I love everyone, because that's the call of Jesus. This includes anyone who voted for or supports Donald Trump. But I don't understand how anyone could call themselves a follower of Jesus and be ok with Donald Trump's way of speaking about others. I can get why you'd vote for him over Hillary Clinton. I can get why you'd like his policies better than Obama. I can even understand why you'd pray for him. I will do that too. But I cannot understand how, if you read the same Bible I read featuring the same Jesus we've been following for 2,000 years, you could be ok with the way Donald Trump speaks - and then to not just vote for him but embrace him as a hero. Philip Yancey has spoken eloquently on that part of the unbelievable support from so many Christians.
You may say this is a tired drum to beat again. I don't think we can beat it often enough. We either stand for goodness and decency in our leaders or we don't. I cannot stand quietly by and allow us to become desensitized to this kind of behavior.
I'm going to be very careful to only use Trump's own words, and to be faithful to the context in which they were given. It's way too easy, it seems, for Trump supporters to dismiss any criticism of him. So I want to try to be fair and balanced (no pun intended, FoxNews) in my treatment of him. To take him only at his own words, in context.
We might be tempted to say, "hey, we've all said things we regret. Let's give him grace." Or we might want to shoot back, "who are you to judge him!? Are you perfect?!?!!!" And of course the answer is that I'm not perfect, I've said a lot of things I regret and need the grace of God for, and I am not the judge. But this doesn't mean I can't exercise judgment, evaluating a "tree by its fruit" to determine the heart - "for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." And it certainly doesn't mean we shouldn't push back against darkness and unkindness.
Each of these quotes flies directly in the face of long-held, orthodox beliefs about how we should treat one another as humans. They fly in the face of the beliefs held by many of the world's religions - but we'll focus on Christianity for now. Let's take a look.
“I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
Are you ok with a man speaking about his daughter in an immodest way and alluding to incest. Even if that's not what he meant, the words we speak have real power and set tones. So I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say I don't think he was alluding to incest. Is this the kind of comment you'd want to hear your neighbor say? Your pastor? Your son's coach? Why do we so easily accept it in our president?
“Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”
"Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!"
These quotes condone divorce on the grounds of physical attraction, allude to acceptance of gay marriage and very personally degrade women in a dramatically public way. Jesus hates divorce, even as we are called to love and care for those going through it. God makes very clear his plan for human flourishing through heterosexual marriage, even as we walk lovingly and wisely in the minefield of this issue today. Jesus not only values women but goes out of his way, counter-culturally and scandalously, to love the unloved woman, not once she behaved but precisely in the moment of her deepest depravity.
“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”
“The point is, you can never be too greedy.”
We'll take these two together. Are these true? Is wealth where our beauty lies? And is that what makes Donald Trump beautiful? Or in the context of his statement, is that what makes him beautiful compared to others? Is it true that you can never be too greedy?
Any true beauty in Donald Trump or any of us comes from the fact that we're made in the image of God. More troubling though is his long pattern of equating wealth with human value or lack thereof. Nothing could be more contrary to the gospel of Jesus. Of course wealth is not inherently evil or wrong. But the love of it most certainly is.
“You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.”
Objectifying women. Exalting youth and beauty as primary values. Dismissing the opinions people have of you so long as you look good and powerful and popular. Do I need to really go into the specifics of why this is wrong? And dangerous for leaders to speak this way?
So what's the point? What do you want me to do about this, Joel? If you're a Jesus-follower, no matter who you voted for or how you made that decision, you have a responsibility to speak truth and shine light into darkness. We cannot allow this way of treating people to be ok - not for our kids, not for our communities and certainly not for our president.
Christ-followers, please listen and carefully consider these questions:
Is your support of Donald Trump going beyond the Biblical call to pray for our leaders?
Have you crossed the line into condoning his behavior and speech?
Is your support compromising the integrity of what you say you believe in?
Would Jesus be honored by the way you support Donald Trump?
So as it continues day in and day out, not just from the President-elect but now, because it's normalized, from all his supporters and surrogates, we must push back in two key ways:
- Refuse to speak this way or treat people this way.
- Refuse to laugh along and casually accept it when others do.
It's not just about speaking out or complaining when Trump or his supporters say something outrageous or disrespectful. That will only go so far, and most likely be confined to whatever our Twitter or Facebook reach is. No, our best response is the way we live in real life, the one no one will see on Facebook. It's in the way we speak. The way we treat others. If you're in politics, this is a truly urgent task. Even if you aren't, it's still a primary call that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.
At the end of the day, this isn't really about Donald Trump at all, is it? In a maximum of 8 years, he'll be out of office. But the culture he shapes, and the culture we shape, will endure. Will it become increasingly normal, and even celebrated, to demean, to attack, to degrade and to speak ill of others? Or will we, like Jesus, reject the dominant cultural themes and act counter-culturally in ways that change the world for the better, bringing the kingdom of Heaven to earth?