Why Do Christians Put Up With Trump? By W. David Montgomery

Share

“How can practicing Christians support a President as immoral as Donald Trump?” The question has become a popular one in certain literary circles, and more important to me it is one that serious friends ask me.

The answer to the question seems quite simple:

Donald Trump offered the hope of making right what was going horribly wrong in our country. Alternative candidates stood for policies that would make things worse, and were beset with deep character flaws of their own.

Candidate Trump was unabashedly pro-life and willing to defend religious freedom. He stood for a stronger national defense after 8 years of appeasement and neglect. He understood and stated clearly that Western Civilization is under attack from Islamic militants. He supported Israel unreservedly and was willing to lead from the front. He saw how excessive taxation and regulation combined to give us the worst recovery from a recession on record.

His brash style was not only attractive to those alienated from mainstream politics, but also provided a deeper resonance that he understood their feelings of being left behind economically, of increasing government intrusion into their lives, of schools that taught children things that parents did not believe and put them at risk to sexual deviants, and of being ridiculed by celebrities, media and his opponent.

I hold that Trump was wrong to promote the myth that immigration and imports kill jobs and hurt Americans, and I have already written enough on that. We can try to convince him on those topics over time.

Turning from policies to words and personal behavior, his denunciations of Hispanics, tasteless remarks about women and sex, and marital infidelities were also negatives for many of us who voted for him. On the other hand, we support his efforts to scrutinize entrants from countries that breed terrorists as prudent policies not evidence of some personal bias against Moslems.

Allegations about Trump’s lack of truthfulness have been rampant but remain unproven. His obvious willingness to exaggerate facts and numbers in support of his own opinions contrasted to Hilary’s memorization of the most minor detail and skill at devious answers, and for that reason was probably as much a successful tactic as a character defect. “It was a feature, not a bug” to quote Microsoft.

Commentators differ on whether this is a reasonable point of view or evidence that conservative Catholics and evangelicals have become homophobic, xenophobic and otherwise deplorable. My conscience is clear in supporting Trump for these reasons.
There are enough positives and negatives in my own assessment that this result was not pre-ordained. Despite efforts to caricature him, President Trump presents a complex picture of sound and unsound policies and personal virtues and vices.

Some might claim that I am myself co-operating with evil by concluding that President Trump’s actions as President on balance advance the common good and violate no moral laws. That is not how my moral education sees it. For this I take guidance from Pacem in Terris by Pope Saint John XXIII, who discussed at length how in this world most leaders do not share the moral framework to which we as Christians adhere. That makes it necessary to work for as much good as possible in public affairs, recognizing that we must as Christians settle for less than perfection and work with the moral infirmities and motivations of those in power. While at all times trying to change their moral framework.

Of primary importance, President Trump’s policies are consistent with moral laws regarding the taking of innocent life, sex and marriage, and freedom of conscience, no matter how his personal life may differ.

His policies on the economy, foreign policy, immigration and healthcare do not directly run up against moral absolutes, and are matters of prudential judgment of how best to accomplish what moral law prescribes.

Applying the tests of adherence to moral laws and practical effect, I conclude that President Trump’s policies contain no grave moral errors, do some practical harm and achieve a great deal of practical good. Far better than I could have expected of anyone else.

But the question about supporting the President, once all this is out in the open, reverts to his personal, allegedly immoral behavior. Put this way, the question suggests that Christians are hypocritical in supporting someone who blatantly violates their moral prescriptions. A writer in the National Review put it that “Christians had good reasons to vote for Trump but that does not mean they had to join his tribe” and goes on to express dismay at religious leaders appearing with, praying with, and complimenting the President.

It is not that Christians are indifferent to sexual immorality. As one theologian put it recently, “The premise of the Sexual Revolution is antisocial, and its effects are socially destructive, as every pope since Leo XIII has shown, including Francis.” This includes sex in any form outside of marriage, pornography, and the entire LGBTQ agenda.

There is no question that we believe that the acts of which Trump is accused are gravely immoral. Ironically, those who are most preoccupied with President’ Trump’s alleged sexual immorality have for the most part been vocal supporters of the sexual revolution and demanded freedom for consenting partners to engage in any kind of genital activity they enjoy. The question is what our faith and moral compass require us to do about it.

Those who question how “conservative Christians” can support Donald Trump seem on the most part to be working with a caricature of Christian moral thought. Many of those who raise the question are Social Justice Warriors who themselves call Trump supporters “vile human beings” and condemn every utterance that might contain a micro-aggression or expression of hostility or condescension to some “marginalized group.” unless they are directed at someone who voted for Trump. They seem to expect Christians to behave in a similar way, by judging, denouncing and ostracizing any public figure who violates the Sixth Commandment.

That is an ignorant and biased picture of Christian morality and even more offensive than their hypocrisy about sexual license. There are at least three admonitions that prevent us from condemning others as sinners. They also apply to other personal vices that do not have consequences of public concern.

First, “judge not that you be not judged.” In the parable of the adulterous woman, Christ shamed their accusers with the challenge “he among you is guiltless, should cast the first stone.” The point is that we firmly believe that many matters are between a man, his spouse, his priest and his Maker, and that we should mind our own business unless directly affected.

Second, “God’s ways are not the ways of men.” David had Bathsheba, yet is still honored as the greatest of the Kings of Israel and the ancestor of Our Incarnate Lord. Trump never sent one of his future wives husbands out to certain death in battle so that he could marry her. More broadly, God does not necessarily select saints to carry out his plan for the good of his people – as the sexual infidelities of honored Presidents like Kennedy, Eisenhower, and FDR and leaders like Martin Luther King attest.

Third, the whole point is that “We are all sinners.” I am far from perfect, and I cannot expect more of anyone else. Some are more virtuous than others, but that rarely seems to include successful politicians. One of the most infuriating misconceptions is that Christians see themselves as perfect and judge the morals of everyone they encounter. No doubt some do, but they violate the explicit command of the Head of our church. We know that President Trump has not been accused of anything we have not been tempted to do.

So lets get over the hypocrisy bit. Church attendance is not virtue signaling.
We do not go to services to show off how perfect we are, we go because we are sinners seeking to do better. More precisely, since Jesus walked the earth we have been enjoined to do the latter and not the former.

Thus I feel no moral obligation to condemn or defend the President for carnal sins.

I am instead convinced that we who voted for Trump did so for valid and urgent reasons, that as President he has done a remarkable job in delivering what we hoped for, and that our concerns and Trump’s policies are consistent with Christian morality and social ethics.

His personal failings, and likewise mine, will be judged by a Higher Authority than even The Atlantic magazine.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy.  He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America,   David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

*

Letters to Editor

  1. Deirdre LaMotte says:

    Please. The only reason these “Christians” support this person occupying the WH is a bargain they made. Truly, a bargain with the devil:
    Pack the courts with young conservative judges . These arrogant Trump evangelicals world view is white-male centered.
    And, as no one would ever self-identify as a racist, voting one into the presidency is an act of racism. Christian? Never.

  2. This very long epistle seems to strike a balance not often shared in Chestertown. It seems to be a very fair assessment of Donald Trump’s unorthodox presidency. I firmly believe his heart is in the right place as a president and patriotic American.
    As he once said what do you have to lose? It couldn’t possibly have gotten worse.

  3. Michael H C McDowell says:

    This is starkly unpersuasive and Mr. Montgomery and many of those who call themselves evangelicals show massive hypocrisy in not only voting for Trump but continuing to support him and justifying his worst comments. The most egregious of these so-called Christian pastors (and I am happy to call myself a Christian) are political operators with a personal agenda of exclusive benefits for them and their supporters.

    Mr. Montgomery writes that “Trump was unabashedly pro-life.” Yes, he was when he ran for president but he was pro choice before, as the record of this cynical opportunist clearly shows. What are Trump’s “values”? Well, material wealth (greed?), aggressive bullying of others, name calling, cruelty (such as against Republican Senator and war hero, John McCain), serial and proven lying, serial sexual aggression against women, anti-immigrant demonizing (suggesting so many of them are rapists or killers when it is US citizens who have the record!), racism (a record of housing discrimination against African Americans, and worse), attacks on Muslims as dangerous “others” while ranting about “religious freedom”, disgust with “losers” (he has no interest in the least among us), multiple bankruptcies, stiffing of workers on his projects, a con artist’s ability, etc.

    The indictment list goes on and these holier-than-thou justifiers ignore the low character of thrice-married Trump and the latest disgusting episode over hush money to shut up a porn star on election eve. It beggars belief. Mr. Montgomery offers this Faustian trio of justifications : “Judge not, lest you be judged” — does Mr. Trump abide by this? Hardly. “God’s ways are not the ways of man.” Indeed, but Mr. Trump ignores the teachings of the Son of Man; and finally, the truly pathetic excuse, “We are all sinners,” the lowest common denominator of morality. What would Jesus say of Mr. Trump? I don’t believe for a moment he would support the tawdry apologia of Mr. Montgomery.

    Jesus emphasized LOVE. Trump? He loves to peddle hate and division; shame on his enablers who offer such enthusiastic political cover. But decency will triumph as the months go on. My faith persuades me of that.

  4. Jamie Kirkpatrick says:

    Esse quam videri: you of all people, Mr. Montgomery, should know that Mr. Trump is all about seeming, not being.

  5. Tom Steele says:

    I must have missed the Bible passage that says “let he who has not raw-dogged a porn star shortly after the birth of his fifth child by his third wife cast the first stone”.

  6. Lolli Sherry says:

    Mr Montgomery, described here as ” internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy” (his words I presume), does not touch on climate change and the decimation of the EPA in this screed, preferring to stick to religious and moral support for Mr Trump. For his dubious views on the subject just Google him, or see http://www.foxnews.com/person/d/w-david-montgomery.html# and https://skepticalscience.com/skeptic_David_Montgomery.htm

  7. Keith Thompson says:

    Editor,

    If Christian values were the litmus test for choosing a president, Darrell Castle or perhaps Evan McMullen would have been the proper choices but they weren’t on the ballot in most states perhaps proving that Christian values are now largely irrelevant in selecting a President.

    Also, if personal character and integrity was a primary factor in choosing a President, voters should have rejected both Trump and Hillary and cast their ballots for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein but only about 5% of voters did so.

    Perhaps the better (and tougher) question to ask is why is choosing the lesser of two evils now apparently the new American political standard?

  8. Kelly Clover says:

    I am more alienated than ever from American Christianity. Christianity has a lot more credibility when pastors stay completely out of partisan politics and tell us we should always reject leaders who have horrible morals regardless of their political affiliations and regardless of what they promise to do for the Christian community. The blatant hypocrisy of most American Christian pastors where they hold the president to completely different standards based on party affiliation or based on what he says he will do specifically for the Christian community is appalling. MORAL CHARACTER MATTERS!!!! America is not going to survive in the world if we don’t reject leaders who have deplorable morals!

Write a Letter to the Editor on this Article

We encourage readers to offer their point of view on this article by submitting the following form. Editing is sometimes necessary and is done at the discretion of the editorial staff.