I grew up in a Republican home, but I supported Mondale the first time I was able to vote. That said, however, I have voted for Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians. At one point, I converted from the Catholicism of my upbringing to Evangelical Christianity and gave myself to Evangelical culture hook, line, and sinker.
My commitment to Evangelicalism eventually led me to Dallas Theological Seminary. Ironically, it was during this time that I came across a book on Dominion Theology and its influence on Evangelicalism in the school bookstore. That book led me to learn of a movement within Christianity, Christian Reconstructionism, and its impact not only on Evangelicalism but on the GOP. I researched this movement and learned more about names like Rousas Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen, and Gary North. I also became very familiar with people like Jay Sekulow and Dinesh D’Souza and could see the fingerprints of Christian Reconstruction and Dominion Theology all over the place.
I grew concerned about what I viewed as Evangelicalism getting into bed with the Republican Party, which was, as I saw it, a dangerous and toxic affair. I believed that almost 30 years ago, and I think that today. What I see among Evangelicals today is an bitter cocktail of Evangelical Christianity (a particular and narrow expression of the faith), Nationalism (not the same as Patriotism), and Capitalism (not arguing for or against it as economic theory, just noting it’s in the mix) that disproves Aristotle’s observation that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
I have many concerns with Donald Trump as President, many of which are related to his policies. I’m afraid I have to disagree with the assertion that to be a proper Christian, then you MUST hold to politically conservative views. I would, in fact, argue the opposite is true.
For example, on the issue of abortion, I am best represented by Rachel Held Evans’ perspective. I want to see the number of abortions reduced. I think that’s what most reasonable people want. I don’t believe making abortion illegal achieves that goal, and, in many ways, it may work against it. I’ve come to question why the only answer for those who call themselves pro-life is to make abortion illegal. Is the goal to reduce abortions, or is it to restrict legal and safe access to abortion? The latter does not precipitate the former. I see making abortion illegal more a matter of control and an effort to impose the effects of a particular worldview without addressing the root issue. This tendency to manage actions and behaviors over their root causes is what I see as the flaw with a host of conservative policies.
As much as I loathe labels, I am, at heart, a left-leaning libertarian (I say that with a lower-case “L” because I don’t want to commit to a party. I prefer to keep my options open). My view of Republicans is not that they seek less government involvement in people’s lives, but in reality, they advocate for just as much government. They just advocate for it in a different way from the Democrats. Given that, There are few Republicans, as they are known in this day and age, that I can support.
Okay, enough about policy. I think you understand the gist of what I’m saying about that. Regarding Donald Trump specifically, and I believe this to my absolute core, there are things beyond policy to consider.
For whatever reason, his arrival in the White House has emboldened the worst elements of our society. This isn’t just a matter of what the media reports, but it’s something I’ve witnessed personally on several occasions. From racists to xenophobes to misogynists, people that stand against everything our country should be about have risen to the surface, and Trump’s personality — rightly or wrongly — permits them to come out from the shadows of our communities. Is Trump to blame for who these people are? Of course not. But every time he chooses not to denounce these individuals, he is culpable. In my mind, he has proven himself at best incapable and at worst unwilling to address this in a way that clearly communicates that manner of hateful and divisive perspective is not what the USA is about. For anyone to dismiss this as irrelevant to the responsibilities of our nation’s top leader is ignoring the role every one of the 43 men who have preceeded Trump have played.
When I see people expressing support for a man solely because his policies make them feel better about voting for him, but they ignore the bigger picture, I have concerns. Using this same line of thinking, we should look the other way when a spiritual leader has an affair or exhibits egomaniacal behavior, as long as they are good communicators in the pulpit. When the top star of a TV show is found to be guilty of sexually harassing behavior, let them off the hook because their skill as an actor is so moving. Fortunately, however, there are those who voted for Trump in 2016 who realize their mistake and are committed to not repeat it. I’m immensely encouraged by those who have taken the brave step to sound off on the YouTube channel, Republican Voters Against Trump. They acknowledge that the holder of the White House is not just about policy. It’s about more than that; much more.
I have been listening to a fabulous podcast called “Presidential.” It released before the 2016 election, and each episode is a mini-biography of the presidents beginning with George Washington. I’m currently listening to the Chester Arthur episode. As I’ve listened to each episode, what has struck me most is how each of these men held a high view of the office they held. Call me a historical romantic if you will, but that still means something to me. I think the reasons we elect a President have much to do with our support of their policy positions, but there is a subconscious element that informs who we pick in the voting booth. It is impossible to separate the man or woman in the White House from the sociological impact they have on the citizenry.
LBJ was President when I was born. Except for the current holder of the highest office in our land, as I look at each of the men who have occupied the White House in my lifetime, I see a common thread. Despite their flaws and personal failings that, in the examples of Nixon and Clinton, have been the undoing of many of them, they each respected the dignity of the office and understood what that means not only domestically, but internationally. Donald Trump is not the first President I have disagreed with on policy, but he is the first one I am embarrassed by and for whom I find myself apologizing to my international friends.
I hope one day that the dignity of the White House can be reclaimed. I’m hoping that starts with a Biden-Harris victory this November.