It’s a favorite statement of leaders of Christian institutions when endorsing Donald Trump. One doesn’t expect to see Christians stumping for a man like that, and the handful of leaders who have done so seem to have realized they had some explaining to do. “We’re not electing a pastor” was the central feature of their explanation.
There are several problems with this. First, it is a type of dishonest argument called a Strawman Fallacy. A Strawman Fallacy occurs when someone arguing a point finds he can’t overcome his opponent’s argument, so he sets up a weaker argument (a straw man), demolishes it, and tries to convince listeners that what he just demolished was actually his opponent’s argument. Saying it’s OK for Christians to vote for Trump because “we’re not electing a pastor” is a strawman argument. No one ever said we were electing a pastor, and no one thinks so. If we were looking for a pastor we’d be asking questions about doctrine, church government, biblical interpretation, and the Christian life. In fact, the question we’re considering is what kind of man is fit to serve as President of the United States. Making the “we’re not electing a pastor” quip merely obscures the real issue and allows the Trump endorsers to pretend they’ve answered objections when they haven’t.
A similar Strawman Fallacy is the glib “Nobody’s perfect,” or its pious equivalent, “We’re all sinners.” True and True, but irrelevant and irrelevant. Nobody I know is claiming to be perfect or sinless (except Donald Trump) or arguing that we ought to find such a candidate for president. Not all imperfect things are equal. A score of 96% is imperfect, and a score of 56% is imperfect, but ask any college student if it matters which one is his score.
Another excuse for supporting Donald Trump on the part of those in reputation for godliness is the claim that in this, as in all other jobs, we should merely hire the most competent man without regard to his morals. “Pay no attention to his gross moral turpitude!” they seem to say, “You should see the way he can make money.” But is this really such a good idea? If you wanted a construction job done, would you hire a contractor who had mafia connections? If you wanted a chief financial officer, would you hire someone who was under investigation for fraud? It would be very unwise.
And is the presidency of the United States just another job? Does the role of president not contain some moral element? I didn’t say “spiritual” but “moral.” Shouldn’t the president be a man of integrity? I know that Bill Clinton and, in a different way, Barack Obama have dragged the reputation of the presidency through the barnyard, but is that any excuse for those who call themselves Christians to do the same or worse by electing a man of known immoral character? Aren’t we supposed to be trying to restore some goodness to our government?
Donald Trump defrauded his creditors by declaring bankruptcy four different times. Today he boasts of having $4 billion, but his creditors never got their money. He has committed adultery with numerous married women, and he boasts about it. Indeed, he boasts of all manner things, good and bad, and displays pride on a scale rarely seen. He also lies–provably, demonstrably, and constantly. He is foul-mouthed and verbally abusive. He is currently facing a lawsuit for fraud in connection with “Trump University,” which he operated from 2005 to 2010. There is serious suspicion that he has mafia connections. He owns several casinos and strip clubs. And Trump says he has never asked God’s forgiveness because he doesn’t need to. Are Christians going to vote for all of this?
It is a reproach that any who name the name of Christ would support Donald Trump for president. It’s even more appalling that some who pose as spiritual leaders have proven themselves blind leaders of the blind in giving their blessing to Trump and even implying that he is a Christian man. Well might the unbelievers around us conclude that the only values modern American Christians really care about are the values of their stock portfolios. Trump’s competence (which I believe is much exaggerated anyway) doesn’t matter nearly as much as his lack of character, integrity, and moral excellence. These are the qualities that are indispensable in a president. We can find highly competent men who display these qualities.