Trump Derangement Syndrome, Desperation Thinking, and Facing the Questions

Mostly, the sound and fury over Christianity Today’s editorial advocating President Trump’s removal from office seems to be following the now-familiar pattern: reaction aplenty, reflection—not so much.

It seems that “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” cuts both ways. The left wing version (LW) can’t seem to see the difference between Trump and Hitler. The right wing version (RW) seems to have trouble seeing the difference between Trump and the Messiah. These TDS sufferers perceive everyone around them in these extremes as well, so regardless of what’s actually being said, what they hear is binary. Either you’re echoing our (extreme) view and are one of “Us” or you’re one of “Them,” expressing the extreme opposite.

Trump himself suffers from the right wing version of Trump Derangement Syndrome, as his reaction to Mark Galli’s editorial demonstrated. Galli’s analysis offered both positive and negative observations about President Trump, but both Trump and his hordes of fellow TDS-RW sufferers immediately boiled it down to “Doesn’t sound like Us. Must be Them”—or pretended to. I don’t honestly know which is worse.

Those unafflicted by TDS of either the LW or RW variety can see some valid points in Galli’s arguments, as well as some weaker ones. They can distinguish one claim from another and weigh the supporting facts and reasoning for each, and possibly come to a better understanding of some of the thinking on these matters—even if it’s better understanding of what they disagree with, and why.

Which brings me to the purpose of this little entry into the fray. If you see the perspective voiced by Mark Galli (and others) as reasonable, even if you disagree, congratulations on being TDS-free! Hang in there. You’re not alone, and you really haven’t lost your mind. Everyone else has.

If you’re still a Trump-defender but haven’t slipped into full-blown TDS, I want to make you more uncomfortable, because I think it might help. (The TDS cases are beyond my skills.)

I know there are some pretty conflicted Trump supporters out there! One sure sign is how oversensitive some of them are. Criticize Trump just a little, and you get a noticeably disproportionate response. This is symptomatic of TDS-RW also, but the milder forms tell me I’m dealing with a person who is probably pretty insecure about the position they’ve carved out. They don’t want to criticize Trump at all, but they’re conflicted. Part of them keeps insisting something’s wrong. It makes them grumpy.

For TDS-free evangelical Trump-defenders, then, three questions:

1. Can it ever be wrong to take an action even when all the alternatives will have worse outcomes?

The answer is yes. I don’t know why this idea is controversial for Christians, but I’ve gone multiple rounds in forum discussions and some definitely find it hard to accept or hard to understand. Stated positively, the principle is this: Sometimes it’s wrong to do A even though all the other options seem guaranteed to result in disaster. I’ll get to how this relates to supporting President Trump below, but first, a biblical example—King Saul.

When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, and some Hebrews crossed the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. Samuel said, “What have you done?” (1 Samuel 13:6–11)

Some time later Saul followed the same pattern by keeping some of the spoils from the defeat of Agag (1 Sam. 15:20-21).

On both of these occasions Saul was afraid and desperate. He saw a situation where severe, lasting defeat would certainly occur if he chose to take the moral high ground and follow the instructions he had been given.

Desperation breeds an unhealthy focus on “But what will happen if I don’t?” It can lead us to re-characterize a choice between right and wrong as a choice between “the lesser of two evils.” In the sense of “two options with negative outcomes” the latter does happen. But a Christian is never so desperate that he has to do wrong in order to avoid disaster. In that case, he doesn’t get to avoid disaster.

Frequently, what I hear from Trump supporters is desperation reasoning: He’s got problems, but if we don’t help him win, what will happen?! Abortion! Loss of religious liberty! Economic decline! So even though he’s clearly a foolish, proud, and dishonorable man, let’s put him in charge, because he’ll do some things we’re desperate to see done!

My advice: calm down, figure out what’s right and do that. Stop being desperate. Saul’s desperate moves did work pretty well. But they brought disaster of a completely different kind for Saul and his family.

Returning to the question, I phrased it deliberately. If it can ever be wrong to do A when all the other options seem certain to have worse outcomes, that puts a sober responsibility on each of us. We have a duty to look at our choices and ask the question: Is Option A wrong even though it has the best likely outcomes? Why or why not? I don’t see many in the Trump-support camp answering these questions.

2. Does how we think matter?

On the topic of “how to think about Trump” (which is different from what to think about Trump), I’ve encountered an unusually high degree of impatience—a dogged determination to avoid looking away from outcomes to consider the process of ethical evaluation itself.

I keep going back to it for two reasons:

  1. God cares how we think, not just what we believe, what we do, and what results we achieve.
  2. If we use the right thought process, we’re more likely to correctly identify the right thing to do.

Reason 2 should be self-evident. Reason 1 is clear in passages such as these:

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. (1 Cor. 14:20)

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. (1 Cor. 3:18)

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim. 1:7)

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Pet. 3:15)

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2 Cor. 10:5)

In the case of support for, or criticism of, President Trump, we really shouldn’t think we’ve fulfilled our calling as Christians if rejecting “what They say” and echoing “what Our people say” is as far as we’ve gotten. That isn’t even a start at loving God with our minds (Matt. 22: 37).

3. Is it possible to achieve short term success in ways that produce long term failure?

Shortsightedness continues to dominate Trump-defense rhetoric. It’s almost as if Trump defenders believe:

  • Future leaders can’t undo the accomplishments of whoever is in charge today.
  • Policy victories have more enduring power than changing the values and principles of a culture.
  • There is no need to win over anyone who doesn’t already agree with Trump’s policies.
  • There will never be a need for any future leaders in conservatism after the current generation.

Well, the fourth bullet is possible (Parousia). But how could anyone believe the first three?

Here’s the connection: If future leaders can undo what Trump accomplishes, and if changing values and principles is more enduring, and if there’s a need to persuade larger numbers of voters of conservative ideas, what sort of strategy does that demand?

It calls for leadership that is, for starters, not completely alienating toward everyone in the political center and center left (we know the far left is unpersuadable). Maybe it calls for leadership that at least tries to make reasoned arguments for policy positions. Maybe it calls for leadership that thoughtfully addresses the idealism and questions of young potential leaders.

Maybe it calls for a leader who’s personal character and beliefs sort of align at least a little with the spirit and principles of conservatism, rather than one who passionately fights for the letter while actively denying the spirit.

President Trump has done some good things. Can they compensate for the long term damage of his egoism, lack of restraint, and moral tone-deafness? I honestly don’t know. I have serious doubts. But too many evangelical Trump supporters aren’t even considering the question.

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TylerR's picture

Editor

The CT article and the follow-up have made me seriously consider subscribing to the magazine. Might very well do it.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I was thinking about that also. Actually did subscribe to National Review when they published their Against Trump issue in 2016... though, at the time, I thought 'You guys should have done this in 2015!' It was too late to stop the Trump train.

Got an interesting email response this morning with some push back--from someone who didn't want to log in and post I guess. I'll try to respond later, but it will be some hours before I have the opportunity. But in general, the email assumes that if you aren't adamantly anti Galli-article, you're pro-Hillary. Because if Hillary is really bad, Trump can't also be really bad... I guess. Despite the cognitive disconnect that requires (TDS-RW?), there may be a few thoughts to glean from the email, so I'll take a closer look when I get the chance.

Darrell Post's picture

From dictionary.com:

Vote: to express or signify will or choice in a matter, as by casting a ballot:

Endorse: to approve, support, or sustain:

I personally do not approve of Trump's behavior or his moral failings. I did not support him in the 2016 GOP primary because I did not believe he was qualified for the office and I did not trust him. I certainly did not sustain him in any way via financial donations. 

But given the two options, Clinton or Trump, I did express and signify my will or choice in the matter of which one of the two I would rather have be president. 

I don't like Mr. Trump, and I voted for him against Clinton. Both can be true. Looking ahead to 2020, given I live in a state with no party registration, and given Trump has no primary opposition, I might well ask for the Democrat primary ballot so as to have a say in who I will not be voting for in the general election. It does not mean I endorse or support that candidate, but rather I would be signifying my will as to which one I would prefer run in the general election.

It seems to me that 90% of all the debate raging about how to vote could easily be wiped away if people would realize that voting is not the same as endorsing. 

 

 

 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Bingo!  That difference makes all the difference.

G. N. Barkman

Kevin Miller's picture

Darrell Post wrote:

I personally do not approve of Trump's behavior or his moral failings. I did not support him in the 2016 GOP primary because I did not believe he was qualified for the office and I did not trust him. I certainly did not sustain him in any way via financial donations. 

I see you consider there to be a difference between giving a financial donation and giving a vote, that one is support or "sustaining," but the other one isn't. However, if the goal is just to keep the worse person out of office, would there really be a difference? Wouldn't the financial donation also just be a reflection of your choice to keep the worst person from winning the election rather than being an endorsement of the person getting the money?

WallyMorris's picture

CT isn't worth subscribing to anymore. I was a subscriber mainly to access back issues of CT and Books & Culture (no longer published, unfortunately). I canceled my subscription. Not any real value anymore.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

TylerR's picture

Editor

I was going to buy a subscription to the Times of London for Christmas. I may still do that. But, at $3.25 per month/$39.00 per year, I will certainly now subscribe to CT.

I didn't agree with Galli's interpretation of the infamous phone call, but I appreciate his basic point. I also really liked CT's follow-up piece. I also liked Russell Moore's book Onward. In short, I seem to appreciate what a lot of so-called "moderates" have to say about the intersection of Christianity and culture.

CT won themselves a new subscriber with these articles.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

JNoël's picture

For the record - I did not vote for Trump. Also for the record, while I am more than a 0% in likelihood of voting for him the next time, it is still highly unlikely.

Darrell Post wrote:

I personally do not approve of Trump's behavior or his moral failings.

This line of reasoning fascinates me most, because so many who disapprove of Trump call on it as one of their main reasons.

What moral failings are you referring to?

Frankly, I don't care much about his behavior, as everyone leads differently, and if one takes a look at how British parliament runs, Trump would likely fit in really well over there. We're not used to it in America, because our President is supposed to act more dignified (in public). I find Trump's transparency refreshing. I expect, with the exception of likely profanity, we see a very similar Trump in public as how he acts in private.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin
  • It's not about leadership style.
  • Not about acting dignified.
  • Not about the difference between voting and endorsing.

I really didn't think I had to prove that he has serious character problems, but maybe I need to bite the bullet and write that one. It's just very hard to write because the quantity of examples is so overwhelming.  ... and it feels silly because it seems so obvious.

Just read Proverbs, collect all the descriptions of how a fool behaves in contrast to how a wise person behaves. Proverbs doesn't give Christians the luxury of calling this kind of behavior just another leadership style.

As for voting vs. endorsing, I didn't use the word vote at all in this one (one reference to "voters"), but I have to resond to this...

Vote: to express or signify will or choice in a matter, as by casting a ballot:

This would be significant as an "I don't endorse; I just vote" defense if it weren't for the fact that when you "express or signify will or a choice" you are signifying your choice of something--or someone--in particular.

All the ethical issues involved in endorsing still exist when "signifying the choice of."

Paul Henebury's picture

His policies have  been good on the whole.  His appointments even better.  We're not saved by politics, but we have to be wise about what policies we want to see in America in the future, and vote accordingly.  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Don Johnson's picture

WallyMorris wrote:

CT isn't worth subscribing to anymore. I was a subscriber mainly to access back issues of CT and Books & Culture (no longer published, unfortunately). I canceled my subscription. Not any real value anymore.

Yeah, I tend to agree. They are mostly pathetic in their content in recent years. Basically useless. I have all the issues from the beginning in my Logos library, however. There is useful material early on.

If you want a good edifying magazine, however, I can recommend one!

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Larry's picture

Moderator

Is it possible to achieve short term success in ways that produce long term failure?

As I posted in another place, this is the question I think you are failing to wrestle with. You can achieve the short-term success while producing long-term failure. And that is what many of us think the greatest danger here is. You are willing to sacrifice the long-term on the altar of the short-term. 

The idea that Trump is demeaning the office of the presidency ignores history. Trump is an outspoken clown who is profane, immoral, and often mean. But this has happened for generations. This is not new. 

figure out what’s right and do that. Stop being desperate. 

Yes. This is what those on the other side (whether Trump supporters or not) believe. The question is, What is right? You haven't made the case yet.

Desperation says, "We gotta get Trump out of office no matter who replaces him." Trust says God can work through a flawed person.

You see, Aaron, your arguments don't promote your position. They work equally well against you, and perhaps better. 

Trump will be gone in 5 years at the latest. But the judicial appointments he makes will last for decades and those are what determine the society we live in. Yes God is sovereign and the church has no right to expect governmental help or approval. But we are Christian citizens with a duty to work for the betterment of our society as Christians. To abdicate that duty for short-term gain seems hardly Christian to me. Why does it to you?

JNoël's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

It's not about leadership style.

Not about acting dignified.

Not about the difference between voting and endorsing.

I really didn't think I had to prove that he has serious character problems, but maybe I need to bite the bullet and write that one. It's just very hard to write because the quantity of examples is so overwhelming.  ... and it feels silly because it seems so obvious.

Just read Proverbs, collect all the descriptions of how a fool behaves in contrast to how a wise person behaves. Proverbs doesn't give Christians the luxury of calling this kind of behavior just another leadership style.

 

I submit to you that the way he acts on Twitter and in other public venues is part of the persona he wants to display because it energizes such a huge portion of the population – his voters. Your argument about the way he acts in comparison to what Proverbs displays is, frankly, irrelevant. What he does is far more important than how he acts.

Regarding his alleged character problems, I challenge you to come up with anything since he has been in office worthy of his removal. His greatest opponents, those most certainly not filled with the Spirit, have done their absolute best to find something, anything, that would give them grounds to remove him. The best they could come up with is obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. The former has already proven to be a baseless accusation and will go nowhere. The latter is nothing more than his leadership style, as it has also been proven repeatedly that other US presidents have done far worse than Trump and were never impeached, starting with Mr. Obama. If his Moriarties can’t come up with anything more substantive than that, then I’m confident you cannot, either. Complaining about his lack of control of his tongue and even his pride really just amounts to nothing more than “he’s mean. He shouldn’t be president.” It really seems rather childish.

 

Side-note: I can’t believe I’m defending Trump. It’s just the more I learn of the positive impact he is having, the more I am willing to overlook his childishness, his bullying, his ego, and every other visible ridiculosity that he embodies. Maybe he himself has no idea, but what I see is that God is using him to advance things that favor Christianity. This is the first time in my life that I see a president who is trying to advance conservative values winning. In politics, you cannot kill your opponents with kindness. Trump is over the top, for sure, but he is winning. It’s rather refreshing.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Darrell Post's picture

Aaron wrote: All the ethical issues involved in endorsing still exist when "signifying the choice of."

Not at all. I am considering voting in the 2020 Democrat primary for a truly horrible candidate with whom I disagree with on virtually everything. The reason for my vote is to express or signify my will or choice in the matter of who will be the Democratic Party candidate in the 2020 general election for president.

Voting is simply not the same as endorsing. If these terms were the same, then there would be no reason for both terms to have developed into common usage. Approving, supporting, or sustaining all suggest positive affirmation. Voting lacks that basic component. Someone on death row might be given the opportunity to signify his will and choice in the manner of death, electric chair or lethal injection. The condemned votes for one of them, without supporting, approving of or sustaining that method of death. This illustration holds up, as many voters back in 2016 spoke of their options using such morbid analogies. But they still exercised their right to express their will or choice in the matter. 

I totally agree with you Aaron that Trump doesn't hold up well under the scrutiny of the book of Proverbs. But when neither candidate does, I can still signify my will or choice in the matter of which of the two Proverbs-failing candidates I would rather have in office and picking judges that will affect the rest of my life and the direction of the country for decades to come. 

JNoel, I wasn't referring to anything specific, just speaking in general terms. I am thankful that Trump has performed much better at being president than I had feared going in to this. He was last on my list of GOP primary candidates, but unless something drastic changes in the next 11 months, I expect to vote for him in 2020. 

 

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Is it possible to achieve short term success in ways that produce long term failure?

As I posted in another place, this is the question I think you are failing to wrestle with. You can achieve the short-term success while producing long-term failure. And that is what many of us think the greatest danger here is. You are willing to sacrifice the long-term on the altar of the short-term. 

The idea that Trump is demeaning the office of the presidency ignores history. Trump is an outspoken clown who is profane, immoral, and often mean. But this has happened for generations. This is not new. 

figure out what’s right and do that. Stop being desperate. 

Yes. This is what those on the other side (whether Trump supporters or not) believe. The question is, What is right? You haven't made the case yet.

Desperation says, "We gotta get Trump out of office no matter who replaces him." Trust says God can work through a flawed person.

You see, Aaron, your arguments don't promote your position. They work equally well against you, and perhaps better. 

  • Number of people Trump persuades to think conservatively who weren't already: 0
  • Number of potentially persuadable people Trump's character turns off to conservative ideas: probably millions.
  • Length of time it will take for voters to elect a far left candidate: 1 to 5 years.
  • Length of time for voters to elect a far left majority in both houses: 1 to 5 years.
  • Length of time for far left to undo most of what Trump has accomplished: a few years.

So... electing (and continuing to support) Trump because Hillary just had to be defeated in this vote right now is the long term strategy, but holding out for a leader of decent character and authentic conservative values is short term thinking? Right.

On the other questions: how is it right to knowingly put such a man in office? Only a results argument can support that. Pure pragmatism... It's time to call it what it is.

Trump is an outspoken clown who is profane, immoral, and often mean. But this has happened for generations. This is not new. 

Who said it was new? So now, if something is old, that makes it wise and good? Nothing is much older than pride (Gen. 3) envy, and murder (Gen. 4). Are we really not seeing the the problem in claiming the moral high ground and backing a low-life as our leader? That has never, ever worked as a long term strategy. How could it? And even if we could find it "working" somewhere in history, it's never, ever been right.

This is where I take a deep breath, let it out slow and probably walk away. I can't persuade the unpersuadable. I can only point out what's there--sometimes what's painfully obviously there--and be content that I did what I could.

JNoël's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Who said it was new? So now, if something is old, that makes it wise and good? Nothing is much older than pride (Gen. 3) envy, and murder (Gen. 4). Are we really not seeing the the problem in claiming the moral high ground and backing a low-life as our leader? That has never, ever worked as a long term strategy. How could it? And even if we could find it "working" somewhere in history, it's never, ever been right.

So Trump is a low-life? Well that's an interesting accusation. I'm really doing my best to approach this conversation open-minded, objectively, to understand the various angles and to consider each. But it isn't working. Interesting, don't you think?

Still waiting to hear why you think his morality or lack thereof is any worse than any other president (or human, for that matter).

 

I'll say again - I didn't vote for him last time, and while there is a slight increase in whether or not I'd vote for him next time, the answer will likely still be a "no." But it is growing increasingly difficult, as a Christian and as an American, to hate him as President when I see how his leadership is benefiting us in so many ways.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Darrell Post's picture

Aaron,

It was a choice between two options on a ballot. You seem to keep pining for an option that wasn't on the ballot. We all agree that we would have loved to have been able to vote for a leader who was full of Biblical morality, integrity and character. But none of those things were options on the ballot. And when we see voting for what it is, and leave endorsing for what it is, we can vote--choose which of the two flawed options we would rather see in office and picking judges. The only way I could see myself engaged in hypocrisy in terms of claiming moral high ground would be if I wholeheartedly endorsed Trump and worked to sustain him, while pretending his flaws did not exist, and at the same time preaching the importance of the traits for which he is so horribly flawed. 

1) Trump is flawed.

2) Trump has made a lot of good decisions as POTUS.

3) Trump doesn't get my endorsement.

4) Trump gets my vote.

These four things can all be true without me being guilty of hypocrisy or compromising truth on the altar of pragmatism. I don't understand the ways of God, but by His sovereign providence and for purposes known to Him, the options on the 2016 ballot were Clinton and Trump. It appears that in 2020, the options will be Trump and Biden, or Trump and Sanders. I am not compelled to endorse, support, or sustain any of the options. But I can show up and express and signify my choice as to which of the two I would rather see in office. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

"Low-life" is just short hand. 

If you prefer, Larry's characterization as "outspoken clown who is profane, immoral, and often mean" is also accurate.

Still think it might help to re-read Proverbs and note the characteristics of a fool. It doesn't take much reading to get the feeling that we're not supposed to put fools on thrones.

As for any better or worse than any other president.... It's not clear to me why that should matter. I'm not talking about any other president. I'm talking about this one. ... and what sort of man Christians are supposed to support, often praise, actively defend against any and all criticism--characterizing any who do so as lefties or liberals or Clinton-fans, etc. 

We've created an environment where telling the truth about a deeply problematic president is not permitted because holding him in any way accountable is equated with supporting the Democrats. This is folly. The choices are not back Trump 100% all the time or you're helping the Democrats. Christians are supposed to be loyal to truth and right. Leaders and parties are secondary means... and they're not effective means if we assume we have to side with or against them rather than with or against truth and right.

But is Trump any worse than Bush, or Reagan? If you can't see that he his by now, nothing I could say could possibly make any difference to you.

Edit to add...

It was a choice between two options on a ballot.

No, it was not. Many of us chose something else. Starting out with that assumption, a priori, is the first mistake in approaching an election thinking biblically.

Darrell Post's picture

Sure, you can choose not to participate. But if you wished to have any say in the outcome, you had to pick between Clinton and Trump. I chose to do so, looking at the bigger picture, knowing that it was much more than two names on the ballot. It was picking a VP who would preside over a narrowly divided senate. It was also picking an entire team of leaders who flesh out important departments all throughout the federal government--departments with the power to enact policy without congressional approval. For instance, the Trump-selected Secretary of Education has already made several important pro-family decisions that would not have happened had Clinton won the election. My vote was also for conservative judges who would not be on the SCOTUS or in all the circuit court positions had Clinton won. We were not voting for king. The election was for an entire body of leadership that will affect the country for decades to come. 

I admit I struggled with my vote. I thought through the short-term/long-term arguments. When Trump promised conservative judges, that tipped the scales for me, even though I still didn't fully trust him. I feared that once elected he would get his judge list from the "David Souter School of Judge Picking" taught by the faculty of George H. W. Bush. Then with George W. Bush, he put us conservatives through tremendous difficulty while wresting with the judge picks. How refreshing with Trump--he just said give me the list of conservative judges, and lets pick one. Simple. Easy. 

Now 3 years later, it seems my vote was the right call. It still does not mean that I approve of Trump's behavior, and I still would rather have a different leader--one who is conservative by conviction with the character and integrity to go with it. But I don't always get what I want and sometimes have to settle for what is available. 

Edit - to point out further that in the end, my vote for Trump had no affect on the results because I live in a state that awarded Clinton all of the electoral votes for my state. So if we think of it in terms of what happened that actually mattered for victory, my neighbors shouted me down, and I along with the people in my state gave full 100% vote to Clinton's electoral vote tally. 

 

 

Steve Davis's picture

I must confess that I haven’t obsessed much over Trump’s presidency and frankly don’t have the time or interest to follow the impeachment apart from snippets. Maybe it’s an age thing, having seen presidents and crises come and go, or lack of philosophical depth. Even more it’s a commitment to the gospel and to the confidence that God lifts up and puts down. I don’t know that I’ve ever voted based solely or largely on a candidate’s personal morality. But I know I won’t vote for someone whose public morality and agenda result in more death of the innocent and the normalization of perversion. These are battles worth fighting even knowing that galloping evil will only be ended by divine intervention and swift vengeance.

I also confess that Trump qua president has accomplished a great deal for the good of the nation with the opioid crisis, criminal justice reform (two areas of my work), judicial appointments, trade, etc. Call it pragmatism if you must. By any other word it’s reality. Trump also certainly has done great harm in other ways and may be a lowlife in some ways. But should we call him that? Trump is the duly elected president of the USA. We live in a nation where we can dissent and disagree. I’m not a lawyer but I fail to see why he should be removed from office based on what the House has uncovered or invented. As someone said, Trump may be in office for another or year or five. Life will go on. Maybe not in a way we want or have seen in the past. The partisan politics, the demonization of others, the contempt for law and the constitution is endemic and no party is completely exempt. I'm more interested in who someone lives for than who they vote for. 

My perspective has surely been influenced by my experiences, living overseas for over a decade, five of those years in post-Communist Romania, ministry in many countries with political turmoil (including Russia, Ukraine. Moldova, Bulgaria, former Yugoslavia, Albania, China, Vietnam, Lebanon), two trips a year now to an African country that has had the same president for over 35 years, since its independence. Excuse me if I don't vent and complain too much about the USA. There are few if any places like it. 

Never Trumpers, Trump Haters, Trump Maniacs and those somewhere in between or farther out on the extremes all need to chill at times. For Christians, we shouldn’t be ignorant of politics nor do we need to be preoccupied with them. Let’s love one another, preach the gospel, do good to others, and pray that we might live as lights in a perverse world.  Jesus reigns!

JNoël's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

As for any better or worse than any other president.... It's not clear to me why that should matter. I'm not talking about any other president. I'm talking about this one. ... and what sort of man Christians are supposed to support, often praise, actively defend against any and all criticism--characterizing any who do so as lefties or liberals or Clinton-fans, etc. 

We've created an environment where telling the truth about a deeply problematic president is not permitted because holding him in any way accountable is equated with supporting the Democrats. This is folly. The choices are not back Trump 100% all the time or you're helping the Democrats. Christians are supposed to be loyal to truth and right. Leaders and parties are secondary means... and they're not effective means if we assume we have to side with or against them rather than with or against truth and right.

Now we’re getting somewhere. I could not agree with you more on these points. I cannot for the life of me figure out why so many Christians praise Trump so much. He is not a man worthy of our praise (is any President, for that matter?). His leadership methods (note: I didn’t say style) are not ones I want my children to grow up trying to emulate. Immorality has been brought up on a number of occasions, but that has always been with regards to his past; as far as we know (and I’m pretty sure we’d know more if there were more to know), no accusations of immorality have been made in recent years. I don’t give him a pass for his past problems, but at what point does one move on (i.e. forgive) what has happened in the past and accept what he is striving for today? I can still look at the positive impact he is having on our country vis-à-vis his politics and policies and be thankful. He is doing more good for our country than any president since Reagan, and before that it gets even more difficult because the 20th century has a very, very long list of pretty bad presidents.

Aaron Blumer wrote:

But is Trump any worse than Bush, or Reagan? If you can't see that he is by now, nothing I could say could possibly make any difference to you.

 

My only point in that line of argument was that every single president had issues. No, I don’t think Reagan or Bush 41 were worse than Trump. Bush 41 was, in my opinion, the last truly “great” president, a true statesman. Yes, he also made mistakes, but he was the last one, in my opinion, truly worth of respect.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Bert Perry's picture

My take is that when I compare Trump to other politicians, the chief difference I can see is that he doesn't cover his tracks, or have his tracks covered for him, in the same way other Presidents have done.  You wanna talk philandering?  Let's talk JFK, whose "conquests" appear to have included at least two German spies (one Nazi, one East German whom he deported to avoid scandal) and a few lovers of Mafia dons.  You want to talk about a hazard to the country from sleeping around?  There you go.  Let's also talk Clinton, whose "bimbo eruptions team" (headed by none other than his wife) kept things quiet--along with a compliant media, of course.

Want to talk about being coarse?  Let's talk about JFK, Truman, LBJ, and Nixon.  Again, the media covered more for them than they would for any Republican today, but let's not pretend that Trump's coarseness or philandering is anything new.  

Same thing with business reverses.  W had a bunch of them, JFK's family relied heavily on government patronage for their businesses, LBJ married his money, etc..  Reagan went into politics when the movie roles stopped coming.  Clinton?  Let's remember that Whitewater, the cattle futures scandal, and more were all attempts by the Clintons to get the money they thought they needed.  Dozens of people went to jail over those.

Long and short of it is that the anti-Trump movement really seeks to impose a set of qualifications for the office that simply don't make sense historically. I don't really see the need to unilaterally disarm and in effect pull the lever for Democratic rogue because the Republican is a rogue, too. 

There is also a reality that there is a moral reality to one's positions on things like abortion and government control of industries.  Put gently, we're about sixty million deaths since Roe, and socialism has, worldwide, killed about twice that number.  If we are to put that on a moral scale, support for abortion--including public funding for Planned Parenthood if you're a Democrat these days--makes up for an awful lot of mistresses, if you ask me.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Darrell Post's picture

So much of what is being debated here simply involves the conscience and what each one believes to be the best course of action in an ethically complex situation. 

Aaron is beside himself that others do not see what is so clear to him. And rightly so, he should be passionate about it, as this is how his conscience, informed by Scripture is leading him. 

Others look at the same situation and see an opportunity, with Trump, to slow or even roll back some of the evil things going on in our culture, and they cannot comprehend why another believer would not want to be on board with stopping that evil. Their consciences, informed by Scripture is leading them toward a completely different direction than Aaron's. 

My interactions on this topic are from the perspective that we need to respect each other's Biblically-informed conscience and the actions each feel compelled to take in response to the direction they are being led. I do not have all the information, and I am incapable of an all-wise decision. We do the best we can with what we know, and we need to respect that in others too. 

 

dmyers's picture

Aaron, did you read Louis Hensler's "Reflections of an Erstwhile Never Trumper"?  I linked it in the previous Trump thread. 

I don't mind Christians who didn't and won't vote for Trump. I think they're unwise, all things considered, but that's the extent of it. But what is insufferable is the self-righteousness with which they lecture the rest of us on how un-Christian we're being in voting for him, including Galli and you. 

Dan Miller's picture

what will happen?! Abortion! Loss of religious liberty! Economic decline!

Your phrasing suggests to me that you find these things to be overvalued to an extent that is appropriate to mock.  
So perhaps I'll just ask:

- Do you think abortion is something worth opposing?

- Do you think religious liberty is Biblically good?

Economic decline is a bit more complicated. Phrasing it as "economic decline" seems to me to be a misunderstanding of conservative thinking regarding the economy. 

mmartin's picture

Imagine a leader of a country who committed murder while in office in order to cover up adultery and had over 70,000 of his country's population killed because of his mistakes (sin) and yet wrote parts of a book that has changed millions of lives.  Imagine the leader of a country who started out doing good, but ended up corrupt with dozens of wives and yet wrote parts of a book that has been studied and revered for thousands of years.

Kings David and Solomon were as bad, if not worse, than any American politician in history.  Yet, God used these deeply flawed men to write significant parts of the Bible.

So, because these men were as flawed as they were do we say, "Not my Bible?"  (Yes, these men were directly chosen by God to write parts of the Bible, but the issue being discussed is character.)

One problem I have with those that point out Trump's flaws and point out the flaws in rationale for evangelicals who voted for him (as a vote against Hillary) is that when they talk about Trump's "character" they also fail to draw the line at which what level of "bad" character (in that we all are sinners and thus have "bad" character) is acceptable vs. what is not.

Aaron, you wrote above about approaching an election biblically.  Upon what Biblical basis should evangelicals approach an election Biblically, including voting for Trump (as a vote against the Democrat candidate)?  Are you suggesting that evangelicals who voted for Trump (as a vote against Hilary) were not acting Biblically?  

Larry's picture

Moderator

Number of people Trump persuades to think conservatively who weren't already: 0

How do you know? I have read people who say that they have been persuaded by Trump to support him. Perhaps that's not "conservative" per se but I don't know how you could make this declaration. Furthermore, isn't this pragmatism? Judging the rightness of something by the outcome of it? In your view, this shouldn't matter, should it? 

Number of potentially persuadable people Trump's character turns off to conservative ideas: probably millions.

Perhaps, but again, isn't this pragmatism? If something is right, it doesn't matter how many are turned off, right? Are we trying to win friends or make a better civil society? You can't say we shouldn't judge things by outcome and then turn around and use outcome as evidence for your view.

Length of time it will take for voters to elect a far left candidate: 1 to 5 years.

Length of time for voters to elect a far left majority in both houses: 1 to 5 years.

Perhaps. Or perhaps the left's actions in the last few years has driven people away from them.

Length of time for far left to undo most of what Trump has accomplished: a few years.

False. Given the number of lifetime judicial appointments, this is likely decades not years. 

So... electing (and continuing to support) Trump because Hillary just had to be defeated in this vote right now is the long term strategy, but holding out for a leader of decent character and authentic conservative values is short term thinking? Right.

No, those aren't the options. The option is getting rid of Trump and exchanging him for a very liberal and progressive president or keeping Trump who is more conservative in terms of policy and appointments.

Is there any case that the first is better than the second?

As Darrell said, you seem to be wishing for a choice that isn't there. I wish it was. I am not a Trump supporter.

But Hillary did not need to be defeated for the "right now." She needed to be defeated because the policies and appointments were going to last for the long term. 

On the other questions: how is it right to knowingly put such a man in office? Only a results argument can support that. Pure pragmatism... It's time to call it what it is.

Is it pure pragmatism to have a president who is pro-life?  Is it pure pragmatism to try to stem the societal trned on gender issues? Your choice would result in more abortion, more gender problems, more societal problems. 

Why wouldn't you take steps to minimize that? That's what I still don't understand.

This is where I take a deep breath, let it out slow and probably walk away. I can't persuade the unpersuadable. I can only point out what's there--sometimes what's painfully obviously there--and be content that I did what I could.

But did you point out what's actually there? It seems to me you have misrepresented or outright missed a lot of things that are there. And that is not for our good.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Just catching up a bit. Thanks for the feedback. There's more thoughtfulness and insight in these posts than I (I confess!) expected. A bit of TDS afflicting me as well, perhaps.... briefly, I hope.

First, what I sent someone in response to an email. I think it may help frame my analysis...

Hi, ......

Thanks for your thoughts.

I'm not really looking at Trump in terms of "what are the alternatives?" I think this is the wrong question as a starting point. After we've asked "Is this the kind of man a Christian should support?" -- if the answer is "yes," or even "maybe," it's time to consider "What are the alternatives?"

For me, the answer to the first question is "No," so I never get around to looking at the alternatives... I don't seem [see them] as my problem.

I'm not at all concerned about the SI brand. What all of us have to do is tell the truth as best we can discern it, and I wouldn't be much of a Christian if I thought I should promote falsehood to protect a brand, would I?

It's kind of funny how things change. Back when McCain and Romney were running for office, I was getting lots of negative feedback bout how they weren't good enough. I was the one saying "stop being so idealistic." Now people are telling me I'm too idealistic about Trump. Well, I have my limits. There are just depths to which I will not go in supporting leaders, no matter how confused or wicked the alternatives might be.

Thanks again for the feedback.

So.. comparisons of Trump to David or Cyrus or whoever are not all that meaningful to me. I saw a Christian Post editorial comparing Trump to Samson. A better comparison, but doesn't have the application the writer hoped, I don't think.

In the article, I mention Saul, but the point is not to compare Trump to Saul, but to compare Trump supporters to Saul. It's the "whatever it takes to solve this immediate problem" mindset.

But the biggest difference I have with most Trump reluctant-supports and Trump enthusiastic supporters is the starting point in evaluating a leader worthy of backing (by "backing" I mean "in any way helping obtain or remain in power" ... since "endorse" is a hangup for some).

I'm all for pointing out and appreciating the things he gets right. I'm not for pretending his wrongs aren't wrong, just because Democrats happen to be the ones pointing them out loudest. I'm also not for pretending he isn't a man of very poor character.

What we have: lots of judges appointed that are likely better than Hillary would have appointed. Several moves that have enhanced religious liberty in the short run, and several others that have helped in the fight against abortion. These are commendable. Economics: well, it's going well right now, but definitely a mixed bag, policy wise.

Anyway, I can appreciate some policy here and there. I can't sympathize for him as some kind of victim of mistreatment. Some unfair accusations here and there, but he has not encountered "more" opposition than he deserves. (It's a lack of quality at times, but not quantity!) And I can't see him as being praiseworthy as a leader. There are "some good decisions." There aren't much in the "good qualities" department. A few of those, but not much.

But what I see on the social media is all sorts of "greatest president we've ever had" nonsense... and the editorials at Christian Post....  I was going to say "I don't know how they can see him that way," but the truth is, I have some ideas. It's not unfathomable, just very disappointing.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think I've made myself pretty clear on this, but I've got enough teacher in me to want to give it another try.

Is it pure pragmatism to have a president who is pro-life?  Is it pure pragmatism to try to stem the societal trned on gender issues? Your choice would result in more abortion, more gender problems, more societal problems. 

Why wouldn't you take steps to minimize that? That's what I still don't understand.

Of course, other things being equal, I'm all for "taking steps to minimize" abortion and various other social problems. Is that really in doubt? My point, again, is that if a leader isn't of good enough character to help gain power, I can't help him do that, no matter what good he may do along the way.

The pragmatism comes in when we:

  1. Begin the evaluation of whether to back or not back with the questions: what will be achieved? and will the alternative outcomes be? rather than with "Is he qualified from a Christian (and historic American as well) point of view?"
  2. Continue to defend all sorts of wrong on the grounds of some good he's done

I grew up with a couple of cliches that I eventually questioned, mostly discarded, then reclaimed--but nuanced. 

  • It's never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.
  • The ends don't justify the means.

The second one oversimplifies. The first is easy to misuse, but is still a solid principle. Together, they still give me a very different starting point in looking at choices about whom to hand power to and whom to support, having gained power.

Dan Miller's picture

So.. comparisons of Trump to David or Cyrus or whoever are not all that meaningful to me. I saw a Christian Post editorial comparing Trump to Samson. A better comparison, but doesn't have the application the writer hoped, I don't think.

You shrug off comparisons with David without really interacting with the comparisons. The deeds of David's life are clearly morally worse.

But probably the bigger thing you need to address:

1. Can it ever be wrong to take an action...

Desperation breeds an unhealthy focus on “But what will happen if I don’t?” It can lead us to re-characterize a choice between right and wrong as a choice between “the lesser of two evils.” In the sense of “two options with negative outcomes” the latter does happen. But a Christian is never so desperate that he has to do wrong in order to

Right...wrong... over and over. In an earlier thread, you stated that you were not thinking in terms of moral evil. Yet you insist on using these terms without explaining what you mean by them. 
And in that last paragraph I quoted, your contention is that right/wrong overrides a real pragmatic benefit. What sort of right/wrong can do that except moral good/evil?

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