Why I Am Not Voting for Trump or Biden
Part Four: The Case Against Trump
In Part Two of this series of posts, I concluded that we should measure candidates based upon their demonstration of the fruits of the spirit both within their policy positions and their personal character traits. In Part Three, I explained why I cannot vote for Joe Biden because he utterly fails to meet even a minimum threshold for character based on that first component, his policy positions. Today, I will elaborate on why I cannot vote for Donald Trump because he utterly fails to meet even a minimum threshold for character based on the second component, personal character traits.
I have taken a couple days to put some extra thought into this post. I have a lot of good friends and family I deeply respect who support President Trump and will be voting for him. For that matter, I have friends who will be voting for Vice President Biden as well, and I also respect them, but I have a feeling that some of my Republican friends will feel a bit more betrayed by this post than the Democratic ones. Please know that this post is not a judgment on your character and, as I will come back to address in a later post, there is certainly room for Christians to disagree here.
I am also cognizant of the Bible’s warnings against being quick to judge the heart of others. I am especially hesitant to judge the character of someone I have never met and I am under no delusion that my analysis is infallible. Nevertheless, as I have explained in my earlier posts, I do believe that we are called in our voting decision to evaluate the extent to which the candidates reflect the character of Christ because it is only by reflecting that character that we can truly help our neighbor. And, I do believe the Bible calls us to make such an evaluation of others in certain situations.
For example, in 1 Timothy, Paul instructs that pastors and deacons within the church should be “above reproach” and that they must first be “tested” before being entrusted with the position (1 Timothy 3:1-13). Even though Jesus did famously say “[d]o not judge, so that you won’t be judged,” (Matthew 7:1) he also said “[d]on’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces,” (Mathew 7:6) and he warned us to “[b]eware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15). In fact, Jesus called us to “judge according to righteous judgment.” (John 7:24). Paul picked up on this refrain with Romans 16:17-18 where he urges believers to “keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” (Romans 16:17-18).
Now, it is true, we are talking about a candidate for political office, not a candidate for pastor or deacon at a church. But, the same principle applies, especially where the candidate for political office claims to be a Christian and where a big element of the candidate’s campaign is that he “literally saved Christianity.” The reality is that President Trump seeks to make himself the most prominent public Christian figure in the country and, like it or not, he is viewed by many as an ambassador for Christ and His character, ESPECIALLY to the extent he is embraced by the Church. And, as I discussed in Part Two of this series, the character of the President has tangible effects on the character of our nation.
The Bible is filled with warnings about the danger of allowing wolves among the sheep of the church. In Luke, Jesus warns, “Offenses will certainly come, but woe to the one they come through.” (Luke 17:1). The word translated as “offenses” is skandalon in Greek and literally means “that which causes sin” and is where the English word for scandal comes from. The idea that Jesus is discussing is the danger that comes when you allow scandalous, unrighteous behavior to continue within the church because it can lead “little ones” astray. That’s why Jesus goes on to instruct his disciples to be on their guard and, “[i]f your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3).
In 1 Corinthians, Paul goes further. In responding to a report that a man among them was committing egregious sexual immorality, living with his father’s wife, he expressed dismay that the church was “inflated with pride, instead of filled with grief so that he who has committed this act might be removed from your congregation.” (1 Corinthians 5:1-2). He goes on to instruct the church to “turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord” saying that, while it is God’s job to judge outsiders, we are “not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person.” (1 Corinthians 5:5-13).
Now, are we to believe that voting for such a person for President is ok, but eating with him is not? Certainly not. In fact, I would suggest that the church today is playing much the same role as the Corinthian church Paul admonished. Rather than strongly rebuke and disassociate ourselves from President Trump for his unrepentant sin, we take pride in him.
But is he really that bad, you might ask? Yes. Yes he is. It pains me to hear good Christian men and women defend President Trump’s behavior, describing him as simply “rough around the edges,” “unpolished,” “politically incorrect,” “less than perfect,” or even “tough.” My problem with President Trump is not that he just isn’t the nicest guy or that I don’t think he would make a great friend to hang out with. My problem with President Trump is that he is overtly sinful in his behavior, arrogant and unrepentant in his attitude, and dangerously deceptive in his speech. In fact, he typifies not the fruit of the spirit, but the works of the flesh.
As a reminder, here are the works of the flesh: “sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar.” (Galatians 5:19-21).
Well, as for sexual immorality, moral impurity, and promiscuity, Donald Trump has a long history in which he not only was the center of sexual scandals but in which he intentionally cultivated a playboy public persona. He famously owned the Miss Universe Organization (which involved a lot more reprehensible conduct) and appeared on the Howard Stern show bragging about barging into the dressing room while the women were changing, joking about how, as the owner, it was his obligation to sleep with the contestants, and calling his own daughter a “piece of a**” (and, by the way, that’s not the only time he has made really odd comments about his own daughter’s appearance and sexuality).
Even if you dismiss the dozens of women who have alleged President Trump of sexual assault and harassment (maybe you believe they are all lying, which is really odd given what we know about him, but sure, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt), we know that President Trump had an affair with a model during his first marriage, divorced his first wife to marry the model, divorced her after four years, then married another model. There is also the infamous Access Hollywood tape from 2005 in which President Trump infamously bragged about his sexual escapades and how he would “grab ‘em by the p****”.
At no point that I am aware of has President Trump publicly repented of all of this. Sure, he issued a public apology, after considerable pressure to do so, when the 2005 tape was revealed during the 2016 campaign, but the apology was hollow. He dismissed the comments on the tape as typical “locker room talk” and turned to attack his political opponents as if all he had done was say some bad words but had not really done anything wrong. In fact, in 2015, when asked if he had ever asked God for forgiveness for his past sins, Donald Trump said, “"I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don't think so," he said. "I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't." Unfortunately for President Trump, if he does not bring God into that picture soon, he will face eternal damnation no matter how many preachers he took photo ops with.
What about strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, and envy? I mean, seriously, does this even require further comment? This is simply a description of most of President Trump’s defining characteristics. Quite frankly, it would be impossible for me to even begin to scratch the surface on this one, but, fortunately, the New York Times has developed a fairly comprehensive listing of the 598 people, places, and things Donald Trump has insulted on Twitter. As for “anything similar,” how about pride and boastfulness? President Trump has a “breathtaking” knack for self-admiration. How about deceitfulness? Dishonesty has defined the Trump presidency.
Sure, I did not address idolatry because that is a little harder to diagnose from this far away. And, I’ll give him credit… I don’t see any signs of sorcery, drunkenness, or carousing. But, at the end of the day, Jesus said that we would know His disciples by their love for one another (John 13:35). When I listen to Donald Trump speak, I do not hear love. When I see his actions, I do not see love. Neither do I see the other fruits of the spirit: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, or self-control.
So he’s not a good person, you might say. So what? Well, as I more fully explained in Part Two of this series, the character of the President means an awful lot. As Paul explained in 1 Corinthians, we should have nothing to do with men who behave like the President who claim to be part of the church.
Additionally, recall what I said in Part Two of this series about the President being our voice. He casts a vision of who we can be as a country, reminds us of our values, and speaks them to the rest of the world. With that in mind, think about the book of James, where the brother of Jesus compares the tongue to a bit in the mouth of a horse, the rudder of a ship, or a small fire that ignites a whole forest. (James 3:3-5). He goes on to say that the tongue “pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6). (And by the way, James then goes on to describe wisdom from above as opposed to wisdom that does not come from above using similar descriptions as with the fruit of the spirit and the works of the flesh.)
And, if you do not believe that President Trump’s poor character is polluting our country, take a look around. Over the last four years, do you believe our country has become more loving, or more hateful? Do you believe we have become more united, or more divided? Do you believe we have become more patient, or more restless? Are we humbler, or more prideful? The answers are self-evident.
Look at the riots that we have endured. Now, on that point, let me be clear. I do not believe Donald Trump is even a little bit racist. But, I do not believe that he even cares a little bit about the problem of racism. And, because of that, and more broadly because he lacks character, he cannot lead our nation through racial turmoil and unite us. Instead, he has attempted to capitalize on the division by further stoking the fires of fear and bitterness to win votes. He is the President who tear-gassed peaceful protesters to clear the way for a photo opportunity in front of a church. As former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis put it, “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”
Look at the way we betrayed the Kurds under his leadership and slashed admission of refugees fleeing persecution. He does not understand our values and so he cannot remind us of them nor can he articulate them to the world. Instead, we are losing who we are. Rather than a world-wide force for good, we are becoming a self-absorbed bully, just like our President.
But what about his accomplishments? Of course, I will admit, President Trump has done some good things. I believe he has put three good men and women on the Supreme Court. That is significant. He has taken executive action to further restrict funding for abortion internationally, promoted free speech and religious liberty, and signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which made significant changes to the tax system, reducing tax rates, and contributing to strong economic growth (at least until the pandemic put a halt to everything). In many ways the policies of the Trump Presidency have been good for our neighbors. We should be happy about that. But at what cost?
Our nation is becoming more and more crippled by the day by an out-of-control pandemic and racial tension, neither of which our President is adept to manage. By all accounts, Republicans are about to experience a crippling defeat to a radicalized Democratic Party in the upcoming election and President Trump ultimately shoulders a significant amount of blame for that. His scorched earth methods have turned off voters across the country, especially the younger generations. The effects will be felt for years.
Read this quote from a Forbes article on the changing public opinion on the issue of abortion noting that 72% of those ages 18-29 years old said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases: “It is possible that young people, who are the most Democratic group in the population and the least supportive of Donald Trump, simply oppose any position associated with the president who has strongly supported the pro-life cause.” Of course, younger generations have always tilted further left than their parents and grandparents and there are probably other contributing factors here. But, there can be little doubt that the reaction against President Trump’s obnoxious behavior will have devastating effects.
And, more importantly, I believe President Trump’s very public display of poor character all-the-while claiming to represent the evangelical Christian community which very publicly embraces him has further contributed to the rapid decline of Christianity in our country. At the end of the day, the hypocrisy of a church supporting a man like President Trump is exactly the kind of “skandalon” that Jesus warned against in Luke that would lead the little ones astray.
As Dr. John Piper aptly expressed: “Christians communicate a falsehood to unbelievers (who are also baffled!) when we act as if policies and laws that protect life and freedom are more precious than being a certain kind of person. The church is paying dearly, and will continue to pay, for our communicating this falsehood year after year. The justifications for ranking the destructive effects of persons below the destructive effects of policies ring hollow. I find it bewildering that Christians can be so sure that greater damage will be done by bad judges, bad laws, and bad policies than is being done by the culture-infecting spread of the gangrene of sinful self-exaltation, and boasting, and strife-stirring.”
I cannot in good conscience support this man in any way, no matter who he is running against. At the end of the day, evil is evil. And, while I believe that President Trump’s policy positions are substantially better for my neighbor than Vice President Biden’s, that consideration is ultimately outweighed by President Trump’s astounding lack of character. Quite simply, he is unfit for the office.
Now, having further outlined why I cannot vote for either Biden or Trump, there are just a couple other matters I would like to address. In my next post, I intend to address in more detail why the issue of abortion alone does not “trump” (haha) everything I just wrote.