Believe it or not, Donald Trump — the walking Planned Parenthood commercial who incites violence, celebrates adultery, and lies habitually — still has prominent Christian defenders, men and women who twist reason and logic to the breaking point in the quest to defend the indefensible. Case in point: Jerry Falwell Jr.
Last week, the Liberty Champion — a student-run newspaper at Liberty University, where Fallwell is president — interviewed the Evangelical leader and asked him about his support for Trump. In the middle of his extended remarks, Falwell turned his attention to Christian criticism of his endorsement:
It is sad to see Christians attacking other Christians because they don’t support the same candidate or the candidate who they believe is the most righteous. . . . God called King David a man after God’s own heart even though he was an adulterer and a murderer. . . . You have to choose the leader that would make the best king or president and not necessarily someone who would be a good pastor.
To mention King David in the same breath as Donald Trump is to insult our theological intelligence. Yes, David did terrible things — among them, committing adultery and sending his mistress’s husband to die in war — but God imposed terrible punishment — a punishment that cost David his son and ultimately plunged his nation into civil war.
The punishment endured even as David repented, wholeheartedly. He began Psalm 51 with these immortal words:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
And while God forgave David — as he forgives us today — He did not spare David from the cost of disobedience. Ultimately, David’s story is a story of both the awful consequences of sin and God’s mercy in response to true repentance.
And here’s the man that Falwell compared to King David on repentance:
For those without the time to click, when Frank Luntz asked Trump if he had ever asked God for forgiveness, he responded:
I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so . . . I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.
Lest anyone think Falwell is alone, the list of Christian celebrities who’ve either endorsed Trump or showered him with praise is long and growing longer. The most infamous recent endorser is Ben Carson, who ran his campaign around the theme, “Heal, Inspire, and Revive.” But Carson referred to the “will of the people” when endorsing Trump, and declared there were “two different Donald Trumps” — the “one you see on the stage” and “the one who is very cerebral.”
Mike Huckabee has been a consistent and prominent Trump apologist, saying Sunday, that Trump was leading a “peaceful overthrow” of the government and that “he has been the Teddy Roosevelt who’s charging up San Juan Hill and there is no retreat.” Huckabee (along with Rick Santorum) famously appeared with Trump at a debate-night rally in Iowa that he staged while skipping the GOP debate, and he’s defended Trump from charges that he’s racist and pro-abortion.
Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress — who attacked Mitt Romney as a member of a “cult” — appeared and prayed at Trump events in Iowa, saying he would not have done so “if [he] did not believe that Mr. Trump could be a very effective President of the United States.”The list could go on, but — to their shame — there exists a common thread in celebrity Evangelicals’ support for Trump: They admire how well he’s tapped into American anger. They seem to be in awe of his ability to amass support. To them, Trump’s might makes right. While I think some endorsed Trump in the early months of the campaign in good faith, as the evidence mounts of Trump’s character and intentions, it’s time to take a stand.
Unfortunately, Trump’s Evangelical cheerleaders aren’t leading a flock — they’re following the mob. And as they follow the mob, they engage in ever-more bizarre theological and intellectual gymnastics to justify the unjustifiable. They’re sacrificing their integrity — and harming their reputations — for the sake of a dime-store demagogue’s vile, doomed cause.
— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.