Anti-Trump Fundamentalists and Trump-Friendly Modernists

I never thought I’d agree with Harry Emerson Fosdick, but when he complained that fundamentalists were ignoring political problems for doctrinal purity he might have been describing evangelicals opposed to Trump:

Two weeks ago Great Britain, shocked and stirred by what is going on in Armenia, did as the Government of the United States to join her in investigating the atrocities and trying to help. Our government said that it was not any of our business at all. The present world situation smells to heaven! And now, in the presence of colossal problems, which must be solved in Christ’s name and for Christ’s sake, the Fundamentalists propose to drive out from the Christian churches all the consecrated souls who do not agree with their theory of inspiration. What immeasurable folly!

You could observe a few defects in contemporary American society. What has been happening in this nation for the last thirty years, at least, has not been good. Daniel McCarthy put it well in a recent Spectator piece about the significance of Trump’s presidency:

America has a problem, and it’s not Donald Trump. Suicides and deaths by overdose are up; life expectancy is down. The country that led its allies to definitive victory against both Nazi Germany and imperial Japan in just four years has now been fighting in Afghanistan for nearly 20, with no end to the Taliban in sight. Wall Street prospers but young Americans are deep in debt, manufacturing employment is in decline, and the Great Recession of a decade ago revealed how fragile and irrational the whole financial system is.

For all the talk we hear about ‘polarization’, the policies that led to these grim results were born of bipartisan consensus. Democrats and Republicans might bicker about abortion or guns, but for a quarter-century they were of one mind about free trade and foreign policy: Nato to Nafta and everything thereafter. They each made generous provision for financial and pharmaceutical interests. Enlightened opinion on university campuses and in the major media not only helped shape and amplify the consensus but marginalized practically all dissent from it.

Even today, the architects and propagandists of two and a half decades of policies that led to insecurity, despair and death are unrepentant. Worse, they demand more of the same: an end to Trump’s ‘trade war’ and more shooting wars in the Islamic world and beyond. Drugs and high finance are the future of the US economy, they insist, and manufacturing is better sent abroad.

You have to be a very idealistic democrat not to realize that elites drive society. The question is whether they drive it well or poorly — and with America’s elite, the answer is clear. But what force on earth can reform a corrupt or incompetent elite, one that serves itself and its dreams rather the citizens of the country? Or, perhaps more difficult still, what can compel it to reform itself?

In the midst of these developments, what do evangelical critics of Trump notice? They note incessantly the flaws in the president’s character and the hypocrisy of those who voted for him. According to Peter Wehner, there is no Christian case for Trump, which is true if you also can say there is no Christian case against Trump. The reason is that the president does not have to conform to Christian morality to hold office. Nor does the United States need to follow God’s law to be a legitimate government. But that is not Wehner’s point. His is the fundamentalist one that President Trump is morally suspect and that is the national problem:

The president put enormous pressure on a foreign power to intervene in an American election by harming his political adversary—and Grudem is completely untroubled by that. Can you imagine the outrage of Grudem and other Trump supporters if, in 2012, Barack Obama had coerced, say, China into announcing an investigation into and digging up dirt on Mitt Romney, and then justified it by saying that a president has the power to ask any nation to undertake any investigation?…

Again, the argument made in the editorial is not that Trump’s morally problematic actions in business and in his relationships with women are grounds for impeachment; it is that Trump’s moral transgressions are borderless and, therefore, his actions toward Ukraine are not surprising. And Grudem is simply wrong when he says Trump has not admitted to any immoral actions in business. Last year, a state judge ordered Trump to pay $2 million in damages after Trump admitted to misusing funds raised by the Donald J. Trump Foundation to (among other things) pay off business debts and purchase a portrait of himself for one of his hotels.

Even if you bend over backwards to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, you can’t watch videos or read lists of his lies and come away anything but troubled by how much violence Trump does to truth and reality. To dismiss Trump’s lies as simply manufactured by “fake news” is to perpetrate, even unknowingly, an untruth.

Another never-Trumper, John Fea, is fixated on Trump as a person (and seemingly indifferent to the conditions that made his electoral victory possible):

Here is where we differ Tony. You presuppose some kind of equivalency between Trump and all other politicians. This is why you are constantly saying “Well, what about Obama?” (And this is why I consistently reject this whataboutism). You believe that Trump and Obama (or any other recent president) are playing on the same moral field and thus must be evaluated in the same way. I do not. Trump has sacrificed the moral integrity necessary to deliver a speech like he did today. I agree with Jeff from Maryland when he says: ‘Trump could recite the Gettysburg Address’ and I would not believe him.

So Tony–at what point does a person lose all credibility in your mind? At what point does a person’s actions damage his or her attempts to deliver moral rhetoric to a public audience? I admit that different people will come to different conclusions about when a public figure has reached this level, but I find it hard to believe that it would not happen at some point. I have reached my point of no return with Trump. You, apparently, have not.

The point seems to be that Trump is beneath me. It calls to mind the Pharisee’s prayer, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” (Luke 18:11-12)

But this is all personal — both about the president and the critic. Beyond calculations of personal sanctity, many evangelical critics of Trump have no political or historical imagination to look beyond holiness to social conditions that need attention more than a president’s character.

Wehner and Fea are smart enough. But they are guilty of the narrow outlook that Fosdick saw in fundamentalists. As such, they could never conceive of Trump as Genghis Kahn the way McCarthy does:

Whatever else Trump has done, even his worst enemies will concede that he has injected back into the national conversation fundamental questions about economics, national cohesion and grand strategy that had been treated as closed for a generation. Voters who dissented from the grand consensus had no party and no voice in the media until Trump provided both. But since 2016 only a handful of others, such as Tucker Carlson, have reinforced him. The wealthy and well- educated have been forced to talk about Trump’s issues, yet they do so without admitting any culpability for the country’s plight. This state of denial might see them through the end of this administration but it won’t help them restore the public confidence they forfeited long before the barbarian reached their gates.

You may gain access to the Atlantic or Washington Post by banging on Trump and Jerry Falwell, Jr. But if your political theory is still based on calculations of personal and national holiness, then you have not advanced the ball very far beyond Jerry Falwell (the elder) or Pat Robertson.

Yes, that kind of evangelical.

20 thoughts on “Anti-Trump Fundamentalists and Trump-Friendly Modernists

  1. Ulrike what Fea so naively propounds, they all lie. They’re all corrupt. They all operate on a committed: “the political ends justify any means I can get away with” mentality, and they ALL would sell their own mother for the advancement of their career.

    They also are pretty much all moral degenerates to one degree or another. They also hate each other and have for least as long as I’ve been paying attention to politics, which is about 30 years.

    The difference with Donald Trump is that he is about the most transparent lowlife I have ever heard of in American politics. I actually respect that. He is NOT a phony. Not like the rest of these career political clowns. That alone gets him some points with me.

    He has surprised since taking office. I don’t care how they campaign. I don’t care what they say and I do NOT care about their motivations for what they do. It will never be for the designed glory of the one true and living God. What other motivation matters?

    What I do care about is what they do.

    What Donald Trump has done in his first term is far better than I would have thought and light years closer to what any actually Christ honoring American should want compared to the baby butchering, perversion promoting and righteousness suppressing Democrats.

    There are not divergent post modern ways to view any area of life where morality and politics intersect. There’s God’s way as revealed in His word and all the wrong ones. You cannot proclaim your abhorrence for legalized infanticide out of one side of your mouth and in the name of worldly gain vote to see that it continues and flourishes out of the other.

    As I said before, I didn’t vote for him last time, but he will have my unenthusiastic vote in November.


  2. So 2k! The old Tiribulus would be worried about giving direct support to sinful actors.

    But don’t you worry that he can’t seem to get along with the executive branch?


  3. If we vote for Trump, we vote for a scoundrel. If we vote for his opponent, we vote for harmful, even disastrous policies. The woods are full of Christian commentators who insist on denying one side of this or the other.


  4. Jeff Cagle says:”So 2k! The old Tiribulus would be worried about giving direct support to sinful actors.

    But don’t you worry that he can’t seem to get along with the executive branch?”
    There is no old Tiribulus Jeff.

    If you’re saying there is, there is utterly no analogous comparison between the civil magistrate and entertainment. If you really can’t see that, I’ve been giving too much credit for a long time. I don’t think so. Or at least I hope not.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If Ross Perot or Pat Buchanan were elected in the ’90s, we wouldn’t need to vote for Trump now. The Giant Sucking has sucked much of our industrial capacity so now we can’t make N95 masks, semiconductors, and other things vital to national security. I could go on all day about this. Are we going to be a nation or not? The globalist cabal would rather we not.


    If we vote for Trump, we vote for a scoundrel. If we vote for his opponent, we vote for harmful, even disastrous policies. The woods are full of Christian commentators who insist on denying one side of this or the other.

    Why is Christian punditry so bad? It seems to be full of people with no real world experience.


  6. Let’s try this again:

    If we vote for Trump, we vote for a scoundrel. If we vote for his opponent, we vote for harmful, even disastrous policies.

    If we vote for Trump, we vote for a scoundrel. If we vote for his opponent, we vote for a scoundrel AND disastrous policies. (I fixed that for him)

    The woods are full of Christian commentators who insist on denying one side of this or the other.,

    I pretty much agree with him here, though he missed the part about how disastrous policies come from scoundrels.


  7. Isn’t this what’s known as virtue signaling? Yeah, they need to get a life. Politics is their religion. I’m glad I’m Reformed. At the end of the day, I can’t be disappointed by current events.


  8. Isn’t this what’s known as virtue signaling? Yeah, they need to get a life. Politics is their religion. I’m glad I’m Reformed. At the end of the day, I can’t be disappointed by current events.


  9. But is DGH really “doing nothing political” when DGH chastens us by pointing us back to universalists like Fosdick and the UCC brothers Niebuhr? Must Jews who do not obey the gospel of Christ be reviled and excluded from “the covenant”? Shouldn’t Bonhoeffer have kept to his clerical office without giving his opinion as a German citizen about Hitler and the annexation of land? After all, we are all sinners and therefore neutral things should be left to the professionals.

    Billy Graham preached current events– things are getting worse and worse, but Jesus is coming and the solution is to agree that Jesus died for your sins.

    Francis Schaeffer preached apologetics —philosophy has gone below the line from neutral objectivity to existentialism, and the solution is to agree that Jesus died for your sins.

    Walvord preached left behind—as soon as Israel gets what it needs, they will be left behind and then there will be Satan’s little season and we will be out up to heaven, and the solution is to agree that Jesus died for your sins.

    woman Huckabee preaching at First Baptist Dallas—- America is now great again, because Israel will annex more land, and the solution to keep it that way is to vote for Senators who will hold the line against those terrible socialists

    DGH praising Richard Niebuhr—- Either theonomy or “socialism” would be doing something which would end “religious freedom” for the spirituality of “the church”, which is the place and time Jesus shows up in the sacrament without depending on either your personal morality or your opinions about doctrine (or about socialism)

    So when the unchastened DGH merely defends certain distinctions between private and public (person and office), DGH himself is not doing anything “politically” or “as the church” or “in a triumphalist manner”. What DGH does is by definition never making immanent the eschaton, because DGH does not ask the professionals to regard Jesus as either example or Lord, because DGH does not even ask those in the covenant to be separate from the killing which still needs to be done. When it comes to killing that keeps the culture, the kingdom of Christ will come but has not yet come, because America is the mediating institution in which we are all in this together.

    Stan Hauerwas–“The resurrection of Jesus announces that Christians can do nothing to alienate God’s steadfast will to forgive and love them. The Holocaust presents a profound challenge to this…. But the God Christians worship is one whose power resides not in making the horrible reality of the Holocaust come out right.”

    Colossians 2:15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly
    20 If you died with Christ to the regulations of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? …
    22 All these regulations refer to what is destroyed by being used up

    Hebrews 2: 8 For in subjecting everything to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. As it is, we do not yet see everything subjected to him. 9 But we do see Jesus…crowned with glory and honor because of His suffering in death.

    I Corinthians 2: 15 if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins. 18 Therefore, if Christ has not been raised, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. 19 If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.

    Galatians 6: 14 I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me individually through the cross, and I individually have been crucified to the world. 15 Because BOTH
    circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing…


  10. It’s a double edge sword when he value and endorse liberty above all else and then get snarky and prideful when our options suck. I understand a pure 2K application is virtually impossible, maybe even 2 centuries ago. It’s why I feel checked out…. here’s something I wrote for publication and nobody wants to pick it up….. maybe it’s the tone?

    A Referendum on MAGA

    I hate to be a Donnie Downer but I also dread the duping of my fellow citizens. So while President Trump has done some good things, especially in the short term, I think we need to maintain a critical focus on the big picture.

    We can start by considering whether the Trump Administration has truly taken legitimate steps to fulfill its stated mission to make America great again. In many tangible ways it appears we’ve merely been sold more of the same business as usual.

    It’s obvious that the “Barr” has been set pretty low. Maybe the rediscovery of an aggressive tea party mindset is required to reform what appears to be a broken, manipulated system. Unequal application of the law notwithstanding, here’s just a few reasons to conclude the Trump administration is on the wrong side of winning.

    A Thriving Swamp – Outside the departure of a few RINOs, the swamp remains very deep. President Trump continues to usher various creatures in and out of his cabinet, possibly at the behest of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who from day one of the presidency reportedly insisted that he didn’t “wanna hear any more of this ‘Drain the Swamp’ talk,” essentially telling the president “you gotta back off that.”
    Agenda 2030 Unscathed – Despite some short term economic gains, our national sovereignty recently received a significant blow with the passing of the USMCA – a troubling trade treaty that solidifies and seals our subjugation to international law.
    Dire Debt – Despite a strong economy, we continue to borrow and spend at a ridiculous rate. Trump is comfortable with a print as you spend approach, but such short sighted deficit spending will do nothing but ensure that America will fail to be great again for generations to come.
    Perverted Justice – Two-tier justice continues to thrive like never before under men like William Barr and Christopher Wray. How can you drain anything when you keep recycling and enabling the skaters and perverters of justice? Law and order cannot stand in a nation run by pilferers and thrives, nor those who cover for them. AG Barr, in particular, is a bad deep state actor. Guys like him are why guys like Andrew McCabe are not held accountable for their seditious activity.
    Military Industrial Complexities – Expanding NATO, empowering reckless allies (e.g. the Saudis), and appointing the most hawkish of war hawks is not the way to change the course away from illegal and unjust regime change wars and occupations. So far the president is not doing enough to change the interventionist mindset and in the process the executive branch continues to defy the interests and the will of the people he’s been elected to represent.

    Honorable Mentions:

    The Attack on Assange – Julian Assange has been a revelation of truth and arguably secured the way for a Trump presidency. The man holds the answers to the Russia hoax, Seth Rich and the crimes that compromise a fair, just and free America. Why is he rotting in prison and what is our president doing to get him out?

    Bump Stock Ban Sham – There remains a wall of secrecy and confusion surrounding the 2017 Las Vegas shooting.
    In fact, there was only one conveniently, and seemingly agenda-driven, certainty to come out of the whole affair and that was that bump stocks were the root cause. It was a forced, disjointed narrative that Trump was swift to embrace and sign off on via executive order.

    Playtime with the Mainstream Media – The media is merely a gateway to an alternative reality. The more Trump and the GOP continue to feed that monster the further distracted they render themselves. The legacy media will spin their narratives regardless. Lawsuits and boycotts are the only way to transcend their propaganda. Symbolic victories and red meat rallies are nothing but a waste of precious governing time and are no replacement for true transparency and accountability. We need to follow the lead of Rep Devin Nunes and his no nonsense approach.
    The networks who proceed to play pretend to forward predetermined narratives have solidified their status. At the end of the day, they are nothing less than an illegitimate source of fake news. It is either by default or design that many of our representatives will continue to play along.

    Unaffordable Healthcare – Health insurance premiums and out of pocket costs continue to rise. The president needs to have a repeal and replace plan ready to go. If he lacks the support to pull it off he needs to name names or be prepared to shoulder the blame.

    LGBT Supremacy? – Trump has spoken positively about same-sex marriage and has even been dubbed the “most pro-gay president in history,” a characterization completely at odds with his own presidential platform. President Trump has appointed LGBT activists to prominent positions of power, including Mary Rowland (Illinois Northern District Court), Patrick Bumatay (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals), and Richard Grenell (Ambassador to Germany). Gernell, in particular, has been very active in Trump’s global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality. There is a natural tension that exists between LGBT ideology and religious liberty and the president appears to be the lightning rod enduring the political currents that shake our foundation. It is a role that he seems to relish, but to what end?

    Are we truly paying attention?


  11. I don’t mean to get a little off topic but not really. This will blow you away!!! Regarding Papa Barr… check out the Amazon book link and temple on the cover. …. the content references & reviews.
    “Furthermore, Barr’s father worked for the precursor to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and recruited a young Jeffrey Epstein, then a high school drop-out, to teach at the elite Dalton School, from which Epstein was later fired. A year prior to hiring Epstein, Donald Barr published a science fiction fantasy novel about sex slavery. Notably, the same year Donald Barr hired Epstein, his son was working for the CIA. Bill Barr has refused calls to recuse himself from the Epstein case, even though he worked at the same law firm that has represented Epstein in the past.”


  12. I think both parties, although they have slightly different short term interests, are essentially going in the same direction.

    “When I was the editor of the New York Observer, Kushner and I were going back and forth about how the paper should cover him,” Elizabeth Spiers wrote in a post on Twitter.
    I told Jared that I was particularly appalled by his father-in-law’s birtherism stance, which I viewed as cynical….

    “He rolled his eyes and said ‘He doesn’t really believe it, Elizabeth. He just knows Republicans are stupid and they’ll buy it’”.


  13. Dreher– I run into liberals from time to time who, if we end up talking about fundamentalist Christians, challenge me if I defend them. It’s always some version of, “Don’t you understand that THEY think Christians like you are going to hell?”

    Is Dreher’s answer one of many possible 2k responses ?—Bernie Sanders attacked Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which says “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
    “In America, we think of the separation of church and state as something that protects the church from the state; in France, they believe it protects the state from the church.  This is why the French have a policy called laïcité, which relegates religion to private observance

    Sure, Jews who don’t obey the gospel and Roman Catholics on the Supreme Court will not be justified before God, but that private value has nothing to do with maintaining the public good.

    John 10: 4 The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger. Instead they will run away from the stranger, because they don’t recognize the voice of strangers

    I Peter 4: 13 Rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, in order that you also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. You are blessed if you offend others for …..
    saying the name of Jesus in Congress or as a chaplain to power
    15 None of you, HOWEVER should suffer as a meddler …. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin with those who belong to God, and if it begins with US, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?


  14. Carl Truman –“For Roman Catholics, the challenges of our cultural exile are different. Rome has somehow managed to maintain a level of social credibility in America, despite holding to positions regarded as intolerable by the wider secular world when held by Protestants…. To suspend somebody from the Lord’s Table in an environment where the Lord’s Supper is merely a symbolic gesture is scarcely a serious sanction.”

    James Rogers—”Earthly citizenship, Calvin believed, should be patterned after heavenly citizenship. For Calvin and Nevin, the social body constitutes an organic whole from which each part of member finds significance.”

    NT Wright–“When Jesus talks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus really did mean that this was the time for God to become King and reign in a way that not only challenges Caesar’s kingdom but challenges Caesar’s type of kingdom.When you put it in context, it is anything but a mandate for a church/state split.”

    Is there no justification before God for those outside the church who refuse the delayed efficacy of the Trinitarian means of grace administered by the Roman Catholic mediating institution?


  15. McMark,

    What DGH does is by definition never making immanent the eschaton, because DGH does not ask the professionals to regard Jesus as either example or Lord, because DGH does not even ask those in the covenant to be separate from the killing which still needs to be done.



  16. Trump—-“When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that’s the way it’s gotta be. It’s total.”

    Mohler—Trump upholds what the Bible teaches about an originalist view of the Constitution
    Ben Sasse—the silence of a “constitutional warrior” (running for re-election) preserving the spirituality of the means by which God gives grace to those in the covenant.

    in 1998, Mohler went on national television multiple times to call for the impeachment of Bill Clinton on the basis of Clinton’s failures in personal morality. Mohler did not vote for Trump in 2016 because he wanted to appear consistent with his 1998 statements. But this election is different— Mohler running for SBC president.

    The original view of the Constitution was that people with no property must vote in person (and not by US mail) even when there’s been an “act of God”


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