President Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives, and everyone is piling on their opinions and biases about it. I have a restrained from talking or writing politics as a pastor. Yet, when Christianity Today came out in favor of Trump’s impeachment and removal from office, I felt I must respond.
Christianity Today is a high profile, American Christian periodical founded by Billy Graham in 1956. Its mission had been to speak for the American evangelical community on matters that concern us. When Editor Mark Galli penned an op-ed favoring President Trump’s removal from office, he crossed the line and made Christianity a political pundit.
Let’s make this simple: Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt.22.21). There’s a natural division between the things of the world and the things of God’s kingdom.
Scripture warns us repeatedly about the world and its influences (Ephes. 6.10ff; 1 Jn.215-17). The world is about survival, conflict and political oppositions. “Being in the world, but not of the world” is a tense balance which cannot successfully managed without the help of the Holy Spirit (John 14.16,26).
Most people don’t realize that the Pharisees and the Sadducees were political parties in Israel. As Jesus gained a following, he came under increased scrutiny by the political establishment. They wanted to know whose side He was on. That’s politics, and it does not make for peace.
Jesus made it clear that there’s only one side: God’s side. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt.6.33). “Have faith in God” (Mark 11.22). Believers are not to have faith in men to deliver us from the tribulation in the world. Jesus is the One who does that (John 16.33). Jesus is the victor (Rom.8.37; 1 Cor.15.57; 1 Jn.5.4).
Editor Galli would do well to remember Harold Lindsell, a previous editor for CT, who wrote the article: “Christ the Victor,” April 9, 1965. Lindsell was about Jesus, not politics.
Now, having said this, Donald Trump is a worldly politician. He’s an alpha male, who is worldly-wise and knows how to compete in this vain and self-serving place. As a successful, billionaire businessman Trump understands how the world works.
Whether he’s a Christian or not is debatable, yet, he has proven himself friendly to Christians, and he is not restrained in saying, “God bless America.” Neither is he timid about supporting Christian symbolism, traditions, and causes, not the least of which is opposing abortion on demand.
In this light, some have compared him to Cyrus, the Persian king. According to Isaiah 45.1 of the Hebrew Bible, God anointed Cyrus for His task, even referring to him as a messiah, and he is the only non-Jewish figure in the Bible to be so called.
Is Trump a messiah? No, I don’t believe that, but in light of what he has accomplished, being with his election to office under enormous odds against him, I’d say that he certainly has God’s favor.
Does this mean that we should overlook Trump’s offenses because his “worldly” program is so successful and seemingly blessed? No, of course not. He needs to be more civil and kind. Then again, the same could be said of other American presidents like Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon all of whom were profane, arrogant, and conniving. Oh, and they all went to church.
Editor Galli seems to think that the American president should be more “Christ-like.” Yes, I agree with that in principle, but how successful would he be in the world?
Jesus is the real deal, and they crucified Him. And what was the charge? Posted over His head on the Cross was His crime: “Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews” (John 19.19). Of course, the Jewish political establishment protested to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews’ “(19.21). It’s politics.
Trump is not much of a diplomat and neither was Jesus, but what set Jesus apart from the rest of the body politic is that He “spoke the truth in love” (Ephes.4.15).
Take Jimmy Carter; he’s a Christian. As president, he regularly went to church and he even taught a Sunday School class. He was respectful of others, and he emulated Christian values. But, he was not a great president. Why? Because he assumed that the world is basically good, and he tried to be a “nice guy.”
It’s well for us to remember the phrase attributed to Leo Durocher, although inaccurately, then coach of the Brooklyn Dodgers (1946): “Nice guys finish last.”
Donald Trump is not a nice guy. He has not been impeached for some nebulous, possible crime against America, which is hidden in the Constitutional phrase, “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but rather, he has been impeached for being an earthman. He is too good at competing in this hostile, crooked and perverse world.
Trump’s motto: “Make America Great Again,” grows out of his sensitivities to grassroots America. For too long, middle America has felt left out, sidelined, maligned and depreciated as “deplorables.” The question is: “How do you make America great again?” Well, first of all, you deal with the world in the world’s context: by tooth and nail.
You ignite nationalism. A great and prosperous nation has secure borders, a strong military, and a competitive business economy. So, Trump started building a border wall and clamped down on illegal immigration; he rebuilt the American military, and he attacked the bad trade deals and restrictive government regulations on business and industry. In doing these things, he engendered the ire of the deep state, that has been leading America down the globalist path to communism.
Trump is not a diplomat, neither is he an “Obama Era politician,” saying: “Why can’t we all just get along.” The reality of the matter is that we can’t get along, and we won’t until Jesus is Lord (Isa.9.6-7; Matt.22-23).
What is comes down to in this world is, do you want to win or lose? Take care how you answer Christian. America has fought in two major wars and several “police actions.” We were in it to win, but winning (in the world) means that there’ll be casualties, and our idealism will suffer.
The Christian faces a paradox in Donald Trump. Do we judge him by his accomplishments, or do we judge by his un-Christian manners? Perhaps it’s both.
If believers are going to occupy until the Lord comes, we’re going to have to be “as shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Luke 19.11-13; Matt. 10.16). But, even then, we may join the ranks of the martyrs if we’re too dove-like (Matt.5.10-12)
Tom Brown is pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship.