There is nothing wrong with a Christian being pleased that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. There is nothing wrong with being pleased at many of Trump’s policies and many of his decisions. Though I was a Never Trumper from way back, I’ve been very happy with most of his policies, impressed with his judicial nominees, and grateful for the good work of a host of the public servants he’s appointed. But what I can’t get — what I just can’t excuse — is the seemingly-pathological desire of some of his biggest Christian boosters to distort their faith to the point of stupidity and embarrassment to sit in a first-class seat on the Trump Train.
No one does this better than Jerry Falwell Jr. Take, for example, his CNN interview yesterday. He purported to give an Evangelical’s analysis of the very credible allegations that Trump cheated on his third wife with a porn star and of the claims that Trump sexually harassed or assaulted multiple women. The core of his argument is here. Watch it. It’s worth two minutes of your time:
— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) January 25, 2018
He makes three basic, embarrassingly bad theological arguments. First, he actually says out loud, “judge not lest ye be judged.” But it doesn’t require anyone to “judge” to condemn serial adultery and sexual assault. It simply requires reading comprehension. The Bible is clear. God has made the relevant judgment. Moreover, can we dispense with all the cheap grace that Evangelicals fling at Trump? I’ve never seen so much forgiveness without repentance in my life. Here’s a hint — if a man is lying to continue covering up his sin, that’s not repentance. That’s not evidence of a transformed heart.
Second, he makes the grade school mistake of equating the fact that Jesus said we’re all sinners (we are) with equating sin itself. “It’s all the same,” said Falwell. No, it’s not. All sin is wrong. All men need Christ. But not all sin is equally grave. Throughout scripture some sins are singled out as particularly vile and are punished accordingly. For example, read Mark 9:42, where Jesus says, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
Serial adultery is a serious sin. Serial sexual predation is a serious sin. Other politicians need Jesus too, but they have substantially better characters than the president. This is not a hard concept.
Third, watch Falwell finish the segment with what can only be described as the Breitbart gospel. After speaking of Christ’s forgiveness, he then says, “He did not forgive the establishment elites.” What? So now the good news itself is wrapped in dime-store populism. You don’t get more “establishment elite” than the men who crucified Christ, yet he asked God to forgive them even as he hung on the tree. He forgave all those who repented. He still forgives all those who repent — no matter if you’re driving to the mill in your pickup wearing your MAGA hat or swilling a finely-aged bourbon at one of those mythical Never Trump elitist cocktail parties.
Honestly, it’s not hard to be a Christian in the age of Trump. It’s really not. You applaud him when he does good things, critique him when he does bad things, and never, ever forsake your larger religious and cultural voice for the sake of secular political tribalism. It’s the same way Christians should treat any president, honestly. But if you want the thumbs-up photo in front of the Playboy, well that requires a special kind of compromise.