Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I saw Sisyphus this morning,
on the main drag.
He was dressed in shabby sweats,
and an army jacket,
muttering to himself,
as he pushed his precariously laden shopping cart,
up the hill;
trapped in an endless cycle.


Monday, August 01, 2016

A Response to Wayne Grudem's "Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice"

Several of my more conservative Christian Facebook friends have recently posted an essay by theologian Wayne Grudem entitled Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice.

I've read some of Grudem's other work and this isn't the first time I've found his arguments to be unconvincing. I wrote the following as a comment in a friend's post of Grudem's essay but have decided to edit it a bit and put it up as a stand-alone post.

Grudem's piece is rather long and this is not a point-by-point rebuttal. Rather, I want to focus on a key concession that Grudem makes early on in his essay:

Grudem says of Trump, "He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him. He has been slow to disown and rebuke the wrongful words and actions of some angry fringe supporters. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages. These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election."

I would suggest that those are more than mere "flaws." At very least I would consider them to be deep-seated character flaws; the type that ought to disqualify a person from a leadership position of such magnitude. A number of psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals have analyzed Trump (thanks to a plethora of video documentation of Trump talking about himself) and the most commonly employed description is Narcissist. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is far more profound than a mere "flaw."

I couldn't help but contrast Grudem's depiction of Trump with this statement in 2 Timothy 3: "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people."

Without getting bogged down on the eschatological angle, the author of 2nd Timothy (assumedly Paul) makes clear that Christians ought to avoid (rather than endorse) people who display these types of character traits.

I'm not particularly worried about Trump being elected President. I'm relatively certain that it won't happen. But what does concern me to a much greater degree is the damage that Evangelicals have done to their (and the Gospel's) credibility by backing Trump. The culture at large sees the contrast between what conservative Christians seem to consider important and what Jesus seemed to consider important. I'm reminded of when Gandhi was purportedly asked by Stanley Jones how to help Evangelical Christianity take root in India and he responded "I would suggest first of all that all of you Christians, missionaries and all, begin to live more like Jesus Christ." I think conservative Christian's endorsement of Trump will only accelerate the existing trend of Evangelical diminishment and marginalization in American culture.

Setting personality and character aside, Grudem believes that "most of the policies [Trump] supports are those that will do the most good for the nation." That's a valid point. However, those aren't Trump's policies per se (Trump tends to be rather ambiguous when it comes to policy specifics)--those are Republican policies. If Grudem believes that Republican policies will do the most good for the nation he ought to be concerned that putting them behind the persona of Trump--whom a great many Republican policy-makers have distanced themselves from or outright rejected--is going to bring discredit and disfavor to those policies. I think conservatives, and Republicans in general, would do greater service to their agenda by differentiating from Trump as much as possible, as many already have.

In the remainder of his essay, Grudem prefaces nearly every one of his points by saying "Trump has promised..." or "Trump has pledged..." Given the behavioral and character "flaws" of Trump that Grudem delineated early on in his essay, combined with Trump's well-documented history of reneging on promises (multiple bankruptcies, multiple marriages as well as marital infidelities, refusing to pay small businesses who have done work for him, Trump University's many dissatisfied customers, etc.) and Trump's unabashed proclivity for bald-faced "pants-on-fire" lies, it is surprising that Grudem places so much faith in Trump's pledges and promises.

Grudem makes the point that "Christians today have a[n] . . . obligation to vote in such a way that will 'seek the welfare' of the United States." But this imperative can be applied to Christians who are Democrats or Independents (of which I am one) just as easily as Republicans. I watched the Democratic National Convention, as well as the Republican National Convention, and I must say that the DNC was a very religious affair--more so, I would suggest, then the RNC. What was powerfully presented at the Democratic convention was a Christianity that seeks the welfare of the widow and orphan and alien and poor and marginalized; a Christianity of reconciliation; a Christianity of inclusion rather than exclusion. It resonated with themes from Isaiah and Amos and the Sermon on the Mount. 

Here is an example of what I mean: