In 2016, many Christians, and especially many Evangelicals, voted for Donald Trump. Of course, the SB does not make political endorsements, and it would be out of place for me, a non-American writer resident in Ireland, to write either in favor of or against Donald Trump’s presidency. It is not difficult to see why many Christians voted for Trump, for perhaps the alternative was too horrifying.
The last U.S. administration aggressively pushed an agenda of abortion, LGBT rights, and crucially, threatened religious freedom. Hillary Clinton promised more of the same. In a speech before the Human Rights Campaign (a LGBT advocacy group) in September 2016, Senator Tim Kaine, Mrs. Clinton’s running mate, promised that, if elected, Mrs. Clinton would work to pass the “federal equality act,” gushed about “marriage equality” and even said about his own (Roman Catholic) church’s teachings, “I think that’s gonna change…. Who am I to challenge God for the beautiful diversity of the rehuman family?”1 On abortion, Mrs. Clinton herself said, “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases [against abortion] have to be changed”2 and, “The unborn person does not have constitutional rights”3 (Her use of the word “person” was a gaffe for which she was criticized by her left-wing followers. Abortion enthusiasts must perpetuate the myth that unborn children are not persons). “The only people whom I would ever appoint to the Supreme Court are people who believe that Roe v. Wade is settled law,” she promised.
Given those facts about Hillary Clinton, it is little wonder that the prospect of a Clinton presidency terrified many Christians.
Candidate Trump’s Meeting with the Evangelical Base
Several months before Clinton labelled “half ” of Mr. Trump’s supporters “a basket of deplorables” (at a LBGT campaign event in New York City), Mr. Trump met with Evangelical leaders in Trump Tower.4 It is clear what the presidential candidate promised the Evangelicals in exchange for their political support—a protection of their religious liberty, the abolition of the Johnson amendment (a provision in the U.S. tax code that prohibits nonprofit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates), protection for Israel, protection for second amendment rights, and most importantly, conservative, pro-life judges.
None of that is particularly troubling. It is good and sensible for Christians to meet with a political candidate and petition him or her to protect their religious liberties. (Mrs. Clinton hobnobbed with the elite in California and New York, while Mr. Trump listened to the concerns of Evangelicals). What is troubling is the attitude of these men toward Mr. Trump himself.
How (Some Leading) Evangelicals Behave toward President Trump
At the meeting, Franklin Graham set the tone:
Some of the individuals are our patriarchs: Abraham, great man of faith, but he lied. Moses led his people out of bondage, but he disobeyed God. David committed adultery and then he committed murder. The Apostles turned their back on the Lord Jesus Christ in his greatest hour of need, they turned their backs and they ran. Peter denied him three times. All of this to say, there is none of us perfect.
What Graham says is correct, but it is his implication that is troubling. Because these men were sinners, it is acceptable to overlook Mr. Trump’s sins. Now, Mr. Trump’s sins are not necessarily disqualifying for the presidency, and these men were not interviewing him to be a pastor. Nevertheless, Mr. Trump personally needs to be called to repentance. Abraham, Moses, David, and Peter repented!
Mike Huckabee continued the flattery: “The relationship that you have with your family, the relationship and bond that you have with your adult children, is one of the most admirable I’ve ever seen from any father with children…. It was one of the reasons that I have had no hesitation endorsing you.” (The fact that Mr. Trump is on his third marriage was not mentioned). Candidate Trump responded, “I’ve been a Christian and I love Christianity. And the evangelicals have been so incredibly supportive…. They really get me, they understand me, and it’s an amazing group.”
No one in the room contradicted him—“Sir, you are not a Christian. We appreciate you want our support, and we appreciate some of your policies, but you are not a Christian. You do not live like a Christian. You might be presidential material, but you need to repent.”
The “Christians” at Trump’s Inauguration
When Mr. Trump defeated Mrs. Clinton, Franklin Graham declared that the people had wanted someone in the White House “who believed in God, and was willing to listen to God’s voice.” Does an impenitent adulterer re ally listen to God’s voice? “I believe in this election God’s hand was in it,” he remarked.5 Graham even claimed that “God turned up” on election day to defeat the secularist agenda of Mrs. Clinton. If Graham, an Arminian, meant that God is sovereign over leaders, he is correct. However, his statement was met with ridicule and disbelief from the world’s media. God was also sovereign in 2008 and 2012 when Barack Obama was elected—did God not “turn up” then? At the inauguration, Graham assured the president, “Mr. President, in the Bible rain is a sign of God’s blessing, and it started to rain, Mr. President, when you came to the platform.” By such foolish remarks, Graham makes a laughing stock of Christianity and does a disservice to the president. By telling him that God’s blessing is upon him, he gives him no reason to repent. Does God bless impenitent adulterers? Does not God send rain on the just and the unjust alike (Matt. 5:45)?
Another enthusiastic supporter of President Trump is Dr. Robert Jeffress, who gave an inauguration address, “When God Chooses a Leader.”6 In that address, Jeffress referred to Nehemiah, whom he dared to compare to President Trump: “The man God chose was neither a politician nor a priest. Instead, God chose a builder.” Actually, as the king’s cupbearer, Nehemiah was a politician, or in modern terms, a high-ranking civil servant. He was not a real estate developer or a builder by trade. The closest that Jeffress came to mentioning repentance was to declare, “The good news is that the same God who empowered Nehemiah nearly 2,500 years ago is available to every one of us today who is willing to humble himself and ask for His help.” He did not call on President Trump to humble himself and repent of his sins.
Most controversial of all, however, was the presence of Paula White and Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, proponents of the heretical prosperity gospel. “Donald Trump is an example of someone who has been blessed by God,” Jackson told the Conservative Chronicle. “Look at his homes, businesses, his wife and his jet. You don’t get those things unless you have the favor of God.”7 Actually, you do get those things without the favor of God. Asaph learned that in. Solomon understood that in . Paula White (also on her third marriage) is called Mr. Trump’s “spiritual advisor.”8 In the inaugural prayer, she asked God (among other things) for “the compassion to yield to our better angels.” Representative of White’s teachings is the need to sow a seed (into her ministry): “Now when God begins to speak to you, you get up and go to the phone, because God is telling you [to give] $68.19 for the next 12 months, which happens to be $818—Deuteronomy 8:18 says that God will give you the power to get wealth.”9 (White should read and ). In an interview to the Christian Post (July 2016), White stated, “I can tell you with confidence that I have heard Mr. Trump verbally acknowledge his faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins through prayer, and I absolutely believe he is a Christian who is growing like the rest of us. I know that from many personal conversations.”10 That remark shows both the shallowness of White’s theology and the spuriousness of Mr. Trump’s conversion. Even James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” opined,
Only the Lord knows the condition of a person’s heart. I can only tell you what I’ve heard. First, Trump appears to be tender to things of the Spirit. I also hear that Paula White has known Trump for years and that she person ally led him to Christ. Do I know that for sure? No. Do I know the details of that alleged conversion? I can’t say that I do…. If anything, this man is a baby Christian who doesn’t have a clue about how believers think, talk and act. All I can tell you is that we have only two choices, Hillary or Donald. Hillary scares me to death.11
This is the typical “sinner’s prayer” approach to evangelism—ask Jesus into your heart and all is forgiven, even if there is no repentance from sin. Indeed, Pres. Trump is on public record as saying that he does not need to ask God for forgiveness. This is troubling because it brings the prosperity gospel into the mainstream by giving it the legitimacy that it does not deserve.
Pres. Trump may have some good policies. He may even keep his election promises. Time will tell. But will the church retain her credibility when, after four or eight years of “hitching her wagon” to Pres. Trump (for the sake of fleeting political influence), she seeks to fulfill her calling to preach the Word of God?
My concern is for the credibility of the church and the consistency of her witness. When Pres. Trump’s sins, which are so obvious that even the world notices them, are overlooked, where is the credibility of the church when she (rightly) speaks out against the corruption of marriage?
Our calling as Christians is clear: we pray for our leaders. Pres. Trump is not a pastor—he is not even a Christian. Nor is it necessary that the U.S. president be a Christian. Whether any president is a Christian or not, we Christians have the responsibility to submit to, pray for, and respect our leaders (; ; ; ). That was true of the last administration, and that is still true of Pres. Trump and his administration.
1 Senator Tim Kaine delivers the keynote address at the 2016 HRC National Dinner, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4UeXY_w57E.
2 Hillary Clinton’s Keynote Address at the 2015 “Women in the World Summit,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVTiAJ1e9SM.
3 Interview with MSNBC on April 3, 2016.
4 Transcript: Donald Trump’s Closed-Door Meeting with Evangelical Leaders, https://www.yahoo.com/news/transcript-donald-trumps-closed-door-meeting-with-evangelical-leaders-195810824.html. Around the same time, Mr. Trump’s campaign website announced the formation of an “Evangelical Executive Advisory Board, https://www.donaldjtrump.com/press-releases/trump-campaign-announces-evangelical-executive-advisory-board.
5 The Christian Post, “Franklin Graham: Donald Trump Is the Answer to People’s Prayers for a President Willing to Listen to God’s Voice,” http://www.christianpost.com/news/franklin-graham-trump-answer-prayer-president-willing-listen-god-voice-172721/.
6 First Baptist Dallas Church Blog, “When God Chooses A Leader,” http://www.firstdallas.org/blog/when-god-chooses-a-leader-dr-jeffress-inauguration-day-message.
7 The Business Standard News, “Detroit Pastor Wayne T. Jackson Says Trump’s Wealth Is A Sign of God’s Blessing,” http://bizstandardnews.com/2016/09/24/detroit-pastor-wayne-t-jackson-says-trumps-wealth-is-sign-of-gods-blessing.
8 “Business mogul Donald Trump, supermodel Tyra Banks, and the late superstar Michael Jackson called faith teacher Paula White their personal pastor” (Kate Bowler, Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013], 236-237).
9 Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2009), p. 73. In 2015, Paula White joined several leading figures of the prosperity movement in praying over Mr. Trump. Kenneth Copeland thanked God that Trump is an “obedient man.” Another man spoke God’s blessing over him. And Paula White “secured him by the blood of Jesus” and applied https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQ18exdhR6).to him, an egregious mockery of the Word of God! (See
10 Christian Post, “Paula White on Donald Trump’s Christian Faith (Exclusive Interview),” https://www.christianpost.com/news/paula-white-on-donald-trumps-christian-faith-exclusive-interview-166205/page2.html.
11 Cited in the “Pulpit and Pen” blog, “James Dobson Says False Teacher, Paula White, Led Donald Trump To Christ” http://pulpitandpen.org/2016/06/29/james-dobson-says-false-teacher-paula-white-led-donald-trump-to-christ.