Is it My Beliefs about Jesus or Donald Trump that Make Me Christian?

November is coming and someone is going to lose.

We need to act now to prevent Christians from losing more than many imagine is at stake.

There is a real risk associated with this election that has nothing to do with which individual wins. There’s the potential that the vitriol and loaded rhetoric between believers during this season will damage the witness of the American church for years to come.

Presidencies come and go. They’re not inconsequential but they are transient, temporary, part of the story we’ll tell of this world.

The battle for souls is a war with eternal ramifications. Our unity in Christ is integral to our witness so it’s never been more important for us to stay aware of Satan’s schemes and maintain a godly perspective on the next few weeks.

First, are we hearing one another? To love is to listen.

We serve a God who distinguishes Himself from idols because He speaks, hears, and acts. James 1:19 ESV says “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” James was inspired to write these words during times of political upheaval, religious contention, and social unrest. God means it now, too.

The evidence is that we’re not even trying to listen but simply vying to be heard.

Here’s what we may be missing:

Believers who are voting for President Trump range from those who are completely sold on him as a person to those who can’t tolerate him, but still believe in the ideas and policies of the Republican party.

They fear that under the Democrats, our religious freedom will erode more than it already has, that the voices of the unborn will be ignored in even greater numbers, and that Israel will lose the powerful support of the United States. These Christians believe that disorder and lawlessness are not in line with God’s teaching. They believe in racial equality and reconciliation but trust that it comes through peaceful means and through economic freedom.

Some believe that the secular media is so corrupt, that stories about President Trump aren’t presented with any fairness, so they dismiss the worst reports. Others believe the stories and are even distraught at the thought of supporting his behavior with their vote but believe the lives of the unborn and freedom of religion outweigh what others may think of them.

Many believe he has a sincere faith in Christ and, though imperfect, deserves the same benefit of the doubt they would want for themselves. Some think him a poser, but the actions he’s taken and the ideas he represents speak to their understanding of our faith.

(At least, this is what I’m hearing. What do you hear when you listen to those who have made a clear choice for President Trump?)

Believers who are voting against President Trump range from those who cannot imagine a Christian voting someone into leadership who acts and behaves as this man, especially as he tries to represent himself as a Christian, to those who view the positions of the Republican party as the antithesis of our faith.

They emphasize the Sermon on the Mount, the biblical teachings to care for the poor and the stranger, and the centrality of loving our neighbor to the gospel. They see Joe Biden and Democratic policies as in line with this teaching. Many of these believers also believe that the Trump presidency has fueled racial tensions and emboldened those heretics who would defend their racism as a form of Christianity. They are passionate about repentance for our country’s past sins regarding treatment of people of color and know that racial unity is representative of the church. They believe the Democrats reflect this unity better than the Republicans.

Many of these believers are also aware of their own candidate’s weaknesses, of the pandering that has occurred to curry the evangelical vote, and the risks of socialism, but feel our current president and his relationship with some evangelicals is so contrary to the life of Christ, they believe it worth the risk of voting for a different, imperfect candidate.

(At least, this is what I’m hearing. What do you hear when you listen to those who have made a clear choice for Joe Biden?)

Then, there are voters who are simply at a loss. They don’t believe either party or candidate fully represents the values of our faith (although, they also don’t expect to find that full reflection in secular politics.) They are saddened at the quality of our choices, downhearted at the name-calling across the aisle, and frustrated at whatever November holds.

They don’t feel they’re “middle-of-the-road” people, just people awakening to the realization that whichever party wins, they aren’t likely to find an authentic friend of the faith in power. Some believe this is a sign that we are nearing the end times. Others believe this is no more the end than WWI was the end, but they worry that America will “lose its blessing” from God. They have strong fears for the generations coming behind us.

Some will refuse to vote. Others will pray, then flip a coin. Still others will choose the “lesser of two evils” as they stand at their polling place and ask God to protect us from the results. These are often individuals who aren’t talking. It’s harder to hear them but we can actually learn a lot from their silence.

(At least, this is what I hear from their silence. What are you hearing from the undecideds and Independents?)

And then, then there are our pastors. There are clergy who feel a clear leading for one party or the other and they are making themselves heard, teaching without apology, and advocating for what they will say is biblical and clear from their times of prayer (may God lead them into all wisdom and grant mercy to those who are teaching without clearly hearing from Him).

But other ministers refuse to lead to one or the other choice. They look out on congregations comprised of people from both parties and know that come November, they will continue to minister to both. These pastors aren’t milquetoast or wishy-washy (although, there may be some cowards in that mix and if they’ve chosen cowardice, may God lead them into repentance), but they aren’t willing to place politics over the possibility of leading someone to Christ or discipling a new believer or ministering to an old one. May their congregations show them compassion and commitment rather than criticism.

I believe it’s vital for the church to look to the call of the gospel first and our responsibility to our nation, second. We can humbly hold fervent, passionate, reasoned political views based on our understanding of biblical teaching and act on those in all the ways we’re called to act but we cannot, must not, fall into the grievous sin of tearing down our brothers and sisters in Christ through prideful judgement or public accusation. A person is not a Christian because of how she votes or even how she acts, but because he or she has confessed that the work of Jesus Christ on the cross paid for his or her sins.

Yes, there is a false church, but not every believer who disagrees with your political perspective proves him or herself apostate by their stance. It is our view of Jesus, not our view of Donald Trump, that places us in the family of Christ.

If we lose this perspective, we will lose much more than just a presidential election.

So, I believe, our first step toward keeping first things first is to listen to one another. To seek to understand more than to be understood. To weigh the transience of a presidency against the eternal fate of individual souls and ask ourselves if our voices are contributing to the former or the latter.

What do you think? Next step, next post.

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17 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Jan Clough says:

    Wise words indeed Lori and l for one do not envy the people of America as they prepare for the election in November.
    Be assured of the prayers of your brothers and sisters in the UK as you seek Gods guidance and wisdom.

  2. Carolyn Reed says:

    Lori it is my belief in Jesus that makes me His follower. But I truly believe that if the Democrats win, there WILL be persecution of the church and more importantly a push to normalize sexual deviancy. There will be more crimes against children if they win. They are not even trying to hide it. California is trying to pass more and more legislation that goes against what God said about making us male and female. The BLM group on its about page will be pushing the same agenda. Pedophiles are rebranding themselves as MAPS (minor attracted persons). Democrats have lied and twisted what Trump has said for nearly 4 years. Many of them go ballistic and hate on anyone who disagrees with them. Mainstream media tells out right lies or twists very thing he says. The few people I know who are Democrats believe every thing the leftist media says. They believe Fox is fake news. Trump is not perfect, but I believe he is more FOR America and the middle class than anyone in recent history. I can’t judge the man’s faith, but I do believe he will fight for my right to be open about mine.

  3. Wen L says:

    My belief about this election is based on what God has put into my heart. I cannot see a “church destroyer following” behind President Trump, there are no destroyers of our buildings, lives, harming of innocent people after a peaceful gathering and most of all the supporting of innocent babies deaths as the new norm. There was only one perfect man, and that was my Jesus. I also am not voting for the name of a man, but what I have seen President Trump do under horrible conditions. He has done so much for our military and Israel. Has anyone bothered to look at all he has done in the last 3.5 years? He is running against a man who is ill in the mind. Bottom line, the Democrat party is now communist. I will not support another “Hitler”. God directs my vote. My bottom line, if you vote for the dedtruction of God’s word in America, you are NOT a Christian.

  4. Dear Jan Clough! We dearly need and appreciate those prayers, my friend!

  5. Carolyn, you express firm views similar to others I’ve heard from those supporting trump and articulated your fears well. In echo your concerns that our society as a whole is moving in a dangerous cultural direction regarding sexuality but I also understand why everyone is struggling to trust news reports from any main stream source. There is evidence of deception on both sides of the election (not necessarily from individual candidates but clearly one “check the facts” report follows another with both parties. May I encourage you to embed your fears now in the truth of Christ who will remain active with us on the other side of the election no matter the outcome. ““So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10” I am confident you believe this truth, as do I, and we must learn now not to let fear influence our decisions but to remain steadfast in the confidence and courage of Christ.

  6. Wen, I hear your frustration at people not being able to separate the accomplishments from the man and your clear passion for the unborn (which we all share.). As to the salvation of individuals, I don’t believe this election is the test of that. You hold scripture as the authority as I do so I refer you to Romans 10: “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

    This is the measure of salvation – not our support of one party or another. Not to say there isn’t a “right” party, but we must tread carefully on judging the state of person’s soul, for that is Christ’s alone.

    Furthermore, James, who wrote during times of great persecution of the church, great fear, great oppression, said this, “11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.[d] The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4.

    And Galatians 6:1 speaks to gentleness in correcting our brothers and sisters: “Brothers,[a] if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

    I agree that to “vote for the destruction of God’s Word in America” would be wrong and not evidence of a relationship with Jesus. But brothers and sisters who are voting Democrat likely don’t see the connection.

    Defend your beliefs with passion, with God’s Word, and with devotion, but tread carefully in condemning other believers. We have an accuser who is at work full-time and we are wise not to help him along with his business. Instead, we must approach those (in the church) who differ with us with gentleness, love, honest debate, and yet humility.

  7. Kim says:

    Such a good post. In this world of us vs. them and depending on who you listen to, President Trump is either a demon or a savior. He is a flawed human being (just as is everyone else in the world). I think we need to vote for policies rather than people. I also believe that it’s wrong to question someone’s faith based on who they vote for. I know fine Christians from every political bent.

  8. Michael says:

    Lori you pose the question in a way that is a “double bind,” similar to, “did you beat your wife today? If I say no it implies that I could have beat her yesterday. If I say yes then I’m admitting that I beat her. I’m not sure if you are telling me something or asking me about something in this question. I think that my belief in Christ informs my political decisions. I understand the Gospel to be pro-life because Jesus said “I have come so that you might have life in abundance” John 10:10. I believe He was including babies in the womb. Protecting the unborn secures our future as a country and rings the bell of hope that Christ’s new creation is being birthed in each generation. If we can’t figure that out then no-ones life is safe. The fabric of society is knit together in the love of Jesus. I’m an ardent Trump supporter because He stands with me in protecting and upholding the dignity of life.

  9. Michael, there’s no “trick” question here so I’m not clear where the wife-beating analogy applies. I am unapologetically pro-life so I clearly believe it’s fine to have firm, biblically based opinions on specific issues but I’m not a Christian because I’m pro-life. I’m a Christian because of Jesus. Jesus was able to listen to and hear others without compromising truth. I believe we can, too. I’m very straightforward in this post – we’re called to listen, are we doing it? There is one thing that makes us believers, and it’s not our political opinions. Of course our faith influences our political opinions. Our faith in Christ influences everything, and it should.

  10. Heidi Chiavaroli says:

    Lori, thank you so much for this post. I value your wisdom and insight in seeing the big picture of politics through the lens of the gospel. Thank you, my friend!

  11. Karen Porter says:

    Hi LOri,

    Our differing opinions must never make us hate each other — not other believers nor those who are non believers. That one emotion, hate, seems to flare up most when these discussions happen. And hate is only perpetuated by the enemy of our souls. Our enemy has no new tools or techniques: He introduces hate and anger and deception…the same tools he tried at the beginning of time. And his Two biggest issues are 1) life of babies (children sacrificed in ancient times and abortion in our time) and 2) sexual issues. He has nothing new.

    Thanks for this provocative and thoughtful blog…may we all listen to each other and then follow Christ. He will guide our minds when we vote.

    Blessings to you Lori
    Karen

    • The enemy is boring as dirt – no creative powers so he continues to dredge up the same old tactics. Sadly, many of us keep falling for them but thank God for His wisdom and His church. Blessings to you, too, Karen!

  12. Michele says:

    Lori, I agree that Christ comes first and we are to love, but we are to vote with a biblical perspective and President Trump honors and defends what Jesus honors and defends. To stay silent is wrong. We are to hate evil according to the Bible. We are in the state we are in because Christians have failed to speak out, to vote, to know what the word says and DO something. This election matters to God and appeasing opinions and inaction by saying we just need to love one another and remember Jesus …is wrong on many levels. We are His hands and feet and when we know the word we put it in action and vote to defend it. We vote for life, against pedophiles, against socialism and Marxism. The American church needs to wake up.

  13. Michele, the tone of your comment sounds as if you think I’m in disagreement with some of what you’ve written but I can’t imagine why you think so. I agree that to stay silent about biblical truth is wrong and am so committed to that notion I wrote an entire book about how to have hard conversations. I completely agree that we are to vote, to act, to speak, and to DO based on a firm understanding of biblical truth and to defend our views based on Scripture. I am for life, against pedophiles, Marxism, and socialism. I do believe Jesus takes preeminence. I do believe we are called to love. If you believe my call to listen to brother and sisters who disagree is a call to silence, you’re wrong. If you believe we aren’t called to listen, I refer you to James 1:19-20. For pastors who are silent regarding their political choice, I trust they are living out their choice through the act of voting but also would not want to lose someone from the kingdom because of their pastor’s political views. The truth is, it’s very hard to understand what love looks like during this time and really, we should have been loving better up until now but we CAN turn to scripture for instruction and to the Holy Spirit for guidance about what love looks like during this tension.

  14. Michael says:

    My point is that conflating two different things is also setting up a straw man argument. I’m not a Christian because I am pro-life(straw man, I never wrote that) but because Jesus is pro-life in teaching and morality. If the democrat party(in their platform) rejects protecting the life of God’s gift of the new creation, Whose life is safe? Who has a right to life? The state decides and then who becomes the giver and taker of life? The state takes God’s place. The Democrat worldview is opposed to many of the rights that the Constitution protects. Freedom of worship, right of free speech, right to self-protection and private property (Black Lives Matter Manifesto) This election is not about Donald Trump. It is a clash of worldviews that extends from the smallest town to cities and states too. President Trump supports the Christian worldview and the Republican party is the best and only choice we have.

    • You’re making my argument. You articulate your understanding of the issues based on your relationship with Jesus beautifully. I didn’t repeat my entire book on Hard Conversations in this single blog post, but I teach there and do believe that part of loving our brothers and sisters is speaking truth to them. It is certainly vital for people who have a position based on biblical teaching to articulate that clearly, calmly, and with reasoned-informed passion. If you say it’s hard for you to understand how another Christian could subscribe to the opposing worldview but you’d be willing to hear them out, discuss your views without condemnation, and pray together for understanding, you and I have no issue. Those who differ may be a) immature in their faith, b) under a misunderstanding regarding biblical teaching, c) operating out of emotion or fear or the influence of others, d) actually deceived by heretical teaching, e) have a low view of Scripture, f) wolves in sheep’s clothing, g) able to see something you cannot see and correct you in an area of error, h) or in fact, Christian in name only. By engaging in loving, truth-laden dialog, you may have an influence not only on their politics but on their understanding of Scripture, their understanding of those with an opposing view, their appreciation of the Bible, and/or even their salvation. By condemning before we listen and converse, we risk crushing rather than correcting. There are, in fact, wolves among the flock, but we must be wise and persistent at caring for fellow sheep and setting boundaries around the wolves.