President Trump attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast once again this year, and plenty of evangelical voices have taken to the columns to give their opinions. I read two articles that gave their assessments, both were written by conservative evangelical Christians.
One was written by David French titled “Will Somebody Please Hate My Enemies for Me?” and published at the Washington Post. The other was written by Michael Brown at the Stream titled “‘Love Your Enemies’ is a Command, Not a Suggestion.”
French is outspokenly opposed to Donald Trump and is clearly of the conviction that Christians ought not support him due to his moral failures. Michael Brown is an evangelical leader that recognizes said failures and still justifies lending his support and vote for Trump. So, the contrast was interesting to read. It didn’t go the way I figured it would.
French’s article at the Washington Post bears this tagline: Donald Trump is making it even harder for Christians to defend him, and yet they still do. This is an apt tagline that sets the tone of the rest of the article.
French begins with a paragraph that summarizes Arthur Brooks’ moving speech just before the President’s in which he admonishes us, as Jesus before him, to love our enemies and bless those who persecute us. It truly was a powerful speech and you should give it a listen (Brooks begins at 36:00).
But that’s not what French is here to write about. His next paragraph begins by drawing a contrast between Brooks’ speech and the President’s.
The President began his speech by saying he wasn’t sure if he agreed with Brooks. The audience laughed, the President laughed, you can’t see Brooks in the camera shot, but one can assume he laughed as well. He was clearly joking which is evidenced by the fact that his next statement was “But” followed by thanking Brooks for his speech.
French sees this as an opportunity to capitalize. He then goes on to say that the President proceeded to hate on his political opponents by personally attacking them. No examples are given because there were none. I listened to the president’s speech and I heard no personal attacks. The president says that he does not like it when his political opponents attack him in what he perceives to be unfair ways, like the impeachment. Who can blame him? His intentional use of “I don’t like it when” comes across as a confession more than anything, especially after Brooks’ powerful admonishment to love our enemies. I took this to be a confession on the part of the president, where French again sees it as an opportunity.
What would you prefer? That he lie?
French goes on to use Jerry Falwell Jr. as an example of Christian Trump supporters who justify such egregious behavior. Again, what egregious behavior? The president’s speech was anything but egregious and there were no personal attacks. That is why French cites Trump’s tweets and past actions.
Obviously, many evangelical Trump supporters are the furthest thing from the Falwell-types, which French acknowledges. But only in a back-handed manner.
It’s not long before he grays the line between the Falwell-types and the more “moderate-types”.
French writes, “Let’s talk for a moment about a far more common Christian Trump supporter.” He then goes on to describe the type of evangelical Trump supporter that he believes is much more common than the Falwell-types.
He describes a sweet Christian woman who would never do or say anything of the things Trump has been accused of doing, but she votes for him because she isn’t going to vote democrat, wants to see an end to abortion, and is tired of the way the media represents her conservative views.
Now, at first, his description is spot on. This is exactly right. People are tired. They are tired of being told that they are bigots, when in fact that they are not. People are tired of being told that their religious views are homophobic, when in fact they are not. And most of all, they are tired, or more like disgusted, at how flippantly the media discusses the genocide of innocent children.
For these reasons, they are willing to vote for someone like Donald Trump. They would never vote for a democrat, and they view a third-party vote as a waste. This isn’t difficult.
Well, it shouldn’t be. French either has trouble understanding this simple explanation, or trouble accepting it. Here’s what he says:
Here’s the end result—millions of Christians have not just decided to hire a hater to defend them from haters and to hire a liar to defend them from liars, they actively ignore, rationalize, minimize, or deny Trump’s sins. They do this in part because they can’t bring themselves to face the truth about Trump and in part because they know it is difficult to build and sustain a political movement if you’re constantly (or even frequently) criticizing the misconduct of its leader. To criticize Trump even a quarter of the time he does something wrong would be to unleash a constant drumbeat of criticism against the man they hope to re-elect.”David French, “Will Somebody Please Hate My Enemies For Me?” Washington Post.
Let’s break this down.
“Millions of Christians.” First of all, where did that number come from? French has no idea how many people think what he is about to say because what he is about to say describes motive and intent, something he knows only about his own self.
“Hire a hater.” Now, if French wanted to make the case that Trump was a “hater,” he could easily do so by finding some old clip of something stupid that Trump has said. But what we saw at the National Prayer Breakfast was anything but a “hater.” What was “hateful” about Trump at the National Prayer Breakfast? Of course, French provides no quotes of Trump at the National Prayer Breakfast to back up this claim.
“Hire a hater to defend them from haters and to hire a liar to defend them from liars.” In case you hadn’t noticed, evangelical Trump supporters don’t need someone else to “defend” them. Okay, I’m mostly jesting, but I just wanted to say that.
The problem with this caricature is obvious. When I voted for Trump, I did not say in my heart, “Yes, good, now go own the Libs (Sith Lord voice).” There may be people like that, but is it “millions” like French tells us? Or are most evangelical Trump supporters like me? When Trump does stupid stuff we say “Yeah, he’s not the brightest.” When he does immoral things we say, “Correct, that’s immoral.”
Here’s where the whole issue lies between those like French who, to use a phrase I was trying to avoid, would never vote for Trump, and those like me who would. I look past all of this and straight to the policies. I like what Trump has done for the economy and I like the justices and judges that he has appointed. I like the momentum of the pro-life movement. I like the fact that the country isn’t pummeling into socialism and further into the Left’s agenda, at least from a policy standpoint.
None of this “ignores, rationalizes, or minimizes” immoral things that Trump has done or said. For one thing, I’m tired of speaking of Trump’s immoral words and actions in the abstract. Give me specific examples of what you think are so bad that they justify giving up everything just previously mentioned. Because, as previously noted, there was certainly nothing in his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast that would justify such a thing.
Are Trump’s ills so bad that we should hand this country over to the Left who are actively putting forward a candidate that is an open Socialist who supported Communist regimes in the past? That’s not a caricature, you can ask Bernie yourself, he won’t deny it. Are Trump’s ills so bad that we should hand this country over to the Left who are in support of abortion up until the point of birth?
“This is a false dichotomy. You can vote third-party!” You mean I can throw my vote in the trash. I’m not saying a third-party vote is a vote for the Democrats. I am saying it’s a wasted vote. It’s a conscientious objection. You might as well have not voted.
Most people want their vote to matter, so they are voting for one of the two major parties. Given that, the choice is obvious for most conservative evangelicals. We are not going to vote for a party that supports socialism and abortion. We’ll take Trump over that 10/10.
And that is really all there is to it. Unless you’re David French, or someone like him.
If you’re like French, you hear all that I just said and respond with, “Nope, I know the real reason. The real reason is because you have hate in your heart, but you know that’s wrong, but still you want to express it, so you hire Trump to do your hating.”
What a childish thing to imply. How does this get published?
All it amounts to is critiquing some imagined motive. That is no Trump supporter’s motive that I have ever talked to. And if French thinks he knows some, I want him to name one person that would describe their own motivations for voting for Trump the way he does.
“Well, they wouldn’t admit it!”
No kidding, that’s the point. You don’t know people’s motives better than they do. David French doesn’t know millions of people’s motives better than they do. And when they tell you what their motives are, like I just did, take them at their word.
The debate around Trump should be substantive, not painting the opposition as having evil intent and motive. That should be obvious.
French says we should love our enemies and follow the Ten Commandments while engaging in political dialogue. Well, let me ask you: Is it unloving of me to support Trump because I’m pro-life, pro-small government, and pro-capitalism? Or is it unloving to paint your political opponents as haters who lack the certitude to do their hating themselves?
A Stark Comparison
If you’re interested in reading an analysis of the National Prayer Breakfast and Arthur Brooks’ speech that isn’t condescending, check out this article written by Michael Brown at Townhall titled “‘Love Your Enemies’ is a Command, Not a Suggestion“.
Compare the tone of Brown’s article with French’s. Whereas French saw Arthur Brooks’ speech as an opportunity to condemn his fellow Christians, Brown sees an opportunity for us all to search introspectively, aligning our motives (as best we can) with Jesus’ commands.
In sum, don’t be the guy in the pew who hears a sermon and thinks “Too bad so-and-so isn’t here to hear this.” Jesus’ words apply to you. When he said “Love your enemies,” he was speaking to me. I do not hate my liberal sisters and brothers. I do not hate my Democratic brothers and sisters.
And when Trump, or anyone else, speaks unnecessarily hateful things about them (which they do to him all the time), I believe it is wrong.
So, I hate hate. And I want to see human flourishing. That’s why I vote for Trump. I believe his policies will lead to human flourishing in the United States. I am not voting for Trump so he can go hate the Libs for me. Sinful as I am, I am all too capable of doing that myself. May God forgive me when I act in such ways, and teach me to love my enemies, just as His Son did.