The Religious Right has broken into civil war. Many influential evangelicals had backed Republican Donald Trump for the presidency, and then came the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape and more sex scandals. Now, conservative Christian women who rarely mention politics are calling for the Republican’s head, and some of those who endorsed Trump most wholeheartedly are now withdrawing their support. Many are accusing the movement of political idolatry.
“It’s time for conservative women to rise up and defend the hearth, like Deborah and Jael,” wrote Luma Simms in The Federalist. For those unaware, Simms explained “the former led men into battle, and the latter drove a tent peg into the temple of the wicked Sisera.”
It is utterly unacceptable to support Trump after this, in Simms’ eyes. She wrote, “There are scenarios in life where men can honorably disagree. This is not one of them. There is a right and a wrong course of action in this situation. It really is simple. But the idols of your heart have ensnared you.”
This is not a small thing. “Conservatives don’t usually engage in identity politics,” Simms added. “Conservative women don’t ask for special privileges, nor for the most part do they draw attention to themselves as women. Because we believe we should be judged on our merits, rarely will you find a conservative woman playing the woman card.” But now is the time.
Simms did not hold back in excoriating Trump: “This man’s very life instantiates the antithesis of virtuous and honorable limited-government federalism, instead exemplifying the post-Christian, logical positivist, secular humanist, egomaniacal, authoritarian ubsermenschen [sic] we have seen rise to (and fall from) power far from our own nation for at least a century now.”
Boiled down, this intellectual word salad means that Trump is the exact opposite of what Christian conservatives and the Moral Majority claim to represent. He is a prideful, power-hungry adulterer who lives as though Christianity were false. Simms is far from alone in coming out and saying so.
Bestselling Christian author Beth Moore broke her silence on the 2016 election declaring, “I’m one among many women sexually abused, misused, stared down, heckled, talked naughty to. Like we liked it. We didn’t. We’re tired of it.” The timing of these comments led some to believe Moore was endorsing Clinton, something she explicitly denied on Thursday.
2/2 My tweets on 10/9/16 had 1 purpose: to speak up for sexually abused women who feel voiceless. I do not endorse/support either candidate.
— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) October 13, 2016
“When Christian women like Beth Moore choose to publicly speak about their own experience with sexual assault, it signals to me that they do not feel heard or understood by fellow Christian leaders who continue to support Trump,” Katelyn Beaty, former print managing editor of Christianity Today and author of A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World, told The Daily Beast.
Sara Groves, a Dove Award-nominated Christian singer/songwriter, agreed with Beaty. “Someone like Beth can go a long way in helping Evangelicals recognize these major blind spots,” she told The Daily Beast.
Christian blogger Nish Weiseth said that, when it comes to Christian men still supporting Trump, “disappointed seems like too soft a word. It’s devastating.”
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, explained why he has heard from so many evangelical women horrified by Trump’s remarks. These women leaders have “spent their entire life teaching girls to find their identity in Christ and not in an American culture that sexualizes and objectifies them.” Now, they find Christian men supporting a man who embodies that very culture.
The Reverend Lisa Sharon Harper, chief church engagement officer at the liberal Christian group Sojourners, explained that “Trump’s offense is not only against a gender. His assaults on women are direct assaults against the image of God on earth.”
Next Page: It isn’t just women — even Wayne Grudem has withdrawn his support for Trump.
National Review editor Rich Lowry responded to the two major arguments used to excuse Trump’s immorality. Defenders compare the thrice-married Trump to King David, or argue that we are all sinners. Not only did King David truly suffer for his adultery and abuse of power with Bathsheba, but he was famously repentant. We are indeed all sinners, but there is no evidence that Trump is at all contrite or willing to undergo any kind of transformation.
Finally, to those who say America is not electing “a pastor in chief,” the Christian Post’s Julie Roys responded, “Let’s think about what we’re saying. It’s okay for everyday people to participate in sexual immorality — just not pastors and Sunday School teachers?” Yes, this is crass hypocrisy.
Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today, called on Christians to denounce Trump’s immorality. “There is hardly any public person in America today who has more exemplified the ‘earthly nature’ (‘flesh’ in the King James and the literal Greek) that Paul urges the Colossians to shed: ‘sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry’ (3:5),” Crouch wrote. “That Trump has been, his whole life, an idolater of this sort, and a singularly unrepentant one, should have been clear to everyone.”
Crouch noted the lack of evidence that Trump has any shred of humility. “He wantonly celebrates strongmen and takes every opportunity to humiliate and demean the vulnerable. He shows no curiosity or capacity to learn. He is, in short, the very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool.”
The Christianity Today editor argued that “enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord. They see that some of us are so self-interested, and so self-protective, that we will ally ourselves with someone who violates all that is sacred to us—in hope, almost certainly a vain hope given his mendacity and record of betrayal, that his rule will save us.”
Theologian Wayne Grudem, who previously had argued that “voting for Trump is a morally good choice,” recanted his support this past weekend. “I now regret that I did not more strongly condemn his moral character. I cannot commend Trump’s moral character, and I strongly urge him to withdraw from the election.”
In a true show of humility, Grudem admitted that those who would criticize him “for not discovering this material earlier” would be right.
Nevertheless, he did insist that Hillary Clinton is no better.
She vilified the victims of Bill Clinton’s sexual advances; she abandoned our diplomats to be killed by terrorists in Benghazi and then lied about it; she illegally handled classified emails on her private server and put national security at risk; she left much of the world in chaos after four years as Secretary of State; and she has a lifelong pattern of acting as if she is above the law, protected by the Obama administration’s Justice Department, the FBI, and the mainstream media.
There’s the problem — Christians should condemn the immorality of Donald Trump, but many think they have no choice but to support him in November. Christian biographer Eric Metaxas took to the Wall Street Journal to ask “Should Christians Vote for Trump?”
Metaxas, who previously has urged believers to pull the lever for the Republican nominee, admitted that “over this past year many of Donald Trump’s comments have made me almost literally hopping mad. The hot-mic comments from 2005 are especially horrifying.”
But after attacking Clinton’s horrendous moral failings, Metaxas acknowledged that “neither candidate is pure evil.” He called on Christians to soberly choose between Clinton and Trump, because “not voting—or voting for a third candidate who cannot win—is a rationalization designed more than anything to assuage our consciences.” (Libertarian Gary Johnson or independent Evan McMullin can actually win, but most likely will not.)
Next Page: So can Christians vote for Trump without publicly supporting him?
Metaxas compared voting for Trump, despite his evils, to the brave actions of William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian who ended the slave trade, and to those of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the anti-Nazi martyr who died trying to assassinate Hitler. Both men compromised on morals (Wilberforce worked with immoral men in Parliament, Bonhoeffer tried to murder a man in order to prevent the deaths of millions more) in order to achieve a higher goal.
Preventing a Clinton presidency (complete with a liberal Supreme Court, more global instability and therefore likely more deaths across the world, and the deaths of millions more unborn babies in abortion) is a goal worthy enough to vote for Donald Trump.
“A vote for Donald Trump is not necessarily a vote for Donald Trump himself,” Metaxas argued. “It is a vote for those who will be affected by the results of this election. Not to vote is to vote. God will not hold us guiltless.”
This compromise position — voting for Trump but not supporting him publicly — seems likely to be the solution most conservative Christians will adopt. Women like Luma Simms and Beth Moore may not be happy with it, but they seem more angry about Christian men defending Trump as a great leader or a moral exemplar than about Christians voting for him at the end of the day.
Leaders like Grudem (who says he has not yet decided whom he will vote for) and Metaxas may be forgiven for their support for the nominee, but others are less easy to excuse. Why the Reverend Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed Trump during the primary demands an explanation, and the so-called evangelicals who propelled this immoral man to victory should also be held accountable.
Many Christians will decide that even voting for such a man is compromising too much. The Washington Post‘s Dana Milibank argued that the Religious Right has made a deal with the devil, and to some extent that is horrifyingly accurate.
Conservative blogger Erick Erickson denounced pro-Trump Christians, writing, “You have made a binary choice that involves the weight of daily faith and determined that one evil should be chosen over another. Then you had the audacity to declare it God’s will instead of relying on God. You made Christianity partisan instead of holy. You should be ashamed. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?”
Ouch. Leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr. definitely deserve that, as do those who herald Trump as a moral leader despite his public failings. If you must vote for Trump, do not champion him as a political savior. Christians should put their faith in God, not men.