It’s time to say what we said 20 years ago when a president’s character was revealed for what it was.
In our founding documents, Billy Graham explains that Christianity Today will help evangelical Christians interpret the news in a manner that reflects their faith. The impeachment of Donald Trump is a significant event in the story of our republic. It requires comment.
The typical CT approach is to stay above the fray and allow Christians with different political convictions to make their arguments in the public square, to encourage all to pursue justice according to their convictions and treat their political opposition as charitably as possible. We want CT to be a place that welcomes Christians from across the political spectrum, and reminds everyone that politics is not the end and purpose of our being. We take pride in the fact, for instance, that politics does not dominate our homepage.
That said, we do feel it necessary from time to time to make our own opinions on political matters clear—always, as Graham encouraged us, doing so with both conviction and love. We love and pray for our president, as we love and pray for leaders (as well as ordinary citizens) on both sides of the political aisle.
Let’s grant this to the president: The Democrats have had it out for him from day one, and therefore nearly everything they do is under a cloud of partisan suspicion. This has led many to suspect not only motives but facts in these recent impeachment hearings. And, no, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment.
But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.
The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.
Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This
- damages the institution of the presidency,
- damages the reputation of our country, and
- damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.
This concern for the character of our national leader is not new in CT. In 1998, we wrote this:
The President’s failure to tell the truth—even when cornered—rips at the fabric of the nation. This is not a private affair. For above all, social intercourse is built on a presumption of trust: trust that the milk your grocer sells you is wholesome and pure; trust that the money you put in your bank can be taken out of the bank; trust that your babysitter, firefighters, clergy, and ambulance drivers will all do their best. And while politicians are notorious for breaking campaign promises, while in office they have a fundamental obligation to uphold our trust in them and to live by the law.
Unsavory dealings and immoral acts by the President and those close to him have rendered this administration morally unable to lead.
Unfortunately, the words that we applied to Mr. Clinton 20 years ago apply almost perfectly to our current president. Whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office by the Senate or by popular vote next election—that is a matter of prudential judgment. That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.
To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?
We have reserved judgment on Mr. Trump for years now. Some have criticized us for our reserve. But when it comes to condemning the behavior of another, patient charity must come first. So we have done our best to give evangelical Trump supporters their due, to try to understand their point of view, to see the prudential nature of so many political decisions they have made regarding Mr. Trump. To use an old cliché, it’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence. And just when we think it’s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that’s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern.
Better arguments will not win the day because they believe that Trump is part of an Apocalyptic narrative.
hi my name is Frank Schaefer I am a
writer and a painter sitting in my
studio in my bathrobe having just
finished painting this morning I tend to
work in the morning and getting ready to
take a walk with three of my my five
grandchildren but before I get up and
shower and shave and go out I just
wanted to share something with you and
that is that I’ve been talking to people
in the media and other folks who are in
politics and they all asked me the same
question and it goes something like this
Frank your background was in the
religious right your father was a
religious right leader can you explain
to us why
Trump’s most unwavering support comes
from evangelical Christians who say they
follow Jesus who’s teaching seems to go
across everything Trump is from his
arrogance to his lies to his
divisiveness and all the rest of it and
question mark close quotes and I think
it’s instructive to point out a couple
of things first of all it’s pretty much
beyond debate that Trump is mentally
unstable and unfit to be President as
such it’s also beyond debate that his
own lifestyle of philandering groping
women sexual assault bragging about it
three marriages immense amounts of
womanizing that he bragged about on
shows like Howard Stern’s radio show
would all be dismissed as filthy living
and satanic by evangelicals when it
would involve anybody else say their own
pastor who they would fire instantly if
he was caught doing a tenth of these
things and then you come to the racial
divisiveness and the outright support
for the KKK neo-nazis white supremacist
and others that’s easier to explain
because a lot of white evangelicals are
racists they come from a movement that
was in the forefront of segregation was
in the forefront of starting white
schools to get around integration of
public schools and so forth but that
said there are millions of white
evangelicals who are not racists and who
welcome people of other
is to our midst for instance their
brothers and sisters in Christ who are
Hispanic in the Pentecostal movement so
that begs the question why out of that
eighty-one percent vote from white
evangelicals are the core of the core
still hanging in with him and I think
what a lot of secular people who
question me don’t understand is that if
Trump is delusional it’s no accident
that his core support are the most
delusional and mentally unfit people in
America and that is religious fanatics
of all stripes fundamentalists of all
kinds this kind of fundamentalism isn’t
limited to America and India for
instance there are fundamentalist
nationalist Hindus murdering Muslims
because they say that some Muslim ate
some beef or killed a cow and in Israel
the the fundamentalist Orthodox Jews
there are circling the wagon and
essentially trying to turn that state
into a kind of an apartheid state where
Palestinians are treated to second-class
citizens and as someone who lived in
South Africa for a year while I was
making a movie there back in the mid
1980s I can say that when I visit the
State of Israel looks more and more like
apartheid South Africa so the phenomena
of the rise of delusional xenophobic
conspiracy theory Laden movements with
religious spin to them is universal it’s
what Iran is about it’s what Saudi
Arabia and the Islamists that it backed
all over the world through its Wahhabism
exporting radical violent Islam which
continues to do to this day is all about
so we’re part of a global phenomena but
that said the evangelical white group of
voters who supported Trump are his core
of his core support people talk about
hillbilly elegy and this sort of theory
of working-class America and blue-collar
America being left behind and yeah
that’s a contributing factor as is
racism and the rest of it but the core
of his support is delusional white
evangelical Christianity so what I have
to explain to my
questioners in the secular media and
often political operatives as well who
want to have my opinion because I’ve
been around the block I knew people like
President Reagan and Jack Kemp and the
Bush family and all the rest when I was
a religious right activists myself is
why as their support someone shakable so
let me explain very briefly here it’s
simple it’s not political support it is
support for a religious worldview they
have made Trump into a theological issue
about the return of Christ there is a
group of evangelicals in the Pentecostal
movement and elsewhere who believe that
Trump somehow fulfills prophecy of being
perhaps an unjust King perhaps a wicked
man but very much like some of the kings
in the Old Testament stories has been
raised up nevertheless by God to do a
job and that is to purify America from
whether it’s transgenders or gay people
or purify America by appointing Supreme
Court justices that will overturn roe v
wade this prepares the way for the
return of Christ so showing them better
facts or that he’s told a thousand
verifiable lies at this point literally
or showing them that a $15 an hour
minimum wage is something that’s good or
that universal health care is what
Americans want or that college debt is
crushing the millennial generation and
that relief of college debt would be so
wonderful or that we really need a
genuine infrastructure program none of
this matters because the certainty
addiction brain of all fundamentalists
is delusional it changes in the same way
that drug addicts on opioid abuse change
it isn’t a question of choice it’s the
actual neural pathways in our brain our
reshaped by belief sometime to the point
where you have this kind of epigenetic
inheritance among evangelical groups
where with their mother’s milk
evangelical children are taught to
reject the world’s wisdom ie science and
facts as fake news the real news is in
the Bible whether it’s about creation or
Genesis or the fact Noah’s Ark really
existed or whatever
be male female sexual relationships and
so forth so having set up a totally
alternative universe you have to
understand that evangelical Christianity
itself is like birtherism it is a
conspiracy theory that believes the
whole world it’s science its facts its
scholarship it’s academic elites the
media common-sense all of this is
somehow a conspiracy of Satan to
distract real believers on track to get
to heaven when they die to receive Jesus
when he comes back to a more perfect
world where women’s rights have been
stripped away where gays are back in the
closet are dead where for a lot of them
it’s a white Protestant middle class
culture so get it through your heads
everybody better arguments are not going
to win the day
what is going to win is if we can
convince people that these religiously
fanatical certainty addicts are
dangerous and Trump is unleashing them
if you want to know where they’d like to
take America watch Handmaid’s Tale there
may be details in that that are wrong
but that’s their idea of a theocratic
heaven on earth logic has nothing to do
with it what we need to do is talk to
independent voters people who think both
parties are the same which is utter
nonsense and get there a pathetic
distance from the political process
cured by showing them who these
evangelical voters really are they’re
delusional fanatics there is delusional
and fanatical and demented as Donald
Trump they like him because he is an
image a secular image albeit a
philandering image or beard but an image
of delusional delusional worldview and
so they look to him as a fellow
delusional conspiracy theorist who
marches to the same drummer they do
which is alternative fact delusion lies
accepted as truth evangelicals think
from God Donald Trump thinks from his
own ego which is all
cares about he worships himself but the
delusion cuts across both Trump and his
core followers they are deluded they are
in fact crazy thank you my name is Frank
An upcoming book by the Faith and Freedom Coalition founder will argue evangelicals have a duty to defend the incumbent GOP leader.
One of Donald Trump’s most prominent Christian supporters will argue in a book due out before the 2020 general election that American evangelicals “have a moral obligation to enthusiastically back” the president.
The book’s author, Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed, became a loyal foot soldier for Trump immediately after he nabbed the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 — commanding hordes of white evangelical voters from his perch on the candidate’s religious advisory board to trust that the New York businessman would grow the economy, defend religious freedom and dismantle federal protections for abortion, if elected.
According to the book’s description, obtained by POLITICO, the original title for the book was “Render to God and Trump,” a reference to the well-known biblical verse, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” The message from Jesus in Matthew 22, has been used in contemporary politics to justify obedience to government — or in the case of Reed’s book, to Trump.
Regnery Publishing confirmed the book’s existence but said the title is “For God and Country: The Christian case for Trump.” The publisher declined to comment on the reason for the title change.
In his book, Reed will “persuasively” argue evangelicals have a duty to defend the incumbent Republican leader against “the stridently anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and pro-abortion agenda of the progressive left,” according to the description.
He will also rebut claims by religious and nonreligious critics that white evangelical Protestants “revealed themselves to be political prostitutes and hypocrites” by overwhelmingly backing Trump, a twice-divorced, admitted philanderer, in 2016.
“Critics charge that evangelical Trump supporters … have so thoroughly compromised their witness that they are now disqualified from speaking out on moral issues in the future,” the description reads.
Reed, who once said Trump’s comments about women in the leaked “Access Hollywood” tape were low on his “hierarchy of concerns,” belongs to an informal group of evangelical leaders — including Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress and Paula White — who have become some of the president’s most devoted fans and vocal defenders since he took office. They have cast his foray into politics as divinely inspired; equated him to biblical figures such as Esther, an Old Testament heroine; and frequently cited Scripture to rationalize his most controversial policies — actions that other religious scholars and leaders have found particularly cringeworthy.
“I think evangelical efforts would be far better spent critiquing their own shortcomings than sanctifying a president,” said Matthew Rowley, a research associate with the Cambridge Institute on Religion and International Studies at Clare College.
For his part, Trump has inspired loyalty among his white evangelical base by positioning himself as a warrior against the secular culture they fear. He’s frequently appeared at conferences hosted by conservative Christian groups, including the “Road to Majority” summit put on by Reed’s organization each summer; strengthened conscience protections for religious Americans in the labor force; nominated dozens of socially conservative judges for lifetime federal appointments; and fervently supported Israel.
“Part of the reason why many religious leaders support Trump is because he is great on life, religious freedom, judges, Israel, taxes, conscience protections, fetal issue and also because Hillary Clinton and his would-be opponents next year are so awful on all of the above,” a senior administration official said.
But the same official said there‘s a difference between the president’s alliance with influential evangelical leaders and his private reaction to those who publicly fawn over his administration. Asked about Reed’s book, in particular, this person responded, “Oh, for crying out loud.”
“It shows how little they understand Donald Trump. He actually abhors obsequiousness,” the official said.
Indeed, the president has been known to mock right-wing television personalities and former aides who have showered him with praise on their shows and in books. After an on-air interview with Sean Hannity in which the pro-Trump Fox News host admitted to warning Trump on Election Day that he was likely to lose, the president reportedly complained to aides about Hannity’s “dumb” softball questions. Trump also teased former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who now serves as one of his personal attorneys, after he unabashedly defended him in the wake of the “Access Hollywood” tape scandal, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.
Reed, however, hasn’t always heaped praise on the president. At the height of the Trump administration’s family separation scandal at the U.S.-Mexico border, the former Georgia Republican Party chairman penned a letter to lawmakers encouraging them to pass an immigration bill that would “strengthen the nuclear family” by ending the “heartbreaking and tragic” practice of placing migrant children and their parents in different detention facilities. And a person close to Reed said he has at times taken issue with the president’s obscene tweets and profanity-laced speeches.
But when it comes to protecting the president and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill, Reed has gone all-in. His group invested $18 million in get-out-the-vote efforts during last year’s midterm cycle, and he has warned conservative Christians that “pretty much everything” is on the line in 2020.
“Our plan in 2020 is to have 500 paid staff and about 5,000 volunteers. Some of these folks are knocking on doors eight hours a day,” Reed recently said on a podcast.
Reed’s book is expected to be released next April, seven months before voters will decide whether to reelect Trump. He has written seven books, including three political novels.