Jesus for President

He’s about the only one left when it comes to a presidential candidate with character. Alan Noble laments:

In just five years, white evangelicals went from overwhelmingly denying a division between private and public character to overwhelmingly embracing the division. It is very difficult for me to imagine an explanation of this shift other than the candidacy of Donald Trump.

I do not want to speculate here on what exactly in Trump’s candidacy caused this shift in white evangelicals. Most of the possibilities are grim and warrant their own thorough exploration. But right now evangelicals can turn back to our traditional teaching that character matters and correct the mistake of supporting Donald Trump.

He concedes that Hillary has issues (which is why Jesus is left standing in that great day):

Some evangelical leaders have claimed that we just have two morally flawed candidates. They point to Hillary Clinton’s flawed character and her sins and conclude that since they are both sinners, we have to simply judge them on their policies. But that does not reflect a Christian conception of character and behavior.

Like many evangelicals, I cannot vote for Clinton because I do not believe she would be a good president for my neighbor. Since I believe that life begins at conception, Clinton’s intention to repeal the Hyde Amendment so that federal funds can be spent on abortions reveals a profound flaw in her character.

But her flaw does not magically make Trump’s flaws any less grievous.

What I enjoy about Trump’s candidacy as someone with a seat in the theater of American electoral politics, is how fundamentalists are now in fashion for both evangelicals and Democrats:

Having grown up as a conservative evangelical during Bill Clinton’s administration, I believe that character matters. This is what leaders on the religious right taught me when Clinton was caught in his affair with Monica Lewinsky. At the time, some people tried to shrug off Clinton’s infidelity as a private matter: Of course he shouldn’t have done it, but this didn’t affect his ability to be president. But conservative evangelicals rejected this logic, and they were right.

In response to President Clinton’s infidelity, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a “Resolution on the Moral Character of Public Officials”:

Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That we, the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 9-11, 1998, in Salt Lake City, Utah, affirm that moral character matters to God and should matter to all citizens, especially God’s people, when choosing public leaders; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we implore our government leaders to live by the highest standards of morality both in their private actions and in their public duties, and thereby serve as models of moral excellence and character; and

Be it finally RESOLVED, That we urge all Americans to embrace and act on the conviction that character does count in public office, and to elect those officials and candidates who, although imperfect, demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character.

So is Noble ready for the isolation that always comes to evangelicals who scold modern America for its sins? I thought evangelicals wanted a seat at the table, and fashioned a kinder, gentler Protestantism (than fundamentalism) to get there.

Now Falwell and Co. were right? Who knew?

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16 thoughts on “Jesus for President

  1. See?

    Younger evangelicals are in a dramatically different position because the idol of political power has relatively little appeal to us (we’re far more interested in cultural approval from social and media elites, which is another topic for another day). So when it comes to Trump, we do not have the same kind of draw toward ignoring our principles in this arena that older Trump-supporting evangelicals do.

    Rather, we look at the current landscape and many of the things we were taught growing up are precisely what make us so aggressively anti-Trump. If we believe that truth is eternal, objective, unchanging… well, we shouldn’t elect a man who lies more before breakfast than the typical American does in a week.

    If Christianity really is pro-women, as so many of us were told throughout the 80s and 90s and early 2000s, well, maybe we shouldn’t support a candidate for president who brags about his ability to sexually assault women without consequence and whose supporters do things like this:

    Trump crowd in NC now yelling “lock her up” in reference to the women accusing him of touching them without consent.
    — Reid J. Epstein (@reidepstein) October 14, 2016

    If character matters, then we probably should, you know, talk about the character of our candidate in our 15-minute explanation of why we endorsed him instead of offering carefully, decadently wrong explanations based on the media and cultural landscape.

    The problem here isn’t that the boomers lacked principles or were, en masse, some uniquely bad group of Christians; it’s that the boomers who have embraced Trump have forgotten their principles.

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  2. Clinton for president. This from Mother Jones on Hillary’s involvement in faith group “The Fellowship” (creepy!) in DC. Shoutouts to Chuck Colson, Francis Schaeffer, Paul Tillich, Rick Santorum, Norman Vincent Peale, and Al Mohler. They even refer coalition-building!!

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2007/09/hillarys-prayer-hillary-clintons-religion-and-politics

    A teaser:

    That’s how it works: The Fellowship isn’t out to turn liberals into conservatives; rather, it convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics. Only the faith is always evangelical, and the politics always move rightward.

    This is in line with the Christian right’s long-term strategy. Francis Schaeffer, late guru of the movement, coined the term “cobelligerency” to describe the alliances evangelicals must forge with conservative Catholics. Colson, his most influential disciple, has refined the concept of cobelligerency to deal with less-than-pure politicians. In this application, conservatives sit pretty and wait for liberals looking for common ground to come to them. Clinton, Colson told us, “has a lot of history” to overcome, but he sees her making the right moves.

    Then, as now, Clinton confounded secularists who recognize public faith only when it comes wrapped in a cornpone accent. Clinton speaks instead the language of nondenominationalism—a sober, eloquent appreciation of “values,” the importance of prayer, and “heart” convictions—which liberals, unfamiliar with the history of evangelical coalition building, mistake for a tidy, apolitical accommodation, a personal separation of church and state.

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  3. I remember how truly respected James Dobson was by the secular elites in his valiant crusade against pornography during the Reagan Era. Evangelicals who fought the NEA funding of Andres Serrano and Robert Maplethorpe were applauded for ther Christian sincerity even by their liberal secular opponents. Evangelicals who fought against sexually explicit, obscene, and violent lyrics in music were praised by the secular elites for tring to integrate Faith and Culture. Evangelicals were never mocked for their reaction to Clinton’s sexual scandals; in fact, they were held in high esteem for desiring to maintain basic standards of decency. And Evangelicals were praised for their preference of abstinence based sex-ed over condom distribution in public schools. And the respect that both Young Earth Creationists and Intelligent Design proponents receive even by their secular opponents is not surprising.

    And now by supporting Donald J. Trump Evangelicals have thrown all of that respect and goodwill away. How far we have fallen in their sad, crying eyes. They must feel so let down and abandoned now that the Upholders of Christian Morality and Holy Virtue have been stained by their Trump/Pence support.

    If only there was some way for Evangelicals to regain the profound esteem they once had. Perhaps if Evangelicals can drop their Right Wing Conservative Culture War obsessions and start with things that unite. Like Racial Reconciliation, Climate Change, Amnesty, Sentencing Reform, Income Inequality, Immigration Reform, Police Reform, Banking Reform, Housing Affordability Reform, Death Penalty Abolishing, etc. But we must use “gospel-centered” solutions of course or else fall into the same divisiveness that befell the Christian Right. We must be better than them. And we are!

    The pursuit of Social Justice is the Evangelicals’ only hope for absolving themselves for the sin of supporting Trump/Pence.

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  4. Yes, character counts. At the same time, so do policies. And the policy direction of both Clinton and Trump will lead to self-destruction. We need to look to third party candidates for changes in direction.

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  5. A very apt title, Darryl. The flip side is from the voter angle as opposed to the candidate angle. What if the voter finds himself even more reprehensible than Hillary? Then is it okay to pull the lever for her? That scenario has me going with Paul, who, as the chiefest of sinners, could vote for whomever the he wanted. Or is it “as long as the candidate is at least as holy as I am, then I can vote for him”?

    You can tell I’m . This holier-than-thou on the part of your author makes me want to .

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  6. The Early Church Fathers frequently spoke out against Roman emperors and a sample of their writings reveals language quite similar to the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Resolution on the Moral Character of Public Officials”:

    Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That we . . . affirm that moral character matters to God and should matter to all citizens, especially God’s people, when choosing Emperors; and

    Be it further RESOLVED, That we implore Emperor Nero to live by the highest standards of morality both in his private actions and in his public duty, and thereby serve as a role model of moral excellence and character; and

    Be it finally RESOLVED, That we urge all Christian citizens of Rome to embrace and act on the conviction that character does count in public office, and to elect an Emperor who, although imperfect, demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character.

    I am amazed that the copious denunciations of Nero by the Early Church Fathers is not common knowledge among seminary students today. Polycarp were the first to insist that the office of Emperor of Rome could not be held by adulterers, fornicators, and lewd talking boasters. Ignatius and Origen expressed similar sentiments. Early Christians were often sought for their wise counsel in electing the emperor.

    It is a scandal that these facts aren’t taught in seminaries today.

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  7. Jesus for President

    sigh. if only

    when the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan. Prov 29:2

    behold, a king will reign righteously and princes will rule justly. Each will be like a refuge from the wind and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry country, like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land. Isa 32:1-2

    There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.
    The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. Isa 9:7

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  8. SteveD says: Ali – we’d just crucify him. . .

    Hopefully, a qualified ‘we’, SteveD, for God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
    We have this treasure in earthen vessels.

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