Trump and the Supreme Court

Two years ago, during the lead-up to the election, I wrote two articles, one just some general thoughts on the election, and then a follow-up about why we shouldn’t be single issue voters. The follow up was necessary, as I was attacked but fellow Evangelicals for not supporting Trump. Mostly, I was accused of supporting abortion (I don’t). That is also a refrain I heard often during the election, ‘well, he’s a terrible person, but…something, something, Supreme Court.’ Of course, but Supreme Court, they meant abortion. I laid out all my reasons not to think this way in that post, so please check it out. I welcome any feedback or thoughts. I received a few after posting that, including a bizarre interaction with a former Sunday School teacher and mentor, before cut of all contact with us (after accusing us of being Godless).

So, I bring this up now as the confirmation hearings continue for Brett Kavanaugh (unrelated fun fact, his name means follower of Kevin). This is Trump’s second appointee; and he will be appointed, despite the Kabuki Theater of the hearings, he already has the votes and this just a time for politicians to grand stand. I guess it’s all worth it now, right? We’ll overturn Roe?

Maybe. Maybe not –

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said she would not vote for a nominee who threatens Roe. She said that in a meeting with Kavanaugh, he referred to Roe as “settled law.”

Feinstein specifically asked Kavanaugh about that Wednesday.

“Senator, I said that it’s settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court, entitled the respect under principles ‘stare decisis,’ ” referring to the legal principle of not overturning precedents. “And one of the important things to keep in mind about Roe v. Wade is that it has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years.”

One of two things are going on here. First, he is an unprincipled liar who want stand up for what he believes and when he gets on the court, he will vote to overturn Roe, once challenged. I have to assume this is alright with most Evangelicals, as 81% voted for Trump. Second, he actually believes what he is saying. I actually lean towards the latter, and still believe, as I did two years ago, that Roe will be not be overturned. It’s also important to remember, Roe did no legalize abortion – it made it illegal for state to ban abortion. Were it overturned, the issue would be relegated to the states, many of which will keep it legal.

Of course, you could be cynical and say that Trump doesn’t care at all about Roe, but rather likes Kavanaugh due to his devotion to presidential power. However, if we turn over Roe, would it be worth it? It is a serious question, considering the damage supporting him has done to what little reputation we may have had. The hyprocsy with our reaction to him paying off a porn actress and a playboy model for affairs he had with them, as compared to the reaction many of his supporters had during the Clinton issues in the 90’s. That is one reason why this quote from the now famous Op-Ed stuck out to me –

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Again, all this would be fine, I suppose, if he wasn’t considered the ‘Christian candidate’ or if Evangelicals hadn’t voted for him in record numbers. It is fine to vote for Trump, nothing wrong with it at all. If you are rich, or think Mexicans or Muslims are the greatest threat to the country, or you are a nationalist, then Trump was a great choice (the best, believe me). However, none of the makes him the ‘Christian’ choice and I think that distinct will bother me to no end, for as long as I live. I don’t believe that is the main reason for our support for him. I think the main reason is fear.

I’m not the only one either. Micheal Horton recently wrote the same thing. Read anything from John Fea ( or check out my review of his book).  In a strange irony, we as conservatives are looking for power in the government now more than ever, we look there for a sense of right, or protection, to expand and enforce our will/influence. So, here we are, about to have another Justice. Maybe I’m wrong, and Roe will be challenged next year and overturned. What if is isn’t? What will we say then?

 

Trump, Jesus, and Machiavelli

I’ve had my issues with Trump and the inexplicable support he had among Evangelicals, so I won’t dive too much into that right now. However, I did come across this article the other day that I found pretty interesting. It is long, but I think it is worth the read as it delves into some of the moral/political issues of Trump and his weird mix/brand of nationalism, fascism, and religion. Here are a few good quote from it:

When you hear the call for a “strongman” whose chief role is to protect the nation against enemies, do you hear the voice of Jesus or of Machiavelli?

Boyd’s point: that those who take New Testament teachings literally are in no position to lead the political march for nationalistic glory.

Conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson wrote two months before the election that seeing fellow evangelists—he named Phoenix Seminary theologian and author Wayne Grudem, among others—“beclown themselves trying to justify support of a man like Trump makes me weep for the shallow faith of a church more wrapped up in its Americanness than its Godliness.”

New York Times reporter quoted one pastor’s resigned plaint: “When you mix politics and religion, you get politics.”

I’ve also had issues with Grudem, so it was interesting to see Georgia’s own Erickson call him out; also  let’s appreciate the word(ish) beclown. Like I said, I’m not going to write more about the issues with Trump, but this articles really gets at the point that he does not really embody any of the values we do as Evangelicals. I remain perplexed at his massive amounts of support, including this coming weekend, from heavyweights in the Christian world. Of course, I have to add my favorite photo of one of his Evangelical supporters (this, if you don’t know, is the son of the man whom founded the Moral Majority, standing with a twice divorced, avaricious man, proudly displaying photos of himself on magazine covers, including playboy. Reference for the Hustler mention)

Image result for trump and falwell pictures

I just cannot see how we can throw such full support behind this man. I remain fully on the side of the #19Percent.

 

Evangelicals and President-Elect Trump

I’m not going to provide much in the way of commentary, because I’m just too tired and a little burned out at this point; in fact, I’m going to be extra lazy and just dump raw links. However, I have to note that 81% of White Evangelicals voted for Trump. I was surprised at how high this was. Maybe you are thinking, well, that is just a consistent vote. Two problems with this, first it is actually higher than W received against Kerry or Gore. Second, that were a huge number of Evangelical leaders, pastors, seminary presidents, and public theologians that came out against Trump, so you’d expect the numbers to be lower.

Of course, things are much more complicated than one subgroup vote. I think, and the polls seem to be showing this, that the democrats lost (well, except the popular vote) due to the fact that they focused too much on identity politics and missed the most important part of elections – it’s the economy stupid. I think many Evangelicals voted for power, to stay a controlling force in government, and we sacrificed our moral voice for it. Unfortunately, I think most Evangelicals were simply tricked into becoming single issue voters – something I think is a terrible idea.

Anyway, that’s really all I feel like writing at this point. Grab them by the pussy, here’s your link dump:

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/thabitianyabwile/2016/11/09/4-problems-associated-with-white-evangelical-support-of-donald-trump/#comment-179779

http://religiondispatches.org/white-evangelicals-win-white-house-for-trump-but-lose-big/

http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/november/trump-elected-president-thanks-to-4-in-5-white-evangelicals.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/11/09/why-christians-should-not-succumb-to-the-apocalyptic-language-of-the-election/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/evangelicals-election_us_5820d931e4b0e80b02cbc86e

http://time.com/4565010/donald-trump-evangelicals-win/?xid=Outbrain_Time_ArticleFooter&iid=obnetwork

http://fortune.com/2016/10/09/evangelical-leaders-back-trump/

 

Should Evangelicals be Single Issue Voters?

On Monday, I posted some thoughts and a great link to an article about why Evangelicals shouldn’t vote for Trump. This is something I am adamant about, and I am not alone. Now, this isn’t to say that Evangelicals can’t vote for Trump – but please, please do not call him the Christian candidate. If you like assault rifles, say that is why you are voting for him. If you are rich and want your taxes cut, say that is why. If you really think he will build an actual wall and believe this matters, vote for him. Just do not make the claim that he is the moral candidate.

All that to say, Mrs. MMT also posted the same article on her Facebook page. The results were, sadly, not all that surprising. Of course, there were some that questioned whether she was a believer or ‘knew the gospel,’ but most basically the questions came down to abortion.

So, buckle in, I’m about to write about something I never wanted to have to do before, but I feel compelled to. Actually, let’s back up a second. Many people have written about being a single-issue voter, Kushiner even arguing that we are all technically single issue voters. So, I want to define what I mean when I say single-issue voter. Burk rightly, I think, points out that single-issue voting doesn’t mean that one point makes someone qualified to be president, it means only that taking a certain position disqualifies you. I think that is an important distinction. Also, I agree that everyone is technically a single-issue voter, so for that sake, let’s say we are only talking about the major ‘wedge’ issues – abortion, gay marriage, gun control, etc.

Abortion is clearly the big one for Evangelicals. As I said, Mrs. MMT found out the hard way, that it is almost the only thing people think about in this election. It is frustrating for a lot of reasons that people go there. First of all, the point of the main article was that Trump is not the option. Mostly, though, as I will explain later, we really shouldn’t be single-issue voters.

Alright, back to abortion. There are a few things to say about it as an issue. First, will a Trump presidency make an impact? Second, what would a Clinton presidency do? Third, how should we think about abortion as Evangelicals? Finally, should we limit pro-life to only abortions?

What would Trump do? My thought is nothing. I feel he will have roughly zero impact on abortion. He has been adamantly pro-choice his whole life. He claims to have changed his mind. I remain skeptical. Even if he has, I expect him to be as about as faithful to his claims as he has been to people named Mrs. Trump (I stole that line, but forget the source). I believe Bush was strong pro-life, and even he was unable to affect anything.

Clinton will do nothing for the legality of abortions. If anything, opportunities for abortion may expand. However, she does want to expand healthcare access. Currently, the US has one of the highest abortion rates in the Western world. Throughout the world, there is a correlation between universal healthcare and lower abortion rates. So it is possible that indirectly, a pro-choice candidate may decrease the abortion rate.

Besides healthcare, it’s also possible that some of her proposed social policies could lower the rate. Programs like expanded child care tax credits, maternity leave, sick leave, raising the minimum wage, and other assistance to the poor. We know that roughly 50% of abortions are by women who make below the poverty line (just over $11K) and another 25% between the poverty line and 200% of the poverty line. So, generally speaking, about 75% of all abortions are by women who make $22K or less. To me, that is a clear indication that poverty impacts women’s decisions.

Now, I have a good friend who I’ve known for almost 30 years, a strong believer who is actually working on his master’s in apologetics (follower of this blog, too), who righty points out that people who get abortions don’t do so because they are poor, but because they are sinful. This is true, abortion is clearly a sin, and it is our own sinful nature that causes us to sin. However, I think we have to go a step further and examine the sin. What is the heart of the sinner, why are they acting the way they do? I do not think that someone wakes up one day and says, “Hey, I’d really like to murder a baby today.”

No, I think they are afraid, maybe they are selfish, maybe they don’t want to lose their job. There is certainly the issue of economic security. Sadly, some people who have been interviewed have stated they were afraid they couldn’t feed their current children if they had another mouth to feed. None of these things excuse what they did. People are still choosing to end a life. But they aren’t ending a life for the sake of ending a life. There are other issues. These other issues are where Christians and public policy can help.

So, that is part of how I think Evangelicals should view the issue. The other part is the reality that the issue is just not going away. Maybe it’s because I’m young(ish) and was born almost a decade after Roe v. Wade, but I view the legal aspect as a battle we’ve already lost. I’ve lived my entire life under the legality of abortion. So, that could be biasing my view. However, we’ve had three republican presidents since 1980, serving a total of 20 years, and none have done anything. As it is, the country is only becoming more socially liberal, and I just don’t see us repealing it. In that case, I believe it is incumbent on us to do everything we can to minimize the number that will occur. Because they will continue, and this is true whether or not they are legal.

Finally, is being anti-abortion all there is to being pro-life? I believe pro-life includes at least two other aspects. First, war. And I believe Clinton is actually more hawkish than Trump, so we’ll call that a draw. Second, the death penalty, since killing people is clearly not pro-life. I’m a small government guy, so it has always baffled me that so many of the libertarians/republicans I know support giving the state the power to kill (and this could be a whole other post).

I suppose you could also make the argument that we could throw gun control in there, too. Many, many, people die every year from ‘accidents’, but much like abortion, I don’t think gun rights are going anywhere, with the possible exception of assault rifles.

So, which one really is the more pro-life candidate when looking more broadly at life? Probably a draw at best, since both candidates certainly have mixed views and records. That leads me to my larger point. I do not think we should be single-issue voters. Is it really wise to ignore so many issues in one person, for a single position the other person holds?

Trump has proposed banning an entire religious group. He has advocated war crimes. He certainly isn’t a family values guy. He either does not believe he has sinned or disagrees with the need to repent. Where do we draw the line?

It is also problematic to try to decide which issue is the most important. That is essentially what you are doing by being single issue. Is abortion the most important problem in our country? Can you make a Biblical argument that it should be the one and only qualifier to not vote for someone? I do not think you can. So, for me, I try to look at the multitude of issues, which maybe I’ll write more about later, but I should probably wrap this up, as I do have a few more things to say.

Granted, I do believe this would be a different conversation if abortion were not already legal. I could never, in good conscience, vote for someone advocating changing the law from illegal to legal. Because that can make an impact, that can change things. If you vote for someone who claims they will keep something legal that is already legal, there is no change. But as I said above, this is the world we live in. This law already exists, and it’s highly likely to NOT be going anywhere. As such, we can only try to reduce them.

Some may argue that I am simply accepting the culture, being conformed by the world as it is. I completely disagree. If I were engaging in some loose cultural Christianity, I’d probably just go ahead and support abortion. But I don’t. I’m pro-life. As I said, I think we should do every possible thing we can to prevent as many as possible, so that we can save as many children as possible. I do not see that as a cultural compromise.

However, in some senses, everyone is shaped by culture. As I said above, I do think the battle of legality is over and lost, but the war to save children is not. That’s why I advocate for things such as what is listed above – overcoming evil with good. So, I’m admitting my worldview has been shaped, to an extent, by my life, but I don’t think it’s any different than a previous generation having their views shaped by the moral majority and Christian right, who put tax rates up there on par with abortion in importance.

Let me wrap up by, again, pointing out that I want to be critical of Trump. This is not the same thing, in any way, shape, or form, as supporting abortion. I am pro-life, to the fullest extent. I do not think voting for either Trump or Clinton will have any impact on this. I do think Trump is the more morally repugnant of the two. What about third party? Well, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein both support abortion rights, so those options aren’t particularly attractive. Obviously, I’m not going to just skip voting. So, what does that leave?

I’d love to hear from anyone who has any thoughts on this issue. Please leave your thoughts in the comments or email me. If someone wants to write a longer response to me, I’d be happy to publish it here. It would also be great to hear from anyone who is a single-issue voter (that issue being abortion) and who plans to vote for Trump. I’d be really interested in hearing why you think he is the right/more or Evangelical/Christian choice. I welcome any feedback; however, I reiterate that I am pro-life and in no way support abortion, so if your only response is to tell me abortion is wrong, I am going to drop the ban hammer on you.

Wayne Grudem and Trump

If you are a Christian Theology nerd, internet theologian, or follow the intersection of Evangelical (whatever the hell that even means anymore) and Political, you have probably heard about Wayne Grudem’s endorsement of Trump, call him the morally good choice. I’m not even sure where to start. I read this last Friday night and was honestly very saddened. I’m a huge fan of Grudem. His Systematic Theology text was the first I ever read; really the first of any kind of theology I had ever attempted to study. His book was the gateway to my study of theology that has had a profound effect on my life today (including leading me to become a pretend theologian).

It’s not even that I disagree with all of his points. While I believe his thesis is wrong – Trump being the moral choice – he mentions other policies and outcomes that I support. I think two things bother me most about his article.

First, his lack of originality. His article more or less reads like straight up FoxNews or Tea Party talking points. I am always highly skeptical of anyone who agrees 100% point-for-point with any institution or political party. Maybe that’s a bit much, a little too cynical, but I certainly do not know anyone personally who aligns perfectly with the whole of one political stance (though, I suppose, to be fair to Grudem, the people closest to this tend to be the Tea Party types). When someone does this, it seems they are not thinking for themselves, but instead are reiterating what they have been told to say.

The second major issue is the weight that Grudem carries and the amount of credibly that seems to lend to Trump. He is the general editor of the massive (and massively popular) ESV Study Bible, he is co-founder and former president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, and he was also chair of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (likely the best broadly evangelical seminary in America). My point is, he’s kind of a big deal. However, as you’ll see below, his is not the only view from evangelicals. Furthermore, and what is the most concerning to me, his view is not the outright, perfect Biblical view. Someone of his stature making this statement would cause some to believe that Trump must be the correct Biblical or Theological choice, which he most certainly is not.

Alright, with all that said, I’ve already gone longer than originally intended. There is just so much wrong with this, including the fact, as many have pointed out, that he disagreed with most of his own points almost 20 years ago when discussing Bill Clinton. This seems to come from such a political and personal viewpoint, couched as the Evangelical and Theological view, and because it bothers me so, I am removing his book from my recommendation for building your theological library  and replacing it with Erickson’s Christian Theology.

If you disagree with Trump, but still can’t bring yourself to vote for Clinton, check out Russell Moore’s thoughts, which get a little more support here.

Responses to Grudem:
“Make no mistake: if we follow Professor Grudem’s advice we will lose this election and lose all moral authority to say character counts in the White House.”
What Grudem should have said.
Why Grudem is wrong.
“Grudem’s article makes no space for uncertainty, no room for dissent, and uses definitive, dogmatic language.”
An Answer to Grudem.
Is Grudem Right?

I wanted to be fair and post a few articles that side with Grudem. Problem is, I couldn’t find any. I literally searched “support for wayne grudem’s position on trump.” If any of my dozen or so followers has seen anything, please let me know.

I’ll end with this bit of satire and a reminder for Christians out there to really think and pray about the upcoming election. Talk to your friends, elders, pastor, or people you respect at church. Think seriously about the impact on our nation, of course, but also (and more importantly on us and how we are viewed) on the voice of Evangelical Christianity – a voice we hope is representative of Christ Himself.