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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RajeshG's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Actually, no, I did not write those words. Those words are a direct quote from that article. Looking back on that post, I see that I did not make that clear so I would like to make that clear now. Since I am not able to edit that post any longer, perhaps you can go back and edit my post to show that what is in that post is a direct quote?

Yes, I'll edit that.

Thanks for clarifying that that post was a quote and not my words.

JNoël's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

it is a matter of conscience

Yes, it is. This means my conscience (which I've supported with quite a bit of facts and reasoning) says it's wrong. It doesn't follow that if one's conscience says X is wrong, it's only wrong for him. My conscience also tells me abortion is wrong.

I don't want to try to lay all of this out here again and I've written on the topic of matters of conscience before. An excerpt.

2. Stand. A conviction of conscience doesn’t call for cowering in a corner or yielding to the views of those who differ. It’s neither safe nor right to yield when the conscience calls us to stand. “He who doubts is condemned if he eats.” (Rom.14:23). Thinking we have to have “chapter and verse” in order to be firm is a serious mistake and has lead many to compromise and harm their relationship with God. The same thinking has led others to twist Scripture for support when it would have been enough to say, “this is what I have to do because I can’t do otherwise in good conscience.”

3. Persuade. Differences of belief on matters of conscience don’t require a Christian version of political correctness that remains silent for fear of hurt feelings. Though Paul warned believers to avoid “disputes over doubtful things” (Rom14:1), he was not teaching that a person with a conviction on a matter of conscience should never attempt to win others over to his point of view. Paul himself engages in a little of this persuasion in the context. He wrote, “I am convinced by the Lord that there is nothing unclean of itself” (speaking of foods), yet he did not prescribe this position for everyone. It was subtle persuasion. Sharing what we believe and why we believe it, even on matters of conscience, is an important part of how we teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16).

Even within the category of "matters of conscience," all questions aren't equally weighty. In the case of who we put on the throne of a nation, it's a somewhat high-stakes question. Not quite on the same level as "should Christians ever eat at a restaurant that serves alcohol?"

So, while I think the "posture of conscience" applies, some vigor is appropriate.

It is, indeed, high stakes! And if one Christian is convinced it would be wrong not to vote for Trump, while another is convinced it is wrong to vote for him, which is sinning? Both, if they vote against their conscience. And that is why I believe you are wrong for trying to tell another Christian that he is sinning by voting for Trump. In the end, it is indeed a matter of Christian liberty, a matter that is not clearly defined in scripture.

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)

Kevin Miller's picture

Larry wrote:

Anytime abortion is restricted, and especially so if abortion was outlawed, women are going to find ways to abort a baby if they are feeling desperate. Some of these ways cause permanent bodily damage and even death to the mother, as well as killing the unborn child. The mother's death would then be an indirect result of the restriction on abortion, so would the people who put the restriction in place be culpable? Would they be unable to avoid responsibility by declarations or denials?

You know, if we outlaw breaking and entering, some people are going to get shot when they break into and enter someone's house, and they are going to die. Therefore, we should not outlaw B&E. Anyone who votes to outlaw B&E are responsible for the death of those who are shot during a B&E.

Hopefully that makes it easy to see this isn't a real issue. 

Of course if someone is endangered, injured, or killed while they are breaking a just law, it is not the fault of the lawmakers or the Law Enforcement for that. 

I figured you would respond this way, since this is the way that makes sense. That's why I was questioning your logic about Trump. You said, "You have judged it's better to not vote for Trump. Fine. But you can't turn around claim you are not responsible, to some degree, for the results." If a person who votes for a law is not responsible for results that happen, how does a person who does NOT vote for a particular person for president become responsible for results that happen? 

Larry's picture

Moderator

If a person who votes for a law is not responsible for results that happen, how does a person who does NOT vote for a particular person for president become responsible for results that happen? 

You left out an important word: "Just" law. 

When a law is just, the consequences are built in. We are responsible for justice. So if we fail to vote for justice, we are liable for the outcome. If we vote for justice, those who do not live justly are responsible for the outcome of their failure to seek and live by justice. 

So abortion is a matter of justice and so is B&E. We are responsible to pursue justice and therefore must pursue both.

Consider the opposite: If you fail to vote to outlaw B&E, you are responsible, to at least some degree, for the results of that. You are not as culpable as the person who actually breaks in and enters. But you are responsible to the degree that you failed to pursue justice.

So with abortion, outlawing abortion is a matter of justice. Those who break a just law are responsible for the outcome of it. Those who fail to pursue justice a just law outlawing abortion are also responsible for the outcome of it. 

Dan Miller's picture

If a person who votes for a law is not responsible for results that happen, how does a person who does NOT vote for a particular person for president become responsible for results that happen? 

 Another difference is that with presidential elections in the USA, at least for now, it's a choice of X or Y. Whereas with legislation, one votes for X or not X. 

So it's not like Congress is faced with voting for either a severe law against B&E, or a law funding abortion clinics, one of which WILL PASS. In that case, if you and 3 of your friends said, "I don't like either bill, so I'm abstaining." And then the abortion funding passed by one vote, well, by abstaining you helped that pass. 

Kevin Miller's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

If a person who votes for a law is not responsible for results that happen, how does a person who does NOT vote for a particular person for president become responsible for results that happen? 

 Another difference is that with presidential elections in the USA, at least for now, it's a choice of X or Y. Whereas with legislation, one votes for X or not X. 

But when I look at presidential candidates, I study their positions and ask myself, "Am I for X or not for X"? Am I for Y or not for Y"? Am I for Z or not for Z"? Your phrase "at least for now" is an operative phrase. It's highly unlikely for a third party to win the presidency, but it's not impossible. If enough people vote FOR the third party Z, the third party Z would win.

JNoël's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

It's highly unlikely for a third party to win the presidency, but it's not impossible. If enough people vote FOR the third party Z, the third party Z would win.

We don't want to get into multi-party politics. Two party politics has its failings, for sure, but read about late 19th and early 20th century Austria and you'll see the mess having many parties can do to a country.

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)

Kevin Miller's picture

JNoël wrote:

 

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

It's highly unlikely for a third party to win the presidency, but it's not impossible. If enough people vote FOR the third party Z, the third party Z would win.

 

We don't want to get into multi-party politics. Two party politics has its failings, for sure, but read about late 19th and early 20th century Austria and you'll see the mess having many parties can do to a country.

And extreme partisanship with two parties also causes a mess. My thought is that if the Republicans continue on with their support Trump, there could very well rise a party that consists of Never Trumpers, independents, and fiscally conservative Democrats. At that point, the current Trump Republicans would become the third party. It's not impossible. History has examples of parties disappearing and new ones taking their place.

Dan Miller's picture

fiscally conservative Democrats

Hahahaha. They are getting more liberal and socialist all the time. 

Dan Miller's picture

I study their positions and ask myself, "Am I for X or not for X"? Am I for Y or not for Y"? Am I for Z or not for Z"?

You can look at it that way, but we don't vote that way. 

It would be interesting if we did. So we vote and then if no one gets >50%, we vote again. And until someone gets >50%, we keep doing it. 

Kevin Miller's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

fiscally conservative Democrats

Hahahaha. They are getting more liberal and socialist all the time. 

And they say Republicans are getting more racist all the time. 

JNoël's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

And extreme partisanship with two parties also causes a mess. My thought is that if the Republicans continue on with their support Trump, there could very well rise a party that consists of Never Trumpers, independents, and fiscally conservative Democrats. At that point, the current Trump Republicans would become the third party. It's not impossible. History has examples of parties disappearing and new ones taking their place.

I'm going to drop the subject because it's really beyond the scope of the conversation.

Back to the conscience and sin, as that's the real topic of discussion here.

Smile

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)

Kevin Miller's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

I study their positions and ask myself, "Am I for X or not for X"? Am I for Y or not for Y"? Am I for Z or not for Z"?

You can look at it that way, but we don't vote that way. 

It would be interesting if we did. So we vote and then if no one gets >50%, we vote again. And until someone gets >50%, we keep doing it. 

 Suppose on election day, the voting for X takes place at 10 am, the voting for Y takes place at 12, and the voting for Z takes place at 2. Each voter could only come at one time because each person only gets one vote. In each voting time, the vote would be "Am I for the candidate or not." The way we make that decision is the same whether we vote at separate times or whether all the names are on one ballot. We are still looking at each candidate, knowing we only have one vote, and we are asking, "Am I for a particular candidate or not?"

Now if we did it at separate times, we might just know at 10 am that the first candidate is the winner with over 50 per cent, but that doesn't change the fact that for each candidate, voters have determined whether they were for each candidate or against them.

Kevin Miller's picture

JNoël wrote:

It is, indeed, high stakes! And if one Christian is convinced it would be wrong not to vote for Trump, while another is convinced it is wrong to vote for him, which is sinning? Both, if they vote against their conscience. And that is why I believe you are wrong for trying to tell another Christian that he is sinning by voting for Trump. In the end, it is indeed a matter of Christian liberty, a matter that is not clearly defined in scripture.

So does what you are saying here apply to discussions about alcohol? If a person believes drinking one alcoholic drink is a sin, are they wrong to point out why they think it is a sin? After all, drinking just one drink is a matter of Christian liberty, isn't it?

I'm not trying to get into a long alcohol discussion here, but specifically a discussion of what JNoel wanted to get back to when he said "Back to the conscience and sin, as that's the real topic of discussion here."

JNoël's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

If a person believes drinking one alcoholic drink is a sin, are they wrong to point out why they think it is a sin? After all, drinking just one drink is a matter of Christian liberty, isn't it?

Key phrase highlighted/italicized above.

My answer to that specific statement: absolutely not.

But I believe they are wrong to dogmatically proclaim it is sin, to tell another Christian that they are living in sin if their conscience allows them to do something that another Christian's conscience does not.

Do you believe Aaron is simply pointing out why he believes voting for Trump is a sin? Because it really doesn't look that way to me.

And don't get me wrong; I'm not offended in any way - because I didn't vote for Trump, and I'm likely not to do so this year, either. But this conversation is about those whose consciences prevent them from doing anything but voting for Trump to keep the left out. I have the luxury of living in a state which, since 1928, has only voted for a Republican president four times. So I can write in whomever I desire without a chance of impacting the election. But many have a legitimate reason to vote one way, the other, or the third, and, for them, it really does matter a lot.

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)

Dan Miller's picture

If a person believes drinking one alcoholic drink is a sin, are they wrong to point out why they think it is a sin?

This is a REALLY great question. And it would make a good "call for papers."

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'll have to try to catch up on the comments later, but for now, this one...

It is, indeed, high stakes! And if one Christian is convinced it would be wrong not to vote for Trump, while another is convinced it is wrong to vote for him, which is sinning? Both, if they vote against their conscience. And that is why I believe you are wrong for trying to tell another Christian that he is sinning by voting for Trump. In the end, it is indeed a matter of Christian liberty, a matter that is not clearly defined in scripture.

This is not how it works. Even in matters of conscience, frequently someone is right and someone is wrong. Regardless of what conscience says, the one who is wrong is sinning.

So, its important not to oversimplify or overcomplicate the role of conscience. 

  • If it's wrong, doing it is sin, regardless of conscience.
  • If it's OK, but not required (Rom. 14), but our conscience condemns it, doing it is sin.
  • If it's required but our conscience condemns it, failing to do it is sin.

Anyone with a conviction worth having believes his view is correct and he should try to help other believers see why its correct, while maintaining respect for them as brothers and sisters.

If we don't have any strong convictions about matters that aren't directly revealed in Scripture, we're really not taking our duty to apply Scripture to life very seriously... or taking Christian living very seriously either.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Larry's picture

Moderator

The question is "when does that become my responsibility?"

When you have a chance to do something about it and you don't.

It may help to pose this question: Are absolutely any means appropriate in preventing an abortion?

It's a good question and one that we haven't really wrestled with effectively. If you saw a mom standing outside the hospital with her new baby beating the baby's head against the sidewalk, you would step in, wouldn't you? But if you see a mom walking into an abortion clinic, we stand by. Why?

There are clearly acts that are not right even though they are performed in order to prevent some other wrong.

I don't think anyone here is questioning this.

You're not "helping him" at all. You're helping an old lady.

No, you are helping him. 9It was stipulated in the illustration and it is obvious.) You are also helping an old lady. But you are helping him help the old lady.

It's just not sustainable to say that a good end justifies all means available to me. It's even less tenable to say that preventing a bad outcome justifies all means available to me.

No one is suggesting this to be the case.

Would we agree that some means cannot be justified by good outcomes/prevention of bad outcomes?

Yes, but irrelevant since no one is questioning that.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Fortunately, this is not really the debate. Everyone in the conservative evangelical debate is agreed that "talks smoothly and statesman-like" is less important than killing innocents. 

Not to be too pointed, but I am not convinced that we all agree on this. 

I think your whole point hinges on something that has not yet been demonstrated to be correct, namely, that voting for Trump is wrong in any situation. If you are correct about that, then your point follows. If you are incorrect, then everything does not follow. 

JNoël's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

This is not how it works. Even in matters of conscience, frequently someone is right and someone is wrong.

 

“Frequently” – but not always. There are countless areas of life that the Bible is unclear about. Even major doctrines are ambiguous enough that fruit-filled believers, genuinely trying to diligently understand them come to differing positions (the atonement, anyone)? Certainly the comparatively minor question of whether or not it is sin to vote for a particular candidate is up for reasonable debate which would invariably result in a decision of the conscience, and my argument to you is that I believe you are wrong to say that voting for Trump is wrong.

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Regardless of what conscience says, the one who is wrong is sinning.

I need to chew on this statement a bit. Here are my thoughts thus far:

The Bible tells me that if I am walking in the Spirit, I cannot sin. So what happens if, at any given moment in time, I find that I have sinned? I can know that at that point in time I was not walking in the Spirit. Is it possible for me to sin in doing something that is not a clear command in scripture? If the Bible doesn’t say it, then all I have left is my conscience and the mystery of how the Spirit convicts us when we sin (the two are not the same thing, of course). So if a Christian, honestly striving to walk in the Spirit daily, praying, seeking wisdom, doing all of the things we all would agree are evidence of a transformed life living to please God, concludes that voting for Trump is indeed the right thing to do, then it is still possible that his decision is wrong and he is sinning?

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

Larry wrote:

The question is "when does that become my responsibility?"

When you have a chance to do something about it and you don't.

Context. When "the chance" you have doing wrong, you don't have a chance. Saul didn't get to act to prevent the disasters he was sure would occur if he obeyed Samuel. His duty was to obey and the outcomes were not his responsibility.

Ability ≠ responsibility.

Larry wrote:

There are clearly acts that are not right even though they are performed in order to prevent some other wrong.

I don't think anyone here is questioning this.

Again the context has been stripped away. Well, the principle effectively dismissed in the argument about elections that reasons that a vote for anyone is justified if the other "electable" candidate's abortion policy is worse. If we're accepting the principle that some acts aren't justified by prevention of harm, that requires us to seriously address the questions in my article: does a vote for an unqualified presidential candidate require justification? If it does, is it even possible to do so? If it is possible to do so do the dreaded outcomes of a Democrat win amount to justification?

But the counterargument that "it has to be right if it prevents harm" doesn't stand... and this is the counter I've been hearing and pushing back on. Some acts can't be justified on the grounds of prevented harm.

So I guess we're agreed that this counterargument is off the table? It would be lovely to see it go and move on to other points. (But I'm still seeing this defense of Trump support all over evangelical media almost every day... as well as here in this thread.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

JNoël's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

If we're accepting the principle that some acts aren't justified by prevention of harm, that requires us to seriously address the questions in my article: does a vote for an unqualified presidential candidate require justification? If it does, is it even possible to do so? If it is possible to do so do the dreaded outcomes of a Democrat win amount to justification?

You believe Trump is unqualified, but that is still only your opinion. Likely the majority of those who voted for Trump believe he actually is qualified.

And, actually, even though I did not vote for Trump, my reasons were not because I felt he was not qualified to do the job. Frankly, you must be blind to think he isn't qualified. He is doing the job better than most I've seen in a long time. The list of (good) things he has accomplished in the face of probably the greatest war ever waged by the establishment leftists is pretty amazing.

 

But, back to this:

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Regardless of what conscience says, the one who is wrong is sinning.

I was too slow on the uptake to process this statement. If your purpose in making this statement was to just try to sidline the conversation because I'm not interacting in a manner that you want to pursue, then I'm afraid it did not succeed.

While the statement itself is certainly true, we are still back to the question of why you believe voting for Trump is wrong (sin), and the fact that the Bible does not tell a Christian how to choose who to vote for.

Which brings me back to my statement that I believe you are wrongly accusing a Christian brother when you say they are wrong for voting for Trump. There is no scriptural basis for your accusation.

 

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

While the statement itself is certainly true, we are still back to the question of why you believe voting for Trump is wrong (sin), and the fact that the Bible does not tell a Christian how to choose who to vote for.

Which brings me back to my statement that I believe you are wrongly accusing a Christian brother when you say they are wrong for voting for Trump. There is no scriptural basis for your accusation.

First, I didn't raise the subject of matters of conscience at all. It came up (I don't recall who raised it) as a counterargument. The gist of the counterargument was "It isn't right for you to tell people they're wrong about a matter of conscience. Your conscience only binds you."

So my comments on that topic are an effort to counter the counterargument by pointing out that efforts to persuade people about matters of conscience are important, appropriate, and can't be dismissed on the grounds that there is no direct biblical "thou shalt" on the matter.

If we actually did that, probably 90% of the books ever written by Christians would not exist, seminary would only take about three months, and sermons would be 75% shorter!

Much of Christian living is about application of biblical principle, and application of principle is almost always more complicated than figuring out "thou shalt not murder" means I don't get to kill my neighbor because i want his car.

So... back to this:

we are still back to the question of why you believe voting for Trump is wrong (sin), and the fact that the Bible does not tell a Christian how to choose who to vote for.

The Bible tells us how to do everything in a general sense. It certainly does tell us how to process choices in an ethical way, and this has been my focus. Though many don't like my conclusion about a proper vote, I'm way more interested in the proper way to think about how to vote. And there is nothing biblical at all about processing our choices (of any kind) as a simple calculation of "I have to do whatever gets the best outcome" or "I have to do whatever prevents the most harm" approach. And this is the rationale for supporting Trump I keep hearing over and over.

Returning to my article, then, these were the questions I used to structure my argument.

  1. Can it ever be wrong to take an action even when all the alternatives will have worse outcomes?
  2. Does how we think matter?
  3. Is it possible to achieve short term success in ways that produce long term failure?

I argue that the answer to all three of these is yes and that there are some pretty obvious implications for the kind of leaders we ought to try to put in power.

As for "unqualified," I'm working on a piece on that. Part of the challenge of this topic is that people keep questioning things that in any other context they wouldn't. We know what a biblical "fool" is and know that we're not supposed to put these poeple in charge. If I were writing about some left winger, nobody would question that. But because it might lead to negative conclusions about Trump, now I have to prove the premise that we shouldn't put fools in the Whitehouse if we can help it? OK, well I'll make a case for the premise.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

mmartin's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I'm surprised a bit at how this is framed, but I'll be as clear as I can. First, we're all condemned to hell because we are sinners, not for any particular sin we commit. Second, all sins are not equal in seriousness (see recent series on that from Bob Gonzales; highly recommended.)  Third, any time believers disagree with one another about right and wrong, and make a case that X or Y is wrong, they are also saying it's sin. Fourth, I'm persuaded that helping a man such as Trump gain power is a sin, which is why I couldn't, in good conscience, do it... and won't do it in 2020, assuming he's on the ballot. (It makes no difference to me who is running against him.) Fifth, though I'm claiming voting for Trump is a sin, I probably commit bigger sins several times a week. Nonetheless, I'm not going to add a Trump vote to my list of personal failings. Sixth, maybe this is redundant, but I'm sure there are better men and women than I who voted for Trump and are likely to do it agian. Still, on that topic, as with others, I'm going to tell the truth as I see it.

Frankly, this response is patently silly and yes, I am calling you out on it.  Obviously we are all sinners and yes, there are different degrees of sin, but those thoughts were never a part of my post.  Those items were not up for debate.  I would've expected better from you.

Further, you still have not provided Biblical evidence to support your claims that it is a sin to vote for Trump.  The reason why I am being persistent on this issue is that it is clear to me that your conviction is not that it is a sin for yourself to vote for Trump, but that it is a sin for anyone to vote for Trump.  I find that extremely arrogant.

You say that anytime two believers argue about right and wrong then they are also saying it is a sin.  Prove it.  You haven't proven anything yet except to say that "its obvious" or "its an easy case to make."  How is this a clear right or wrong, from a Biblical perspective, issue?  

The only person I've ever heard saying this is a black & white, right & wrong issue is you.  I've been in many different churches in multiple states with several different pastors and I've never heard anyone talk this way.

If I didn't know any better I'd say you are doing this on purpose.

Dan Miller's picture

If I didn't know any better I'd say you are doing this on purpose.

I've been wondering the same thing. This discussion has made think about politics more than I typically do. And it has greatly reinforced my confidence that Trump, while imperfect, is the one believers ought to vote for and support. But I think Aaron is serious...

JNoël's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

First, I didn't raise the subject of matters of conscience at all. It came up (I don't recall who raised it) as a counterargument. The gist of the counterargument was "It isn't right for you to tell people they're wrong about a matter of conscience. Your conscience only binds you."

If we actually did that, probably 90% of the books ever written by Christians would not exist, seminary would only take about three months, and sermons would be 75% shorter!

Much of Christian living is about application of biblical principle, and application of principle is almost always more complicated than figuring out "thou shalt not murder" means I don't get to kill my neighbor because i want his car.

I brought it up, because how a Christian votes is, many times, a matter of conscience. No Christian should vote for a candidate who is pro-abortion: that’s easy. But the Trump question, or, really, any other unsaved candidate who is not supporting things clearly in violation of scripture (abortion, for example), is far more challenging, especially since every unbeliever is bound by his own sin – lives in sin, etc. So unless you are advocating that a Christian only votes for a Spirit-filled Christian exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit, then we’re back to Trump being a matter of conscience, and there is no amount of wrestling with applying principles of scripture that can support your claim that a vote for Trump is sin.

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Returning to my article, then, these were the questions I used to structure my argument.

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

Does how we think matter?

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

I argue that the answer to all three of these is yes and that there are some pretty obvious implications for the kind of leaders we ought to try to put in power.

 

My take:

Can it “ever” – Yes, of course.

Yes, of course.

Of course, but, as humans, we cannot know this because God does not verbally speak his will to us. This leaves us with the Bible, the Spirit’s conviction, and our consciences.

Aaron Blumer wrote:

As for "unqualified," I'm working on a piece on that. Part of the challenge of this topic is that people keep questioning things that in any other context they wouldn't. We know what a biblical "fool" is and know that we're not supposed to put these poeple in charge. If I were writing about some left winger, nobody would question that. But because it might lead to negative conclusions about Trump, now I have to prove the premise that we shouldn't put fools in the Whitehouse if we can help it? OK, well I'll make a case for the premise.

We’re not supposed to put biblical fools in charge – okay, I’ll run with that for a minute. So, going back to something I posted earlier in this post, I assume that means you’re advocating for Christians only ever voting for Spirit-filled, fruit-bearing Christians? Was Winston Churchill a fool? Ronald Reagan? I could go on, but I think you’ll find there are many highly qualified unregenerated humans. They are wholly unqualified to be pastors, youth counselors, astronauts, or professional athletes, but they are highly qualified executives (or, at least, should be). Jimmy Carter is a professing Christian, yet he was not qualified to be president. Donald Trump is. Just because I don’t like his style doesn’t mean Trump isn’t qualified, and I submit the proof is in front of you if you look at what he has accomplished. There isn’t a single person writing on Sharper Iron more qualified to be president than Donald Trump, as crazy as that may sound.

After three years, I am actually considering voting for Trump this time around because, despite my dislike of his bullying style and lack of control of his tongue, the guy is getting it done in ways no conservative-labeled president has done in, possibly, my (short) lifetime. He is living up to his campaign promises, for one thing – and how refreshing is it to see that happen? At first, I thought for sure he was going to swing centrist once elected, yet he has not – he has continued to play the conservative card as consistently as he campaigned to do so, and he is winning.

One does not win a presidential election without knowing how to be a jerk. You either have someone else doing it for you so that you look good to the public while a bulldog does the dirty work in the background (remember Lee Atwater?), or you do it yourself, all the time. Remember the time Dubya called someone a vulgar name, not knowing the mic was hot? Guess how often he used profanity at other times? Yeah, Dubya and all the rest of them are as hard-nosed, egotistic, and bully-ish as Trump, they just knew how to look good when in the public eye. So, in a way, Trump is probably more honest than many of them, because, aside from outright profanity, I am confident the Trump we see is the same as the Trump we don’t see.

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)

mmartin's picture

JNoel's comment above reminded me of another question to ask never-Trumpers who say (or certainly imply) it is a sin to vote for Trump, but at the same time we all are sinners.

If all humans are sinners and it is also a sin to vote for Trump but not for another human candidate, then at what level of human sinfulness is it not a sin to vote for that candidate?  Does a candidate need to be at the level of Bush Jr. of sinfulness for it not to be a sin to vote for him?  Someone else?  The Apostle Paul?  Moses?  David?  Who then is qualified?

If a never-Trumper claims it is a sin for an evangelical to vote for Trump, but not a sin to vote for say, an independent candiate, who is also a sinner, then it is on that person to also give the line at which voting changes from not a sin to a sin.  

This question has been presented earlier, but still no response.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

You say that anytime two believers argue about right and wrong then they are also saying it is a sin.  Prove it.

Look up the meaning of sin.

Further, you still have not provided Biblical evidence to support your claims that it is a sin to vote for Trump.  

There's a subtle strawmanning going on here. While it's self evident that all wrongoing is sin and that saying something is wrong is saying it's sin, it matters how we actually word our claims. I was never interested in characterizing it as sin because it evokes excessive defensiveness and puts the focus on the wrong place for this particular question, which should be on the ethics--the "is it right or wrong?" question.

What's absurd is pretending that Christians don't have conversations all the time about right and wrong and make their individual cases one thing or another is "wrong." (Equally absurd that wrong isn't sin, but that's really not relevant.)

I keep trying to pull the conversation back to the how of how we evaluate our choices in elections. The counter seems to be to repeatedly try to change the focus to something much easier to push back on. But the fact remains that I raised the questions I raised in the article, supported those with Scripture, and pointed out where they lead.

Scripture + reasoning -- > conclusions about right and wrong = basic Christian thinking. It's how we all do it if we do it at all.

I referenced at least 8 passages of Scripture in the article. How about interacting with those? Explain to me why I'm wrong that God cares how we think?

Explain to me how I'm wrong that Saul was driven by desperation thinking and that we ought not to think that way about elections.

You can keep saying "you haven't provided biblical evidence" but it's not going to disappear as a result of saying it isn't there. I've also referred multiple times to the biblical portrait of the fool in Proverbs and the implications of that. This is also "biblical evidence."

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

JNoël's picture

Aaron, it's probably because several are proving that there are holes in your argument.

And you are failing to fill them.

 

I'm out. More important things to dwell on. Not that this wasn't a fruitful exchange, just that we're at a dead end.

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)

mmartin's picture

JNoël wrote:

Aaron, it's probably because several are proving that there are holes in your argument.

And you are failing to fill them.

 

I'm out. More important things to dwell on. Not that this wasn't a fruitful exchange, just that we're at a dead end.

Agreed!

The scripture references in your post but they do not prove that it is unbiblical, or a sin, to vote for Trump.  For example, you presented 2 Tim. 1:7, "For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control."  While I would agree with you this passage is proof that God does care what we think and this passage and others support the truth that we should be Christlike in our thinking, how do these verses prove that voting for Trump is a sin???  Further, since any candidate is a sinner and in no way perfect, where is the line from which we cross when voting from not sinning to sinning??

You can argue all you want that you believe Trump is the worst thing to ever happen to America.  You can argue that Christians are to be Biblically wise when voting.  You can argue that voting for Trump is extremely short-sighted for conservatives and evangelicals.  All are fair game.

But, there is no Biblical proof that voting for Trump is a sin.

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