In my last post, I discussed how Donald Trump had twisted the Scripture for false political purposes, and stated that Christians should not be drawn into this way of thinking. One comment noted that many evangelical Christians in America support “Trump’s ideals to make America great again.”
Evangelical Support for Trump
That comment was undoubtedly true. In the recent Indiana primary, NBC reported that, according to exit polling, 50% of those identifying as “born-again” or “evangelical” Christians voted for Donald Trump. In Pennsylvania, it was 55%, Wisconsin 34%, North Carolina 40%.
Were they voting for the person or the ideas? It is hard to see how anyone who believes in the Bible could vote for a person who boasts about his marital infidelities, encourages violence against protesters, threatens to kill the wives and children of terrorists, says he would expect soldiers under his authority to break the law, says he has nothing of which to repent, etc.
This is obviously not a life that is compatible with Christianity. Christians who voted for such a person, in general, were not voting for the person, they were voting for his ideas, the message he advocates. I’m convinced my commenter accurately (and astutely) described the phenomenon.
I’d like to take this article to examine this. As I said previously, I won’t spend much time on American politics, but this is illustrative of something I think is important for all believers in all places.
Back to Scripture
I chose the name “Mind Renewers” for this blog because we need our minds renewed.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
The old ways of thinking need to be replaced with Scriptural ways of thinking. What we do and say needs to be driven by Scripture, in ALL areas of our lives. This applies to political communications as well — and even if we never talk to anyone about politics, if we vote, we are sending a message.
While “evangelical” is not a Biblical term, it’s general usage has historically been that it referred to people who believed the Bible to be completely true, and believed that people need to be saved and enter into a new life. “Born again” IS a Biblical term and assuredly means a new life in Jesus Christ, lived in conformity to the Word of God.
Does the support of evangelical / born-again believers for Donald Trump’s political message fit with a renewed mind, anchored on an evaluation of that message based on Scripture?
A Great Nation
Trump’s slogan is “Make America Great Again!” He proposes to do this by building a wall along the Mexican border (and making Mexico pay for it). He wants to reform taxes, healthcare, trade with China, the Veterans’ Administration, and he says he will protect the right of citizens to have guns.
Much of this is fairly standard populist fare, though in some ways more extreme than usual, and certainly expressed with more flamboyance and a lot more belligerence than others have done. But NONE of it will make America great, if we believe the Bible.
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
For America to become great again, America must return to righteousness and reject sin.
The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.
For America to become great again, America must remember God and stop rejecting Him, His Word, and His standards.
The following is addressed to individuals and not nations, but the principles apply:
6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
For America to become great again, America must stop being proud, and become humble. The nation must submit to God, seek purity, and grieve over sin rather than exulting in it.
Note especially verse 10, and compare it to this:
…till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
We do not make ourselves great, as individuals or a nation. It is GOD AND GOD ALONE who lifts up a nation, who “lifts you up,” who gives earthly authority “to whomsoever He will.” He does so on His terms, not on ours.
The very idea that ANYONE besides God could “make America (or any other nation) great” is Biblically refuted, proud, and headed for the same fate as Nebuchadnezzar’s boasting in Daniel 4. Donald Trump’s very slogan should send chills down the spine of any Bible-believing Christian at its sheer arrogance, claiming to do what only God can do.
ANY person who is born again, who believes the Bible, knows these verses are entirely true. And anyone who has been paying any attention at all can see the problem.
No one ever accused Donald Trump of righteousness, or of encouraging righteousness in the nation (Proverbs 14:34, above). No one can accuse him of encouraging the nation to remember and follow God (Psalm 9:17). And if you think this is a humble man who encourages humility in the nation (James 4, Daniel 4), see a doctor very, very quickly — you have problems.
Donald Trump will never make America great, and those who believe the Bible should be the first to know that. A politician MAY possibly be able to build his nation’s power, but without the nation becoming great on God’s terms, that increasing power simply becomes a tool for destruction and suffering.
Believers in America may find there are other reasons to vote for Donald Trump, but “Making America Great Again” is not one of them. That is a lie (whether he knows it is a lie or not) which should deceive no believer.
So What Went Wrong?
How did so many American Christians get drawn into this kind of thinking? How could they think that the greatness of a nation is found in giving political support to a man who is encouraging people in attitudes and behaviour which are the exact opposite of what God says is needed? Are American Christians more foolish and unable to read their Bibles than other Christians? Obviously not. This is a failure to apply Scripture, but such failures invade the lives of believers everywhere. I’m persuaded these are some of the causes:
- Corrupted churches. Churches have turned a blind eye to sin, allowing wickedness to go unreproved. As a result, many churches have many members who actually aren’t saved at all. Those people may SAY that they are evangelical or born again, but they aren’t going to approach their votes Biblically because they don’t have minds that are being renewed.
- Neglectful churches. Many churches simply do not teach people to think about the Word of God and how it applies to their lives. They have not taught church members to consider whether their way of thinking needs to change.
- Lazy churches and Christians. Many churches have failed to challenge their members to even read the Word of God. The churches are full of people who are too lazy to have renewed minds.
- Emotion-driven churches. Far too many churches use primarily emotional appeals to draw people to their beliefs. Even if the beliefs are generally sound, this is not God’s way. He wants His people to be followers of the clear teaching of the Word, not following the emotional skills of a pastor, or the emotional impact of the church’s music. When churches train people to be emotion-driven in their responses, they can hardly be surprised when people respond to emotion-driven political appeals, rather than examining those political appeals carefully in light of Scripture.
- Power-hungry pastors. Too many pastors do NOT want people to scrutinise their teachings in light of Scripture. They are authoritarian — and so they teach their people to respect and follow authoritarian leaders with insufficient scrutiny of authoritarian pronouncements. When an authoritarian political leader arises, the people have been trained….
- Man-centred churches. Many pastors who are not authoritarian are yet leading a church that is their church, rather than God’s. Through their talents and personal charisma, they have built a following, but have failed to lead their people away from being man-followers into followers of Christ. In so doing, they have left their people vulnerable to the deceptions and tricks of other kinds of leaders….
There are, no doubt, many other factors in how so many Christians could fall into this kind of thinking. But the things I’ve listed here were certainly factors that can also lead to many other kinds of errors. And these failures, and the problems that come from them, are certainly not limited to American churches.
In this particular case, American Christians may have been more vulnerable than others, because America once was indeed great. America was never a Christian nation, for the only Christian nation mentioned in Scripture is the spiritual nation of believers (I Peter 2:9). And America was never remotely close to perfect.
But America was once a nation that explicitly acknowledged God in almost every aspect of its civil structure. The Declaration of Independence unequivocally stated that rights are God-given, and that He is the “Supreme Judge of the world.” Many of the founders may not have been Bible-believing Christians, but they accepted the Bible’s teaching on morality and unrighteousness as a good and proper basis for civil laws. They were fully aware of man’s sinfulness. The American system, as originally designed, was perhaps unique in the extent of its safeguarding against the sinfulness of both the elected and the electorate.
Now, it is a nation actively seeking to banish God. The laws are far from righteousness. The nation has the blood of millions of innocent babies on its hands. It is even actively working to undermine the liberty of many who want to live their lives by His Word. Many of the checks and balances have been systematically dismantled. The things that made America great are gone or going fast.
But it is easy to see how the appeal to “Make America Great Again” could grab the attention of a nation which was indeed great at one point in time. Christians KNOW the nation has gone off course from what it was and should be, and SOMEONE is saying so! Since the appeal is not consistent with Scripture, however, Christians should recognise it for what is really being offered — a counterfeit “greatness” which is more to do with world power than with anything BELIEVERS should accept as “greatness.”
No one is immune. All Christians, wherever we live, should be alerted to this, one of the favourite wiles of the devil. He can’t invent anything good on his own, and he can’t invent anything wholly bad that would appeal to true believers in Jesus Christ.
So he uses counterfeits, just like this counterfeit “greatness”. He appeals to something for which we legitimately have real affection, twisting it enough so that we become wrong in our thinking (without twisting it to the extent that our eyes would be opened). He’ll take the small victories, the small twists in our thinking — for now. He’ll be back for more, for a bigger piece of us, once he has us drifting slightly off course.
No one is going to hell because they bought Trump’s “Make America Great Again” line. No one is going to commit adultery, or murder, or steal because they forgot that it is God alone who lifts up and casts down, and that it is righteousness that exalts a nation. No, it’s just a small error — but one that leads us into man-centred thinking, to thinking peace and prosperity are the gifts of government, rather than of God. It is the kind of error that gets us out of the Bible and into the political news, out of telling our friends of the glories of Christ and into advocating the excellence of the politicians. Just small errors, but sadly leading to bigger and bigger ones.
What is the solution? The Word of God, of course. We’d do well to remember that Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world, and that He called us to a spiritual battle. We’d do well to remember not to put our trust in human leaders, and not to be cast down, shocked, or dismayed when human leaders betray trust. We’d do well to scrutinise every area of our thinking for consistency to the Word of God. And we’d do well to be vigilant of the deceptiveness and animosity of the enemy.
II Corinthians 10:3-5
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
I Peter 5:8
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: