Yes, that has been my forecast for New York City for today, and I’m afraid events will prove me to have been more accurate than the weatherman often is. In fairness to our meteorological friends, my prediction was much easier than the ones they’re called to make. They have to try to forecast the weather, and we all know nothing is less predictable than the weather. All I did was forecast that Donald Trump would lay a huge snow-job on those 1,000 evangelical leaders today, and Donald Trump is notoriously predictable.
So why was today’s much-heralded meeting between Trump and the evangelical leaders bound to be a snow-job?
Going into the meeting, Trump had a clear and painfully obvious goal: to gain the support of the evangelical leaders and, through them, the folks in the pews. On the other hand, the evangelical leaders had only vague and uncertain goals: to get Trump to listen to their concerns and perhaps to get him to make a promise or two. You would think these guys had never followed a political campaign before. Any politician will at least pretend to listen to you if he wants your support. Politicians are also notorious for making promises (and, yes, Trump is a politician). By this time, surely the country knows the value of a Trump promise.
But how could the evangelical leaders have expected anything more? How could they expect the kind of thing that would truly be necessary in order to demonstrate that Trump has become a man of integrity whom Christians ought to support? Did anyone expect Trump to confess to and repent of his many lies during the campaign? Did we think he was going to seek forgiveness from Ted Cruz for falsely and maliciously labeling him “Lying Ted”–not once or twice but again and again, as part of a calculatedly dishonest strategy? Did we suppose Trump was going to express contrition for his previous support for Planned Parenthood? For mocking the handicapped, and for all his many other outrageous actions during this campaign? Did we think he would then demonstrate his sincerity by withdrawing from the race and living a life of integrity for at least a decade (producing fruit in keeping with repentance)? No. The evangelical leaders undoubtedly never thought of asking him to do any of those things.
Given that Trump had a clear goal, and the evangelical leaders could not have expected anything from the meeting other than vague and meaningless talk, Trump was more likely to achieve his goal than they were to achieve theirs. Unfortunately, early reports sound as if he did. American Family Association president Tim Wildmon was very impressed because Trump promised to nominate only judges approved by the Federalist Society. That would be a very good thing, if Trump would actually do it, but what reason do we have to think he actually would? He has demonstrated over and over again that his word is no reason at all. In every other matter of concern, Wildmon had to admit that Trump was, at best, unclear.
I’m hoping that most or all of the men who attended that meeting in New York today will shovel their way out from under the snow-job Trump laid on them today. I hope they’ll see Trump for what he really is, and see their duty for what it really is.
What I would say to them is this: We don’t have to endorse one of the major-party candidates if none of them line up with our values. We don’t have to have “our” guy in the White House. The true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ has, over the centuries, been known to thrive spiritually even when its leaders did not receive invitations to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom or in the palaces of the various kings and emperors of history. It might be nice to think we have a friend in the Oval Office, but it’s better to know we have a Friend in heaven–nice to imagine that a president will listen to our concerns, far better to know our prayers are heard at the throne of God. It might be tempting to imagine we’re backing a winner (Donald Trump?), but it would be incomparably better, when it’s all over, to hear our Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Our task is to stand for truth and righteousness and hold out the offer of the Gospel to a lost and dying world. We don’t need–and can’t afford–to cheapen our witness for truth. We don’t need–and can’t afford–to act in a way that amounts to a sheepish admission that we’re really just hacks for the Republican Party no matter what kind of scoundrel it nominates. We don’t need to back Trump. We don’t need to sell out. We need to be faithful, and we need God’s blessing.