Vail Daily column: Evangelicals charge Trump’s Christianity is corrupt
Hurling verbal fire-bombs at Donald Trump, evangelical leader Russell Moore scorched the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for corrupting Christianity.
Moore, head of the Southern Baptists Conventions’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, believes Trump practices a vindictive faith. It lacks gracious Christian virtue. Trump substitutes arrogance for Christ’s humility. His muscular faith sounds merciless against Islamic and Mexican refugees, in addition to his women-hating barbs.
Writing an early May New York Times op-ed, “A White Church No More,” Moore castigated Trump for a harsh campaign that “has cast light on the darkness of pent-up negativism and bigotry all over the country.”
Moore withdrew evangelical support from Trump, saying conservative Christianity isn’t any longer the domain of “old white precinct captains in Iowa,” or the “old white television evangelists” of the 1980s when the Evangelical Empire ruled TV and radio.
The once-pale face of American Christianity has changed, believes Moore, but Trump has disengaged from growing groups of non-Caucasian Christians. “The next Billy Graham probably will speak only Spanish or Arabic or Persian or Mandarin,” predicts Moore. “The man on the throne in heaven (“seated at the right hand of God,” as early Christian Creeds described the resurrected Christ) is a dark-skinned, Aramaic-speaking ‘foreigner’ who is probably not all that impressed by chants of ‘Make America great again.’”
Moore is embarrassed at Trump’s thin command of Scripture. He referred the Donald to the Old Testament prophet Elijah who scolded ancient Hebrews for selling out God for false deities King Ahab worshiped. “You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals (heathen gods)” thundered Elijah, before Israel’s God unleashed bolts of fire on earth to display His power.
In other words, Trump is a charming false prophet. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned Christians to “beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Moore views Trump as the fox in the proverbial hen house. The Donald devours authentic Christian faith, digesting a blustery gospel that’s wrong.
Trump shot back, “Russell Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart.”
About half of white evangelicals give their hearts to Trump, convinced he would make a good or great president, reports the Pew Research Center.
Fall-out from this once united pro-Trump front is breaking apart evangelical ranks, however. Others join Southern Baptist Russell Moore in branding as corrupt Trump’s Christianity.
Mark DeMoss, evangelical public relations expert and Mitt Romney supporter, quit the board of trustees at Liberty University after President Jerry Falwell Jr. lavished praised on Trump and endorsed his presidential bid.
“Scorched earth name-calling, insulting and demagoguing does not seem to me to be the way to build a winning general election coalition,” concludes DeMoss. “Russell Moore thoughtfully represents views and attitudes of millions of people of faith in the country; it is one thing to disagree with him, another thing altogether to be dismissive of him.”
White, older Americans compose the evangelical majority. They feel trapped in this presidential election, not wanting to compromise biblical morality by voting for Trump. Most can’t envision voting for Hillary Clinton, even though her Methodist heritage of 19th century revivalism resonates with their core identity. Sitting out this election guarantees a Clinton presidential victory.
Still, evangelicals don’t want to sell-out on Christian character as a requisite for the presidency. They are disturbed, agreeing with Tom Coburn, a conservative Republican who retired from the Senate last year, who reveals Trump’s fatal flaws.
“He is perpetuating a fraud on the American people,” warns Coburn. “His empty promises, bullying and bloviating rhetoric will only deepen the frustration and disillusionment that gave rise to his campaign. He simply lacks character, skills and policy knowledge to turn his grandiose promises into reality.”
Moreover, evangelicals wince when they hear Trump denying he needs forgiveness, which is the heart of Christian faith. We are not OK, but God makes us OK through Christ’s mercy. Last summer, CNN asked Trump whether he has ever asked God for forgiveness. “I’m not sure I have,” he responded. “I just go on and try to do a better job from there. … I think if I do something, wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into the picture. I don’t.”
Will evangelicals vote for a person so sterling that he doesn’t rely on God’s forgiveness?
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.
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