The Corner

Culture

Understanding Conservative Christian Silence on Donald Trump’s Porngate

I agree wholeheartedly with my colleague Jonah Goldberg. Social conservatives (especially Christian conservatives) should unequivocally condemn Donald Trump’s now almost-certain affair with a porn star. They should speak with the exact same level of conviction and apply the same standards that they’d apply to a Democrat caught in the same sleazy circumstances. After all, Republican adultery is every bit as repugnant as Democratic adultery.

Jonah has identified some of the reasons why Christians have been silent — namely that both Trump and his core supporters see any criticism as betrayal. When the president is thin-skinned and lacks core convictions, there are Christians who are concerned that criticism will cause Trump to dump their issues. Want good judges? Stay silent. Want to see agencies like HHS protect rights of conscience? Don’t raise a ruckus about hookups. Keep your head down and get the best policies you can.

There’s no doubt that Jonah’s correct. In fact, I’ve spoken to Christians who are close to the administration who’ve expressed exactly this sentiment. But I think the problem goes even deeper. I can think of at least three other reasons for conservative Christian silence.

First, an enormous number of Christians — especially Christians in politics — suffer from a lack of faith. I’ve written about this before, but it’s remarkable how many Christians seem to believe that the church itself is in danger if they don’t form alliances of convenience with men like Donald Trump or Roy Moore. They view the Left as presenting an existential threat to Christian faith, and for now — in the absence of better options — Christians have no choice but to cling to Trump. I hear this sentiment all the time. 

Second, Trump has done a remarkable job at convincing conservative Christians that his enemies are always much worse. First, he was the lesser evil compared to Hillary Clinton. Now, he’s the lesser evil compared to his enemies in the media and on the radical Left. In reality, for now the alternative to Donald Trump is an evangelical Christian — Mike Pence. No one should seek to remove a president absent just constitutional cause, but conservative Christians shouldn’t act as Trump’s defense lawyers. They should stand aside, examine the evidence, and come to the appropriate conclusions without regard to CNN or MSNBC’s hopes or fears. 

Third, we can’t forget human nature. People don’t really like to be on the side of the “lesser evil” or of any kind of evil at all. They like to see themselves as righteous and moral. So they’ll find ways to rationalize their support for Trump. Many of the Christians I know do this in part by simply disbelieving the worst of allegations — regardless of the evidence. Poll after poll demonstrates that Republicans are less likely to believe the sexual assault allegations against Trump than they are to believe similar allegations against Democrats. It’s far easier to embrace Trump if you don’t believe the claims. 

Make no mistake, there is a high cost for moral compromise. At a moment when the fruits of the sexual revolution are proving to be bitter indeed, this is exactly the time for the Christian moral witness. Too bad it’s been so profoundly diluted. 

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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