At this time of year when Christians are celebrating the birth of Christ, and at a time when our country is more polarized than ever, we're pondering a riddle: Should avowed Christians support President Trump? Frankly, it's difficult to conceive of a high office holder whose personal life and divisive leadership are less Christ-like than those of Trump.
It’s easy to come up with examples, in fact, of Trump’s statements and actions that utterly contradict the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus taught his followers to welcome the stranger and not to oppress foreigners. Trump has railed against illegal immigrants, sought to ban Muslim immigrants and has sharply reduced the number of refugees allowed into the country.
Jesus taught compassion for the poor and downtrodden. He told his followers how they treat the poor is how they treat Him. The poor don’t figure among the Trump administration’s priorities.
Jesus taught his followers to love your neighbors — and even your enemies — while Trump has sewed division, turning this into a country that hates its neighbors. Jesus said that the meek shall inherit the earth and told his followers to turn the other cheek; Trump demonizes anyone who disagrees with him.
One of the Ten Commandments is not to bear false witness against your neighbor; Trump lies habitually. Another commandment forbids adultery; Trump made hush payments to conceal dalliances with a former Playmate model and stripper.
In short, there is a fundamental conflict between what Jesus taught and demanded of his followers and what Trump says and does. We ask: If you call yourself a Christian, how can you be a Trump supporter? Are we missing something?
Trump clearly has pandered to the religious right, one of his key constituencies.
Many conservative Christians praise Trump for his judicial appointments; he has named two justices to the Supreme Court and a slate of federal judges who were vetted by conservatives for their views, notably opposition to abortion. Religious conservatives yearn, among other goals, to reverse Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.
If that’s the case, they have struck an unsavory bargain. They’ve made a whopping “ends justifies the means” rationalization — and placed themselves on a morally slippery slope. Where will that downward path lead? Is that bargain worth it?
Some observations by Timothy J. Keller, an influential evangelical leader and theologian who was recently interviewed by The Atlantic, are worth noting here. He believes “most Christians are just nowhere nearly as deeply immersed in the scripture and in theology as they are in their respective social-media bubbles and news feed bubbles. To be honest, I think the ‘woke’ evangelicals are just much more influenced by MSNBC and liberal Twitter. The conservative Christians are much more influenced by Fox News and their particular loops.”
Both, Keller said, were immersed in those worlds eight to 10 hours a day, and go to church once a week “and they’re just not immersed in the kind of biblical-theological study that would nuance that stuff.”
Regardless of one’s faith tradition, Trump stands as a leader who has shredded norms and values and morals. He has undeniably used his office for personal gain — and for the benefit of his sons, daughter and son-in-law — yet the far-right refuses to hold him accountable.
We are supposed to be a nation of laws, not of men. Our Constitution spells out separation of powers as well as checks and balances between equal branches of government.
However we deal with Trump’s misconduct, there will be consequences, for the country and for conservative causes. We want a viable, upright conservative party to shape policy.
Those who believe they are being loyal to a party for their support of Trump should think of the long term, not merely of the next election, and should think of their country before their party. And they might ask, What would Jesus do?
We have news for Christians. Trump wasn’t a Christian before he took office, and he won’t be after he leaves office.