Saturday, August 20, 2016

There Is No Christian Case for Trump: A Response to Jerry Falwell Jr.

Oh boy, oh boy. My bete noir (to the extent that I am allowed one in my very humble little slice of the internet's blogosphere), Liberty University chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr., whom I have taken to task here multiple times in the past, just came out with one doozy of a column in the Washington Post explaining why he has endorsed one Donald J. Trump for El Presidente.

I'm used to debating line-by-line from my days as a high school and college debater, so let's break down this smorgasbord of AmeriChristian claptrap down into bite-sized pieces, shall we? Italics are Falwell's words, regular font represents my responses. I promise I have not edited Falwell's words in any way, and have quoted entire thoughts to avoid any removal of context of individual words (but, hey, please check my work if you want--I link to the original column above).

We have lived through nearly eight years of weak leadership from a president who did not sign the charter to create the Islamic State but whose policies had the intended or unintended effect (we will be debating that for decades) of breathing life into the lungs of the terrorist group. President Obama and Hillary Clinton most definitely signaled to Islamic State leaders that they had no intention of seriously challenging them, or even of calling radical Islamic terrorism by its name. Instead, Obama and Clinton pulled our troops out of Iraq, drew and then quickly erased a red line in Syria and tried to convince us that unverifiable pinpoint drone strikes (after leaflet warnings) would win the war against the Islamic State.

We will ignore for a moment the immutable fact that the withdrawal of troops from Iraq was per an agreement that George W. Bush signed as president, and that President Obama simply executed, as well as the fact that in Syria, the war against the Islamic State is being fought by someone just as diabolical: Bashar al-Assad, a feckless strongman more than happy to use weapons of mass destruction against his own citizens.

Set all of those facts aside for a moment. Donald Trump's plan, to the extent that he has prominently articulated one, to address the Islamic State is to bring back torture and to target family members for assassination. His plan is to order US personnel to commit war crimes.

So, Jerry Jr., WWJD? What Would Jesus Do?

I'm willing to bet that the Prince of Peace would eschew committing war crimes. Call it a hunch, it's not like I have any real education in this or anything.

The policies of Obama and Clinton have made the world unstable and unsafe and created a world stage eerily similar to that of the late 1930s. We could be on the precipice of international conflict like nothing we have seen since World War II. Obama and Clinton are the Neville Chamberlains of our time.

It may feel like the late 1930s to you, but you're operating like it's the early 1930s, since you're actually actively trying to get America to elect a candidate who has espoused such Nuremburg-esque ideas like banning an entire religion from the country and using police resources to harass its adherents. Only instead of Adolf Hitler and German Jews, it's Donald Trump and American Muslims. I get it, though, you say "potato."

Domestically, Obama and Clinton have pushed to $19 trillion the debt that our children and grandchildren will somehow have to find a way to repay.

I'm just going to leave this graphic here, which the fact-checking site rated as "mostly true." You get to reading it at your convenience.

Even our noble law enforcement has been demonized by the Obama administration, and anarchy is erupting in our cities.

You mean demonized like...this? Sure, if you say so.

I chose to personally support Donald Trump for president early on and referred to him as America’s blue-collar billionaire at the Republican National Convention because of his love for ordinary Americans and his kindness, generosity and bold leadership qualities.

And I quote Jon Stewart on "blue-collar billionaire:" That's. Not. A. Thing.

And I quote Jesus on the billionaires of His day: “I assure you that it will be very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, it’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.”

That's from Matthew 19. And it's not even remotely the only condemnatory thing Jesus has to say about wealth and its hoarders.

Also, Trump's generosity, really? This is a guy who used Trump Foundation funds to buy a Tim Tebow helmet for himself. This is a guy who had to be shamed into fulfilling a public promise to give $1 million to veteran causes. This is a guy who is doing something unprecedented in modern presidential politics and refusing to release his tax returns, in part, because it's likely that it will reveal just how little--if any--he does in fact give to charity.

So when you talk about Trump's generosity, I don't know what you're referring to. I suspect neither do an awful lot of other Christians.

We need a leader with qualities that resemble those of Winston Churchill, and I believe that leader is Donald Trump. As Churchill did, Trump possesses the resolve to put his country first and to never give up in a world that is increasingly hostile to our values.

Oh sweet wounded Jesus, where do I begin with this. Churchill may have famously said that democracy is the worst system of government except for all the others (I'm paraphrasing), but he was as anti-fascist as they come, so much so that at one point, he even remarked, "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons." Trump, on the other hand, openly praises strongmen like Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein, and has been endorsed by North Korean tyrant Kim Jong-Un.

Churchill was genuinely heroic, and though far from a perfect leader--his attitude towards, say, India especially was particularly unenlightened--he is almost certainly spinning in his grave over his name now being associated with a racist, orange-hued gasbag by a chancellor of a university that teaches fake science to its students.

Despite our differences, Americans from all walks of life must unite behind Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence or suffer dire consequences. If Clinton appoints the next few Supreme Court justices, not only will the Second Amendment right to bear arms be effectively lost, but also activist judges will rewrite our Constitution in ways that would make it unrecognizable to our founders.

First, to borrow from Deborah Fikes in the New York Times, what is this Christian obsession with the right to bear arms? "Our evangelical brothers and sisters cannot comprehend that American evangelicals are so overwhelmingly opposed to any gun control reform."

And, to borrow again from Jesus, this time from Matthew 26:52: "Put the sword back in its place. All who use the sword will die by the sword."

If you want to campaign for your right to bear arms, cool, it's a free country. But please don't pretend that campaigning for this right has anything to do with Jesus. It doesn't. I'm fairly certain, in fact, based on the above verse--which He said precisely to prevent His disciples from engaging in self-defense against a tyrannical government (the temple leadership that collaborated with the occupying Roman Empire) that He would be appalled at such an association.

(This, by the by, is on top of what I have to imagine is the antipathy to which a Jesus who repeatedly stood on the side of the poor and the outcast would feel towards a campaign that has repeatedly gotten in trouble over anti-Semitic advisers and tweets. Each and every time, the Trump campaign claims it's not anti-Semitic, but if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck...)

And really, that might be the biggest takeaway from this takedown: that there is no Christian case to make for Trump, even though it is a very prominent Christian leader who penned that column to which I have spent the last however-many words responding. Jerry Falwell Jr. is a Christian leader. He is the chancellor of the largest Christian university in the country. His very surname is synonymous with evangelicalism and has been for decades.

And not one jot of what he has to say has a lick to do with making the case for Trump from any semblance of a Christian perspective. It could just as easily have been written by a hardened atheist, with none of the words changed, and nobody would have batted an eye.

Because there isn't any case to make for Trump from a Christian perspective. Jesus Christ was humble, selfless, and a champion of the outcast. Trump is none of these things. He never was. He still isn't. He could be, one day, if by a miracle he had a Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment and was overwhelmed by the grace and glory of God and decided then and there to dedicate himself to genuine Christian living, not to treating Christianity as something to be exploited, to be given promises of power in exchange for its blessing.

But that hasn't happened yet. And until it does--and if it doesn't ever--then I strongly suspect that Jerry Falwell Jr. and Christian leaders who are acting like him right now, will be confronted by an extraordinarily disappointed God at judgment, who will demand an explanation from them as to why they chose to do the fervently un-Christlike thing in endorsing a race-baiting, xenophobic, vulgar, sexist, womanizing bigot for president of the most powerful country on God's creation.

Vancouver, Washington
August 20, 2016

Presidential debt graphic courtesy of, cartoon courtesy of