This week, the eyes of the nation turn to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, AKA the We-Love-Trump-So-Should-You festival.
With the convention comes another wave of evangelical leaders either enthusiastically or reluctantly boarding the Trump Train. Most recently, Eric Metaxas made an appeal to the #NeverTrump camp to reconsider their stance, given the implications on Supreme Court appointments and immigration policy. He’s not the first, nor will he be the last.
I’ve held fast to #NeverTrump all throughout this campaign process. I watched many of the GOP debates, and heard Trump’s continuous flip-flopping, advocating war crimes, affirming violation of the constitution, and his often inappropriate comments towards women and minorities. I also look at his (fairly recent) past history of supporting liberal candidates and causes, his laissez-faire attitude towards God and repentance, the nature of his businesses and business dealings, and I see a man thoroughly unqualified to lead. That has not changed, and it will not. There’s not enough Trump could do between now and November that could convince me otherwise.
But Metaxas and those like him want me to reconsider, because as terrible as Trump is, hey, at least he’s not Hillary. (I’m not supporting her, either, for many similar reasons). There’s almost a pleading to it, as though God will no longer be able to rule and reign in America if Hillary wins. The fear is rampant throughout the church.
The Crumbling Idol
The church in America has spent the last four decades marrying itself to a conservative political agenda. When I was a child, I remember Christian Coalition literature being passed out in our church, endorsing Republican candidates and ideologies. In some corners, making sure conservatives were in the White House, or Congress, or anywhere else was elevated as high (or even higher) than the making of disciples, the true reason the church exists. The names most closely associated with this were the likes of Jerry Falwell and James Dobson (funny how little has changed, as Dobson and Falwell’s son are leading the pro-Trump evangelical charge).
Now, I will not say that the Christian faith does not have implications for a person’s political stance, on issues such as abortion and marriage. But if we’re going to be consistent, we cannot accept racism for the same reason we cannot accept abortion – it devalues and destroys image-bearers of God. Trump and many of his supporters seem to have missed this. (Of course, Trump was always pro-choice until recently, so that is not surprising). But a political agenda is not the end-all of the church. In fact, I would contend that it is a frivolous pursuit for the church. The church’s mission, given to it by Christ, is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). If the church were as committed to this cause as it were to campaigning for the elephant, the political agenda would take care of itself, as a movement of hearts and minds redeemed by the Gospel would naturally be inclined to it. But instead, the church has clung to politics as its idol.
We are now seeing the backlash. My generation (the millennials) now largely see the church as a political machine that seeks to impose its moralistic agenda on society. As they have reached voting age, they are making their presence felt. They sat in church pews as children and heard about how Bill Clinton was bad and Ronald Reagan and George Bush were good and didn’t hear nearly as much about how Christ died to save. They are fed up with that. They voted for Obama. They’ll vote for Hillary.
And so the fear is rampant through evangelicalism. Conservative power is waning. It appears we are inching closer to four more years of a similar presidential administration to the present one, and more SCOTUS support for it. And this is why folks like Metaxas are trying so desperately to rally the #NeverTrump movement to forget what “never” means. Their idol is dying.
“But what if Hillary wins?” they ask. That is their worst case scenario. Well, I want to offer some scripture that may speak to that very thing.
For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. (Psalm 75:6-7)
…and said, “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. (2 Chronicles 20:6)
And the one I would say that is most relevant…
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1)
“There is no authority except from God.” That sounds a lot like God is in control of this thing. So, Obama got his authority from God. If Hillary wins, or Trump wins, God gave it to them. God gives righteous rulers to bless, and wicked rulers to judge.
Could it be, that the reason we have two immoral autocrats is God’s judgement on the church’s idolatry of politics? Could it be that He is doing this to force the church to turn back to the Gospel?
That brings me back to the argument of Metaxas and others. God is going to put into power whom He wills. I do not fear the outcome of this election. I’m reasonably convinced that liberty will suffer and Christianity will be moved further to the margins of society regardless of who wins. But I also know that God will use it to refine and restore His church. I do not have to lay down my biblical convictions about who is and is not qualified to lead out of fear. And I will not. When I said never to Trump, I meant never, and I still do. ♦