Christians in the Age of Trump: A Contrasting View

Donald Trump rose to power amid controversy. Two and a half years into his administration, there is no sign that’s ever going to change. No doubt, he’ll continue to be a controversial figure long after his administration has moved into the history books.

I agree with much of what Greg Barkman had to say on the topic yesterday, particularly the negative assessments of President Trump’s character and behavior. I agree also that some of the President’s policies have been helpful to the nation and sensible in the eyes of conservatives. I concede, too, that in an election, deciding what candidate to support can be difficult—especially if we only consider those who have a chance of winning. If we accept that constriction, we’re stuck with what the parties decide to offer us.

Those are the primary points of agreement. Philosophically, I’m sure we agree on much as well. Most of the controversy among conservative Christians has to do with how to apply principles we share. Still, these principles are often not articulated in the more Trump-friendly perspectives I hear from fellow-Christians. I believe that if these truths are more front-of-mind, they’ll have more influence on how we evaluate presidents and make electoral choices.

1. Christian perspective is long and deep.

I’m using the word “Christian” in this post in a particular sense: not “the way Christians actually are,” but rather, “the way Christians ought to be,” that is, the way we are when we’re true to what Christianity is.

When I say the Christian perspective is long, I mean that Christian thought always puts now in the context of the whole story of humanity—which is God’s story. So our analysis of consequences should be quite different form the analysis that is normal in our culture. Rather than, “If we do X today, what will happen tomorrow?” Christians should think, “If we do X today, where does that fit into eternity?” From there, we work backward to the present: “What’s the consequence generations into the future? What’s the consequence in twenty years?” Admittedly, we often can’t answer those questions. But it gets easier when we get down to, “What impact does this have in a decade? Or in eight years?”

But I think we rarely start our analysis of consequences with the question of eternity. How will my choices in this moment matter when all this is over? (and they will matter—Matt. 12:36, 2 Cor. 5:10). When it comes to public policy and elected officials, we just about as rarely consider political outcomes a couple of election cycles down the road. This is a failure to look through the Christian lens.

The Christian perspective is long. It’s also deep. When we’re looking at things Christianly, we’re not only driven by our relationship to the God who sees the end from the beginning, but also to the God who sees and knows the real essences of things and is never fooled by mere appearances (Heb. 4:13, among many others).

The deep perspective takes some work. “Man looks on the outward appearance” (1 Sam 16:7), and by default, surface realities are what’s most real to us. But at the current political moment, we’re called to look past both the bashing of left-leaning punditry and the cheerleading of right-leaning (or right-off-the-edge!) punditry to sift out what’s really factual and wise. We’re called to tune out the noise and dazzle and hype, and read thoughtful, reflective considerations of the issues we face in our times.

2. Christian ethics looks beyond results.

Genuinely Christian ethics does include results when evaluating the rightness or wrongness of actions. “Love does no harm to a neighbor” (NIV, Rom. 13:10). “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble” (ESV, Rom. 14:21).

But outcomes are not the only consideration, or even the primary consideration. This is because everything a Christian does is personal. Worshipful service of our Creator is supposed to be an ever-present motivational layer in all we do (Rom. 12:2). The apostle Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 6:16 that Christian sexual ethics is not only driven by the goal of holiness but by the fact that Christ Himself is joined in some way to everything we do. Elsewhere Paul describes his own motivations in life as a drive to “please” a real person—Jesus Christ, whom we call Lord (2 Cor. 5:9).

Whatever else we might say about Christian ethics, we have to acknowledge that what ultimately determines right and wrong from our perspective is how Somebody feels about it. This shatters the popular utilitarian reasoning that whatever brings about the greatest good for the greatest number is the morally right thing to do.

Because Christian thought takes the long and deep view, we know that discerning what really brings about the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run is often impossible to know. Because we evaluate our choices through a personal grid—the good pleasure of our God—human good isn’t even mainly what interests us.

It’s possible to accept all that and still believe that a Christian should (a) vote only for a candidate that can win, and (b) vote for the least objectionable candidate that can win. But there’s a lot of thinking and evaluating that should happen before we even get to that point. In the long, deep, and Personal analysis, what really constitutes “winning”?

3. Christian values emphasize persuasion over coercion, understanding over compliance.

If we managed to put the ideal candidate in office—one who lacks all the character and conduct negatives of a man like Donald Trump—there’s still only so much he could get done, and only so much that would survive the next swing of the electoral pendulum. There’s only so much external constraints can accomplish.

Christian thought understands that faith in God-revealed truth is eternally transforming (Rom. 10:9-10, 17). There isn’t anything on earth more mighty than genuine Christian faith, because that faith is a heart-soul-mind surrender that permanently entwines us with the Creator God.

No law, or set of rules, or series of court decisions can do that.

And even on the time-bound plane of social concerns and public policy, only winning hearts and minds—genuinely persuading people of enduring truths—can produce changes that endure through election cycles.

A president who can get some policies enacted but who does it in a way—and from an ethos—that closes minds to important ideas and values may well do more harm than good. On the other hand, a president who is opposed to Christian views of society and justice (as those on the left are) but who provides a clear and sharp contrast with the ideas at the core of both conservatism and Christianity, may unwittingly persuade many to reject leftist beliefs.

To sum up, none of us really knows beforehand what the long and deep outcomes of a presidential election are going to be. We often don’t even know that years afterwards, with much confidence. What Christians should do then, in the electoral ethics department, is ask ourselves what pleases our God. And though that also doesn’t make the decision obvious, it does change the equation. We know that our Lord is at least as interested in how we get somewhere as He is in where we arrive.

“…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8).

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G. N. Barkman's picture

Jay, please name a presidential candidate, past or present, that you consider "acceptable to God," and please explain the criterion you use to determine this designation.

G. N. Barkman

mmartin's picture

pvawter wrote:

 

mmartin wrote:

 

Regarding the thinking of rejecting Trump because he isn't a principled conservative or does enough to promote conservative values.

OK.

You know who definitely isn't a principled conservative or WILL most definitely destroy conservative values . . .

Biden, Harris, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, et al  You know, the folks who will support late term abortion, will open our borders, would never, ever appoint a conservative judge, who support the Green New Deal, who support tax-payer funded abortions for transgender males, etc., etc.

And we're concerned about Trump???

 

We're concerned that Trump isn't conservative enough or that he's conservative in name only when the alternative is the outright destruction of conservative values.

 

 

I find this characterization ridiculous. Of course we're concerned about Trump. What do I care about all the God-haters on the other side? None of them will ever have a chance to earn my vote with that platform.

That is patently ridiculous!

To say you don't care about the God-haters on the other side is to completely miss the point.  Obviously we care about Trump, that is the point of this thread.

Y'all can pine all you want for the perfect, truly God-fearing candidate.  Yeah, good luck with that.  At the end of the day that was not a choice we had in 2016 and likely will not be available again in 2020.  In terms of who has any chance of winning is either the Republican candidate or Democratic candidate.

However bad you think Trump is, the Democrats are far, far worse, but many on this thread don't seem to realize that because you are so focused on him.  Trump will not be the only candidate for president.  Right?

The 2020 reality is going to be - not the candidate that many on this thread idealistically wish for, but a choice between two imperfect, if not horrible candidates.  With Trump you get, well, Trump.  With the Democrats, you will get policies and support for abortion right up to birth, abortions for transgender males, the Green New Deal, anti-Christian, pro-LGBT policies & agenda, open borders, etc. etc. 

Doesn't that matter??  Don't you, don't we care about that?  Would we be fine with those leftist policies just as long as Trump isn't president?  (Our Democratic president just signed a bill legalizing abortion up to the moment of birth and paying for transgender-male abortions, but hey, at least someone who doesn't promote conservative values, Trump, isn't president.)  

Again I ask, and we're concerned about Trump??

Dan Miller's picture

 I’ll start with a couple mathematical truths:

1. Not voting (or voting for a hopeless 3rd party) is half a vote for each major candidate. 

2. Every vote counts. If you voted for Hillary, Trump, or both (see #1), you voted. It’s easy to say, “Winner won by a lot, so my vote didn’t matter.” But it did. (Unless the system is hacked, but we won’t go there.)

Then opinions: 

It would be great to have a truly Christian president. But he wouldn’t get elected. Given #1, for me in 2016, it came down to: do I have a preference between Trump and Hillary? And I had a clear preference. 

I am not very active politically. There’s a concept called “Loss Aversion.” It says that people will be far more upset by loosing something than they will be happy about gaining it. In a country like ours, we will have more liberal (government gives people things like health care, retirement money, safety net) and more conservative (government does less) leaders. But even if they each hold office half the time, the country will necessarily move further and further liberal. Because getting from government will always be nice, but if government stops giving something it has been, that will be bloody murder. 

So I tend to be pretty cynical politically. But I have a hard time understanding why there is such hatred here for Trump. Oh, yes, he has flaws:

Marriage infidelity. Not sure I’d say he’s worse than half (more?) of the Hebrew fathers (David, Abraham,...). None of us who voted for him signed up for marriage lessons from him.

Informal speech. People love to use this one because Trump truly does have an odd, harsh, pugilistic tone. One of the things I like best about him is that he isn’t a politician. So, yeah, he isn’t accustomed to careful speech and guarded words. 

I’ll vote for him again and while I won’t have any angst over it, I also won’t think that I have negotiated an ethical dilemma.

GregH's picture

mmartin wrote:

With Trump you get, well, Trump.  With the Democrats, you will get policies and support for abortion right up to birth, abortions for transgender males, the Green New Deal, anti-Christian, pro-LGBT policies & agenda, open borders, etc. etc. 

Out of curiosity, why do you have the Green New Deal and open borders in this list? Are you implying that all Christians should be on your side on those issues?

Darrell Post's picture

Aaron wrote, "We may choose not to call it an 'endorsement,' but it is certainly 'an act aimed at putting an individual in power.'"

Agreed, and that's the point of my thesis. So much of the back and forth on this debate is needless in my opinion because many have chosen to believe their vote is a endorsement of a candidate and all that the candidate represents. All a vote amounts to is a selection of which direction the voter wishes the country to go based on the offers made by the two candidates. Each candidate offered a product which includes promises as to policies and the sort of people who will be appointed as judges, and who will fill all the important department heads, along with a vice president who will break ties in the senate. Considering the options, a voter says I would rather have this one over that one. That's all it is. Its not an endorsement, its not a moral failure on the part of the voter if the candidate is not perfect, and if the candidate does win but lied about the product offered, it is not the fault of the voter. Like I said before, its like buying a 2x4 at Home Depot. You do not have to endorse Home Depot and all the decisions this company has made in terms of who they sponsor and donate money to. If our ethics going forward have the standard that we cannot interact with any product in society that is tainted by the moral failings of the owner and provider of that product, then we might as well become hermits and have no interaction with the world at all.

If a voter looked at the product Trump offered in 2016 and believed Clinton offered a better product, then by all means the voter had the right and privilege to vote for Clinton. I looked at the product offered by Trump and saw enough value for me to mark the ballot saying that I would rather have that product delivered than the alternative. And I did so without endorsing Trump.

 

 

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Doesn't that matter??  Don't you, don't we care about that?  Would we be fine with those leftist policies just as long as Trump isn't president?  (Our Democratic president just signed a bill legalizing abortion up to the moment of birth and paying for transgender-male abortions, but hey, at least someone who doesn't promote conservative values, Trump, isn't president.)  

Again I ask, and we're concerned about Trump??

I'm not sure how much value there is in repeating myself since those who disagree with me continue to mostly ignore what I'm actually saying.

In any case, the above is a false disjunction. There is no reason whatsoever that one cannot care very much about the bad stuff being advanced on the Left and also care very much about the bad stuff being advanced on the right.

And yes, bad stuff is being advanced on the right now. Every day.

...many have chosen to believe their vote is a endorsement of a candidate and all that the candidate represents.

We're getting closer to something incisive here. It certainly isn't my view that a vote is an endorsement of all the candidate represents. I could never vote for anyone by that standard. Both Bushes, John McCain, and Mitt Romney all represented some things I could not endorse. I voted for all of them without hesitation.

The difference is that Trump is a man of fundamentally bad character and also the opposite of both conservative and Christian as his way of relating to the world. Conservatism is fundamentally about respect for predecessors and their solutions to problems, and self-restraint and moderation (a.k.a. wisdom) in the pursuit of new solutions to new problems. In that sense, conservatism is about humility and caution.

Someone evoked social contract earlier, and it is relevant. I'm not persuaded that Rousseau and Montesquieu's love for the concept is much to its credit, but the founding fathers certainly believed in social contract. What SC says is that the people are the real government and they authorize rulers to represent their beliefs, values. By voting, the people authorize and empower individuals to act on their behalf.

Under SC, a vote is an authorization. Each person's vote is their individual authorization of the candidate they vote for.

In Trump's case, it's not that he is deeply flawed that is the problem. It's that he is not qualified or even safe to authorize with that kind of power.

I raised the question a while back of how despicable would a GOP candidate have to be before he'd be too bad to vote for? Let's suppose for a moment that a junior high kid who's a bully and kills kittens for sport got the nomination. But he's against abortion and the LGBTQ agenda, wants to tighten up the border and strongly dislikes anti-religious/secularist types.

On the scale of things, this kid isn't really all that "despicable," I suppose. He's not Stalin. But he's fundamentally unqualified for the office by virtue of immaturity, poor character, ignorance, and other things.

Trump is pretty much that kid ... just happens to be older. It was irresponsible for the party to nominate him. I could not help but see myself as irresponsible if I voted for him.

And, by the way, no, the ethics of a vote can't be reduced to mathematics. A choice to authorize an unelectable is not a 1/2 authorization of the two electables. (This is like saying an EMT who arrives at a scene where three people are dying--and he can only save one--half murders two people when he chooses to save the other one.)

Darrell Post's picture

"The difference is that Trump is a man of fundamentally bad character and also the opposite of both conservative and Christian as his way of relating to the world. Conservatism is fundamentally about respect for predecessors and their solutions to problems, and self-restraint and moderation (a.k.a. wisdom) in the pursuit of new solutions to new problems. In that sense, conservatism is about humility and caution.'

I appreciate what you are saying here Aaron, I really do. The problem in 2016 was the fact that conservatism, respect for predecessors, self-restraint, moderation, wisdom, humility and caution were not options on the ballot as represented by the two options. I think we all agree that we regret the options were Clinton or Trump. One of them was going to be elected president. So given that all those character traits you mentioned were not on the table, I had to look for something of value and found it in the promise to nominate conservative judges. One of the oddities of Trump's first term was in fact the juxtaposition of Trump standing next to Gorsuch during the announcement of his appointment to the SCOTUS. Gorsuch seems to be the sort of man you describe as quoted above, and it seemed out of place seeing him standing next to Trump. But the promise of a Gorsuch was a major consideration as to why I voted for Trump, and given unforeseen circumstances, he should be around long after Trump is gone, and he will be a servant of the conservatism I long for (I didn't say 'we long for' because I am not sure everyone on this blog wants conservatism). 

Trump offered a product I found to be better than the alternative. This does not mean I became blind to Trump's many character flaws and life-long lack of conservatism. It just means I did what I could, and now I am thankful that Trump followed through on his promise. 

 

 

mmartin's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

The difference is that Trump is a man of fundamentally bad character and also the opposite of both conservative and Christian as his way of relating to the world. Conservatism is fundamentally about respect for predecessors and their solutions to problems, and self-restraint and moderation (a.k.a. wisdom) in the pursuit of new solutions to new problems. In that sense, conservatism is about humility and caution.

I raised the question a while back of how despicable would a GOP candidate have to be before he'd be too bad to vote for? Let's suppose for a moment that a junior high kid who's a bully and kills kittens for sport got the nomination. But he's against abortion and the LGBTQ agenda, wants to tighten up the border and strongly dislikes anti-religious/secularist types.

On the scale of things, this kid isn't really all that "despicable," I suppose. He's not Stalin. But he's fundamentally unqualified for the office by virtue of immaturity, poor character, ignorance, and other things.

Trump is pretty much that kid ... just happens to be older. It was irresponsible for the party to nominate him. I could not help but see myself as irresponsible if I voted for him.

Aaron, again for all of Trump's flaws, Hillary & the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates are worse.  Far worse.  Why don't you and others on this thread want to acknowledge that reality?  Why?

We can't look at this as if Trump is the only candidate running that actually has a chance of winning.  If that were the case, then yes, we could look at him merely as a an immature, high school bully.  The fact of the matter is that there are actually worse things than Trump in the White House.

You certainly have the choice to not vote for Trump and feel like you did right by your conscience.  Meanwhile the other side would wreak havoc far, far worse than Trump.

I've asked this question in this thread a time or two, and yes, this is a valid question because there are only two current groups from which our presidents will come from:  Democrats and Republicans.  Further, in 2016 Hillary was expected to win, not Trump.  Would you rather have Trump with at least some chance of appointing conservative judges and promotion of conservative values or Hillary/Democrats with their support for abortion up to moment of birth, taxpayer paying for abortion for transgender males, LGBT favorable laws & policies, (insert your favorite socialist program here), etc. etc.?

Would someone care to answer that question?

GregH's picture

mmartin wrote:

Aaron, again for all of Trump's flaws, Hillary & the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates are worse.  Far worse.  Why don't you and others on this thread want to acknowledge that reality?  Why?

Would someone care to answer that question?

I won't acknowledge "that reality" because I don't think it is true. I think that Trump is likely worse for America in the long run than Hillary. 

For you, the criteria to judge by is mostly about judges. I get that and understand it though I don't agree with it.

For me, the criteria is just different. I am not going to repeat it because many others have espoused it here and across the internet. 

So my question for you: I understand your position. Are you at least able to state that you understand mine? I am not asking you to agree just as I don't agree with you.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:

A choice to authorize an unelectable is not a 1/2 authorization of the two electables. (This is like saying an EMT who arrives at a scene where three people are dying--and he can only save one--half murders two people when he chooses to save the other one.)

I think you are not comparing it correctly.  It would be more like the EMT arriving at the scene, seeing 3 people dying, and choosing to spend all of his medical attention on one who can't be saved anyway because the other 2 are really bad and in his opinion, don't qualify for his medical attention, when one of them can actually be saved.

After disagreeing with your analogy, I do actually agree with you that ethics can't be reduced to mathematics.  However, mathematics aren't irrelevant to ethics either.

Dave Barnhart

Dan Miller's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
...

And, by the way, no, the ethics of a vote can't be reduced to mathematics. A choice to authorize an unelectable is not a 1/2 authorization of the two electables. (This is like saying an EMT who arrives at a scene where three people are dying--and he can only save one--half murders two people when he chooses to save the other one.)

1. I was not reducing the ethics of a vote to mathematics. But there is math in the question. And the effect of not voting is equal to placing an equal amount of your support for each candidate. Mathematically, how much that equal amount is is irrelevant. You could argue that the 3rd party wasn't unelectable. That's fair. But if he's unelectable, then the effect is math. You can wish it wasn't all day, but it is.

2. Your analogy to an EMT is kinda naive and while your presentation is somewhat flawed, it argues my point. The ethics of medical triage is long and well thought out. Especially in war, the question of who gets limited surgeon resources is difficult. And yes, those who engage in triage understand that their choices do mean allowing certain victims to die. No one is calling them a murderer, of course! They are not to blame for the deaths, even when their decisions determine who dies.

 

Mike Harding's picture

The spiritual mission of the church belongs to the church.  Civil government is not the church.  We shouldn't expect government leaders to hold to Christian theology per se.  Most presidents tip their hat to Christianity and have some common grace.  For that I am thankful.  However, I am not shocked when they fall short in their personal character as many have.  When you compare Trump's personal failures before he was president with the personal failures of King David while in office, Trump actually fares better in that particular regard.  Compared to King Solomon, Trump looks virtuous (and he is not). I measure Trump by his policies, promotion of American ideals and constitutional freedoms, defense of religious freedom and the unborn, and by many fine administrative appointees and judges. I think his motives are good or perhaps mixed. The left, on the other hand, is vehemently Anti-Christian and Anti-American (i.e. "The Squad").  Read David Horowitz' new book "Dark Agenda".  David is not even a Christian (agnostic), and yet he documents the Left's obsession with destroying Christianity in America and destroying America itself.  That's what is at stake in all our elections both national and at the state level. Policies are more important than personality in this arena.

Pastor Mike Harding

mmartin's picture

Mike Harding wrote:

The spiritual mission of the church belongs to the church.  Civil government is not the church.  We shouldn't expect government leaders to hold to Christian theology per se.  Most presidents tip their hat to Christianity and have some common grace.  For that I am thankful.  However, I am not shocked when they fall short in their personal character as many have.  When you compare Trump's personal failures before he was president with the personal failures of King David while in office, Trump actually fares better in that particular regard.  Compared to King Solomon, Trump looks virtuous (and he is not). I measure Trump by his policies, promotion of American ideals and constitutional freedoms, defense of religious freedom and the unborn, and by many fine administrative appointees and judges. I think his motives are good or perhaps mixed. The left, on the other hand, is vehemently Anti-Christian and Anti-American (i.e. "The Squad").  Read David Horowitz' new book "Dark Agenda".  David is not even a Christian (agnostic), and yet he documents the Left's obsession with destroying Christianity in America and destroying America itself.  That's what is at stake in all our elections both national and at the state level. Policies are more important than personality in this arena.

Exactly!!  Well said!

Dan Miller's picture

Aaron wrote:
Someone evoked social contract earlier, and it is relevant. I'm not persuaded that Rousseau and Montesquieu's love for the concept is much to its credit, but the founding fathers certainly believed in social contract. What SC says is that the people are the real government and they authorize rulers to represent their beliefs, values. By voting, the people authorize and empower individuals to act on their behalf.

Under SC, a vote is an authorization. Each person's vote is their individual authorization of the candidate they vote for.

I’m not educated enough about to know where I fall in with Rousseau, Hume, Locke, etc. But I think you are wrongly reducing the basis of the social contract and “authorization” to voting on one’s leadership. In my thinking (and the concept of Social Contract I believe contains this), simply living in the society under the leadership puts you in the social contract with that leadership. You tolerate them.

I would contend that by not voting (or no hope 3rd voting) you are “authorizing” the ones who are elected just as surely. 

It’s a bit like Pascal’s Wager. You can’t not vote. I’m not saying that it’s wrong not to vote. If the two candidates are equal, what is wrong with voting half for each by staying home?

Larry's picture

Moderator

By accepting the choice of Trump/Clinton

As Darrell said, I didn't accept the choice of Trump/Clinton. That was the choice this time, whether one accepted it or not. I think, again, too many people are living in a world in which they think belief defines reality, that if we believe something it is right and if we don't, it is wrong. In reality, it didn't matter what you accepted; Trump/Clinton was the choice.

Ross Perot died this week. He showed there was another way. But that has to happen again and it will not happen with small minorities casting token protest votes. It doesn't even seem debatable that Trump and Clinton were equal choices, particularly in retrospect. But Perot showed the roadmap, similar to what was followed by Trump in some ways, just without party. Perot had a drive, a successful business background, a big personality, and a willingness to talk. Trump has the same, just without a filter on his mouth. That has been the key to his success most likely. Trump was elected because he wasn't afraid to fight back verbally against what has long been perceived as a biased media. Unlike most Republicans, he was not willing to sit back while the press and the Dems ran roughshod over the GOP while the GOP tried to play nice. 

A successful third party candidancy is going to require someone like Perot or Trump who can talk big about being an outsider and have the money to make it happen.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Aaron, again for all of Trump's flaws, Hillary & the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates are worse.  Far worse.  Why don't you and others on this thread want to acknowledge that reality?  Why?

I really thought I already did that and explained why it wasn't relevant. So, again: yes the electable alternatives on the ballot would have been worse in some ways. Trump is damaging in different ways. It was not at all clear to me--and still isn't--that on balance, he is better for the country. 

As I've already explained, this is true for many reasons, maybe the biggest being that when a party puts a man in power who is in so many ways inconsistent with what the party has claimed to be about for many decades, they accurately appear to be hypocritical. They greatly damage their ethos and greatly reduce the likelihood of winning over majorities -- actually persuading people, winning the war of ideas. So it's very possible--again I'm pretty sure I've already pointed this out--to win an tactical victory in an election and lose the war of ideas. (Which undoes all the policy wins, in the long run.)

Election mathematics -- I think I get the point on that now. Yes in the counting of votes there is math involved, and what you do in one column impacts how things add up in other columns. It's just not the topic I've been on in the article or the discussion: which is the ethics of it all. And the big difference here is the difference between what one does directly vs. what happens afterwards indirectly. It's a very different thing to say "Yes, I want this candidate in power" (a vote) vs. saying "Here's what I hope will happen when my vote is combined with everyone else's" etc. The latter is a factor, but it's less important than the direct act of helping put a man in power.

Social contract - It's way, way more than merely tolerating. The fundamental idea is that rulers rule with the consent of the governed. It doesn't always happen in the form of a representative democracy with elections, but it's -- at least in the view of SC -- it's always a matter of individual consent. In a democracy, this is the vote. And the vote is taken very seriously as your way of communicating "This is the individual I want to represent me and exercise power on my behalf."

In Trump's case, I've mainly focused on the ethics of authorizing him, but it's almost moot. In my own case, it's literally impossible for such a man to represent me. There are a few places where his agenda overlaps with what I believe to be good policy, but the why's and wherefore's of it all . . . not only is it not there, it is contradicted thoroughly by what is there.

On some of the other comments: I do not insist that presidents to have Christian theology or Christian character. I cannot support them if they are not decent human beings with a basic level of maturity, or if they claim to be conservative but deny it by their very character and much of their communication.

GregH's picture

It is interesting to me that Trump's recent tweets and words have not come up here. I wonder why?

Anyway, it is a great object lesson for why Trump does not rise to the level of human decency to be leading anyone. I would not even hire him to work in my warehouse. 

And I am certainly not going to vote for him to be the President of the United States. Doesn't matter what his political views are.

Darrell Post's picture

which one? the one where he told the anti-semitic congresswoman to go back to the country she came from, fix the problems there, and then come back?

GregH's picture

Darrell Post wrote:

which one? the one where he told the anti-semitic congresswoman to go back to the country she came from, fix the problems there, and then come back?

Of course I am referring to that. 

Darrell Post's picture

Trump should have stayed out of the civil war that was brewing between Pelosi and those four socialist congresswomen. But I don't recall much concern in the media when the liberal governor of New York announced that conservatives were no longer welcome in NY state. 

GregH's picture

Darrell Post wrote:

Trump should have stayed out of the civil war that was brewing between Pelosi and those four socialist congresswomen. But I don't recall much concern in the media when the liberal governor of New York announced that conservatives were no longer welcome in NY state. 

No, Trump actually should have kept his mouth shut and not said those things because that is what a decent human being would do. 

As is typical for people like you that defend Trump, your defense consists mostly of logically invalid attempts to try to compare him to someone on the other side of the aisle. It is so tiresome. If it is wrong, it is wrong. Trump's comments were wrong and frankly pathetic.

I wonder if you can't condemn what Trump said because you agree with him. That is the uneasy feeling I am getting across the board on a lot of this stuff. And if true, we have really no common ground to discuss this.

Darrell Post's picture

Greg, you seem to act like civil government is the church. Its not. It never has been. Some of our founding fathers fought duels when the war of words escalated. In 1856 Preston Brooks beat senator Charles Sumner with his cane--in the senate chamber, nearly killing him. I don't condone any of this. But it is a fact that representative government is a place of debate, and often heated debate in what rightly can be called a war of words over the future direction of the country. But you were pretty quick to accuse me of defending Trump. I said he should have stayed out of it. He often has jumped in and opened his mouth when wisdom would have guided him to stay silent. The reason I compared the situation to Governor Cuomo is to expose how easy it is for some to overlook the larger context of the war of words that is our current political discourse, and only focus on one side of it. We can agree that much of it is not Christian. I don't expect any of these leaders to behave like my pastor. You believe Trump's words were wrong. Do you also agree Gov. Cuomo's words were wrong?

You asked if I agree with Trump. It is true I am a political conservative, and Ilhan Omar is a socialist who has argued for a living wage, 'free' government healthcare, and forgiving student loan debt. She also favors our country having open borders, and has made several anti-Semitic remarks. So politically, I have very little, to nothing in common with Omar. Her vision for the country is certainly not what I would envision.  I would not have framed the comment in the way that Trump did (she should leave and come back), but the essence of his criticism of her is that she came to us as an immigrant from a very broken country (Somalia), and is very critical of our country and our ally in the middle-east, Israel, and so perhaps if she had fixed the problems in her country of origin first, then she could bring something to the table here. Politically speaking, it is considered fair game to expose the inexperience of political opponents. I wouldn't have exposed her inexperience the same way Trump did, but I do affirm that Omar and socialists like her do not promote a future for America that I agree with, and I believe we are better off if socialists are not in power. If that means I have no common ground with you to discuss politics, then so be it. 

 

GregH's picture

Thanks for the response. It is a good reminder of how futile this all is.

For you, Trump should have kept his mouth shut mostly because it was bad politics but you agree with the sentiment. You excuse the coarseness of his words by pointing to other people that you figure are worse. And for sure, duels were very stupid. I will take your word on it that Cuomo said something stupid too.

For me, Trump should have kept his mouth shut because it is about human decency. His words contribute to a growing nationalism and racism problem in the country. (Have you read the comments posted by Fox News readers these days?) His words hurt rather than help. They are un-American. Thankfully, in general, our politicians are decent to the point where they do not tell people to leave the US because of their views.  

I am going to bow out now. It really is a waste of time when there is no common ground (and no, this is not just about common ground in politics as you suggested).

Jay's picture

Trump went after four sitting Representatives, and three of them were born in the United States.  One is not.

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York (New York City)
  • Rashida Tlaib of Michigan (Detroit, MI)
  • Ilhan Omar of Minnesota​​​​​​​ (Mogadishu, Somalia)
  • Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts (Cincinnati, OH)

I don't agree with much of those women on much of anything (I'm not sure what we would agree on, actually, except basics like "the sky is blue" and "breathing is a good thing"), but I hate the way that President Trump treats them.  They are his political opponents, but he can still treat them respectfully.

I'd feel a lot better about President Trump if he'd simply quit Twitter.

For me, Trump should have kept his mouth shut because it is about human decency. His words contribute to a growing nationalism and racism problem in the country. (Have you read the comments posted by Fox News readers these days?) His words hurt rather than help. They are un-American. Thankfully, in general, our politicians are decent to the point where they do not tell people to leave the US because of their views.

I think that Hosea 4:6-9 is instructive for us here. Trump isn't our priest, but he is a symbol for a lot of what is wrong with the nation, and he's demonstrating instead of suppressing our worst attributes as a nation. 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Darrell Post's picture

Greg, you introduced the word racism. You said, "His words contribute to a growing nationalism and racism problem in the country." Nothing Trump said regarding Omar was racist. Omar is the one who has said anti-Semitic things. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

Is it really so hard for some people to understand that some of us will not support Trump because we think his "winning" is doing incalculable damage in other ways and that in the long run, we would have been better off without those "wins"?

Yes, because your statement seems to misrepresent the issue and fails to consider the alternative. A great many do not "support Trump" in any meaningful sense. Remember, the majority of evangelicals voted against Trump. There are some who fully support him and make it very well known and it is the tactic of some to tar all with that, but that is simply not true.

Second, the alternative was "incalculable damage" as well, so either way (and remember, there were only two ways), we were going to have incalculable damage. The question was whether or not we would have some wins. A person who doesn't vote doesn't absolve themselves of the consequences of the damage. It simply means they didn't have a voice in what that damage would look like. I am actually not as troubled by the lack of civility though I think it is horrible.

The idea that Trump is worse than Hillary in the long run is the most absurd of conclusions to me. I can't imagine any possible argument for that, and I have yet to see one.

It is not a hard or complicated rationale and it is most certainly a credible one.

Because I don't find it either rational or credible for the most part. I know people truly believe it, but again, belief does not mark reality.

Larry's picture

Moderator

It was not at all clear to me--and still isn't--that on balance, he is better for the country. 

I can't fathom the argument for this. If we were to assume that Clinton and Trump were equal across the board in all ways except for judicial appointments, it is beyond clear that Trump is better than Clinton. So I guess the question is, How is that not clear to you? What would it take to make it clear?

GregH's picture

Larry wrote:

The idea that Trump is worse than Hillary in the long run is the most absurd of conclusions to me. I can't imagine any possible argument for that, and I have yet to see one.

It is not a hard or complicated rationale and it is most certainly a credible one.

Because I don't find it either rational or credible for the most part. I know people truly believe it, but again, belief does not mark reality.

Your last statement goes both ways. But I will say that I at least understand your perspective and will not call it absurd.

It is not hard to see how Trump leads to damage far beyond Hillary. Nationalism is on the rise and Trump is its biggest cheerleader. Nationalism (and religious/political intolerance) may seem quite palatable for some here until you get on the wrong side of it. Or to put it another way, now that Trump has normalized a previously unheard of intolerance based on religious/political views in the Presidency, what is the future for Christians when a left wing Trump gets into power? 

And before someone says it, yes I am speaking hypothetically and yes, the far left other side (including the 4 Trump targeted) is dangerous too. But it is not hard to see where this is potentially going and it is scary. Again, go read the people that post comments on Fox News (and Fox News remarkably does not even have the decency to moderate). Look at the polls about nationalism and other intolerance. I live in the south and I just have to listen to my neighbors to hear things I never would have thought I would hear.

I find AOC and her gang to be just pathetic. I can't stomach them any more than I stomach Trump. But the conservative right should not be contributing to the problem rather than just consoling themselves that at least they are not as bad as AOC.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Jay wrote:

I don't agree with much of those women on much of anything (I'm not sure what we would agree on, actually, except basics like "the sky is blue" and "breathing is a good thing"), but I hate the way that President Trump treats them.  They are his political opponents, but he can still treat them respectfully.

I'd agree to the extent that Trump should treat his opponents respectfully.  Full stop.  However, it's interesting that everyone focuses on only Trump being respectful, but not requiring it from any of the 4 women he answered.  They have been about as bad as Trump, and worse in some ways.  Does that excuse Trump?  Not at all.  I wish he'd rise above it.  But to treat his bad behavior when addressing them as somehow much worse than theirs is completely idiotic, and demonstrates at least as much political bias as those who defend Trump's remarks.

Calling his comments racist (not saying you did this) is even more idiotic.  I don't know his internal motivations any more than anyone else does.  But if you judge his actions and what he writes, he's objecting to what they are saying and their positions, not their skin color.  That was even true of his remarks about the events in Charlottesville, if you read *all* of what he said, and not just the parts pulled out of context by the media.  It was just as obvious that racisim was far from what Pelosi said, but of course, it's one of those 4 women you named that played the race card, not Pelosi or Trump.  Trump is definitely contributing to lowering of standards of behavior, interaction and political discourse.  But he's not alone, and he's not the one directly inflaming racial differences or attempting to turn the concept of nationalism into something sinister.

So yeah, I'm appalled by a lot of what Trump writes and says.  But it's fairly apparent to me that he's just willing to get down and in the dirt with those already playing dirty.  Frankly, I condem both sides on this.

Dave Barnhart

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