Patterico's Pontifications


Evangelical Problem: Sacrificing Integrity To Support Trump While Pointing The Moral Finger At Democrat Candidate

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:10 am

[guest post by Dana]

Republicans for the Rule of Law recently posted a spot-on video of Sen. Lindsey Graham rightfully taking a sitting president to task, saying:

“This is about a person out of control. He took the law, turned it upside down. Every time there was a crossroads, he put his personal and legal interest ahead of the nation. He is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the land. He encouraged people to lie for him. He lied. I think he obstructed justice. I think there’s a convincing and compelling case that he has in fact engaged in conduct that it would be better for him to leave office than to stay in office.”

One might think that Graham is talking about our current president because the words are so fitting. However, as you can see in the video clip below, he’s talking about Bill Clinton in 1999.

Unfortunately, Graham, who once said that Trump was “unfit for office” has transformed into a cynical politician whose priority is making the shrewd calculations and calibrations necessary for reelection. And if that means sidling up to someone he once labeled a “kook,” then so be it. While he also believes that the country benefits by his working with President Trump, he offers no apologies in his admittance to playing the hard-edged game of politics. After all:

If you don’t want to get reelected, you’re in the wrong business.

To Graham, and many other Republican leaders, offering their allegiance to Trump (even if for show) is a prerequisite to seeing another term. And to them, the choice is worth it. But for the politician who claimed to stand upon a moral and principled foundation, a willing compromise to retain power has been made. Sadly, this flip-flopping hypocrisy in order to get reelected is unsurprising, yet troubling. It’s especially troubling when the unfolding slow roll toward moral compromise is committed by those elected officials who once roared their disapproval of Trump’s dishonesty, lack of morality, and deceitful nature. Clearly the drive for power is irresistible to far too many. But how to explain the moral compromise by those whose bread and butter isn’t politics but is instead serving in the house of God? One would think that these individuals would be free from any need of approval by President Trump, or any need to be in his good graces. After all, shouldn’t loyalty to God and the principles He lays out for believers supersede all else? With that, the past two years have been a season of having it repeatedly driven home that we all have feet of clay. Yet it’s not just the elected officials of faith who have meekly fallen in line while clutching the levers of power, it’s also those who stand in pulpits across the nation, telling us how to live while speaking out of both sides of their mouth. Like Franklin Graham:

Franklin Graham, who is the son of the late evangelist Billy Graham and a prominent supporter of President Trump, slammed Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg for being gay, Christian and married. In a series of three tweets Wednesday, he assailed Buttigieg for remarks he has made about being a gay Christian.

“Presidential candidate & South Bend Mayor @PeteButtigieg is right—God doesn’t have a political party,” Graham wrote. “But God does have commandments, laws & standards He gives us to live by. God doesn’t change. His Word is the same yesterday, today & forever.”

Then, Graham added, “Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian. As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman—not two men, not two women.”

Here’s the thing: It’s just a bit rich when an evangelical pastor uses his bully pulpit to point out one man’s sin, while ignoring another man’s sin because that other individual is the guy he’s put his reputation on the line for and thrown his support behind.

In other words, it’s easy to point the finger at homosexuality, while ignoring the painfully obvious:

“I’m not knocking for Buttigieg for sinning,” Graham would presumably say. “We’re all sinners. I’m knocking him for flaunting his sin.” But Trump flaunts his sin too. His apartment in Trump Tower is decked out like Versailles, a monument to gluttony. His sexual boasting over the years contributed to the alpha-male image that helped win him the presidency. What else was his conversation with Billy Bush on the “Access Hollywood” tape except “flaunting sin”? We’re talking about a guy who allegedly posed as his own publicist when he dialed up the tabloids in New York to whisper to them about how much he was getting laid. There may be no single person more synonymous with “the good life” in the popular imagination since the 1980s than Donald Trump. He’s practically a national spokesman for greed, right down to continuing to receive revenue from his businesses while he holds the most powerful job in the world.

(I would have included the sin of pride, selfishness and self-worship.)

As David French reminds us, Franklin Graham, like Sen. Graham, also condemned Bill Clinton with equal fervor:

In 1998, at the height of Bill Clinton’s sex scandals, the younger Graham wrote a powerful op-ed in the Wall Street Journal combating Clinton’s assertion that his affair was a “private” matter. Clinton argued that his misdeeds were “between me, the two people I love the most — my wife and our daughter — and our God.” Graham noted that even the most private of sins can have very public, devastating consequences, and he asked a simple question: “If [Clinton] will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”

Graham was right: Clinton, it turned out, wouldn’t just lie to mislead his family. He’d lie to influence courts, Congress, and the American people.

Fast-forward 20 years. By 2018, Donald Trump was president — and helping to win important policy victories for religious conservatives — and Graham’s tune had changed dramatically. He actively repudiated his condemnations of Clinton, calling the Republican pursuit of the then-president “a great mistake that should never have happened,” and argued that “this thing with Stormy Daniels and so forth is nobody’s business.”

Graham was wrong: Trump, it turns out, doesn’t just lie to mislead his family. He lies all the time to influence courts, Congress, and the American people.

Instead of giving in to a double-standard of judgment, Graham should have exercised restraint in calling Buttigieg to repentance lest he expose his own hypocrisy and weaken the cause of Christ:

Yes, marriage is the union between a man and a woman, but Trump married a woman, then married his mistress, then married a third woman, then had an affair with a porn star while that third wife was pregnant with his child. Yet Graham says, “God put him” in the presidency and we need to “get behind him and support him.”

The thing is, political expediency and the favor of man should not be the dominating influence in the life of a believer, whether an elected official or a leader in the church who reaches millions in the name of Christ. Maybe especially for the church leader… The calling for all believers is more than that, as the Immeasurable Sacrifice makes clear:

The proper Evangelical position toward any president is not hard to articulate, though it is exceedingly difficult to hold to, especially in polarized times when one party seems set on limiting religious liberty and zealously defending abortion: We should pray for presidents, critique them when they’re wrong, praise them when they’re right, and never, ever impose partisan double standards. We can’t ever forget the importance of character, the necessity of our own integrity, and the power of the prophetic witness.

In other words, Evangelicals can never take a purely transactional approach to politics. We are never divorced from our transcendent purpose, which always trumps political expediency. In scripture, prophets confronted leaders about their sin. They understood a core truth, one clearly articulated in the Southern Baptist Convention’s 1998 Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials: “Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment.”

(emphasis added)

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


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