I have a confession to make. I didn’t mean to do it. Honestly. I only meant to go on the website once to do some research. But I kind of got hooked and I feel a wee bit ashamed. I would prefer to keep it quiet, but because some hacker could get hold of my history I think it is better I confess now. I visited http://www.trump.com/ and for the past week I have looked at several Trump videos and speeches. It has been a traumatic experience!
Donald Trump was seen as the joke candidate amongst the many Republican hopefuls. A multi-millionaire businessman and property dealer, a celebrity host of The Apprentice and a best selling author, Trump is not afraid to blow his own trumpet. People laughed at his candidacy. They ain’t laughing now. He is ahead in the opinion polls and his campaign speeches are drawing tens of thousands.
And one of the major reasons for this is that he is considered to be the number one candidate amongst the sizeable evangelical constituency. I was so incredulous when I read this a couple of weeks ago, that I thought it must be an exaggerated piece of atheist propaganda. So I did some digging and sadly, it turns out that it is true. I can’t help but ask, why? Evangelicals supporting Trump makes even less sense than people thinking Sarah Palin would have made a good president! Now I am a fair man….so I thought that perhaps my view of Trump is just another example of “listening to too much mainstream, liberal, femi-nazi media coverage”, as one of my American readers informed me. And so I went on to Mr Trump’s website, read as much as I could by and about him, and above all watched his speeches.
In one sense I can understand the appeal. If you believe that America is no longer great, that the traditional Christian values and ethos of the US are being lost, that mainstream politicians are corrupt and only out for the elites, and that Obama is the anti-Christ, then Donald Trump has a certain appeal. He has a direct way of speaking, (although he does tend to talk about himself and his achievements most of the time), and he says things that are not politically correct and yet carry a certain resonance. And he comes across as a rebel, taking on the establishment. In other words he is a populist rabble-rouser with a lot of money, which coupled with the fact that he has the extra appeal of being a TV personality, is a potent combination in todays dumbed down apolitical culture.
If those who share his anti-immigrant, xenophobic, misogynistic, protectionist politics want to vote for him, then of course they will do so. It’s not my politics but we do after all live in a democracy. What concerns me, as a minister of the Gospel, is the thought that this might be in any way be associated with Christianity.
The equation of evangelical Christianity with right wing American politics from the ‘moral majority’ through to Sarah Palin, has been a disaster for the reputation of the Gospel and the Christian church – not just in the US but also especially over here. If the church was damaged before through this association, any connection with Donald Trump is suicidal. Please note that I am not saying here that it would be a sin to vote for Donald Trump. If he reflects your politics then that is what you should vote for. But it would be stupid and sinful to vote for him because of your Christianity, as though he is some kind of defender of the faith. Here is why Trump cannot in any sense be considered to be a champion of Christianity.
1) He hasn’t a clue about what Christianity actually is. As a real Presbyterian I am ashamed that he claims to be a Presbyterian. In an astonishing speech at Liberty University he declared https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvl2y34puhY.
“I’m Presbyterian…a Christian, a very proud Christian and a real Christian…gee I wonder what he meant by that”…..I always finish off by saying ‘get even’ (I use another word…I won’t use bad language here) – don’t let people take advantage, get even.” The fact that a speech which contained “if you can get away with it, get away with it” was cheered at a Christian university indicates the insanity of some of the current American church scene!
“I’m Protestant,” he said. “I’m Presbyterian to be exact. And I grew up in Sunday school, and I did all of the things that you probably did. And I believe very, very strongly. I’m a big believer in the Bible.”
Trump admitted that he rarely asks forgiveness from God, since every time he makes a mistake, he becomes too busy trying to fix it and make amends. “I just go on and try to do a better job from there… I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t,” he said.
If people call Obama anti-Christ for having the wrong name and the wrong policies, I would suggest that Trump is a better candidate because he goes against everything that Christ came to do. Trump doesn’t need Jesus, he can just auto-correct his own mistakes. Who needs the atonement when you can buy your way out of sin? The gospel of Jesus is ‘turn the other cheek’; the gospel according to Donald is ‘get even’. Anyone who reads their bible would know that Trump does not read, nor believe, his.
2) His Actions and Policies are fundamentally anti-Christian.
This is seen in several areas. Firstly in his business dealings. A major source of his wealth is his casinos. Gambling is one of the most devastating attacks on the poor – the only people who don’t lose are the casino owners. ‘Its legal’, say some Christians, ‘so what’? Well so is adultery and abortion – do you say ‘so what?’ to that? His bankruptcies, lawsuits and shady dealings are not exactly the product of the Protestant work ethic either! ( Four of Trumps businesses have declared chapter 11 bankruptcy. He even boasted “I’ve used the laws of this country to pare debt. … We’ll have the company. We’ll throw it into a chapter. We’ll negotiate with the banks. We’ll make a fantastic deal. You know, it’s like on ‘The Apprentice’. It’s not personal. It’s just business.”).
Secondly his misogyny. He treats and speaks of women like products, to be bought and sold as he pleases. His ownership of the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants is indicative of his attitude. How a man who has been divorced twice, boasts of his affairs and speaks about women in the derogatory and demeaning manner he does, can be cheered by evangelicals who claim to follow Christ, is beyond my comprehension.
Thirdly there is his racist rhetoric. His attempt to portray Mexican illegal immigrants as being murderers and rapists in the Motherland reminds me of the attempt by another megalomaniac to portray the Jews as murderers and rapists in the Fatherland.
Then there is his hubris and arrogance. The concept of humility is far from his version of Christianity. He names buildings, hotels and even streets after himself. New York would be renamed Trumpton if he could get away with it! He continually boasts about his wealth (‘I was paid $5 million to do a speech in Australia’), his conquests of women and how he would deal with ISIS, Mexico and China, China, China.
As if that were not enough there is his sheer hypocrisy. He courts the evangelical vote, claims to believe the Bible but doesn’t know what it says and lives a life style in direct contravention of it. He sounds like a good conservative, but he was a registered Democrat voter, gave money to the Democrats (he boasts about giving money to Hilary Clinton, so that she was obliged to attend his wedding) and stated that he was pro-abortion. He projects himself as the anti-establishment figure – despite being a multi-billionaire and courting the great and not so good.
This whole charade is an embarrassment. I am not primarily concerned that as a Scotsman someone with a Scottish heritage (Trumps mother was from Tong on the island of Lewis) could say and do such horrendous things. My absolute concern is that ‘the name of Christ be not blasphemed amongst the Gentiles because of you’. Trump is not a Christian and therefore cannot really be an embarrassment to Christianity – but the fact that so many people who profess to be Christians are saying it is their Christianity which causes them to support him, is embarrassing. Even the godless world is puzzled by this phenomenon – Frank Bruni, New York Times columnist, wrote
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/26/opinion/frank-bruni-trump-ward-christian-soldiers.html?_r=1 “As for Trump, I must not be watching the same campaign that his evangelical fans are, because I don’t see someone interested in serving God. I see someone interested in being God. “
I am not writing this because of my politics. I am writing because I am passionately concerned about the cause of the gospel, both in the US and here in the UK. I want America’s Christian foundations and traditions to be retained, I believe that the liberal secularism of Hilary Clinton and others is a profound threat; but I would rather an honest atheist that the dishonest trumpery of the billionaire property tycoon.
Paul once wrote to the Galatian church, “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you”. To at least some of our American brothers and sisters we need to ask “O foolish evangelicals, who has bewitched you?” I know that many, indeed most, evangelicals will not support Donald Trump, but I am surprised that so many are willing to speak out against Hilary, but not Donald. Personally I don’t think that church leaders should be involved in politics and should not identify the gospel with one particular political side. However when it comes to Christianity being confused with politics of either the Left or Right, we must speak out. I wonder if the reason that so few evangelical leaders speak out what they really think, is not because of a reluctance to be involved in politics, but rather because they know it will alienate some of their congregation (and givers) who have more than a sneaking sympathy for Trumps policies. But the honour of Christ is at stake and the shepherds must seek to protect the sheep from the wolves. Even if it affects their finances and their popularity.
As a good Scots Presbyterian I try to sing/read a portion of the psalms every day. Perhaps if my fellow ‘Scottish Presbyterian’ did so he would avoid the hubris so evident in his campaign. This morning my portion was from Psalm 49
16 Do not quake before a rich man, though his fortune grows immense, And his outward state increases—or he will take nothing hence.
He will soon descend with nothing,of the splendour he possessed, though in life he prospered great, and they told him he was blessed.
He will go to join his fathers—never see the light of day. `Those with wealth and no discernment are like beasts that pass away.
(Sing Psalms – Free Church of Scotland)
I pray that the Lord would work in Donald Trump’s life and grant him real repentance and faith in Christ. God bless America. God have mercy on us all.