With Donald Trump now set to be the GOP nominee thanks to Indiana, there’s a good piece waiting on the extinct “NeverTrump” movement's Christian wing, which spurns him over attitudes toward ethnic and religious minorities, personal life, vulgarity, and other matters.
There have been four basic strategies among those who believe Trump violates Christian moral standards. (1) Suffer in silence. (2) Speak out individually, hoping to influence others. (3) Organize a group declaration. (4) Seize this chance to bash Republicans and conservatives.
An early example of option No. 2 was the efforts by the Rev. Russell Moore, the social-issues spokesman for the nation’s largest Protestant body, the Southern Baptist Convention. He moved to the forefront Sept. 17, excoriating the billionaire as “decadent and deviant” in a sharp New York Times op-ed.
In a recent piece at Slate.com, Ruth Graham (no relation to Billy’s evangelical clan) ran down the anti-Trump fulminations by Moore, seminary President Albert Mohler and other Southern Baptists. She noted that Moore peeved some pastors (on that see the Religion Guy’s Feb. 9 Memo). In the clergy name-dropping, she noted, Trump can cite enthusiasm from Jerry Falwell Jr. and Robert Jeffress. However, World magazine’s latest survey among 81 “evangelical leaders and influencers” found 76 percent favored Ted Cruz vs. 5.1 percent for Trump.
Two examples of option No. 3: Early last December several colleagues at the Presbyterian Church (USA) seminary in Georgia decided to write “An Appeal to Christians in the United States.” Endorsers, largely Protestant, included former Fuller Theological Seminary President Richard Mouw, President Jul Medenblik of Calvin Theological Seminary and retired United Methodist Bishop Will Willimon. This text avoided mention of Trump, the obvious target, as it assailed unnamed politicians who “exploit fear and pride,” “slander our neighbors and blaspheme against the one God of all peoples” and demonize “the refugee and immigrant.” Posted by the Journal for Preachers quarterly, the petition drew thousands of online endorsers by word of mouth, but the public splash didn’t occur until April and an ad in Christianity Today.
Too little, too late. And the same with a second anti-Trump broadside, “Appeal to Our Fellow Catholics,” posted online March 7 by National Review magazine. Princeton University savant Robert P. George, papal biographer George Weigel, and 34 other conservative Catholics assailed Trump by name, declaring him ”manifestly unfit to be president” due to “appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice,” “shocking ignorance” and “demagoguery.”
Option No. 4 is seen in “Called to Resist Bigotry -- A Statement of Faithful Obedience,” linked off the Sojourners magazine Website April 28 and then promoted by its editor Jim Wallis on huffingtonpost.com. Since this protest came after Trump’s six-state sweep of the Northeast and just days before Indiana voted, the evident intent was not to affect the Republican primaries but the November election.
The 55 endorsers, mostly Protestants, repeated concerns expressed in those earlier statements but added the partisan contention that “many within the Republican Party have strategically used racial politics for decades.” They accused “Republican leaders” of the “racial resentment and political extremism” that provided fertile ground for Trump’s rise. They do, however, admit that “both our political parties” (without naming the Democrats) “have exploited racial minorities and not kept promises they have made.”
This declaration was endorsed by, among others, the retired chief administrators of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church [disclosure: the Religion Guy is a member of the latter], Christianity Today’s former editor, Armenian Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, former Obama aide Joshua Dubois, the current pastor of the president’s longtime church in Chicago, and General Secretary Jim Winkler of the National Council of Churches (who wanted fellow United Methodist George W. Bush impeached over Iraq when Winkler ran their denomination’s social-issues agency).
Do these assorted leaders consider Trump voters to be sub-Christian? Can no Christians in their right mind possibly vote for Trump in November? Must they go for the Democrat? Third party? Write-in? If so who? Abstain and vote only for down-ballot races? And why did these religious leaders fail to sway many grass roots voters? Time to ask.