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.

13778 reads

There are 152 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

As I explained earlier, I do not think that your use of those passages about king Saul is valid for arguing for your position.

In what way are they "not valid"? Do I have the facts wrong? If I have them right, how is my reasoning off? The reasoning, in a nutshell, is this:

  • Saul was supposed to do right even though it seemed guaranteed to have worse results than if he did what seemed smarter
  •  We're also supposed to do right even though it may seem guaranteed to have worse results than if we were to do what seems smarter

Why are people so interested in making a vote for a person you didn't and wouldn't vote for a sin? How about you vote for who you want to. I do the same. And we stop there.

Because we're supposed to look at everything we do and ask "Is this right?" Scripture doesn't authorize us to choose a category (at the moment "polotics") and say that in that sphere, anything goes.

Of course, I don't know *exactly* what will happen if I go, but I have a reasonably good idea.  Someone who has had a bad experience with an accident or close call might have fear spring up when they are in a similar situation.  Most of us do not.

This seems like a solid point to me. I mean both dcbii and pvawter are partly right on this: per pvawter, we don't really know what the future holds (so, we have that passage in James reminding us to think "If the Lord wills...") but can forsee what's probable (so, we have passages like the Proverb that says learn from the ants and get ready for winter). I think part of the "evaluating outcomes" phase (which should come after some other evaluating) has to include something like this:

  • degree of probability of the bad outcome of option B vs. the known problems built into option A

We all agree (I think) that this is part of the evaluation process...

  • degree of severity of the bad outcome(s) of option B vs. the known problems built into option A

I mean, we all get that having Hillary in the White house and possibly a majority in one or both houses would likely have had a lot of really damaging policy consequences ("degree of severity"), some of them lasting a long time into the future.

We probably agree less on the degree of probability/certainty of those policy outcomes.

For sure, a lot of us disagree about the non-policy outcomes, and how both the policy and non-policy outcomes stack up compared to the problems inherent in option A (as well as outcomes of option A).

So yeah... it's complex. I never meant to suggest that these questions have objectively obvious answers (though they're obvious to me).

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.

pvawter's picture

dcbii wrote:

 

pvawter wrote:

 

I think you'll find the sentence just prior to what you quoted qualifies my statements in such a way that your comments miss the mark. The issue is not whether you voted for Donald Trump, but whether, when you (or anyone) voted for him, your justification was based on the certainty of the damage Hillary Clinton would do to our country. By all means, make your case for the prudence of voting for Donald Trump, just don't make it based on fear. In that light I think my comments, which were a response to a previous comment, are accurate.  

 

 

Here is the sentence you are referring to: "They argue constantly that they voted for Trump because of the certain damage that Hillary would have done to our nation."

I don't see how that would change what I wrote at all.  What I was arguing against was that voters voting against Hillary must be doing so out of fear.  I'm saying that many (most?) were doing so based on evaluation, experience, and prudence.  That's not the same as fear at all.  Most of us had years of experience watching Hillary as First Lady, and then as Secretary of State, and then as a presidential candidate.  I'm arguing that there was plenty of evidence to indicate that her presidency would not be one that we would want.  I wasn't afraid of her, but I sure didn't want what she had on the menu.  It was repulsive enough that taking a chance on the "mystery entree" was a simple calculation.  No fear is required.

I think the difference between certainty and probability is not insignificant, however, I acknowledge that not all evangelicals cast votes for Trump out of fear.

My comment was posted in response to mmartin saying that 2 Tim 1:7 was not applicable to the question of voting for Donald Trump. While you may not have voted out of fear, I think a cursory scroll through my facebook timeline in 2016 would reveal many believers who did. 

I like your menu analogy, though. For me, the calculation was even easier. Instead of ordering Clinton haggis or the "mystery entree" that was Trump, I chose to order a salad that was not on the menu.

RajeshG's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

As I explained earlier, I do not think that your use of those passages about king Saul is valid for arguing for your position.

In what way are they "not valid"? Do I have the facts wrong? If I have them right, how is my reasoning off? The reasoning, in a nutshell, is this:

  • Saul was supposed to do right even though it seemed guaranteed to have worse results than if he did what seemed smarter
  •  We're also supposed to do right even though it may seem guaranteed to have worse results than if we were to do what seems smarter

The crucial difference is that in both of the instances with Saul he had explicit divine revelation about what was the right thing to do. We do not have any such divine revelation about who the right person to vote for is. Many of us disagree with your understanding of what is right about who to vote for and why, which proves that we do not have any explicitly clear revelation from God about whom we should vote for.

RajeshG's picture

pvawter wrote:

 

mmartin wrote:

 

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??? 

 

 

This is interesting to me. While I would not say that verse alone proves that a vote for Trump is sin, it certainly (in my mind) invalidates the number 1 reason I've heard from evangelicals for supporting him. They argue constantly that they voted for Trump because of the certain damage that Hillary would have done to our nation. The perceived threat of a leftist presidency was so great that many held their noses and pulled the lever for a man they say they did not want. How is this anything other than acting out of fear? And it is fear of the unknown, since none of us can know how things would have turned out if the election had gone differently. Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false, since only God can know such things. 

Many who voted for Trump in 2016 did so because they knew that there was zero chance that anyone other than Trump or Clinton would become the President as a result of that election. Because they had such a perspective, they chose to vote for Trump because they were certain that he would govern much more in accord with the divine purposes of civil government stated in Romans 13 than Clinton would. Characterizing their voting in that manner as being based on fear is faulty; they reasoned biblically that a leftist president would not govern in accordance with what God demands of civil government so they chose to vote for the only viable candidate whom they believed would govern more in keeping with what Romans 13 teaches.

The rightness of their reasoning has been abundantly demonstrated in the years since that election because President Trump has sought to punish evildoers and prevent evildoing in ways that no leftist president would ever have done (for example, removing US financial support for abortions in other countries, taking concrete steps to decrease/hinder/eliminate illegal immigration, etc.).

Larry's picture

Moderator

Do I have the facts wrong? If I have them right, how is my reasoning off?

I had typed out a longer response and then lost it. Rather than recreate it, here's a quick one:

First, it's not that your reasoning is off. It is that your assumptions are off. It is never right to do wrong. But it is acceptable to do things that are not wrong. You have argued that voting for Trump is wrong regardless of outcomes and regardless of options. Yet that is far from clear and, in fact, seems clearly to be wrong. I think there are things worse than a Trump presidency. IMO, you have a whole lot more work to do on that foundational matter.

One other comment: You talked about short-sightedness. Your argument at that point was somewhat incoherent to me. You are willing to accept decades of judges and policies in exchange for one day of voting and four years of Trump. An argument can be made that you are the short-sighted one. You are taking the short view. 

It's one of the reasons why I think your argument is lacking. It is fairly easily demonstrated to be reversible.

pvawter's picture

Larry wrote:

One other comment: You talked about short-sightedness. Your argument at that point was somewhat incoherent to me. You are willing to accept decades of judges and policies in exchange for one day of voting and four years of Trump. An argument can be made that you are the short-sighted one. You are taking the short view. 

It's one of the reasons why I think your argument is lacking. It is fairly easily demonstrated to be reversible.

Aaron can explain his reasoning if he wants, but to me the reason that voting for Donald Trump was shortsighted was simply that it does not encourage the GOP toward greater conservatism or toward making principled arguments in favor of conservative ideas, rather it has encouraged significantly more nationalistic and populist candidates under the Republican banner. Thus the gains of a 4 or 8 year Trump presidency may result in a less conservative and more centrist GOP. (And it seems by my observation, that this is exactly what happened in the 2018 mid-terms.) What results will this shift bear in the next 25 years? When I've asked Trump supporters about this, they have universally dismissed my concerns as irrelevant because "Hillary" and "judges."

Mark_Smith's picture

pvawter wrote:

 

Aaron can explain his reasoning if he wants, but to me the reason that voting for Donald Trump was shortsighted was simply that it does not encourage the GOP toward greater conservatism or toward making principled arguments in favor of conservative ideas, rather it has encouraged significantly more nationalistic and populist candidates under the Republican banner. Thus the gains of a 4 or 8 year Trump presidency may result in a less conservative and more centrist GOP. (And it seems by my observation, that this is exactly what happened in the 2018 mid-terms.) What results will this shift bear in the next 25 years? When I've asked Trump supporters about this, they have universally dismissed my concerns as irrelevant because "Hillary" and "judges."

I'm sorry, but the notion that Trump is "not conservative enough" is simply laughable. The only thing you can complain about is spending, but that is a long term problem that Congress needs to fix. The President can't do that on his own. Congress needs to decide to cut the budget, if you'd like, but until the Republicans have 61 votes in the Senate, that is simply never going to happen. Complain all you want that is a fact. And I dare say, there will never be 61 Republican senators unless something earthshaking happens.

pvawter's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

pvawter wrote:

 

 

Aaron can explain his reasoning if he wants, but to me the reason that voting for Donald Trump was shortsighted was simply that it does not encourage the GOP toward greater conservatism or toward making principled arguments in favor of conservative ideas, rather it has encouraged significantly more nationalistic and populist candidates under the Republican banner. Thus the gains of a 4 or 8 year Trump presidency may result in a less conservative and more centrist GOP. (And it seems by my observation, that this is exactly what happened in the 2018 mid-terms.) What results will this shift bear in the next 25 years? When I've asked Trump supporters about this, they have universally dismissed my concerns as irrelevant because "Hillary" and "judges."

 

 

I'm sorry, but the notion that Trump is "not conservative enough" is simply laughable. The only thing you can complain about is spending, but that is a long term problem that Congress needs to fix. The President can't do that on his own. Congress needs to decide to cut the budget, if you'd like, but until the Republicans have 61 votes in the Senate, that is simply never going to happen. Complain all you want that is a fact. And I dare say, there will never be 61 Republican senators unless something earthshaking happens.

"Conservatism, simply, is the philosophy that in every sphere of life there are transcendent and foundational principles of order to which society must conform in order to both survive and flourish. These transcendent principles, which manifest in fixed, natural laws, preserve culture from the chaos that necessarily ensues from non-foundational philosophies such as progressivism, individualism, democratism, and post-modernism."

Mark Snoeberger wrote this is an article posted here. Of course Donald Trump is no conservative, in spite of whatever agenda items he may have accomplished. 

JNoël's picture

pvawter wrote:

Of course Donald Trump is no conservative, in spite of whatever agenda items he may have accomplished. 

Does it matter if a person is a conservative if his actions fit in with overall conservative principles? I don't think it does. He may be only playing the conservative card, but he is playing it rather well.

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)

Larry's picture

Moderator

to me the reason that voting for Donald Trump was shortsighted was simply that it does not encourage the GOP toward greater conservatism or toward making principled arguments in favor of conservative ideas, rather it has encouraged significantly more nationalistic and populist candidates under the Republican banner.

First, you assume that rejecting Trump would lead to greater conservatism. That's highly doubtful, given the history of the GOP. The move has consistently been left, and will likely continue that way. Rejecting Trump may as likely (and probably more likely) lead to a less conservative candidate to draw votes from the center. 

Second, you assume that nationalist and populist is somehow wrong or less conservative. They are thrown about like they are dirty words. But I have not yet been convinced of the problem here. It may well be that I am simply not thoughtful enough about it, but these strike me as code words for attack rather than thoughtful analyses of a person's position. 

Third, remember that Trump was an outsider and most voters voted against Trump in favor of another Republican when they could.

Fourth, even if rejecting Trump led to a more conservative candidate, that candidate would be hamstrung by the policies that were put in place in the meantime. It would be like the old line, cutting off your nose to spite your face.

BTW, I think the definition you cite of conservatism is not really how it is used in politics. I don't think Trump is a conservative by any definition. I think he is a clown who figured out the way to win the presidency as a salesman (finding out what people want and giving it to them in an exchange). So I don't think Trump's presidency does anything to conservatism except  perhaps give it another election to live.

Mark_Smith's picture

pvawter wrote:

 

 

"Conservatism, simply, is the philosophy that in every sphere of life there are transcendent and foundational principles of order to which society must conform in order to both survive and flourish. These transcendent principles, which manifest in fixed, natural laws, preserve culture from the chaos that necessarily ensues from non-foundational philosophies such as progressivism, individualism, democratism, and post-modernism."

Mark Snoeberger wrote this is an article posted here. Of course Donald Trump is no conservative, in spite of whatever agenda items he may have accomplished. 

That may be your definition of "conservative" and that may be Mark Snoeberger (theologian) but it isn't mine. Nor is it millions of "conservative" voters!

SMH

pvawter's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

pvawter wrote:

 

 

 

"Conservatism, simply, is the philosophy that in every sphere of life there are transcendent and foundational principles of order to which society must conform in order to both survive and flourish. These transcendent principles, which manifest in fixed, natural laws, preserve culture from the chaos that necessarily ensues from non-foundational philosophies such as progressivism, individualism, democratism, and post-modernism."

Mark Snoeberger wrote this is an article posted here. Of course Donald Trump is no conservative, in spite of whatever agenda items he may have accomplished. 

 

 

That may be your definition of "conservative" and that may be Mark Snoeberger (theologian) but it isn't mine. Nor is it millions of "conservative" voters!

SMH

I have no doubt that many so-called conservatives proved by their support of Donald Trump that they are not at all conservative. There are still some of us left. 

Mark_Smith wrote:

in deciding your vote, you'd better be happy with a perpetual string of Democrat presidents. NO ONE who runs for political office meets that standard.

Yep, my commitment to principle is just too strong. I should be more reasonable and lower my standards, maybe all the way down to the level of Donald Trump. But why stop there? SMH indeed.

Mark_Smith's picture

pvawter wrote:

Yep, my commitment to principle is just too strong. I should be more reasonable and lower my standards, maybe all the way down to the level of Donald Trump. But why stop there? SMH indeed.

pvawter,

You are voting for a politician. You have to build coalitions to win. Its called politics. Too much "purity" leads to minority.

By your defintion, is Rush Limbaugh a conservative? Was Reagan? Was either Bush?

Bert Perry's picture

I've personally been troubled by a number of things with what is hypothetically "conservative" for decades, and quite frankly, I think Trump is figuring out a good position on a few of them.

First, judges.  Previous "more conservative" Presidents seem to have their judicial nominees "grow" a fair amount in office to places that conservatives never would have guessed.  For example, John Roberts establishing Obamacare by declaring a fee to be a tax, and then ignoring the fact that tax bills are supposed to start in the House of Representatives.  Trump's judges haven't gone to that point, and part of that probably has to do with the fact he's doing his vetting with Heritage.

Second, trade.  It's struck me for decades that it's awfully unfair to tax ourselves to provide the Navy, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, and ports that we need to enjoy products from overseas--the old system of a revenue tariff seems far more just.  Trump, by working to equalize trade agreements from the "giving away the farm" of the previous three administrations, is at least a step in the right direction.

Finally, immigration.  When we're paying half a trillion or more dollars per year in welfare because low income citizens and residents can't find decent work, we're leaving the border open and failing to deport criminal immigrants....why?  We allow companies to hire L1 visa recipients and then force their current employees to train them to work at a fraction of their former wage as a condition of severance....why?  Again, Trump is not perfect, but at least he "gets" how people game the system we've got at the expense of the poor and middle class.  

In short, my thought is that conservatism, at least as practiced by the mainline Republican Party, has had a number of faults for decades in bridging the gap between the ideal (low taxes, free immigration, free trade) and reality, and in determining how one gets to the best possible point given the limitations we have.  Trump seems to have a good eye for doing that, and for that, I'm grateful.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

pvawter's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

pvawter,

You are voting for a politician. You have to build coalitions to win. Its called politics. Too much "purity" leads to minority.

Pure pragmatism for the win. Who needs principles at all?

Dan Miller's picture

I think it's inappropriate to use "God has not given a spirit of fear" as an argument to embrace danger or to not fear things that ought to be feared. 

e.g., "I heard my friend telling her daughter not to get in cars with strangers, but I told my daughter to go ahead. My friend obviously lives in fear."

Deuteronomy 22:8 
When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.

This command is explicitly based on the moral necessity of avoiding danger. It is to reduce the possibility of a feared outcome. 

 

JNoël's picture

Same exact thing as Nehemiah. Yes, they trusted God. Yes, they stood armed, ready to defend. Both are simultaneously possible. Was every armed man fully trusting God and not living in fear? Maybe, maybe not, but they practiced an appropriate level of prudence.

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

Do I have the facts wrong? If I have them right, how is my reasoning off?

I had typed out a longer response and then lost it. Rather than recreate it, here's a quick one:

First, it's not that your reasoning is off. It is that your assumptions are off. It is never right to do wrong. But it is acceptable to do things that are not wrong. You have argued that voting for Trump is wrong regardless of outcomes and regardless of options. Yet that is far from clear and, in fact, seems clearly to be wrong. I think there are things worse than a Trump presidency. IMO, you have a whole lot more work to do on that foundational matter.

The question was actually in reference to Saul and desperation thinking. Am I wrong that he was motivated at least in part by a feeling that disaster would occur if he didn't disobey? Am I wrong that he should have obeyed, even though it was evident that disaster would occur? Am I wrong that there is a principle here: that Christians should not do things that are wrong on the grounds that "if I do right, disaster will occur?" 

The effort there is just to establish a principle. A premise. Because, what happens in this debate (and many others like it) is that I reason from premises and then folks start arguing against the premises. Then I go back to principles and folks respond that my reasoning is wrong. Then I clarify the reasoning and folks go back to questioning premises. And so on.

But on the other topic... "assumptions"... The process I've encouraged is actually:

  1. Decide if the act (in this case, voting for a candidate of demonstrably poor character) needs justifying (it would normally be wrong)
  2. If it needs justifying, determine if it can be justified (outcomes or other factors could theoretically make it OK)
  3. If it can be justified, do the circumstances actually do so?

Is any of that actually in dispute? I don't think it can be tossed into the "faulty assumptions" bin.

What it means, in the case at hand -- voting for a candidate of very poor character (not merely "flawed" or "imperfect," which is a really bad case of rose colored glasses, speaking of faulty assumptions)--the answer to step 1 is Yes.

So, what about step 2? This depends on whether one believes that character can be disqualifyingly low for the presidency. Some seem to acknowledge that it can be, but it's not clear what to me what their threshold would be if Trump is not below it. So I've asked several times how bad would a man's character have to be in order to disqualify him for leading the most powerful nation on the planet? The second of that alone seems to me to scream "not really very low at all"... But I'm actually not an idealist. Let's suppose that the threshold is something like "can be trusted to act like an adult 85% of the time." There's nothing idealistic about that.

So my contention is that if you go through this step by step instead of jumping to step 3 ("it's justified because the alternatives would be worse"), step 2 has to at least slow you down a good bit. For me, it's a full stop.

One other comment: You talked about short-sightedness. Your argument at that point was somewhat incoherent to me. You are willing to accept decades of judges and policies in exchange for one day of voting and four years of Trump. An argument can be made that you are the short-sighted one. You are taking the short view. 

It's shortsighted because you can only accomplish so much coercively (by force through law). In a democratic nation "the people" are always going to find ways to exert considerable pressure on the government (well, they are the government, to a large extent).  So laws and court cases are extremely vulnerable to the beliefs of the masses. And by embracing Trump, the right has flushed all it's credibility for any kind of "moral high ground" argument. It is considerably less persuasive than it was (which was already not all that persuasive).

Long term, we need lots more persuasion, not lots more coercion. Today's GOP has dug itself into a deep, deep hole in the ethos department.

I'm definitely not going to cast any votes that help put it deeper in the hole.

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:

And by embracing Trump, the right has flushed all it's credibility for any kind of "moral high ground" argument.

So you're saying because Trump frequently looks and acts like a fool that he cannot possibly be lumped into a "moral high ground" conversation? I'm not sure I agree with that assessment (if that is what you're saying; not trying to do a strawman, if that isn't what you meant by that). For all too many years, the Democrat party has been employing all manner of attacks on the Republican party, and the Republican party would rarely fight back. The Trump presidency has produced what the Republican party had lost for decades in the term political correctness. Kavanaugh would have never stood up for himself and his family if Trump weren't president, of that I am convinced. It is refreshing to see the GOP finally fight back and start walking away from political correctness. It has crippled the party for all too long.

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)

RajeshG's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Do I have the facts wrong? If I have them right, how is my reasoning off?

I had typed out a longer response and then lost it. Rather than recreate it, here's a quick one:

First, it's not that your reasoning is off. It is that your assumptions are off. It is never right to do wrong. But it is acceptable to do things that are not wrong. You have argued that voting for Trump is wrong regardless of outcomes and regardless of options. Yet that is far from clear and, in fact, seems clearly to be wrong. I think there are things worse than a Trump presidency. IMO, you have a whole lot more work to do on that foundational matter.

The question was actually in reference to Saul and desperation thinking. Am I wrong that he was motivated at least in part by a feeling that disaster would occur if he didn't disobey? Am I wrong that he should have obeyed, even though it was evident that disaster would occur? Am I wrong that there is a principle here: that Christians should not do things that are wrong on the grounds that "if I do right, disaster will occur?" 

The effort there is just to establish a principle. A premise. Because, what happens in this debate (and many others like it) is that I reason from premises and then folks start arguing against the premises. Then I go back to principles and folks respond that my reasoning is wrong. Then I clarify the reasoning and folks go back to questioning premises. And so on.

But on the other topic... "assumptions"... The process I've encouraged is actually:

  1. Decide if the act (in this case, voting for a candidate of demonstrably poor character) needs justifying (it would normally be wrong)
  2. If it needs justifying, determine if it can be justified (outcomes or other factors could theoretically make it OK)
  3. If it can be justified, do the circumstances actually do so?

Is any of that actually in dispute? I don't think it can be tossed into the "faulty assumptions" bin.

What it means, in the case at hand -- voting for a candidate of very poor character (not merely "flawed" or "imperfect," which is a really bad case of rose colored glasses, speaking of faulty assumptions)--the answer to step 1 is Yes.

So, what about step 2? This depends on whether one believes that character can be disqualifyingly low for the presidency. Some seem to acknowledge that it can be, but it's not clear what to me what their threshold would be if Trump is not below it. So I've asked several times how bad would a man's character have to be in order to disqualify him for leading the most powerful nation on the planet? The second of that alone seems to me to scream "not really very low at all"... But I'm actually not an idealist. Let's suppose that the threshold is something like "can be trusted to act like an adult 85% of the time." There's nothing idealistic about that.

So my contention is that if you go through this step by step instead of jumping to step 3 ("it's justified because the alternatives would be worse"), step 2 has to at least slow you down a good bit. For me, it's a full stop.

One other comment: You talked about short-sightedness. Your argument at that point was somewhat incoherent to me. You are willing to accept decades of judges and policies in exchange for one day of voting and four years of Trump. An argument can be made that you are the short-sighted one. You are taking the short view. 

It's shortsighted because you can only accomplish so much coercively (by force through law). In a democratic nation "the people" are always going to find ways to exert considerable pressure on the government (well, they are the government, to a large extent).  So laws and court cases are extremely vulnerable to the beliefs of the masses. And by embracing Trump, the right has flushed all it's credibility for any kind of "moral high ground" argument. It is considerably less persuasive than it was (which was already not all that persuasive).

Long term, we need lots more persuasion, not lots more coercion. Today's GOP has dug itself into a deep, deep hole in the ethos department.

I'm definitely not going to cast any votes that help put it deeper in the hole.

Many dedicated believers voted 3rd party in 2016. In spite of their non-support of candidate Trump and in spite of all the efforts of never-Trumpers, the leftist media, and all the rest of the left, Donald Trump still became President.

In fact, God the Judge (Ps. 75) brought about one of the most dramatic and significant reversals in all of world history. He exalted Donald Trump to be the President in 2016 at a time when the entire left as well as most of the rest of the world was expecting and predicting a huge landslide win for Clinton--but God turned everything upside down in the result that He brought about.

Those who did not support him in 2016 must take into consideration what God did in 2016. Through no direct actions of their own, Donald Trump is the president today.

Such believers in 2020 can legitimately view themselves as being in a somewhat similar situation to Daniel when he was in captivity to Nebuchadnezzar. Within the limits of the scriptural record, we do not see Daniel continually denouncing his king for being the very wicked ruler that he in fact plainly was. Instead, what we find is that Daniel showed great loyalty to him, even when he did beseech him to turn from his wickedness (Dan. 4:27).

You have openly and repeatedly deprecated the President in this and other threads. You have said or at least have come very close to saying that believers who supported him sinned when they did so.

Since you apparently hold that the believers who have supported him have sinned in doing so, do you also believe that Daniel was a compromiser for not speaking out against his king and for not campaigning for others also that they would not support king Nebuchadnezzar? If not, why not?

josh p's picture

You said: 

"Those who did not support him in 2016 must take into consideration what God did in 2016. Through no direct actions of their own, Donald Trump is the president today."

I voted third party and was wondering what this would look like? Are you suggesting that since Donald Trump was elected (surprisingly) that believers should see this as some kind of a sign from God (without direct revelation)? If so did you say the same thing when Bill Clinton was the "comeback kid"? Daniel has no relevance here. There is much to learn there but the Sunday School lesson of respect the president isn't there in my opinion. 
 

Aaron can speak for himself but I haven't seen him say anything about President Trump that is not true. I have also not seen him insult the office. If anything Christians need to stop whitewashing wickedness (Prov. 17:35) for political expediency. If a believer wants to vote for Trump they can do that but let's not go so far that we can't have the same opinion of his sin that God does. Many Christians that I have met we're willing to slander Obama in incredible ways but to say something true about Trump is all of a sudden not respecting the president. I believe that Obama was probably the worst president this country has ever had (with the possible exception of FDR) but to many Christians he was a communist, Muslim, America hater. Trump is no where near the man that Obama was (as far as we can see) and it makes me cringe to say that. Let's call sin what it is just as we would do for a Democrat. 

RajeshG's picture

josh p wrote:

You said: 

"Those who did not support him in 2016 must take into consideration what God did in 2016. Through no direct actions of their own, Donald Trump is the president today."

I voted third party and was wondering what this would look like? Are you suggesting that since Donald Trump was elected (surprisingly) that believers should see this as some kind of a sign from God (without direct revelation)? If so did you say the same thing when Bill Clinton was the "comeback kid"? Daniel has no relevance here. There is much to learn there but the Sunday School lesson of respect the president isn't there in my opinion. 
 

Aaron can speak for himself but I haven't seen him say anything about President Trump that is not true. I have also not seen him insult the office. If anything Christians need to stop whitewashing wickedness (Prov. 17:35) for political expediency. If a believer wants to vote for Trump they can do that but let's not go so far that we can't have the same opinion of his sin that God does. Many Christians that I have met we're willing to slander Obama in incredible ways but to say something true about Trump is all of a sudden not respecting the president. I believe that Obama was probably the worst president this country has ever had (with the possible exception of FDR) but to many Christians he was a communist, Muslim, America hater. Trump is no where near the man that Obama was (as far as we can see) and it makes me cringe to say that. Let's call sin what it is just as we would do for a Democrat. 

I made no comments about "whitewashing wickedness," etc. I even noted that Daniel beseeched the king to change his sinful ways.

I did not say anything about a sign. It is undeniable that God in His providence brought about an incredible reversal in the 2016 election. What you make of that is ultimately up to you to decide . . .

More importantly, my question was a response to Aaron and asked him specifically whether he thinks that Daniel was a compromiser because he did not publicly speak out (as far as we know) against the wicked king who was over him and did not seek to influence others not to support him.

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

I did not say anything about a sign. It is undeniable that God in His providence brought about an incredible reversal in the 2016 election. What you make of that is ultimately up to you to decide . . .

Rajesh, I'm just curious if you consider the election of 2018 to be an incredible reversal, when the control of the House of Representatives shifted over to the Democrats. It's undeniable that God caused that to happen, so would you take the significance of God's actions in that election into consideration when you vote for House members in 2020?

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

I did not say anything about a sign. It is undeniable that God in His providence brought about an incredible reversal in the 2016 election. What you make of that is ultimately up to you to decide . . .

 

Rajesh, I'm just curious if you consider the election of 2018 to be an incredible reversal, when the control of the House of Representatives shifted over to the Democrats. It's undeniable that God caused that to happen, so would you take the significance of God's actions in that election into consideration when you vote for House members in 2020?

No, I do not consider that the election of 2018 was an incredible reversal. Curiously, several dozen incumbent Republican congressmen just happened all to decide not to run for office in 2018 . . . There was no worldwide expectation that the Republicans certainly would retain control of the House with landslide margins, etc. The change of control in the 2018 midterm elections was hardly an unexpected development.

josh p's picture

RajeshG wrote:

 

josh p wrote:

 

You said: 

"Those who did not support him in 2016 must take into consideration what God did in 2016. Through no direct actions of their own, Donald Trump is the president today."

I voted third party and was wondering what this would look like? Are you suggesting that since Donald Trump was elected (surprisingly) that believers should see this as some kind of a sign from God (without direct revelation)? If so did you say the same thing when Bill Clinton was the "comeback kid"? Daniel has no relevance here. There is much to learn there but the Sunday School lesson of respect the president isn't there in my opinion. 
 

Aaron can speak for himself but I haven't seen him say anything about President Trump that is not true. I have also not seen him insult the office. If anything Christians need to stop whitewashing wickedness (Prov. 17:35) for political expediency. If a believer wants to vote for Trump they can do that but let's not go so far that we can't have the same opinion of his sin that God does. Many Christians that I have met we're willing to slander Obama in incredible ways but to say something true about Trump is all of a sudden not respecting the president. I believe that Obama was probably the worst president this country has ever had (with the possible exception of FDR) but to many Christians he was a communist, Muslim, America hater. Trump is no where near the man that Obama was (as far as we can see) and it makes me cringe to say that. Let's call sin what it is just as we would do for a Democrat. 

 

 

I made no comments about "whitewashing wickedness," etc. I even noted that Daniel beseeched the king to change his sinful ways.

I did not say anything about a sign. It is undeniable that God in His providence brought about an incredible reversal in the 2016 election. What you make of that is ultimately up to you to decide . . .

More importantly, my question was a response to Aaron and asked him specifically whether he thinks that Daniel was a compromiser because he did not publicly speak out (as far as we know) against the wicked king who was over him and did not seek to influence others not to support him.

So can I ask what you make if it and how you decide? You originally implied that people "should consider". Based on what exactly? 

RajeshG's picture

josh p wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

 

josh p wrote:

 

You said: 

"Those who did not support him in 2016 must take into consideration what God did in 2016. Through no direct actions of their own, Donald Trump is the president today."

I voted third party and was wondering what this would look like? Are you suggesting that since Donald Trump was elected (surprisingly) that believers should see this as some kind of a sign from God (without direct revelation)? If so did you say the same thing when Bill Clinton was the "comeback kid"? Daniel has no relevance here. There is much to learn there but the Sunday School lesson of respect the president isn't there in my opinion. 
 

Aaron can speak for himself but I haven't seen him say anything about President Trump that is not true. I have also not seen him insult the office. If anything Christians need to stop whitewashing wickedness (Prov. 17:35) for political expediency. If a believer wants to vote for Trump they can do that but let's not go so far that we can't have the same opinion of his sin that God does. Many Christians that I have met we're willing to slander Obama in incredible ways but to say something true about Trump is all of a sudden not respecting the president. I believe that Obama was probably the worst president this country has ever had (with the possible exception of FDR) but to many Christians he was a communist, Muslim, America hater. Trump is no where near the man that Obama was (as far as we can see) and it makes me cringe to say that. Let's call sin what it is just as we would do for a Democrat. 

 

 

I made no comments about "whitewashing wickedness," etc. I even noted that Daniel beseeched the king to change his sinful ways.

I did not say anything about a sign. It is undeniable that God in His providence brought about an incredible reversal in the 2016 election. What you make of that is ultimately up to you to decide . . .

More importantly, my question was a response to Aaron and asked him specifically whether he thinks that Daniel was a compromiser because he did not publicly speak out (as far as we know) against the wicked king who was over him and did not seek to influence others not to support him.

 

 

So can I ask what you make if it and how you decide? You originally implied that people "should consider". Based on what exactly? 

Have you thought about what God did with Samson? His people were not righteous, they were being oppressed by evil rulers, and God chose to raise up a Samson to deliver them. Samson had serious moral problems, but God used him to bestow mercy on His people.

I see the dramatic reversal of 2016 as divine mercy on us as very undeserving people. Had the result been what was widely expected to have happened, I hate to think of where we would be.

God had mercy on us, and He chose to use President Trump to do so. What that means for how a believer votes in 2020 is something each one will have to ponder deeply.

I disagree strongly with saying that it was a sin to vote for him in 2016 or that it would be a sin to vote for him in 2020, if he is still a candidate in the election in November.

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

No, I do not consider that the election of 2018 was an incredible reversal. Curiously, several dozen incumbent Republican congressmen just happened all to decide not to run for office in 2018 . . . There was no worldwide expectation that the Republicans certainly would retain control of the House with landslide margins, etc. The change of control in the 2018 midterm elections was hardly an unexpected development.

Ah, so the incredible reversal was not a reversal from a Democrat president to a Republican president. The reversal was a reversal of the "worldwide expectation" that the Democrat would win. Is that right? What makes shattered "expectations" so significant? Why would the reversal of expectations in 2016 make a difference in this current election cycle? The fact that God put Trump in power unexpectedly in 2016 does NOT mean that God intends to put Trump in power again in 2020.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

In Scripture, though God brings to pass all things according to the counsel of His will, the people who actually do things are never absolved of blame for doing them. So the fact that X happened and was therefore God-ordained, doesn't argue at all that X is good or that the people who brought it about were doing the right thing.

As far as God raising up and taking down kings goes, I've pointed this out before, but it applies just as much to Obama as it does to Trump. Again, it isn't anything like evidence that a particular ruler is a good one.

I think someone mentioned respect for the office also. I've answered this objection before as well, but it bears repeating. There are at least three factors to keep in mind when applying the "honor the king" passages to an American president.

  • In the U.S. the law is king, and the executive is a servant of the law
  • In the U.S., the "king" works for the people (within the constraints of law); it's just how the government happens to be structured
  • The expression of "honor" is always relative to the traditions that define it. For example, we don't honor the dead by wearing party hats, blowing kazoos, and throwing confetti at funerals... but all of those things could honor a graduate at a graduation party. In the US, we don't honor presidents by withholding criticism. It's just not part of the role. That said, there could be inappropriate ways to express criticism... and criticisms that wouldn't be at all relevant, etc.
    There's certainly not a biblical mandate to pretend a man of poor character is a man of good character... especially when doing that can have enormous consequences.

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.

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

No, I do not consider that the election of 2018 was an incredible reversal. Curiously, several dozen incumbent Republican congressmen just happened all to decide not to run for office in 2018 . . . There was no worldwide expectation that the Republicans certainly would retain control of the House with landslide margins, etc. The change of control in the 2018 midterm elections was hardly an unexpected development.

 

Ah, so the incredible reversal was not a reversal from a Democrat president to a Republican president. The reversal was a reversal of the "worldwide expectation" that the Democrat would win. Is that right? What makes shattered "expectations" so significant? Why would the reversal of expectations in 2016 make a difference in this current election cycle? The fact that God put Trump in power unexpectedly in 2016 does NOT mean that God intends to put Trump in power again in 2020.

Scripture has many examples of God's dramatically overturning the strong expectations of the unrighteous. (Psalm 75 highlights the work of God the Judge in doing so in the realm of whom He puts into power.) 

Acts 12 relates how God overturned the expectation of Herod and the Jews who were looking forward to the execution of Peter:

Acts 12:3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) 4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

Acts 12:11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

The radical left was strongly and confidently expecting and predicting a Clinton victory by a large margin in 2016. God the Judge overturned their expectations in a dramatic and highly significant way.

When the dramatic reversal in the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election is put in its proper context of the work of God as Judge, its significance points to God's merciful deliverance of His people from the strong leftist oppression that we had suffered under for the previous 8 years.

The dramatic reversal of expectations in 2016 does have a bearing for the 2020 elections in that it provides at least some basis to hold that God has used and may yet further use President Trump to benefit His people as well as the rest of the people in our country in a way similar to His use of Samson to deliver and lead the Israelites during the time of the book of Judges.

I am not, however, making any claims that what God did in 2016 tells us what He will choose to do in the 2020 elections. Only God knows with certainty what He has ordained to be the outcome of the upcoming elections.

Pages

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.