Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with 500 evangelical Christian leaders on June 21 in New York City for the parties to “get to know” each other, The Christian Times is reporting. Among those going will be Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and many others.
“I was honored to be invited, and I’m genuinely interested in getting to know the person who could be the next president of the United States,” Floyd said.
Perkins stated that he is “not there yet” with Trump, but that he hopes to be.
But another prominent Christian conservative, Michael Gerson, wonders if it is even worth it for evangelicals to support Donald Trump for president.
Gerson is a Washington Post columnist and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. In a piece titled, “Evangelicals Must Not Bear The Mark of Trump,” Gerson described the potential Trump-Christian alliance as a quid pro quo. In exchange for getting evangelical voters to turn out for Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee will appoint conservative Supreme Court justices and lift restrictions on tax-exempt organizations, like churches and organizations such as the Family Research Council.
“We’re going to take care of you,” Trump recently told a Christian audience.
This is a case of “pragmatism,” Gerson says, and before going down this road, he says that Christians should “be clear about what is gained and what is lost.”
On the plus side, there is a far better chance of getting conservative judges into the federal judiciary. But Gerson warns, even this is not a done deal, as Trump “has convictions charitably described as fluid.”
On the negative side, the very reputation of American evangelical Christianity is at stake, Gerson writes, calling it “unexpected for evangelicals to endorse a political figure who has engaged in creepy sex talk on the radio, boasted about his extramarital affairs, made a fortune from gambling and bragged about his endowment on national television.”
But supporting Donald Trump is not merely about political posturing, Gerson warns. Rather, believers “are determining their public character — the way they are viewed by others and, ultimately, the way they view themselves.”
“They are identifying with a man who has fed ethnic tension for political gain; who has proposed systemic religious discrimination; who has dramatically undermined the democratic values of civility and tolerance; who has advocated war crimes, including killing the families of terrorists; who holds a highly sexualized view of power as dominance, rather than seeing power as an instrument to advance moral ends.”
In short, embracing Donald Trump for political expediency would be a steep price to pay, coming at the cost of their integrity, according to Gerson, because while Christ told his followers to “love your enemies,” (Matthew 6:44), Trump has based his campaign in part upon “contempt for, and fear of, outsiders — refugees, undesirable migrants, Muslims, etc.”
One of the arguments that some Christian leaders are making for supporting Donald Trump is that, as Gerson quotes Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress, “We don’t need a spiritual giant in the White House, we need a strong leader.”
But Gerson wonders if there is anything “specifically Christian” about such a rationale. Have Christian leaders like Jeffress “factored in the global depression that might result from Trump’s trade war? Or the military challenges that might be invited by weakening traditional alliances and security arrangements?”
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“To everything there is a season,” Gerson concludes. “This is the time for principled dissent.”
What do you think? Should Christian leaders support Donald Trump for president? Or, does pragmatism come at the expense of principle?
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