When pragmatic support becomes passionate

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Luke Schlake

It was a fantastic turnout. On my way from Cincinnati to Louisville yesterday, I witnessed nearly 100 cars, complete with billowing MAGA flags and political decals, streaming down the highway in a show of support for President Trump. It was an impressive feat of coordination and an ingenious way to campaign for one’s candidate.

But this highway rally, so brazen in display, saddened me, because I knew many of the participants were Jesus-following Christians. On that same drive, I passed a house proudly displaying the Christian flag and the Trump flag side-by-side on the front porch. 

Being a Christian is not irreconcilable with supporting Trump; the vote of reluctance and pragmatism in the face of poor alternatives is how many Christians reasonably justify their support. As evangelical leader and apologist Frank Turek put it, “Demeanor is not the main reason I’m voting for somebody to be president…I’m going to have to go with the least-worst choice, and in this case, that appears to be Trump.” If you are a Christian more concerned with policy than persona, a vote for President Trump may be rational. 

But if your vote is reluctant, let your pride in Trump be so also. We can admit that Donald Trump is no paragon of Christian virtue. Think of the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I doubt a full recounting of his ethical escapades are necessary to prove that these words don’t describe the president. 

You may respond, however, that “God can use sinful people to accomplish his will.” And this is true! The Bible is chock-full of examples. But wary support for a candidate out of necessity is one thing; manifest pride in them is another altogether. If we hang both the Christian flag and the Trump flag from our front porch, how will we stop the world from conflating them? How will it be communicated that Trump is just a pragmatic choice and Jesus a heavenly one?

Think back to 2016: everyone lamented the fact that they had to choose between the “least of two evils.” Many Republicans would have preferred candidates of higher moral fiber. Mitt Romney, a religious man, was the standard bearer of the Republican party just eight years ago; now, he’s the black sheep of the party. What’s changed? Have the past four years blurred the line between reluctant, resigned support and enthusiastic, approving support? In the seductive fervor of elections, did we mistake our pragmatic policy positions for stances on ethics and good leadership? 

I understand the sense of obligation felt by so many (and by many of my closest friends and family) to vote for Trump, whether or not he’d be their ideal choice. If you are a pro-life voter, you may feel you don’t have much of an option. If you are opposed to the idea of a public healthcare option, a vote for Joe clearly isn’t on the table. But when you vote in the coming days (and endure the ballot counting), remember that unabashed pride is not a policy stance; it is an ethical stance. It is a statement about what type of person, not just policy, we support.  

Jesus surely ate with sinners, but he didn’t campaign for them.