Actually, There Is A Christian Case For Trump
Pete Wehner’s new piece in The Atlantic is misleadingly titled, “There Is No Christian Case For Trump.”That’s not actually what Wehner is saying. Instead he devotes his essay to dismantling a case for Trump put forward by the eminent conservative Evangelical scholar Wayne Grudem. And in that particular task, Wehner does a great job.
I was drawn into the piece because I do believe that there is a Christian case for voting for Donald Trump, and I expected to disagree with Wehner. As it turns out, I still believe there is a Christian case for voting for Trump, but I agree with Wehner that the one put forth by some of Trump’s most staunch Evangelical supporters is not it.
In my view, the Christian case for voting Trump is apophatic — a term used in theology to describe God by saying what He is not. I believe Trump is a cunning man of low character and low competence, and I don’t believe he is a Christian in any meaningful sense. But here is what he is not: a supporter of laws that allow us to exterminate the unborn with no conditions; an enemy of religious liberty; a promoter of laws that would write transgenderism into civil rights law; a person who considers traditionalist Christians to be what’s wrong with America.
(I would say also that whatever his flaws, he’s against the ideology of Social Justice, but that is not a specifically Christian concern.)
His Democratic opponents are all those things that he is not. Let me put it to you like this: if we were having a national election in 1860, and your choice was between a Trump figure who opposed slavery, and who appointed anti-slavery judges, or a Democratic opponent who was far less corrupt, and far more clubbable than the vulgar Trump figure, would you still say that there was no Christian case for the Trump figure? Most serious pro-lifers regard abortion as on the same moral level as slavery. In my case, in 2008, I was so angry at George W. Bush and the GOP over Iraq and the financial crisis that I wanted to vote for Obama. Besides, I wanted to be able to say that I voted for the first black president. But because of abortion, I could not bring myself to do it, as a matter of principle.
So, the practical case for voting Trump is going to be enough for many Christians. If I end up voting for him, it will be precisely because of that, most of all on the issues of abortion and religious liberty. For that reason, I believe that the policies that bad man Trump will pursue if re-elected will be more in the interest of the common good than what the Democrats would do. Not just my own tribe’s good, but the common good.
I hadn’t thought much about this until I read Wehner’s piece, but all the Christian friends I have who are say they will likely vote for Trump are doing so out of resignation: because as bad as he is, the alternative is worse. Almost all of them are Catholics, but I have a few Evangelicals who feel that way. The only Christian friends I have who are enthusiastically voting for Trump are some of my Evangelical pals. Though I am likely to vote with them on Election Day, it’s from a very different point of view. Like Wehner, I truly don’t understand why they see Trump as truly good, as opposed to the best we can hope for in this fallen world. Wehner takes a stab at answering that:
But it isn’t enough to simply remove the tension; they need to justify their decision.
It isn’t enough for many of Trump’s evangelical supporters to say that, by their lights, he is advancing policies that promote the common good even as he is acting in unethical ways that deeply trouble them. In that difficult trade-off, they could admit, they have decided that the former should take priority over the latter. Instead, they have created a cartoonish image of the president, pretending that his character flaws are trivial and inconsequential, while his policy achievements put him near the top rank of American presidents.
What’s most interesting to me in all this is the psychology at play. From what I can tell, in many cases Trump’s most devoted evangelical supporters are blind to what they’re doing, so in a sense they’re not acting cynically or in bad faith, even as they are distorting reality.
I have observed firsthand that if you point out facts that run counter to their narrative, some significant number of the president’s supporters will eventually respond with indignation, feeling they have been wounded, disrespected, or unheard. The stronger the empirical case against what they believe, the more emotional energy they bring to their response. Underlying this is a deep sense of fear and the belief that they are facing an existential threat and, therefore, can’t concede any ground, lest they strengthen those they consider to be their enemies. This broader phenomenon I’m describing is not true of all Trump supporters, of course, and it is hardly confined to Trump supporters. But I would say that in our time, it is most pronounced among them.
I tend to share this view, but I will admit in recent months that seeing local politics at work, I am far more convinced that the Democrats are a much bigger threat than I had formerly seen them.
I am not talking about Nancy Pelosi. I am not even talking about AOC or Ilhan Omar. I dislike their ideology, but the federal gvt works slowly and without haste.
I am more referring to local, woke Democrats in positions like D.A., city council, etc. in cities. The ideology they are pursuing, of completely ignoring any quality of life related criminal behavior and deconstructing muncipal competence brick by brick, is horrifying. Decriminalization of theft, of open drug crime, vehicle break ins, public urination, etc. is turning our cities, and increasingly exurban towns, into absolute hell holes. These doofuses are bringing the medieval plague back to Los Angeles, where I recently visited my fiancee’s family. The stuff I saw there was shocking, and really sobering. It made me remember why I identify as a centre-right person to begin with, and why despite being a bit more on the Tucker Carlson side of view on markets, I will have no time for woke municipal governance.
This is not about religious liberty, where I broadly come down on Rod’s side. This is about actual physical threats to safety and human existence, let alone human flourishing, from ideologues with a dangerous and suicidal view of governance, with a worldview that sees justice as a commodifiable and discrete good that transcends law and good governance.
I do not want the federal government to be staffed by people who give aid and comfort to the mini-experiments being run in Oakland, Seattle, San Francisco, and increasingly, Denver, and who would want to replicate that on a nationwide basis. I don’t fear the federal Democrats to the same extent as the local ones, but I fail to see the meaningful difference in their worldviews.
A good point. It appears that Wokeness is taking over the Democrats as Trumpness took over the GOP.