The bizarre spectacle of First Baptist Church of Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress endorsing and speaking on behalf of Donald Trump and the enduring support of Evangelical Christians in general of Trump will prove to be one of the starkest examples in American history of a group of people trading their professed values and voting against their own interests for some ill-defined and hopeless expedient gains. It defies all logic, reason, and anything that could be described as remotely pertaining to the things of God, and the only conclusion I can draw from it is that such leaders are complete charlatans who do not actually possess the faith that they profess or that they are falling prey to a Faustian bargain in the hope of some temporal and secular gains and in the process are in great danger of drawing their followers in a wayward direction. Or even worse, they no doubt heap scorn upon Christianity amongst those that are not converts. Thinking about the situation in which evangelicals turn off their minds and close their eyes and ears to what is so blatantly obvious to those that have eyes to see and ears to hear, I am reminded of a quip from C.S. Lewis that, “Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.”
Since Donald Trump takes to bashing opponents in churlish fashion on Twitter and other media outlets, I must have missed where the Apostle James said, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Except of course in cases when an opponent in a political race needs to be bashed and destroyed with juvenile taunts. Then it is justified.” (The first section is real and from James 1:26. The second italicized portion is obviously contrived). Donald Trump once wrote in his book, “The Art of the Comeback” that, “If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller.” I must have missed all of the verses in the Bible about it being completely acceptable to have a complete lack of regard for fidelity to marriage and to openly brag about it and display a total lack of repentance. Jesus summed up his entire ministry when he stated that, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22: 34-40). On the whole loving your neighbor part, I wonder why Jesus missed the memo on providing a caveat that, “except in cases in which they are foreign immigrants from Mexico, then by all means, heap scorn on them, oppress them, and deport them so that they can’t take your jobs and welfare.” I am certain he must have meant to include that. If I was a playwright, I think a perfect plot for a parody of the situation would be a script in which the disciples tire of the love, kindness, and suffering of Jesus and decide to throw in their lot with wicked King Herod, who only has one definable political platform: a promise that he will throw all the Samaritan bums out of Jerusalem and build a wall blocking them off with a promise that this will increase their fisherman’s wages.
“Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.” – C.S. Lewis
Churches and church leaders often decry moral relativeness and a culture that continues to descend into coarseness, lack of decency, and lack of human kindness. The endorsing of a candidate who is the embodiment of all of those things reeks of abject hypocrisy, which begs the question of if a church pastor is not going to stand against such a candidate’s rise and be a voice crying out in the wilderness for Christian faith and true Christian values, then what really is the point of that church? Leaders so aligned with dark forces critically undermine and wound their church’s entire reason for existence and ring the death knell of their organizations. After all, there are only relatively few avenues for seeking out true Christian faith and doctrinal and worship experiences within a common body of believers. The competition for a collection of the angry and hateful spewing vitriol and concerned with temporal interests and “winning” against one’s rivals is rather abundant, so what is the point of mixing those short-sighted and secular goals with seeking the will of an everlasting deity?
I can only imagine that in some small measure, this mob mentality and co-opting of the Christian church by a demagogue must have been how Diettrich Bonhoeffer felt when so many Lutheran pastors and laymen were co-opted by Hitler with his promises to rid Germany of the shame of the Treaty of Versailles and the ineptitude of the Weimar Republic. Bonhoeffer no doubt had this in mind when he wrote in his great book, The Cost of Discipleship, that, “Now what is it that so easily triggers the opposition of Christians against the authorities? It is the fact that is the they take offense at the mistakes and the injustice perpetrated by the authorities. But with considerations like these, Christians are already in grave danger of paying attention to something other than the will of God, which alone they are called to fulfill. They themselves ought to strive for the good in all things, and to practice it in the way God commands them….not because the way this world is ordered is so good, but because its good or bad qualities are irrelevant compared to the one thing that is truly important, namely, that the the church-community submit and live according to God’s will.” In other words, getting wrapped up and invested too heavily in political affairs was not at all Jesus’s concern for the church or the believer. Bonhoeffer wrote this as an exegesis of Paul’s writings that Christians should not be concerned with political authority as much as their mission on earth. This line of attack from the author of the vast majority of the New Testament makes it all the more inexplicable when a church pastor wraps himself in the cloak of such a vile person seeking political rule as Donald Trump.