxes and socialism. Giving value to people became ‘political correctness.’ We convinced ourselves the world was growing darker and only our political acumen could save us – thus, our theology and our ideology became evermore intertwined.

The first century Church believed codifying biblical law would bring God’s pleasure – and with it financial gain and military power. Similarly, our evangelical leaders began to tout a high stock market index as a sign of God’s pleasure and the collection of political power as a biblical means of passing ‘godly’ laws. Only this could restore the greatness of our ‘Christian’ nation and end this cultural change.

Did we ever stop to wonder why Jesus didn’t seek out power? Did we consider that Jesus refused the bait of cultural arguments? It seems not. Many of Jesus’ activities were not in line with our culture war narrative and, so, we tended to simply brush past them.

In 2016, candidate Donald Trump expertly tapped our ideological/theological fears. He told us those darker skinned people coming from other countries were ‘murderers, drug dealers, and rapists.’ He promised he would end political correctness and allow us to say ‘Merry Christmas.’ Trump told us the media, the Democrats and the ‘Deep State’ were out to get us and assured us that he alone could give us the political power we craved to save ourselves.

He didn’t look Christian. He was gruff. He didn’t know the books of the Bible. But, wow, he knew our lingo and he knew how to make us feel powerful enough to defeat those from whom we felt victimized.

We called Bill Clinton a “sinner unfit for the presidency” because he cheated on his wife. Trump lied about hush money to cover up an affair with a porn star and we suddenly discovered grace. When he said he didn’t need to ask forgiveness for his sins, we said we were “electing a Commander-in-Chief, not a pastor.” Our culture war required such moral flexibility, otherwise, how could God’s plan for the world be fulfilled? Even the Pharisees realized that to save a religion and a country a few ‘sacrifices’ would have to be made.

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Jesus commanded us to beware a mix of religion and partisanship. He called it a ‘leaven’ that would spread through all we knew and practiced, He said it would make us hypocritical and take away our “eyes to see and ears to hear” God’s true plan for our time. Jesus warned us that “gaining the whole world while losing our soul” wasn’t worth it.

Jesus was right.

The price we’ve paid for our political power is too steep. The hypocrisy of our bending morals has caused too much damage – damage to the Church, to people, and to the message of Christ. Can we afford four more years of the same? This right-wing requirement creates a bondage for those inside the Church and a barrier to those outside of it. I meet people everyday who feel they’re not ‘Republican enough’ to come to our churches anymore. I suspect an incarnate Jesus would be flipping over our tables.

With all due respect to my dear brothers and sisters, our good message of reconciliation (sozo) with heaven is not an acceptable casualty of our culture war. Our long journey into political pragmatism has taken its toll. God tells us the healing of our land will come ONLY when we humble ourselves and turn from our ways. How difficult to take on that humility in the midst of thrilling political power.

Jesus sat with the hurting and the disenfranchised, not the power brokers. Ultimately, I believe the best way to make America ‘great’ is for its heart to be ‘good.’ With a little repentance, we can be good again and can better serve our culture.

That’s why I’m not voting for Donald Trump. Not because Trump’s the problem, but because I realize he’s the manifestation of a real problem. I’m hopeful this season is an opportunity for the Evangelical Church realizes to realize this and turn our hope to that which is greater than our political power. So that we can serve as healers of culture, rather than its dividers. I’m praying for, and voting towards, that shift in mindset in 2020.

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