On both his TV show over the past weekend, and on the radio yesterday, The host mentioned a piece by David French from Thursday past. The French piece is an excoriation of Evangelical defenders of President Trump. French directly confronts the sexual misconduct of the president known and accused and says:
I’m sorry, but you cannot compartmentalize this behavior, declare that it’s “just politics,” and take solace that you’re a good spouse or parent, that you serve in your church and volunteer for mission trips, or that you’re relatively charitable and kind in other contexts. It’s sin, and it’s sin that is collapsing the Evangelical moral witness.
Now, while I agree that there are some, I repeat “some,” Evangelical leaders that embrace the president too broadly and are idolatrous in their pursuit of political gain; French by opening his piece with extensive quotation of scripture and his extremely harsh rhetoric is condemnatory of the vast majority of evangelical Trump supporters. That requires direct response.
There are good political arguments for supporting Trump as an Evangelical. French simply dismisses religious freedom as insufficient. He does not mention judges, as did the host and Salena Zito yesterday. (subscription required) While I am not privy to an advance copy of Zito’s book, from what the host and others have said about it, it sounds like it does a good job of making this political argument, or at least describing the political thought of the Evangelicals and Christians generally that did vote for Mr. Trump. I will leave an extensive consideration of this aspect to that source.
Rather I wish to consider French’s claim that support of the president compromises “Evangelical moral witness.” Since French opened with scripture, I will quote one as well:
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees *brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they *said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
I ask you, in the grace that Christ showed this woman was His moral witness compromised or enhanced? The average Evangelical Trump supporter does not embrace or dismiss the president’s issues. The average Evangelical Trump supporter exercises grace towards the president and hopes he will “sin no more.” Condemnation of sin is a means to salvation, it is not an end to itself. It is worthy of note that salvation comes by many paths and that there is a time and a place for the condemnation of sin, it is not called for all the time in every place.
The Evangelical witness into this nation is deeply compromised. How that compromise has occurred is a highly complex matter. It has been compromised in some areas due to an abundance of cheap grace and it has been compromised in other areas due to an absence of grace. There is an equilibrium here that we are constantly in search of and never quite maintaining. If one disagrees with another about where precisely the equilibrium point is there is a discussion to be had. But that discussion is only harmed by calling into question the sincerity of the faith of your interlocutor. The problems with the Evangelical witness in this nation are far deeper, and far more difficult to deal with, than support of the current president.
My vote for Donald Trump came quite reluctantly and quite at the last minute. My support for him is not, and never will be, unequivocal – but it has grown through the period of his service in the office as his actions, on balance, have been fairly consistently in line with my view of what is best for the nation. He has tripped and fallen and mouthed off far more than I would like, but on balance he is doing better than I expected. I am an average evangelical Trump supporter – I will not have my faith questioned because of it.