Evangelicals Will Reject Trump
[Update: This post was written two days ago before the first GOP debate but right after a poll was released showing Trump leading among Evangelicals with 20% support but right before Trump made horribly insulting comments about FoxNews anchor Megyn Kelly and before he admitted during the debate that he has been buying off politicians for years and that is how the system works … In short, Trump is a dynamic figure. But, his support will not hold, and not because he is a joke, but because anger will only go so far. It won’t build anything.]
“So far, I have not heard from a single pastor who supports Donald Trump.” – Russell Moore, President, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptists, on AC360 with Anderson Cooper (CNN), August 4, 2015.
This past week, I joined 13,500 Evangelicals gathered in Nashville, TN for the SEND North America Conference (SBC), which focused on the gospel of Jesus Christ, mission, sacrificial living, and addressing problems of our day like racism, poverty, and human trafficking with compassion and devotion. Preachers exhorted the crowd, mostly full of young adults, to lay down their lives and priorities and to live for God and others. Prayers were prayed, lives committed, songs sung, and passion exhibited.
The theme of the conference was clear. We are not to live for ourselves, but for God and His glory as we proclaim and live out the gospel to the ends of the earth. Our focus is to be on Jesus and other people in need and we are to go where God will send us and do what He tells us to do. We are to live and love sacrificially and our priority is not to be defending our own “way of life,” but on living out the better way of Jesus. These themes were hammered home again and again through massive gatherings of thousands in the arena and through breakout sessions with hundreds listening to speakers calling upon us to give our lives away.
Mission and love for God and neighbor are central to Evangelical Christianity, even if these values sometimes become obscured by self-interest, fear, anger, and grasping for our own way of life over and against others. That happens and I cannot deny it. We are still human and we often give in to our worst impulses. But, beneath all of that remains a persistent call to lay down our lives that emanates from the life of Jesus and the words of Scripture that tell us that we must love God and people sacrificially because that is how Christ loved us. Because of this, I do not believe that Donald Trump’s message of fear, anger, and insult will ultimately gain a strong foothold among a majority of Evangelicals.
Trump’s strong words on immigration have struck a chord with a significant percentage of Americans who fear that our country is being overrun by undocumented immigrants running across the border en masse. By tapping into anger with a system that seems unresponsive to the concerns of ordinary Americans, Trump has risen to the top of the GOP polls for president. While wanting secure borders and a functioning immigration system are important goals that we should pursue as a nation, Trump’s denigration of immigrants as he claims that Mexico is “not sending us their best and brightest” will ultimately be his undoing among conservative people of faith. He provides no compelling vision for transformation and hope. His call to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants and let back in only the ones that benefit us is unworkable, cost prohibitive, and inhumane.
Evangelicals, who believe in the sanctity of marriage and the family, do not support the breaking up of families to deport some and leave others. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 4.5 million children are U.S. citizens with undocumented parents. We do not want to create an orphan crisis or send millions of children into the foster system. While we do want border security, we value people as made in God’s image and we do not just value the “best and brightest” for their economic benefits. We largely agree with the vision of America that is inscribed in Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty that says that America is a place for the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free.
We identify with migrants and travelers because of passages like Exodus 22:21 which says, “Do not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” We value and respect the rule of law, but in doing so, we recognize that the law is given to bring order and justice to a society and not to dehumanize people or declare them irrelevant.
Evangelicals want just and compassionate solutions to the problems and challenges that have arisen in regard to immigration in our nation. We want secure borders and a system that welcomes and enables immigrants to come here legally and in proper order. We want newcomers to our country to thrive, assimilate, and join us in our great freedom experiment and to help us grow economically. But, anger and fear cannot guide us in these pursuits. We need a vision that is respectful of people and that values them while also maintaining the rule of law. We need a better story.
Christians are nurtured and changed by the sacrificial love of Jesus expressed by Him dying on the cross for sinners. As He has loved us, so are we to love others. This is the message that was expressed repeatedly at the SEND North America Conference the past few days by Evangelical leaders like Russell Moore, Louie Giglio, and David Platt. Because of this historic and theological reality, Trump’s message of fear and anger will not ultimately resonate with Evangelical Christians for the long haul, even if some entertain him for a time. We are used to a better story of love, hope, sacrifice, and salvation because that is the story that Jesus tells and it is very good news indeed.