The Republican Party has, for decades, been the party of evangelical Christians, as Republicans have long championed issues of life, marriage, and religious liberty. The personal conduct of evangelical politicians has long been scrutinized by all, and those who fail to uphold the values that Christians have long adhered to have been quickly discarded.
Donald Trump’s personal character does not reflect Christian values. To claim that Trump is a champion of conservatism, or Christianity, is absurd.
Conservative Christians have too often looked to individual elections as victory and validation of their beliefs. Evangelicals like to celebrate that a Christian may be in the White House, or in Congress, but too often it is hard to show what these elected officials have truly done on their behalf. Christians are too often fixated on legislative solutions to social issues, as if instituting or blocking new laws will make this nation more “Christian.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Republican Party is not “God’s chosen party.” There is not one candidate above another who is “God’s chosen candidate.” God’s chosen candidates are all the candidates. God’s chosen parties are all the parties. Each candidate has been placed there by Him. Christians cannot use Scripture to validate why one candidate is better than the other. Christians should only look to a candidate’s words and actions, judging their integrity and honesty, to make a choice in clear conscience.
Americans as a whole seem to forget the gravitas of that choice. Choosing a leader is more than the filling of a circle or touch of a screen. The choice each voter makes may be personal and secret, but is a direct reflection of the principles he or she stands for. To cast a vote for one candidate is to endorse the principles of that candidate, for better or worse.
The principles that you consider when you make that choice extend far beyond the voting booth. They are the same principles that you treat others by. They are the principles you bring to your workplace, your family, and your church. They are the principles you may one day impart to your children. When faced with a choice of principle, Christians should consider that they must one day defend that choice before God.
Russell Kirk wrote in The American Cause about principle:
A man without principles is an unprincipled man. A nation without principles is an uncivilized nation. If a people forget their principles, they relapse into barbarism and savagery. If a people reject sound principles for false principles, they become a nation of fanatics. The thinking American nowadays has to defend sound principle on two fronts: one, the neglect of all principle, which leads to social and personal decadence; the other, the adoption of false principles, which plunges the world into anarchy.
Our danger at home is that a great part of the American people may forget that enduring principles exist.
Donald Trump has proven to be a man without principles. He has claimed to be the champion of the rich, poor, educated, poorly educated, man, woman, etc. Through his words, he has claimed many things about his character. Through his actions, he has proven himself to be unprincipled. He is not a man worthy of endorsement by Christians, Christian leaders, or certainly the Church.
No single election is so important that Christians should sacrifice their values for a short-term political victory. When you throw your support behind Donald Trump, you are tacitly endorsing everything he stands for. Christians will never have a candidate with which they agree completely on every single issue. However, this is not a matter of policy. It is a matter of principle. How can you declare that character matters when you support a man who has no morals or decency? How can you insist that the sanctity of marriage matters when you support a man who has been married three times and has openly bragged about adultery and sexual harassment? If you vote for Donald Trump, you trade your Christian witness and testimony for the price of one or two Supreme Court justices.
The Supreme Court may have an open seat, and perhaps will have another in coming years. Perhaps Christians can make the argument against giving certain candidates the opportunity to nominate new justices. Perhaps the argument can be made that Trump will nominate justices who are better. This argument is unsound. Why should Christians trust that Trump will nominate men or women of integrity to the Supreme Court, when his own integrity is missing? Even if he did nominate solid pro-life Justices, it is worth the price of our testimony and public witness?
For many evangelicals, there may have been a time in which Trump seemed an acceptable candidate. Some of us even hoped that his boisterous persona during the primaries was an act: that he would let it go and become an actual leader against Hillary Clinton. That time has passed.
Trump may call himself a Christian, and it is not for us to decide his salvation or lack thereof. Furthermore, we should be quick to remind ourselves of our own sin natures before condemning another. Just as the Church should seek to shepherd and lift up those struggling in sin, so should we be careful to check our anger and emotion and instead pray for Donald Trump and for the Republican Party. However, when the Church recognizes a case of unrepentant sin, the sinner must be removed from the church body.
As a preponderance of evidence has shown time and time again, Donald Trump is a sinner in need of grace. However, he has shown no evidence of repentance or remorse for his past words and actions. It is wrong for evangelicals to call Trump a “Christian” candidate in these circumstances. Furthermore, Christians must be consistent to support and promote character and principle in their every action. Donald Trump is a man without principle, and Christians should treat him as such.