Of course, my first post is about Trump.
This is a response to my esteemed cousin, Ryan Wormald, and his post over at Wir sind bettler. Hoc est verum. In it, he attempts to overturn part of NeverTrump conservative’s reasoning by showing it to be ridiculous. This vein of NeverTrump reasoning goes something like this; voting for Trump because of everything that he is, causes conservatives to violate their principles, damages conservatism, and causes his stink to get on you. Ryan’s thesis, I think, is that since it’s obviously untrue that Jesus was tainted by associating with sinners, neither are we tainted by voting for a sinner, Donald Trump. The only way Ryan makes this argument work is by denying, or minimizing, Trump’s character and by equivocating on what a vote means.
Ryan simply calls Trump a “sinner” and leaves it at that. NeverTrumpers don’t think that quite covers it. Trump is an unrepentant sinner who said he never asked God for forgiveness. Trump hasn’t just committed adultery, he’s boasted about it. Trump owns a strip club, created scams like Trump U, and is a documented pathological liar. I could go on and on for pages with examples of things Trump has said and done that make him an unpalatable candidate for President.
My problem with Ryan is that he simply does not engage with any of that. It doesn’t seem to matter to him. In a previous Facebook discussion, someone had posted Reynold’s response to Grudem’s endorsement of Trump. In response, Ryan said:
And then Ryan goes on to not address a single point of Reynold’s argument about the unpalatable character of Trump. The only thing that seems to matter to Ryan is winning in November without considering exactly who it is that is winning. And this is supposed to be a Christian ethic? The NeverTrumper’s position rests on the fact that Trump is not your normal, run-of-the-mill, “good candidate with flaws” even if Grudem says he is. In fact, such an evaluation is either woefully out of touch or purposefully misleading. Even further, minimizing Trump in this way makes you complicit with Trump’s lies by forcing you to defend them or pretend they don’t exist.
So voting for Trump is unlike associating with sinners in the sense that Trump is not your run-of-the-mill tax collector but is instead Herod Antipas.
What Is In a Vote?
If Trump invited Ryan to Trump Tower for dinner, or to pee in his bathroom, I wouldn’t begrudge him the opportunity. This would at least be analogues to Jesus eating with sinners. However, that is not what a vote is nor is it what a vote does. A vote is not an acknowledgment that one is a fellow human being made in the image of God worthy of respect. Voting for Trump is not merely a vote against Hillary, it is also a vote for Trump. In fact, Ryan blows up his own analogy when he says:
Surely, as Jesus demonstrates, one can be in a relationship of love with a sinner, and not approve of their sin, nor be tainted or corrupted by their sin, because one doesn’t place the sinner in a position of advice or authority in one’s life.
What, exactly, does he think a vote for President of the United States does if not to “place the [person] in a position of authority in one’s life”? It is not like Jesus eating with a tax collector. It is like Jesus cheering his head off at a Herod Antipas rally.
A vote for a presidential candidate does not mean explicit approval for everything that candidate has done or stands for. A vote for a presidential candidate certainly means you prefer your candidate over the other. However it also means that you think your candidate should hold the highest position of authority in the land. A vote that means both a vote against Hillary and a vote for Donald J. Trump. Can Christians, in good conscience, vote for Trump given everything that he is and stands for?
Maybe. Maybe there are sincere Christians in swing states who feel they are obligated to hold back their vomit as they pull the lever for Trump in order to stop Hillary. I respect that. I disagree, but I respect it. What I don’t understand, and what I will continue to push back against, is the minimizing or ignoring of Trump’s character and policies in order to assuage the conscience. Ryan is not merely anti-Hillary, he is also a Trump supporter. He is not going to the ballot box with open eyes until he comes to grips with exactly what that means.