One of the most remarkable things about the 2016 presidential campaign is the mysterious attraction evangelicals seem to have for Donald Trump. It makes little rational sense.
Trump has initiated two unbiblical divorces, had a very public affair with the woman who became wife number two while still married to wife number one, has made a fortune off the immoral practice of gambling, celebrates greed, has gone bankrupt four times, openly admits that he has spent his entire public life bribing politicians for access and influence, and hasn’t apologized to God or to man for any of it.
His ego is “yuuge,” even bigger than the titanosaurus-sized ego that belongs to the current occupant of the White House. Evangelicals are familiar with Jeremiah 9:23-24, which says, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me.”
And yet evangelical leaders can’t seem to help themselves, falling for the charm of a man who can’t stop talking about how smart and rich he is.
Trump accuses opponents of being “very nasty,” while at the same time he eviscerates every one of his political adversaries with insult after insult.
It’s almost as if he is on a crusade to turn the seven deadly sins into virtues.
There is something a bit unearthly about Trump’s appeal to evangelicals, who under normal circumstances would find little to like in The Donald’s worldview and personal history. But evangelicals love their country and are deeply worried about its future. They are deeply and correctly concerned that unrestrained immigration, whether of the Muslim or illegal variety, is going to change this nation beyond recognition and beyond recovery. Trump has managed to tap into that primal and wholly justified fear.
Trump is right, in my view, about both border security and Muslim immigration, but wrong on just about everything else. His view on eminent domain makes it evident that he is virtually illiterate when it comes to the Constitution, and his bobbing and weaving and sudden position reversals (first he was for defunding Planned Parenthood, the next day he wasn’t) makes it impossible to know where he stands today on moral issues, let alone where he will stand tomorrow if he winds up in the Oval Office.
He will prove to be the slender reed the prophets warned of, a reed which will pierce the hand of any evangelical who leans on it.
Many evangelicals seem unable, at this point, to get beyond Trump’s surface appeal to take proper stock of the deeper character issues which are hiding in plain sight. I say hiding in plain sight because Trump makes no effort to conceal them. Rather, he revels in them, he loves them, and he’s proud of them all, as if they were his pet children.
One of the abiding puzzlements of the 2016 election cycle, as pundits view it in retrospect, will be the inexplicable support of so many people of sincere Christian faith for someone who thinks “never bend to envy” is a Bible verse, who thinks Second Corinthians is “2 Corinthians,” and whose only identified pastor, Norman Vincent Peale, died 23 years ago.
Evangelicals more than anyone know that this nation’s deepest need is for spiritual revival. The only political revival that will be of any lasting value is one rooted in a deep-seated, heartfelt and widespread turning of the people back to the God of their forefathers.
America needs a political leader who understands that and will use his influence to promote it and encourage it. America needs a political leader who will dedicate himself, as the prophets put it, to doing “what is right in the sight of the Lord.” Many clear-thinking evangelicals may well conclude that Donald Trump is not that man.