In my attempts to understand why Donald Trump is running away with the Republican primaries, I read a few of the many articles trying to explain this phenomenon. One in particular caught my attention. Ben Domenec, in Why Evangelicals Are Born Again for Donald Trump (see link below), makes some good observations about why southern evangelicals are breaking from their traditional pattern of voting for someone who represents their Christian values—something Trump clearly does not. The simple answer is that evangelicals have lost their battles on just about every political and social front possible in recent years, and the one thing they have left is the right to be bitter about it.
Okay, Domenec didn’t say it quite that way. Here’s what he did say:
Having lost the fight over public religious displays, decency in music and film, abortion, and now same-sex marriage, the religious right-wing is now fighting a battle over religious liberty—which is being framed as the right to not go along with what we don’t agree with.
If I don’t agree with a law requiring my company to pay for contraceptives for my employees, I shouldn’t have to pay it. If I don’t agree with the morality of same-sex marriage, I shouldn’t have to bake a cake for a same-sex couple or photograph their wedding. If I want to pray in front of my students in a public school, I should be able to. If the majority living in a county or city want public displays of the Ten Commandments or only Christian prayers at public meetings, they should get what they want. Isn’t that what the First Amendment guarantees? If the Constitution can be used to protect atheists, Satanists, and Muslims, why can’t it protect us?
Not only do many Christians feel on the losing side of the culture wars, but they are now being cast as the bad guys in those wars. They are the haters, the bigots, the politically incorrect. And the one person standing out loudly against political correctness is the person for whom they will cast their vote—Donald Trump.
I have a response to these Christians, but it’s a long one. I wrote a whole book about it. I just finished updating that book and hope to have it ready for purchase sometime next week. Here is a brief excerpt from chapter one:
Many have watched the changing religious landscape and wondered what has gone wrong.
I’ll let you know when the book is available. I hope you’ll buy it.
I am an evangelical Christian—but I do not support Donald Trump.
I am a registered Republican—but I will not vote for Donald Trump.
I will not vote for someone who has so little respect for the Constitution of the United States that his response to protestors is to say, “I wanted to punch that guy in the mouth.” I will not vote for someone with so little respect for women that he equates the terms “political light-weight” with “bimbo” when speaking of a female reporter. I will not vote for a man who has so little respect for human life that he claims he could shoot a man on a crowded street and not lose votes because he’s so popular. I will not vote for someone who mocks anyone who is different from him, responds angrily to anyone who disagrees with him, and refuses to participate in anything that doesn’t give him the spotlight.
And I am very, very disappointed in all the “evangelical Christians” who stand behind this man.
Politics is hard. Government is hard. Living in a nation of over 300 million people from every race, ethnicity, and religion on the planet is hard. Throw into the mix a national heritage that says all people are created equal and a national constitution that says all people should be treated as equals, and being an American gets even harder. It’s so much easier to say ‘what’s in it for me?’ or ‘who is looking out for people like me?’ But the government of the United States is not supposed to be picking and choosing who gets respect or who gets a voice. And the President of the United States—the representative of ALL the people of the United States—should be the one raising the bar, not lowering it.
I have long stood against the idea that the United States is a “Christian nation.” My reasoning has been on theological grounds as well as historical and legal. But in recent months, the people of this country who have flocked en masse to support the biggest bully on the block have proven that we are not a Christian nation in any way. Christians are supposed to follow Jesus’ teachings to love their enemies, to put others ahead of themselves, to care for the weak and the outsider, to put living for God ahead of monetary gain, to be peace-makers, to be forgiving. Jesus stood boldly for what he believed, and so should we—not to ridicule others or throw punches against anyone who disagrees with us, but to love them enough to be beaten by them, enough to die for them.
I will not vote for Donald Trump. I will do my research, read articles, listen to the debates, and cast my vote for someone who can build bridges in Washington, DC, not walls. I will look for someone who will uphold the Constitution, not trample it underfoot to the thunderous applause of supporters who find freedom of speech and freedom of religion a little hard to take when it’s not their speech and their religion which are being protected. I will speak out against political candidates and their Christian supporters who think it’s okay to say anything and do anything as long as the majority goes along. The majority—among them many evangelical Christians—may support many things which neither the Constitution nor the Bible would permit. So if Donald Trump is the big “winner” of this year’s race for the presidency, please ask yourself what we as a people stand to lose.
On Saturday, a Justice of the United States Supreme Court was found dead. He apparently died in his sleep from natural causes at a resort hotel while on a hunting trip in Texas with friends. The man who found him said he looked very peaceful. “He was lying very restfully. It looked like he had not quite awakened from a nap.”
Later that same day, nominees at the 9th Republican Presidential Debate led the charge in demanding that our current President not be allowed to name the successor to the dead Justice. “Delay, delay, delay.” In fact, within minutes of finding out that one of the conservative voices on the Supreme Court had been silenced, people all over the nation were asking what would happen to the current cases before the Court, who would President Obama nominate to fill the vacancy, would it be someone moderate enough that the Senate would approve, or should the Republican-led Senate deny the sitting president the opportunity to place the next Justice on the highest court of the land, effectively saving that decision for whoever will take office after the election.
In the meantime, the Justice’s body was taken to El Paso to be embalmed before being returned to Washington. His family is mourning him. His fellow Justices on the Supreme Court are mourning him. Those who saw him only as a vote for or against their ideology are either horrified that he’s gone or happy about it. Hopefully those who are happy about the change in the makeup of the Court will keep their delight under moderation out of respect for the family of the deceased. Those who feel they lost an important vote on the Court have already shown their disrespect by quickly forgetting the man to focus on how his loss affects their own agendas.
Over the next week or so, Justice Antonin Scalia will be memorialized and remembered as a husband, a father, a great legal mind, a “strict constructionist,” and a member of the United States Supreme Court for nearly 30 years. Much more will be said about how his loss will affect the current Supreme Court and what the Court will look like when a new Justice is finally appointed and confirmed.
As for me, I will pause and remember that a man has died.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
What is it time for you to do?
What is my mission as an author? It's a tough question, but I believe the goal dearest to my heart is to help Christians think about what they really believe and then to act as if they really believe it. It all begins with understanding what it means to be a Christian. Then we have to learn to live like a Christian.