John Chuckman



One of the great political mysteries of our time is the substantial support Trump enjoys among America’s Christian Evangelicals.

Here surely, by almost any measure, is one of the most openly irreligious men ever to be President, and I don’t mean just through the fact that he has no membership in any church. He doesn’t show a flicker of the sometimes-strong personal faith that characterizes some religious people who are not associated with a church, as was very much the case for Abraham Lincoln.

Even more, he has a long public record of deeply offensive language and lying. He is an undependable colleague, having betrayed many in positions of trust and responsibility around him in just a few short years at the White House and even an undependable marriage partner, if we are to believe many witnesses.

His whole approach to world affairs as President might be said to be an extension of the same characteristics. His completely ignoring matters like murder and theft from “friends” like Saudi Arabia and Israel is pretty spectacular testimony. He enthusiastically smiles and shakes hands with the murderous tyrant of Saudi Arabia.

Old friends and allies, to say nothing of others, all over the globe have been upset and even shocked by some of his sudden demands and seeming lack of concern for keeping the good faith of the United States in many matters, especially where important international treaties are concerned.

His has been a record of tearing up or tossing away treaty after treaty in everything from arms control to international trade and regulation. Years of patient work by thousands of conscientious and intelligent people engaged in an effort to construct some necessary architecture for world affairs tossed as though it were toilet paper.

He does seem to believe that if he personally considers a new demand appropriate, then it is, ipso facto, appropriate and even beneficial to the United States, and the rest of the world must simply accept that. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth or more dangerous as an approach to matters affecting earth’s entire seven billion people, all of them being equally in the eyes of traditional Christian faith, God’s children.

Of course, Jesus, as he is portrayed in the New Testament and revered by hundreds of millions of Christians, tells the world that he has come to bring a new law to human affairs, and it is a new law entirely eschewing Trump’s concepts and values. It is, moreover, quite importantly, a law universal in its application with no exceptions for personal or special interests. None.

I’m going to confess to the fact that as a boy I was raised an Evangelical Christian, a Baptist. Our church accepted the Bible literally as the Word of God. Indeed, the Bible was often referred to as “God’s Word.” The Church practiced Baptism in the fashion of John the Baptist as a declaration of one’s faith and as a bond to the community of fellow Christians.

One of the characteristics I knew in my then-fellow Christians was a fairly strong bias for demonstrating your faith through deeds rather than just words. It was the bias of the Apostle Paul. I wouldn’t say that it was universal, but it was very common.

And that is what is so mystifying. How can people with that kind of bias – one I tend still to regard as sound whether we are talking of Christianity or any other matter, deeds say more than words – in their views support a man who demonstrates in everything virtually the opposite?

We have the controversy over a recent article in “Christianity Today,” a publication founded by the late Billy Graham, noted Baptist evangelist and one I heard preach as a boy, that called Trump, quite accurately I think, a “grossly immoral character.” Well, the best part of two hundred Evangelical leaders have strongly objected.

What can I say? The editorial in “Christianity Today” itself took long enough coming given Trump’s public behavior. Calling that magazine, as Trump and his faithful do, “far left” is pretty close to ridiculous. The traditional concerns of Christian Evangelicals are concerns about issues of Christianity, not any form of politics. God’s laws always are placed higher than humanity’s laws. The words of Jesus, as we have them in the new Testament, couldn’t be clearer on the subject.

There may be differences on the relative importance of various matters to the Christian community, but there really can be no confusion between matters in general of Christianity and pure visceral politics. The distinctions are blindingly apparent. Christians are enjoined in the New Testament to avoid and ignore the “ungodly,” to avoid being “unequally yoked.”

Yet here we have many leaders in their communities using “Christianity” as a kind of cloak for political bias, and very much political bias in favor of a man of thoroughly amoral character. It actually much resembles the traditional Catholic Church’s efforts, say in the 1950s and 1960s, to protect priests who have grievously harmed parishioners with unacceptable sexual practices.

I am not sure that I understand, although it is clear that these leaders and their communities see in Trump things important enough to simply ignore all traditional Christian values such as honesty and loyalty and decency.

It does seem to be the story of America in general, starting with the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine and arriving at the likes of George Bush and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

It’s a huge journey, but how easily and effortlessly it has been carried out. Of course, many or most Americans deny the journey has taken place, insist that sacred honors and human rights still count uppermost in America, but that’s a little like thinking quill pens and parchment still give force to laws.

While I am no longer a Christian, having left the church in my late teens, I unavoidably carry something of that rather powerful emotional legacy, enough to recognize in Donald Trump a man completely alien to it.