SHOULD CHRISTIANS VOTE FOR TRUMP?
by Bob Wheeler
God, Trump and the 2020 Election:
Why He Must Win and What’s at Stake for Christians if He Loses
Stephen E. Strang
Front Line, 2020
253 pp., hc.
Donald J. Trump may seem like an odd candidate to advance the cause of Evangelical Christianity. A notorious womanizer, twice divorced and remarried (after he had cheated on his previous wives), with a foul mouth and a desire to punish his enemies, he hardly exemplifies Christian virtue in his personal life. How, then, could he be God’s chosen instrument to rescue America from self-destruction? And yet that is exactly what author Stephen E. Strang argues in his newly released book, God, Trump, and the 2020 Election.
Stephen Strang is a journalist by training and the founder and CEO of Charisma Media, publisher of Charisma magazine, a well-known Pentecostal / Charismatic publication, as well as a large array of books. In the back of his book Strang acknowledges a large number of influential Charismatic and Evangelical leaders, some of whom have had personal dealings with Mr. Trump. Chief among them would be Paula White Cain, whom Mr. Trump considers to be his spiritual advisor.
On the surfaced the argument is very simple and straightforward. During his presidency Donald Trump has advanced a number of causes that are especially dear to Evangelical Christians: conservative Supreme Court picks, freedom of religion, etc. The Democrats, on the other hand, should they win in the fall election, are liable to pursue a number of causes inimical to Evangelical interests – LGBTQ rights, etc. The choice, then, would seem obvious: Christians should get out and vote for Donald Trump.
Appendix B in the book does, in fact, contain the text of an address which President Trump delivered to the United Nations General Assembly in 2019; and it is fairly eloquent statement of the policies and principles that have guided the Trump administration (one might see the hand of a professional speech writer in it). Its main theme is the need to preserve national sovereignty. “Like my beloved country, each nation represented in the hall has a cherished history, culture, and heritage that is worth defending and celebrating, and which gives us our singular potential and strength. The free world must embrace its national foundations. It must not attempt to erase them or replace them” (p. 209). That means that the U.S. Government should pursue a vibrant economy, a strong defense and secure borders. “Liberty is only preserved, sovereignty is only secured, democracy is only sustained, greatness is only realized, by the will and devotion of patriots. In their spirit is found the strength to resist oppression, the inspiration to forge legacy, the goodwill to seek friendship, and the bravery to reach for peace. Love of our nations makes the world better for all nations” (p. 217).
But do the ends justify the means? Mr. Strang scarcely touches on Mr. Trump’s personal character or the inner workings of the White House. Strang does concede, “When it comes to Twitter, I’m certainly not going to say that Trump never puts his foot in his mouth” (p. 38). But he quotes Paula White Cain as saying that Trump is a devoted father and is courteous and sympathetic towards others. According to her, Trump pays attention to detail, is a visionary, a man of integrity and of principle. But, she conceded, Trump is a fighter. “He doesn’t start a fight. But he will certainly finish one off” (p. 119). And David Barton is quoted as saying that Trump’s Tweets are a part of an attempt to control the mainstream news cycle and throw the other side off balance. Strang also notes that Trump has been under relentless attack from Democrats, the press, and “the Deep State.”
Strang’s book came out just as the impeachment process was getting underway, and Strang questioned the intention behind it. “The attacks are, in my opinion, from the pit of hell. As a Christian I believe that Satan is behind this. He is trying to steal, kill and destroy. And Donald Trump has been raised up by God to stop our nation’s headlong plunge into total depravity. Trump’s presidency is God’s mercy to America since we deserve punishment” (p. 201).
The impeachment process is now over. And although President Trump was acquitted by the Senate, it can be argued that had the impeachment process been conducted properly, John Bolton and perhaps others would have been called to testify, and it would have been established that there was indeed a “quid pro quo” in the President’s dealings with Ukraine. By all rights Mr. Trump should have been removed from office and Mike Pence made President instead.
But he was not, and that poses a dilemma for Christian voters. Strang believes that Donald Trump is God’s man to save America from self-destruction, and he quotes a number of Pentecostal prophets who claim to have discerned God’s intentions in the matter. But this may be a misreading of God’s mind. Strang seems to be equating America with the kingdom of Christ, and then concludes that as Christians we must do everything within our power to save America from self-destruction. But Biblically America, like every other nation, is a part of the “world,” which is seen in Scripture as fallen, sinful, and under God’s judgment. As Christians “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20; NKJV) and we are “strangers and pilgrims” here on earth (Heb. 11:13-16; I Pet. 2:11); and therefore we are exhorted to “keep oneself unspotted from the world” (Jas. 1:27), “having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (I Pet. 2:12).
The church’s primary task, and the world’s best hope, is the proclamation of the gospel. But by closely identifying ourselves with a politician whose personal behavior is ungodly we undermine our credibility – in the eyes of we say one thing and do another. Thus for the sake of Christ, for the sake of the gospel, it might be better not to support either major party candidate. In the short run it may cost us our political freedom. But in the long run it might hasten the triumph of the gospel.
Stephen Strang’s argument is well presented, and on the surface looks invincible. But Christians will do well to exercise caution before jumping on the band wagon.