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.

One person who thought the ends justified the means was Abraham (then Abram), who took his wife Sarah (Sarai) to Egypt during a time of famine. Afraid that he might be killed, he decided it was okay to lie and say Sarah was his sister. The pharaoh took Sarah to be one of his wives, and God protected her by afflicting pharaoh’s household. This was not Abraham’s finest moment; through his lie he sinned against God, pharaoh, and his wife–whose safety and chastity were put at risk. Contrast that with Daniel, who faced death in the lion’s den, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who faced death in the fiery furnace, all for refusing to obey the king’s edicts that were contrary to obeying God.

Not only are we called to do the right thing no matter the cost–these are just a couple illustrations among many–when we chose to do something wrong to get a desired end, we indicate a deep lack of trust in God. Compare Abraham, who lied because he didn’t trust that God would protect him and Sarah, with the others, who said, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18, NASB95).

Do these Christians trust that God can bring about the results they think are so crucial without them going against Christian values? Evidently not, if they chose to vote for Trump because they thought that would get them the results they wanted. But that is not the godly way. You should not vote for an unacceptable candidate to get something you want.

But surely voting for Trump doesn’t compare to bowing down to an idol, someone might say. Well, as I will show, I think it does compare. Both mean identifying with and participating with beliefs and actions that are against God. No matter how precious and vital the thing we desire—even life and liberty—we must do the right thing, whatever it costs.

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—whether or not they know Jesus—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.

As I have with all the presidents we’ve had, I want Trump to succeed.  That doesn’t mean I want his every policy or proposal to succeed, but I want him to be a successful leader, and to bring about good things for our country.

At his inauguration, Trump will take an oath to uphold that Constitution 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.

In every other election, once it was over, I was done thinking about it.  This time, it has been on my mind every day.  I’ve never felt such concern and dread from any other election.  But then again, I’ve never felt we had an evil president.  Or such blind citizens.

A friend of mine is convinced that when the antichrist comes, he will be greeted with cheers and support from deceived believers. I think she is right. I pray I do not live to see that. I thank God that there will be those that stand true and faithful.

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.  I truly fear what may happen in the next few years.

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.

“So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?”  (Galatians 4:16, NASB95)

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