It is clear to any knowledgeable, fair-minded observer that Donald Trump is not a Christian and has, in fact, lived his life mocking God. And yet, he has hoodwinked so many American Christians that both the far left (who already think of Christians in general as hateful bigots) and far right (who are being revealed to be exactly those hateful bigots) honestly think he is one.
Confronted with the facts of Trump’s sinful past, Christians respond with one of three reactions.
One: they will call his constant lies, his dalliances with women, his lewd language, his bullying behavior, his obsession with power, his predatory ways, his spiritual apprenticeship under the epitome of evil that was Roy Cohn, and his appeals to the most violent and bigoted parts of our hearts, all “fake news,” having such a mindset as to think the global secular elite can just fabricate four decades of Trump quotes and news articles and shock jock interviews.
Two: they will say it doesn’t matter if he’s immoral or not, only that he is a capable leader and knows what must be done to make America great again. To these I say, a man without virtue cannot lead a virtuous nation; one will inevitably succumb to the gravity of the other, and Trump is a very dense mass.
Three: they will rationalize his wickedness by pointing out that Jesus sat with sinners during his sojourn on this earth, keeping company with adulterers and thieves and all the rest. After all, they say, everybody sins, nobody’s perfect, and we mustn’t judge. That’s for God to do. And God has shown by this impossible election victory that He wants this particular sinner, Donald J. Trump, to lead America out of the abyss. No matter his past, it is evident that Trump is God’s chosen one.
(But of course, Mitt Romney, the most decent and honorable man to run for president in modern American history, is disqualified because he is a Mormon, and Mormons, as Trump-enthusiast and Quasi-Pastor Robert Jeffress has pointed out, belong to a “cult.” The irony is thick.)
Jerry Falwell, Jr., son of mega-pastor Sr., provides a prime example of this defense.
“We’re all sinners, every one of us,” he said after the reveal about Trump’s voluntarily revealed proclivity to grab women by the genitals (because when you’re powerful they just let you do anything). “We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t. We’re never going to have a perfect candidate unless Jesus Christ is on the ballot.”
Indeed, this is true. Nobody is perfect. We all have our regrets. But does Donald Trump? Is there a moment anywhere in that epicurean life where a sense of regret has pricked his tiny conscience? (I should be fair; his conscience, if it exists at all, is a small target to hit, smaller even than his hands.)
Look at that photo with Trump and Falwell Jr. in Trump’s office again. Do you see the framed magazine cover of Playboy featuring Trump? Does that look like a repentant soul to you, Jerry Falwell, Jr.? It looks to me like someone proud of everything he’s ever done, including and especially every choice that has brought him fame and the attention of the masses.
It must be remembered, of all the interactions with sinners, Jesus Christ withheld the harshest judgments for hypocrites, those religious folk who lift up their voices and pray mightily with their lips for all to hear and know their holiness, but whose hearts are ten thousand miles from God. These are the most guilty because they are busily trying to get others to repent without bothering to repent themselves. They preach the gospel but, at the very best, ignore their own sins and shortcomings, and at worst, revel in them.
Confronted with all of Trump’s obvious moral failures, do his Christian followers change their minds and condemn him? Of course not. They rationalize his evil, excuse it, and sometimes even defend it, twisting their own brains and muddying their own souls in the process.
It is this epic hypocrisy that plagues pop-Christianity today. Trump has committed great sins, yes, but so did Paul, the greatest missionary in the history of the religion! Well, yes, because the purpose of Christianity is to change the sinning soul into a penitent soul and finally into a soul that can bear the name of Christ in witness of Him. This worked for Paul, who changed his name from Saul to represent his change of heart. Saul was among the worst of sinners; he persecuted the early Christians, even tacitly endorsing the execution of believers. But a stunning experience on the road to Damascus changed him, and Paul became a great vehicle for Christ’s grace in a decades-long mission that would last until his own execution in Rome.
Trump has claimed to be a “strong Christian,” a Presbyterian in particular. But has Donald Trump demonstrated a change of heart in his own life? Has he professed Jesus and witnessed of Christ, either in his words or in his actions? No, his words remain vile and violent; his actions remain corrupt and devilish. And the word “humility” next to the name “Trump” makes me burst into laughter (though a bitter kind, I admit). The man constantly boasts of his own strength, his own genius. Not God’s.
Alan Dershowitz described Trump’s most deeply held philosophy this way: “Never apologize, never back down, never admit you were wrong.” It sums up everything we’ve seen of the man quite aptly, doesn’t it? Even when everyone knows he’s wrong, he refuses to acknowledge it. Scum-of-the-earth-off-the-cuff-tough-guy comment on McCain’s POW past? Double down. Insult the parents of a heroic veteran killed honorably in combat? Double down. Compare Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Double down.
Does that sound like a Christian to you? Does that sound like someone whose soul has been washed clean? Does that sound like someone who repents and demonstrates God’s grace?
But here, those don’t have to be rhetorical questions. We can hear the answer from Trump’s own lips:
Yes, evangelicals, Jesus sat with sinners, he ate with them, he socialized with them. But all with a purpose to persuade them to repent, and to follow Him down the path of His gospel.
Jesus sat with sinners so they would feel His love, and feel the desire for salvation.
Jesus sat with sinners so they would know that God was real and that He had not abandoned them.
Jesus sat with sinners that He might change their hearts, that they might let Him lift them up from the grime of their sins and walk a higher path.
Jesus sat with sinners, but He was not led by them. He did not make them the leaders of His church. He did not give them power and authority as He did with the apostles. If Saul had never repented, do you think God would still give him that most holiest of missions to spread the gospel to the Gentiles? So why do you think God would choose a man who lived his life in mockery of Christian principles to lead His chosen nation? Why would God choose a titanic liar to speak for him? Why would God choose a colossal hypocrite—the kind of sinner God condemns the most—to be Christianity’s face before the world?
When a broken leg heals the wrong way, it must be re-broken before it can regain its full strength. In this way, the Trump phenomenon has done a great favor to Christianity. The hidden hypocrisies have been revealed; the wheat is separating from the chaff. That we are a truly sick nation is now plainly obvious in a way it wasn’t before.
I confess, I can’t truly condemn the likes of Falwell Jr. personally. I think his heart is in the right place. I think he wants correct things. But I also think he has been blinded by the Trumpian devil, and though he might mean well, it’s clear to me the reins of his soul, and now so many others of the so-called religious right, are in Donald’s tiny hands. And as many in the Never Trump camp have observed over the last couple of years, once you sell your soul to Donald Trump, you might try to check out, but you can never leave.
Evangelicals, Trump is more than a sinner sitting in your midst. He is a wolf among your flock. And he has snapped up your souls in his hellish jaws.