When is it okay to question someone’s faith? The Bible commands us to “Judge not,” but aren’t we also supposed to be a witness to other Christians? If my brother sins, should I not do my best to correct him, openly admitting that I’m a sinner, too?
This question was dominant on the campaign trail last fall. Ben Carson said that he didn’t think Trump was genuine in his faith. Trump lashed back, saying that it wasn’t Carson’s place to judge his faith.
It brings me to today. As an avid opponent of Trump, it makes me sad to think that some of my friends who say they’re Christians constantly justify what Trump does. It does make me question your faith. I don’t want to. But it feels like you’re hypnotized by something that’s making you justify horrid things.
Voting is an extension of how you engage in your daily life. We are instructed not to be friends with this world. I also believe that voting is okay for Christians. Part of my goal in this race is to prevent my friends from harkening back to the days of Lipscomb and Harding, to revive an Anabaptist zeal that encourages Christians not to engage in government at all. I think that Christians do have a voice that they should use wisely.
But saying that you support Trump because of who he’ll put on the Supreme Court just doesn’t work. You’ve put your faith in principalities of man. You’ve put your faith in the Supreme Court of the United States. All liberty comes from God, not from the courts. Only He can give it to you. And by supporting Trump, you’re exchanging your integrity for something you might get from the election.
For goodness sake, have some self-respect. I know you’re better than that. You don’t have to vote if you feel that either option is terrible. Because, by that logic, in the end, something terrible will happen regardless. You might as well make one good decision. If you don’t see a problem with Trump, then there’s not much I can do.
If you’re a Christian I implore you to do what’s right. Trust in the Lord. That’s what He commands you to do. I know you’ve prayed about it and you’re concerned and want to do what’s best, but I’m telling you what isn’t the answer. When you consistently offer your support for Trump, it shows that the life you claim to pledge yourself to also supports Trump and his repulsive lifestyle. When you proclaim yourself as a Christian, you’re acting as God’s people. Deliberately choosing something horrid would be a violation of the third commandment.
Trump is, honestly, a perfect representation of two unpleasant strands of American evangelicism coming to a head: the distortion of the Christian Right and the prosperity gospel. The Christian Right I think of developed in the latter-half of the twentieth century, but has since begun to devolve into an insulting political creed rather than a religious practice. Here I use “Christian Right” fairly broadly. I use it as a synonym for the marriage of Evangelical Christianity with the Republican Party, so much so that it justifies deceitful political tactics for gaining political advancement. It often worships a mythos of “American identity” and what America should be – it’s a syncretic mixture of Benjamin Franklin and Jesus. Do not misinterpret what I say: You can be a Christian and Republican. You can be a Christian and a conservative. You can be a Christian and love America. Conservatism is a political philosophy attractive to Christians for a valid reason, and when that philosophy is embraced for what it really is, then it works really well.
The second, the prosperity gospel, is evident if you read closely about Trump’s religious upbringing. He was raised in the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, pastored by the famous Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking. Peale emphasized the idea that thinking positively and not accepting failure will bring about ultimate success, success that God wanted you to have. Peale’s ideas have been roundly criticized by theologian and psychologist alike. But his sermons really hit home with a young Donald Trump. It’s so deeply ingrained in Trump’s character that it hurts to watch him deny bad poll numbers when we all know his numbers are atrocious. He is, oddly enough considering his campaign rhetoric, a blind optimist. When people think of the prosperity gospel, one often jumps to a litany of televangelists who encourage people that God wants them to have great success, only if they ship a payment of $9.99.
In these times, I’m easily reminded of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, from the book of Daniel, when Daniel’s three friends (originally named Hanania, Azariah, and Misheal) are compelled to bow down to the golden statue of the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar. The following, from Daniel 3:13-18, is the interaction between Nebuchadnezzar and how the three men respond to him:
Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
For those of you who don’t know the story, Nebuchadnezzar throws them into the furnace, making it seven times hotter than normal. It’s so hot that the soldiers ordered to throw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace burn up in the flames. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego don’t, standing among the flames without them burning at all, with a fourth man standing amongst them, “who looks like a son of the gods.” They end up walking free from the flames of the furnace, because God provides for them, for his faithful.
The issues we face before us are clearly a Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego moment. And we’re fortunate – we’re not being tested with the flames of the fiery furnace. In these moments, we can both respond with the love that Jesus asks us to and stand firm in our faith, to refuse to be stained by this world. Babylon may be upon us, but you can stand up to it. You can refuse to bow to idols with the hope that God will take you through. Even if he doesn’t, though, it’s still best not to stain yourself.
So, maybe you think Hillary Clinton is just as bad as or worse than Trump, and will appoint liberal Supreme Court justices that will dismantle everything you know and love. I’m not here to advocate for Hillary Clinton. But God will take you through liberal Supreme Court justices. God will deliver you from those who harm and hurt and revile you. And even if he doesn’t, we will serve the Lord anyway.
If you truly believe that Hillary is more of a morally degrading choice than Trump, leave it blank, or vote for a third party candidate, and believe the Lord will lead you through. Don’t debase yourself and get down in the mud. I think you’re better than that.
I’ll leave you with the words of Jesus,
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
If we reach a point where you are persecuted because of your faith, just keep that in mind.