Will somebody please distinguish between defending the man and voting for him?
David French is a wise and well-respected Christian journalist, author, and columnist. In a recent column titled, “Will Somebody Please Hate My Enemies for Me?” he argues that Christians who support President Trump and know they are not to hate their enemies are, in defending the president, happy to let him hate their enemies for them. He concludes with, “…by God’s grace, I will love my enemies, and I will not hire anyone to hate them on my behalf.”
Last week I used the same “employment” language in defending my choice to rehire Donald Trump for another four-year term, despite his many flaws, because I believe he better matches the job description implicit in a conservative vision for the country. David French believes that, despite his many conservative policies, his lying and hatred of his enemies should get him fired.
The focus of French’s commentary is not so much on the president but on his “most zealous Christian defenders” who “actively ignore, rationalize, minimize, or deny Trump’s sins.” He charges them with echoing and defending his rude and boorish behavior in defiance of Jesus’s command to love our enemies. In his estimation a vote for Trump is a vote for hate, which is in essence hating by proxy and therefore a sin.
I don’t believe David French has made a good case for firing Trump. Here’s a summary of his argument.
- We can and should love our enemies as we fight for the values we cherish.
- But President Trump hates his enemies.
- And some Christian Trump supporters act just like him.
- Even those who don’t but merely vote for him are sharing in his sin of hate.
- Though they may hate his behavior they mostly disregard, excuse, minimize, or rationalize it and focus on the sins of his opponents and critics instead.
- Even protecting life in the womb does not justify the sin of being complicit in Trump’s hatred.
- Besides, the battle for the lives of the unborn is better fought at the state level and our most effective weapon is love.
- Evangelicals should refuse to choose a candidate “who completely rejects – and even scorns – many of their core moral values.”
So it seems to me the case French has made is actually for our own propensity to hate our enemies, not for firing a president who makes no effort to resist it. If we are sinning in how we think, speak about, or act toward others, we should be called out for it. Likewise, we should call out Trump’s behavior for what it is. But it doesn’t follow that hiring a hater for reasons unrelated to his fleshly failures in word and deed is thereby participating in his sins.
If I vote for Trump so that he will “hate my enemies for me,” that’s a sin. But even then it doesn’t follow that I should therefore not vote for him. What does follow is that I should recognize my own sin and repent. But that is not why I intend to vote for him again. I pray regularly that God will convict Trump of his many sins and bring him to repentance. I hate that he hates, but I also recognize the temptation to hate in my own heart, and know that such is the condition of every heart…including that of every candidate for president.
In the quote referenced in #8 of my summary above, Mr. French is speaking about Donald Trump. But this is exactly why I and many other Christians will not vote for any of the Democrat candidates for president. They might claim otherwise, but by their words and deeds they have demonstrated to me that they reject and even scorn many of my core moral values. In particular, the right to life of the unborn.
In addressing the “pro-life —> pro-Trump” argument, French lays out his own pro-life credentials and says, “I’ve never voted for a pro-choice politician, and I don’t ever intend to.” But I’d want to ask, why not? If enough Christians followed his lead in not voting for Trump they would in essence be voting for a pro-choice president by default. So why not just hold your nose and check D? And if voting for Trump makes me complicit in his immoral personality, how much more complicit would we be in enacting the immoral policies we know a pro-choice president would push through if we contribute to his or her victory?
My rejection of pro-choice candidates is not only to safeguard and promote pro-life policies. To me, anyone who sanctions allowing the killing of innocent babies throughout all nine months of pregnancy for any reason is morally bankrupt and cannot be trusted. A wholesale embrace of abortion on demand says so much more about a person’s character than their disregard for the sanctity of life. A pro-choice position is just the tip of the the immoral iceberg.
And I’m not defending or excusing Trump’s bad behavior, but assessing his moral suitability for the presidency apart from likewise assessing that of his opponents skews the results. A willingness to belittle and disrespect grown men and women is bad. A willingness to allow dismembering little children is worse.
I respect David French but I am not persuaded by his argument. I still believe we need to distinguish between voting for Donald Trump and defending him – the one doesn’t necessarily follow from the other. And we cannot adequately and in good conscience evaluate the wisdom of giving him another four years in office based on his behavior alone. We must give equal consideration to the alternative.