The Ahmari vs. French debate on Christianity in the public square: unanswered questions

"I am not in any way willing to upset the constitutional order and to provide governments the ability to engage in viewpoint discrimination against disfavored organizations," French said. "You have to consider a larger superstructure. And the reality is that you cannot take these things on a case-by-case basis and establish rules that say, ‘Free speech for me but not for thee'" - Acton

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Aaron Blumer's picture

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Ahmari's approach is not "prudential." The word is "pragmatic."...

Ahmari scored his strongest point on the issue of making a prudential approach to politics. “We Christians are not of the world, but we are in the world, and so that means that we have to make concrete political choices at any given moment,” he said and, in his view, Trump’s flaws are less than those of socialists or population control advocates.

"Prudential" would consider the ethics of supporting a candidate who, while backing several of your policy goals, is antithetical to the heart and soul of your belief system. As a Trump-backer, Ahmari has no ethos for any kind of moral high ground claim. His position is basically "get the external objectives accomplished by any means necessary--including ideological coercion--and forget about winning hearts and minds in the marketplace of ideas."

It's the position you take when you aren't deeply convinced that you have the truth on your side.

dmyers's picture

French seems representative of the Never Trumpers (not that that’s a good thing).  Ahmari is emphatically not representative of conservative (evangelical or otherwise) supporters of President Trump (as distinguished from Republican primaries Trump). 

Continued aspersions on Christian Trump supporters along the lines of Aaron’s (“he’s antithetical to the heart and soul of your belief system!”; “you’ve surrendered the moral high ground!”; “you’ve adopted ‘by any means necessary‘ pragmatism!”; “Christians will never again have a chance to win hearts and minds in the marketplace of ideas!”; “you aren’t deeply convinced that you have the truth on your side!”) are false and tedious, as well as ungracious and unworthy of Aaron’s demonstrated intelligence. There is at least a valid case to be made (and which has been made repeatedly, by many intelligent, devout, and theologically orthodox people) for voting for Trump, especially when the opponent is Hillary or any of the likely 2020 Democrat nominees, who would push legalized murder and sexual insanity as far as possible while favoring illegal immigrants (not legitimate immigrants, of whom we should welcome many more) and terroristic Muslims over the nation’s actual best interests, appointing activist liberal judges and justices whose invented “constitutional” edicts would be unchallengeable law for decades or generations, and coercing the country into economic ruin via socialism and extreme climate lies. To me and to millions of others (who, by the way, actually haven’t abandoned our belief system), it’s not even a close question. But unlike the Never Trumpers, I’m willing to acknowledge the good faith and honor (just maybe not the wisdom) of those who decided or will decide differently (unless they vote for the Democrat, which to me is inconsistent with Christianity). The self-claimed moral superiority of the Never Trumpers is insufferable and insulting. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Continued aspersions on Christian Trump supporters along the lines of Aaron’s (“he’s antithetical to the heart and soul of your belief system!”; “you’ve surrendered the moral high ground!”; “you’ve adopted ‘by any means necessary‘ pragmatism!”; “Christians will never again have a chance to win hearts and minds in the marketplace of ideas!”; “you aren’t deeply convinced that you have the truth on your side!”) are false and tedious, as well as ungracious and unworthy of Aaron’s demonstrated intelligence.

This is pretty close other than the "never again" part. I haven't made that claim. But for a generation at least.

As for false an ungracious... There are two claims here. On the first, supporting arguments are welcome. On the second, the truth is never really ungracious. So, the second claim depends on the first.

There is at least a valid case to be made (and which has been made repeatedly, by many intelligent, devout, and theologically orthodox people) for voting for Trump, especially when the opponent is Hillary or any of the likely 2020 Democrat nominees, who would push legalized murder and sexual insanity as far as possible while favoring illegal immigrants (not legitimate immigrants, of whom we should welcome many more) and terroristic Muslims over the nation’s actual best interests, appointing activist liberal judges and justices whose invented “constitutional” edicts would be unchallengeable law for decades or generations, and coercing the country into economic ruin via socialism and extreme climate lies. To me and to millions of others (who, by the way, actually haven’t abandoned our belief system), it’s not even a close question. But unlike the Never Trumpers, I’m willing to acknowledge the good faith and honor (just maybe not the wisdom) of those who decided or will decide differently (unless they vote for the Democrat, which to me is inconsistent with Christianity). The self-claimed moral superiority of the Never Trumpers is insufferable and insulting. 

I'm sorry you find it insulting, but that's not a counterargument. Many true things feel insulting... some of them actually are insulting. (My son says my beard makes me look old... true, a little insulting... but the latter has no relationship to the former.)

Insufferable... I think this means "I just really really don't like it"?  Which is perfectly fine. I have no objection to folks not liking it.

The list of bad outcomes from choosing not to vote for Trump... I've answered that so many times, with evidence, with reasoning. I'm not sure I'm done with that effort. Probably not, but I don't have anything more to offer right now than I already have.

But meanwhile, pretty much every week, Trump makes my position on his character easier to defend. Eventually, I won't need to say anything at all. Time seems to be on the side of Trump's critics--not all of them, but all the ones who are being fair. French, Goldberg, several other conservatives are definitely in that category. Quin Hillyer has been quite fair as well. I don't think George Will has exactly been afflicted with Trump derangement syndrome either. I could go on. 

There are many conservatives who are not all dazzled by the current GOP establishment (Trump is now the establishment) but who also have no use for the fact-free emoting that goes on the left every day.

GregH's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

But meanwhile, pretty much every week, Trump makes my position on his character easier to defend. Eventually, I won't need to say anything at all. Time seems to be on the side of Trump's critics--not all of them, but all the ones who are being fair.

Yes, I am pretty much convinced that time is the only thing that will wake up Christians who still support him. Trump himself makes the case for never-Trumpers clearer each week as he continues to fall more and more off the wagon. Eventually, no one will be able to support him and appear in public. 

dmyers's picture

Aaron, you're right that some of my descriptors are subjective (such as insufferable).  But most are not.  For example, your aspersions on Christian Trump supporters are insulting -- not in the sense that I personally feel insulted, but in the objective sense that you are leveling insults.

Your insults are false (and falsifiable) because many (not all) of the people you're accusing of unspiritual pragmatism know (better than you) that that's not what they were doing in voting for Trump nor in planning to vote for him again, given the other likely candidate.  In your extended quibble with my word choices, you've missed the chief complaint:  you and so many other Never Trumpers (including especially David French) can't merely disagree with God-honoring Christians whose reasoning is different from yours on a practical issue -- you have to impugn our integrity and/or our spirituality.  I'm saying I don't disrespect you for your analysis, though I see it as unwise and counterproductive.  You're saying I'm a poor Christian.  That's the issue I need you to defend, not your antipathy for Trump.  In other words, as a Christian brother, without animus: get off your high horse; I'm genuinely trying to do what I think is the wisest and most God-honoring thing in a very imperfect world.  So I reached a different conclusion than you; big deal.  Your put-downs don't accomplish anything and, more importantly, they aren't (morally) right.

It should go without saying, but I'm not sure it does when dealing with Never Trumpers:  the fact that I voted for Trump the first time doesn't mean I expected to support every single thing he would do or say as President, or that I endorsed his entire life before he ran for President (which is true of every single candidate for every single office, ever), and the fact that I expect to vote for him again doesn't mean I support/endorse everything he has done or said as President.  All it means is that I think he is, in general, starkly better than the alternative, for all the reasons everyone has hashed out before.

GregH's picture

dmyers wrote:

Aaron, you're right that some of my descriptors are subjective (such as insufferable).  But most are not.  For example, your aspersions on Christian Trump supporters are insulting -- not in the sense that I personally feel insulted, but in the objective sense that you are leveling insults.

Your insults are false (and falsifiable) because many (not all) of the people you're accusing of unspiritual pragmatism know (better than you) that that's not what they were doing in voting for Trump nor in planning to vote for him again, given the other likely candidate.  In your extended quibble with my word choices, you've missed the chief complaint:  you and so many other Never Trumpers (including especially David French) can't merely disagree with God-honoring Christians whose reasoning is different from yours on a practical issue -- you have to impugn our integrity and/or our spirituality.  I'm saying I don't disrespect you for your analysis, though I see it as unwise and counterproductive.  You're saying I'm a poor Christian.  That's the issue I need you to defend, not your antipathy for Trump.  In other words, as a Christian brother, without animus: get off your high horse; I'm genuinely trying to do what I think is the wisest and most God-honoring thing in a very imperfect world.  So I reached a different conclusion than you; big deal.  Your put-downs don't accomplish anything and, more importantly, they aren't (morally) right.

It should go without saying, but I'm not sure it does when dealing with Never Trumpers:  the fact that I voted for Trump the first time doesn't mean I expected to support every single thing he would do or say as President, or that I endorsed his entire life before he ran for President (which is true of every single candidate for every single office, ever), and the fact that I expect to vote for him again doesn't mean I support/endorse everything he has done or said as President.  All it means is that I think he is, in general, starkly better than the alternative, for all the reasons everyone has hashed out before.

You are taking this way too personally. I have not seen Aaron calling anyone a poor Christian over this; I haven't seen any putdowns. He just doesn't agree with your position and considers it unwise. I think most never-Trumpers understand why Christians would vote for him. I certainly do.

Personally, I would vote for a Democrat before I voted for Trump and according to you (in your first comment on this thread), that makes me inconsistent with Christianity. I think that is crazy but I don't take it personally. 

dmyers's picture

GregH, if Aaron "just doesn't agree with [my] position and considers it unwise," I have no problem with that, as I've written above.  But that's not what he said, at all.  Nor did he claim in his follow-up comment that I'd misunderstood him.  See above.

I do in fact have a very difficult time with any Christian saying that they would vote for the Democrat presidential candidate rather than Trump (as opposed to sitting it out or making a protest vote -- a waste of time and a contribution to the Democrat candidate, but I understand the position and have no particular moral problem with it).  But the Democrat candidate is going to push abortion without limits and is going to appoint judges and justices, who will serve long, long after the Democrat nominee is replaced or term-limited out, and those judges and justices will "interpret" the Constitution not merely to allow abortion without limits but to require it, and at public expense.  This issue is black and white, from scripture.  It's not an issue that reasonable, faithful Christians can disagree on.  It's not on par with any moral disability or wrong-headed policy of Trump's.  If there's a pro-abortion case to be made for a Christian voter (other than some theoretical scenario we don't face and never have faced), I would genuinely like to hear it.

Larry's picture

Moderator

But meanwhile, pretty much every week, Trump makes my position on his character easier to defend. 

Your position on his character has never been hard to defend. Almost everyone agrees. The problem is that you seem to believe that people support Trump because of his character. Most do not. Remember, most evangelicals voted against Trump because they wanted someone else.

What is hard to defend, IMO, is your position on voting. It seems a form of Christian triumphalism mixed with Christian withdrawal. We can withdraw and ultimately we will be victorious because we will still have moral authority. It is, in my estimation, a confusion of spheres.

GregH's picture

dmyers wrote:

I do in fact have a very difficult time with any Christian saying that they would vote for the Democrat presidential candidate rather than Trump (as opposed to sitting it out or making a protest vote -- a waste of time and a contribution to the Democrat candidate, but I understand the position and have no particular moral problem with it).  But the Democrat candidate is going to push abortion without limits and is going to appoint judges and justices, who will serve long, long after the Democrat nominee is replaced or term-limited out, and those judges and justices will "interpret" the Constitution not merely to allow abortion without limits but to require it, and at public expense.  This issue is black and white, from scripture.  It's not an issue that reasonable, faithful Christians can disagree on.  It's not on par with any moral disability or wrong-headed policy of Trump's.  If there's a pro-abortion case to be made for a Christian voter (other than some theoretical scenario we don't face and never have faced), I would genuinely like to hear it.

I am not really interested in going too much into this but there are other important issues besides abortion. One simply can't reduce all voting decisions to just abortion. But even if you did, you could make a case that while voting for Trump might bring short term gains in that particular arena, the long term effects are devastating. I actually think that is the case.

Other than the abortion issue, I could talk a lot about the political theory behind conservatism but in a nutshell, it is not necessarily Biblical. What is associated with conservatism today is actually classical liberalism and only a few hundred years old. I don't mind it; I actually lean that way myself. But it is not Biblical in that it is Biblically prescribed. Therefore I don't buy any of the arguments that Christians should be Republican because of issues like taxes, closed borders, etc.

So over all, I see no problem with a Christians voting Democrat. Personally, I would struggle with a far left candidate but would vote for a moderate Democrat over Trump. If it came down to Trump vs a far left nut, I would just not vote. I did not vote in the last election though I think Clinton would have been a far better President than Trump (who wouldn't?).

dmyers's picture

GregH wrote:

I am not really interested in going too much into this but there are other important issues besides abortion. One simply can't reduce all voting decisions to just abortion. But even if you did, you could make a case that while voting for Trump might bring short term gains in that particular arena, the long term effects are devastating. I actually think that is the case.

Other than the abortion issue, I could talk a lot about the political theory behind conservatism but in a nutshell, it is not necessarily Biblical. What is associated with conservatism today is actually classical liberalism and only a few hundred years old. I don't mind it; I actually lean that way myself. But it is not Biblical in that it is Biblically prescribed. Therefore I don't buy any of the arguments that Christians should be Republican because of issues like taxes, closed borders, etc.

So over all, I see no problem with a Christians voting Democrat. Personally, I would struggle with a far left candidate but would vote for a moderate Democrat over Trump. If it came down to Trump vs a far left nut, I would just not vote. I did not vote in the last election though I think Clinton would have been a far better President than Trump (who wouldn't?).

I appreciate your elaboration.  However, not surprisingly, it's completely unpersuasive to me.  I have the sense, and I certainly hope it's true, that it's unpersuasive to the vast majority of Bible-believing Christians as well.