‘Yes, he’s a jerk, but he’s our jerk.” When it comes to politicians, you’ve surely heard this line before. Until recently, in fact, certain conservatives used to mutter it in hushed asides when they discussed Senator Ted Cruz — until last week, that is, when Cruz issued a baffling endorsement of a man he once called “utterly amoral” and a “pathological liar,” making it quite clear that if he’s anyone’s jerk, he’s Donald Trump’s, thank you very much.
This should not surprise anyone, I suppose, coming from a desperate politician strapping his buoy to the flaming, sinking, rabid-raccoon-filled tugboat that is 2016. But oddly, many honorable American citizens — Americans not facing reelection, nor obsessed with the specter of quasi-eternal life in the fever swamps of D.C. — seem to have decided, against vast evidence to the contrary, that Donald Trump is their jerk. Of the numerous examples of this phenomenon, none is more troubling than that of Christian conservatives.
Cal Thomas, a Christian syndicated columnist, is the latest in a long line to crack. I met Thomas years ago, around the time of his 1999 book, Blinded by Might, which was written with Ed Dobson and — forthcoming irony alert — cautioned against Christians’ attempting to find salvation in politicians or the Republican party. I wove my way to the front of the event, which was at a church, and cheerfully introduced myself. “Mr. Thomas,” I said, bright-eyed, “I want to be an opinion columnist!”
“Oh,” he chuckled. “You poor thing.”
Boy, was he right! He must have seen 2016 coming. Fast forward to today, past Clinton and Bush and Obama to the current Clinton/Trump horror show, and witness Cal Thomas writing his September 27 column, in which he endorses Donald Trump. It’s a doozy.
“All analogies break down at some point,” Thomas writes, “but let’s engage in a theological stretch. When Jesus overturned the money changer’s tables in the Temple, he said that instead of a house of prayer, the elites of his day had turned the Temple into ‘a den of thieves.’ This increasingly applies to Washington.”
I’ll pause here to note that the co-author of Blinded by Might just compared Washington, D.C. to a house of worship. But wait! It gets better: “Only one candidate for president is capable of overturning ‘the money changers’ in Washington. The political, governmental and media elites have had their chance to turn things around and they have failed. Now it’s time for Trump.”
Let’s ignore the fact that Thomas just used an analogy in which he compared Trump to Jesus. Let’s also ignore the fact that amidst all this talk about corrupt money-changers, Thomas just endorsed a candidate who literally bankrupted businesses involving seedy money-changing tables, stiffed people who worked for him, and has applauded the abuse of eminent domain, in which the government can plow over poor people’s homes in order to build things like casinos and fancy hotels.
Yes, forget all that. Trump is going to be “our jerk”! Trump, Thomas argues, is the only candidate who can stop the “secular progressive agenda,” which seems odd, if you actually listen to what Trump says. Trump will fight for “Christians who are tired of being called homophobes,” Thomas tells the world; meanwhile, the real Trump recently called for immigrants to be questioned about their approval of gay rights. Trump, despite Thomas’s protestations, offers incoherent and conflicting paragraphs on transgender bathrooms. His history of abortion flip-flops is almost awe-inspiring.
When it comes to Christians, in fact, Trump seems passionate about just two things: (1) making everyone say “Merry Christmas” on command, and (2) manipulating what he has repeatedly called a “powerful” Christian voting block.
Will Donald Trump nominate conservative Supreme Court judges? The best answer, at this point, is “maybe.” On one hand, he has said that he would do so; on the other hand, he is a habitual lying machine who is trying very hard to get elected.
What is perfectly clear, if you are paying attention, is this: If Trump gets into the White House, he is not going to be “our jerk,” for Christians or other conservatives. He will be in it for himself. He does not speak of limited government. He publicly admires strongmen in Russia and China. To think he’ll overturn the money-changing tables is patently absurd. Based on his history and his words, he’ll simply rig them in his own favor.
After this election, no matter who wins, Christians will have a lot of work to do.
Here’s the sad part about this whole farce: After this election, no matter who wins, Christians will have a lot of work to do. Many of the problems that face our nation have nothing to do with politics. The government can’t fix the spiritual vacuum behind the growing heroin epidemic. It can’t magically fix frayed race relations. It can’t help broken families or hurting kids.
Can a Christian vote for Donald Trump? Sure. I won’t, but I can understand why someone would. But please, don’t do it in the name of Christianity. Trump, for many reasons, divides; Christians should unite. By publicly hitching their wagon to Trump, Christians do themselves — and their higher calling — little good.