Trump, Christians, & Deception

by Penni L Smith on January 19, 2017

I started writing this mentally back on November 12, and since then, I have gone over it dozens of times in my mind. It seems far too late to post it now, but I have not been able to let it go. So I am writing this and putting it out there. I welcome civil comments that will contribute to everyone’s understanding.

I believe that a large number of Americans identify themselves as Christians because they believe in God and are not Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or some other faith, not because they follow Jesus as their Lord. These, I thought, must be the “Christians” that polls showed voted for Donald Trump.

Then I was hit by reality–some people I knew to be genuine believers said they voted for him. How could that be? I simply could not fathom how anyone who knows God well could find this man to be a suitable leader for our country. I pondered this for some time, and could only conclude that they’d been deceived.

That’s a tricky conclusion to draw, and I initially rejected it. For one thing, I didn’t want to believe such a thing was possible. For another, it seemed terribly judgmental and even self-righteous. If you disagree with me, well, then, you are deceived. Frankly, that seems more like an assertion Trump himself would make, so I did not want to say that. Perhaps I was the deceived one. I am not immune. So I engaged in a lot of prayer and self-examination as I continued to ponder the situation.

Finally, I had to face it. I believe that Christians who voted for Trump are deceived. I could come up with only three reasons for a Christian to vote for Trump, and they all involve fundamental misunderstandings. Most likely, all three played a part. So let’s look at them.

Before I do that, let me eliminate one reason people might support Trump–because they like and agree with him. I won’t say it can’t happen, but I cannot imagine anyone who knows the God I know finding him admirable and worthy of support. Instead, the opinion pieces I have read or viewed expressed dismay about his character, but found one of these three reasons to support him.

Reason 1: Expected Benefits

This is the reasoning I encountered more than any other. Believers voted for Trump not because they wanted him so much, but they wanted someone who would nominate conservative justices…or who might enact this or that policy…or because of the platform positions…or because they thought he offered the best hope of an improved economy.

In short, they held their nose and voted for Trump because they wanted a specific outcome that required his victory.

There’s a phrase for that: the end justifies the means. This holds that a certain result is worth accomplishing even if it requires using unacceptable ways to get it. The tale of Robin Hood famously takes that position. The end of giving to the poor justifies the means of robbing the rich. Never mind that robbing anyone is wrong according to those old commandments.

The end justifies the means is a philosophy that is completely incompatible with Christianity. (It aligns with utilitarianism.) Christian belief is that you do the right thing, no matter the cost. So you don’t vote for an unacceptable candidate to get something you want.

I’m convinced that most of the people who voted for Trump for these reasons didn’t think this through. I don’t think they realized it was an “end justifies the means” approach. Or perhaps that is such a common concept in our culture that they don’t realize how it is an antithesis to Christianity.

Also, I don’t think this reason stands alone. These other two also play a part.

Reason 2: Clinton Was Unacceptable

I heard one prominent believer assert that while he didn’t care for Trump, he simply could not bring himself to vote for Clinton. I don’t have a problem with that. There were other candidates on the ballot he could have selected, or he could have written one in. I hope he did so. But I think many people who felt this way selected Trump. To those people I would ask: what is it that she did that you found so terrible and unacceptable?

Let me be clear. I did not want Hillary Clinton on the ballot. I long for a female president, but I hated the idea that she might get the honor of being the first one. I’m not a fan of hers. Also, I’m opposed to any political dynasty in the United States, whether the name is Adams, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Clinton, or Bush.

Still, the contrast between her qualifications and his is, to use one of his favorite phrases, HUGE. She clearly had the knowledge and experience to lead this country.

So again, what did people think was so terrible?

I concede that using a private e-mail server for government business was stupid, and her rationalizations clumsy and inadequate. She should not have done it, period. But we have to remember that the FBI concluded that no charges against her were justified.

And let’s look at this for what it is. At worst, it might have been–but was not found to be–a violation of U.S. law. But there is nothing immoral about it. Nothing sinful. This, as we will soon see, is important.

All right, what about Bengazi? After three separate investigations into the matter by people who desperately wanted to find wrongdoing, no wrongdoing was found. Again, she may have used bad judgment. But no crime, no immoral act.

The fact is, regarding whatever issue you can bring up, Hillary Clinton was investigated and cleared.

Now, some folks may believe that she was treated favorably and got away with things that others would not have. Or they may believe that evidence was covered up somehow. I’m not going to address rumors here because believers should not be giving credence to rumors and innuendo. Just looking at the known facts, she was not guilty.

Others might say that her repeated poor judgment makes her unacceptable. That would be a valid argument if she had run against almost anyone else. But Trump’s poor judgment just in the things he says far, far, outweighs her poor judgment. And there is a vast difference between a mistake in judgment and deliberate sin.

To think that voting for Trump was okay because Clinton was unacceptable is a deception, not properly weighing the actions of both. And that brings us to the third reason.

Reason 3: Trump Is Not That Bad

We all sin, greatly. Hillary Clinton is a sinner. Donald Trump is a sinner. Every president that ever lived and ever will has been and will be a sinner.

Nonetheless, all sin is not the same.

One distinction we make is intent. It’s possible that if I came walking by you and accidentally stepped on your toe in just the right way, I might cause it to break. But what if I came over, looked you in the eye, and deliberately stomped on your foot, breaking your toe. Accidental or on purpose, a broken toe would cause a lot of pain. But you’d probably be furious and upset if I’d done it deliberately and long for me to suffer myself–and certainly to face legal consequences–whereas if it were accidental, you might easily excuse me.

We also recognize that some things are simply worse than others. That’s why our criminal justice system has citations and misdemeanors and felonies.

Trying to rank sin would surely lead to endless disagreement. But I think we would all agree that actions that deliberately cause harm to another human being are some of the worst.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expounded on and expanded the meaning of the law. Lusting after a person, he said, was effectively committing adultery in your heart. Then he goes on to say that treating a person with hatred or contempt, such as calling him names or despising him, is tantamount to murder. That person is destroying a beloved human made in the image of God. In I John 3:15, it says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” (NASB95)

By this standard, I have murdered many people. In my past, these executions were deliberate. Now, I try never to treat people this way–but I’m sure I do at times.

By this measure, I imagine Hillary Clinton has also murdered people, probably sometimes deliberately. But I will tell you this–I have not witnessed her doing it.

Yet we have seen Donald Trump do this again and again and again, with absolute deliberation.

I was particularly appalled by his mocking of the disabled reporter. I read about this for many weeks before I actually saw the video, and it was so much worse to see it. I could not believe that he would think that treating someone that way was acceptable.

Unfortunately, these aren’t a few unfortunate incidents. Think of the name-calling, mocking, and lying about all his opponents. What he said about McCain. His comments about the Gold Star family. His remarks about the former Miss Universe. It is his habit, his style. He deliberately tries to hurt people. He is purposefully abusive. These are not minor things. These are EVIL actions.

On top of that, he lies about it. Despite the clear video, he claims he did not mock this man. Then again, he lies repeatedly, even when there are recordings that clearly show the truth.

By the way, Proverbs 6:16-19 says, “There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.” (NASB95)

Isn’t that a perfect description of Donald Trump?

And I am only focusing on the things that he has said. What about the recording of him boasting about sexual assault? Well, he says that was just talk. I don’t believe him, because he is proven liar, and because so many women have testified that it is true. But for the sake of this evaluation, I will treat that as truth–he was just talking. But do you not see how bad even talking and joking about it is? And if lusting after someone is virtual adultery, isn’t this at least virtual sexual assault?

Again, we are all sinners. We have all done wrong. But there is a vast difference between those who recognize their sin and repent of it and long to do better, and those who continue to practice it and, indeed, relish it, pursue it. The scripture is clear: “the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” (I John 3:8, NASB95)

My brethren, it’s not that I don’t like Donald Trump, or that I find him offensive, or that he irritates me. It’s that he practices evil and has no problem with it. He makes no attempt to do better. He is not repentant in the least.

Those who don’t recognize how bad his actions are, are truly deeply deceived.

Put Them Together And…

Frankly, I think that it is the combination of these three deceptions that many Christians fell for. They had things they wanted that they thought Trump would provide, and though they didn’t like him, they thought he wasn’t that bad, especially compared with Clinton, so they voted for him. If they had realized how truly evil he was, they would be less inclined to think that the ends justify the means or that Clinton was worse.

I have been voting since 1980. Sometimes the people I voted for were elected, and sometimes not. Some, I’m sure, are probably very bad people, but if so, such behavior wasn’t public. Even if I strongly opposed the person who won a seat, I never felt that anyone elected was unqualified to serve, much less evil. But that is how I feel about Trump. I remain appalled that “so many Americans could willingly support hatred and incompetence,” as I wrote someone after the election. I now recognize that it wasn’t that they are for these things, but that they just didn’t see that this is indeed what they voted for.

As a certain someone would say, “sad.”

And incredibly frightening.

A Few Final Thoughts

Some people think that God controls who wins our elections (and our ball games?), misapplying Romans 13:1. Yet the scripture is clear that God allows us to make choices against his will. In the case of the U.S., we have a democracy, and the responsibility of choosing our leaders falls to us.

God warned Israel of the consequences of having a king, but they were insistent, and they got what they wanted, to their great detriment. I believe we have seen that here. Some of our citizens have chosen an evil would-be dictator to be our leader. I can only pray that our system of checks and balances works, and that he is not able to do all the damage that he might want to.

He was the legitimate winner per our current rules. But I disagree strongly with those that state that he or Congress has any sort of mandate to take certain actions. When your opponent gets nearly 3 million more votes than you, that does not an endorsement make. I’m just dismayed that my vote in California carries only about a quarter of the worth of a vote in Wyoming. That, to me, is not democracy. But it is the way our Constitution is currently set up.

In a day, Trump will take an oath to uphold that Constituion and defend it against all enemies. I pray he means it. I have my doubts, since he does not seem to respect the freedom of the press, or the freedom of religion, or our protections of due process for those facing criminal charges.  His behavior since the election has been every bit as bad as before.

I do think Trump is evil. And I grieve that people around the world will see him as our duly-elected representative. I think that he is supremely unqualified for the office of president because of his character and behavior, and also because I think that while he may be good at business, that does not make him competent at governing.

But I remind myself every day that he is a person made in the image of God. A person Jesus died for. A person God loves as much as he loves me or you. God longs for Trump to come to him, to humbly repent and be transformed, and he truly needs to do just that. He is not in my circle, so I cannot influence him directly through my love. But I can pray for him. And I must. Join me.

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Have We Forgotten the Gospel?

by Penni L Smith on August 26, 2015

Open bibleI’m very concerned that many Christians do not know what the gospel is. This destroys the good news (the actual meaning of gospel), making our invitation worthless, and our message downright damaging.

Whether you are a believer or not, please read this.  If you are a believer, ask yourself if you are conveying the true gospel message when you speak and act.  If you are not a believer, please read this so you know the truth, and know that any condemnation you may have experienced is not representative of the God who loves you so very much and wants you to know him.

The Essence of the Gospel

It would have been nice if Paul had just written up a nice summary of the gospel. Somewhere in Romans perhaps. But the bible has no summary of it. Instead, we glean the gospel from the totality of New Testament. So here is a brief overview.

We are separated from God by our sin. We cannot, of our own power, live lives that are pleasing to God. Unlike what many believe, our salvation does not come from our good deeds outweighing our bad.  The good things we do are befouled and self-centered, and our bad is far worse than we imagine.

That’s what distinguishes the Christian faith. Every other faith teaches that if you do certain things diligently, you will be acceptable to God. God says you can never become acceptable by your deeds, but you are loved and accepted through Jesus.

Jesus, God in human flesh, was the only human to lead a sinless life. He alone, therefore, was able to endure God’s wrath (a cleansing–not punishing–force) to abolish the power of sin and death. We don’t have to keep God’s laws or otherwise perform for our salvation–we simply have to accept the gift Jesus has given us. Once we have done so, we have the Holy Spirit, and a relationship with God. That relationship will transform us, if we let it. Still, we will struggle with our sinful flesh all our lives. We will overcome some things totally, but others we will not. The work of transformation is entirely done by God. Our part is to yield to him and cooperate with his work, not to rely on our own efforts.

We strive to obey God not because we have to perform, or do the right things, or be a good Christian. We strive to obey God because we love him, and want to please him. Also, we recognize that he alone has ultimate wisdom, and knows what is best for us.  So we know that living according to his desires will be the best thing, even when it feels like painful self-denial, and a death to our own desires.

Why This is Good News

It should be obvious why this is good news. We don’t have to perform. In fact, we can’t. We cannot keep the law of God. We cannot live good lives. You can verify this on your own–do you live up to your own expectations? Do you truly at all times live the way you want to live? Of course you don’t. You lose your temper, say things you wish you hadn’t, act unkindly even to your dearest loved one. But because of Jesus, we don’t have to perform. We don’t have to fix ourselves, or measure up to some standard. We are accepted as we are. Then, as we surrender ourselves to him, he changes us. We can, of course, resist that. Too many believers rely on their own efforts, or resist what God does ask of them, and they stagnate and change little.

It’s very good news that we can have a relationship with God and be transformed by his love, getting off the performance treadmill.

The Bad News We Present

Remember, this should be our message: God loves you and accepts you just the way you are. He longs for you to have a relationship with him, and you can, simply by accepting his gift (confessing with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, per Romans 10:9). Then he will begin the process of healing you from the ravages of sin, transforming you with his love as you yield to him.

Unfortunately, this is not the message we give our culture. Instead, what too many hear is this: You are unacceptable, unworthy of love and respect. God condemns you. Give up your evil ways. Then, maybe, God will accept you, and we might care about you and treat you as a decent human.

We have it backward, people! All people hear from some so-called believers is judgment and condemnation, and a call to change their ways–just the opposite of the message they should be receiving.

Worse than that, what we ask is impossible! Our gospel says that we are powerless over sin without the Holy Spirit. We want people to stop sinning before they have the power to do so. How ridiculous! (Note that this does not mean that people cannot change or improve on their own–some can, in some areas of their lives, but they are dealing with a deep handicap. To insist that people change to be acceptable to God is to ask them to do the very thing we say they cannot do.)

It is true that love sometimes requires speaking hard truth, and that never feels pleasant or loving. But that should only occur in the midst of an established relationship of love and respect, not in waving signs and shouting at strangers.

We say that we “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Yes, God does that, but we really can’t. Though that may be the truth of our attitude and intentions, the hate comes across much more strongly than the love, especially if the sin we are hating is something that feels like a key part of a person’s identity.

What we need to do is love people. Love them deeply. Love them as they are. Accept them as they are. Treat them with all the dignity and respect that any human being should receive, no matter what they have done, no matter what they are doing. And then invite them to know a God who loves them beyond anything they could imagine.

Invite. Welcome. Don’t force. Don’t threaten. Don’t condemn. Don’t judge. Love.

You do not have to condone their sin. You may express your concern when asked, but don’t make it the cornerstone of your interaction with a person. Loving a sinner does not mean that sin is acceptable. Ask God, who loves far more than we do.

Remember that it is the Holy Spirit–not us–who is tasked with convicting the world of sin.

But…But…

What about all the times in the bible where it says to repent? Doesn’t that mean people have to give up their sin first? By no means. If we did so, we would be doing something to earn our salvation, which we cannot do. We do not have to do anything but receive God’s gift of salvation.

Repent means to “turn” or to “change one’s mind.” When we come to God, we turn to him. And we do change our minds, maybe not about a specific sin, but about our lives in general. So, in essence, when we accept God’s gift, repentance is part of what happens internally. It doesn’t mean becoming acceptable beforehand.

And if you look at the New Testament, you will see that the command to repent is only in the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation. No epistle mentions it as a requirement.

In Conclusion

I have been so dismayed watching the news this year. Too often, I hear words of condemnation from people calling themselves Christians. It grieves me deeply.

That’s why I had to write this here, now. This isn’t material that would go in this blog normally. It really belongs on another of my websites, but that one is still in development. I will move this post then. But I couldn’t hold back any longer.

We’ve got to get the gospel right.  We need to understand it, and to “conduct [our]selves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  (Philippians 1:27, NASB95)

How lightly we take God’s commands! We want others to repent, but we don’t want to obey God and love. We want to judge and condemn, contrary to what Jesus says.

If people really knew the gospel, they’d find it so hard to resist. Some who do know it will not believe it, because they feel they have to do something to earn salvation. Receiving it free seems wrong somehow. Very, very sad.  Yet that is their choice.

Others fear what it would cost them to turn to God.  They are willing to trade eternal life and joy in God’s presence for dubious pleasures on earth.

But too many people don’t know the gospel at all. Ask them about Christianity, and they’ll tell you that it is about keeping a lot of rules, when that is the very opposite of the truth. Ask what they think of Christians, and they’ll likely talk about how judgmental and condemning they are.

In John 13, Jesus said people would know his disciples by their love for one another (that doesn’t just mean disciples loving other disciples). That is to be our mark. The love of God should flow through us to others. No one should be more loving than followers of Jesus. If people aren’t seeing love as our most distinct trait, than something is seriously wrong.

And that something wrong starts with misunderstanding the gospel.

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Time’s Up!

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My mom picked me up at 3:30 AM that Friday. She asked me to drive her to the hospital in Sacramento where she was to have a heart procedure that needed an overnight hospital stay. Her check in was at 5:00 AM, which is why we left Grass Valley (about 55 miles away from Sacramento) at […]

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The Power of Truth

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Incredible Creative Opportunities

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Two Meanings of Marriage

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The news coverage this week has centered on the arguments before the Supreme Court in two cases concerning gay marriage. I understand the concerns on both sides, and the seemingly intractable division between them. Yet the matter could so easily be cleared up if we recognized that there are really two types of marriage, and […]

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Through the Looking Glass, Part 2

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Last week, we explored how taking just a few seconds to really look at the image before we snap a photo will improve the end results. We can avoid distracting or interfering backgrounds, for one thing. We can also compose a more pleasing and effective shot. Remember, the camera sees and records everything. Your eye […]

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What Makes the Second Amendment Sacred?

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The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, was added to make sure that the government being created would not abuse its powers, and that basic human rights would be honored in this new nation. In the 220 years since the Constitution was adopted, the courts have been sorting out how […]

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Through the Looking Glass, Part 1

February 16, 2013

We’ve all heard the expression, “I only have eyes for you,” meaning that the speaker is blind to everything but the object of his affection (even if that isn’t what the expression actually says, grammatically). Cameras are absolutely not that way. They are truly non-discriminatory, recording everything presented to them, and exactly how those things […]

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Are You Creative?

February 9, 2013

Many people underestimate their creativity. Some deny it completely: “Oh, I’m not creative.” Others will dismiss or diminish it: “Oh, I just do _____. It’s nothing.” We rate what we do, and find it lacking. Creativity, however, is a universal trait, part of what makes us human. We often have a narrow definition of what […]

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