Christianity Today and Condemning the Symptom
I watched it all from a distance, which I increasingly prefer these days. I saw the Christianity Today editorial with Mark Galli’s condemnation of Trump and call to remove him, Trump’s petulant response, Timothy Dalrymple’s follow-up editorial. I saw it swirling around Facebook and Twitter with all the people I know responding in exactly the ways I would have expected them to respond.
If I have anything to say, it is that I dislike this. All of it. I don’t like Donald Trump, whom I consider to be dishonest, cruel, and corrupt. I didn’t like Galli’s editorial, especially the part where he implied that Christians have a duty to remove Trump or be guilty of disloyalty to our Creator. I don’t like the evangelicals who imply that Trump is an agent of God and that to oppose Trump is to betray God’s purpose.
Have we all lost our minds?
The answer is, yes. We have lost our minds. But we lost something more important first, the prerequisite to a lost mind. We lost our foundation.
One of the most painful consequences of the Trump election in the evangelical community has been the abandonment of our young people. For many, support for Trump became the straw that broke the camel’s back, the moment at which they couldn’t square their church’s concern for personal morality with support for this grossly and transparently immoral man.
It’s been said before, but Trump is not the disease; he is merely a symptom. He didn’t come to power in a vacuum and support for him within the evangelical community is not without context. Our children did not leave the church because of support for Trump. They left because we did not teach them the importance of Christian fellowship. They left because we didn’t ground them in the scripture or give them a Christian home within the church, a home in which we can disagree and still find love and acceptance. They left because they were never really here, because we failed to give them the foundation and support needed to weather this storm and so they defaulted to the foundation of politics, the idol of our culture. And when their politics collided with the politics of their parents and spiritual mentors, they retreated to their political foundation instead of the foundation of fellowship and gospel.
Galli must have known that, in writing that editorial, he was reinforcing that idol. Within his editorial came the clear message, “You must support the removal of Donald Trump or you cannot call yourself a Christian”. To remove Donald Trump, the elected president of this country, is a political position. Galli’s editorial is to say that there is only one political position a Christian may honestly take up or you are no Christian at all. Your politics are more important than the blood of Christ. This is how they will know you are my disciples, because you sided with the correct political position.
I don’t say this to defend the stalwart unquestioning Trump supporters in the evangelical community. Make no mistake, I have been frustrated and angered at the pro-Trump nature of so many in this group. There are many whose unwavering support for Trump has clearly crossed the line into idolatry. The ease with which they bend their moral framework to accommodate this awful man has been a knife into my heart. Those actions weaken the cause of Christ and the efficacy of the church to reach those who are rightly disgusted by Trump.
Even so, there are many Christians whose foundation is not politics but Christ alone who have supported Trump with a clear view of who Trump is and with an understanding of the moment in which our country finds itself. They weighed the options and made their choice with a clean conscience and clear reasoning.
Both Galli and Dalrymple write anxiously about how the evangelical embrace of Trump casts a poor witness to the world. They say we’ve given up too much in support of Trump. Maybe we have. It’s hard for me to tell anymore. Bernie Sanders may yet win the Democratic nomination and then I’ll be forced to choose between an awful, immoral, adulterous liar and the man who said that people who believe that Jesus Christ is the way to God should not be allowed in public service.
Were that to happen, I’d love to sit in a room with my brothers and sisters and discuss with clear eyes and honest hearts how God wants us to vote.
The ugliness of the evangelical embrace of Trump is of a kind to the ugliness of those who condemn their brothers for making that choice in this imperfect world. We’ve decided we prefer political fault lines to the fellowship of Christ. We’ve abandoned the foundation of Christ for the culturally acceptable class and political foundations. That’s why we lost our children. We let political culture become our foundation and, when their politics changed, they could not see a path to fellowship within the church. The solution to this problem, however, is not to condemn the Trump supporters as operating outside the will of God. That is simply admitting that we all agree that, in a remarkable coincidence, we think the lines of our religious conviction fall strangely close to the political fault lines of our two party system.
I would be delighted to join the table at Mr Dalrymple has set, but I feel exceedingly alone. I have never supported Donald Trump, but I find a visceral revulsion to the losers of an election making extra-electoral efforts to dispose of the winner. My heart weeps to see evangelical heroes snuggle up cozy and warm to the Trump administration, but weeps again to see other Christians claim that Trump support is the dividing line of honesty, integrity, and decency.
You’re both wrong and for the exact same reason.