By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
1 John 4:17-18
For the past few weeks, I’ve watched an increasing volume of vitriol and bile pass through my various feeds, much of it targeted at #NeverTrump people like myself, and all of it telling me what I think and who I am. We’ve been called “traitors“, “betrayers” involved in a “murder-suicide pact”, and even “pharisees”. I thought I might take a stab at explaining a key motivation for one significant section of Evangelical Trumpers (by no means all, of course). Further, while I will undoubtedly be critical in what I say, I will try to do it without any blatant or intentional insults. The reason so many evangelicals are voting for Trump and, worse, why they are on the warpath against the very people with whom they once agreed that character did matter is simple: straightforward, gut-wrenching fear and what it makes a person do.
Fear is one of the most primal of all motivations. It drives people to do things they would never even consider under normal circumstances. It blinds them to truth, makes them cling in desperation to any hope that presents itself (even hopes that, in clearer-headed times, they would recognize as dangerous), and lash out viciously at any perceived threat to that hope. It makes them see friends as enemies and not realize enemies are pretending to be friends.
All of this seems to describe a notable selection of Evangelical Pro-Trumpery. They once insisted that while we might forgive Bill Clinton (who did ask for it–publicly even) on a personal level, his untrustworthy character disqualified him from being president. These same people are now running down their Christian brethren who refuse to vote for another serial adulterer who claims he has never needed forgiveness in his life for anything. The people who once opposed Larry Flynt and Hustler demand that we vote for a man who was proudly featured on the cover of Playboy. While Trump has spent his life voting democrat, supporting democrats, and even praising Hillary Clinton, republican evangelicals hungrily devour the the few scraps of conservative hope Trump throws them. These are scraps that, if they heard them from a used car salesman in a less stressful time, would tell them instantly they were buying a lemon. A vote for Trump isn’t just a viable option; they present it as a moral imperative, and any threat to their hope in Trump must be dealt with summarily.
But here’s the rub: some Christians’ eagerness to throw away their moral authority through blatant hypocrisy* betrays another, deeper cause of their support of Trump than fear. It is a lack of trust, particularly a lack of trust in the God they claim to serve. American Christians have long ago swallowed the myth that it is their job to “fix” the world for God, that He is incapable of doing it for Himself.** This thrusts the sole responsibility for saving the world onto their shoulders. When the enormity of their inevitable failure comes home to roost, it results in profound despair and dismay. Frankly, it should.
But that isn’t the way Christians need to live their lives. We serve a sovereign God who, whether we actively believe it or not, is in control of events. He loves us perfectly and, as in the scripture verse I opened with, “There is no fear in love.” I will not vote for Donald Trump. Not because there aren’t things to be afraid of. Not because I hate my country or want to betray my party. Not because I want to spend my time pharisaic-ally judging other believers.*** Rather, I will hold to my principles because I believe I can trust my God to make the best decision through history. I will vote my conscience. I have no need to renege on the truths He has revealed to me in a personal, inept attempt to save the world.
And neither do you.
*This word is used as a simple observation, not an insult. When I’m told in one moment that character should determine my vote and then later the same movement tells me to ignore character and vote for someone, it meets the definition of hypocrisy–unless the latter was explicitly repudiated.
**There is a fine line here–of course God often works through us to accomplish His Will in the world. But too often modern evangelicals seem to look inward and trust in themselves and in charismatic leaders rather than resting on God and the principles laid out wholistically in his Word. The result is a flurry of political activity that isn’t based in a mature consideration of Scripture, the Great Commission, and extensive prayer so much as it is an attempt to remake society in their own image (a vaguely ‘Murica-esque sort of thing). I believe we’re watching that unravel now.
***Note that I have not “judged” anyone here. I have simply stated what I believe to be some people’s motivations. The moral judgments that should result from those motivations, if I am indeed correct, are left to others.