A Day Late

A week ago yesterday, the House of Representatives took a historic step. For only the third time in history, the House voted to impeach the chief executive. A majority of the members of the House found enough evidence to support the charges that Donald Trump first abused his power in extorting the government of Ukraine with the ultimate goal of starting an investigation into former Vice President Joseph Biden. The members who voted to impeach believe that there is sufficient evidence to justify the charge that Trump attempted to trade the imprimatur of a visit to the White House and millions of dollars’ worth in aid to Ukraine for an investigation into someone who can be described as a potential political rival. Moreover, the House also filed another charge of obstruction of Congress based on the unwillingness of the White House to provide witnesses and documents for the investigation into Trump’s behavior.[1]

The next day Mark Galli, the outgoing editor-in-chief of Christianity Today (CT), penned an editorial, “Trump Should Be Removed from Office.” The post crashed CT’s website.[2] Galli wrote a fairly even-handed piece, stating that despite an infatuation with impeachment in the Democratic Party from the time of Trump’s inauguration, Trump’s behavior warranted his removal from office. But Galli’s concerns went beyond just the political. Evangelical Christians are the strongest Trump supporters. Galli believes that this unwavering devotion to Trump negatively effects each supporter’s ability to witness for the cause of Christ, the Christian’s ultimate goal. Galli found that the benefits of the Trump administration, whether political, economic or cultural, no longer balanced the scales with Trump’s personal behavior. While I find Galli’s missive about 3 years late and at least $105 million dollars short, I find some elements of Galli’s piece worthy of further examination.

First, Galli’s piece underscores the nuance necessary when discussing the evangelical movement in America. Despite the firestorm of the last week, CT is a solidly evangelical magazine. However, last week was not the first time CT expressed misgivings about Trump’s role as a candidate or how he acted once he achieved the office. CT (including Galli himself) wrote several pieces during the 2016 campaign exploring what it would mean to support Trump and questioning what the effect would be.

Quickly the reaction to Galli’s editorials devolved into sniping among different wings of the evangelical movement. While support for Trump is strong among evangelicals it is not absolute. There are people who claim the title evangelical but do not support this administration or its morally bankrupt policies. We all would do well to remember that as we consider the topic.

Second, Galli is not correct in the very heart of his argument. This may be an overstatement on my part, but I find Galli’s focus on Trump’s character as a qualification for office off-putting. I actually agree with conservative evangelicals that my vote should be based on who I think will do the best job, not the person who is the nicest, or kindest. Galli makes this comment on his way to making the point that CT should be consistent on impeachment, and that they called for President Clinton’s impeachment for possibly perjuring himself attempting to cover-up an affair.[3] Whether Clinton or Trump can remain faithful in their marriage, whether Trump uses his Twitter account properly, or whether Trump actually knows the best words is not determinative to me of whether he can do the job and do it well.[4] Whatever that scale may be, it won’t include personal morality. I believe that a president can be a person that I wouldn’t be friends with and still be effective at the job of being president.

Finally, Galli may be wrong about Trump, personal morality and the presidency, but he is absolutely correct to highlight the effect of Trump support on the life and goals of the Christian. In essence Galli exposes the problem with the evangelical Trump supporters’ entire argument. While it is true and possible to fashion an argument that explains why Trump’s moral failings won’t affect his ability to fulfill the duties of the office, it is harder to explain why his personal moral failings should not besmirch the reputation of the churches and Christians that decide to support such a morally unfit person. Let’s take Trump’s uneasy relationship with honesty for example.[5] The latest figures report that Trump has told a lie or misleading claim over 15,000 times. Someone can certainly argue that it may even be helpful to Trump’s job performance that he is able to lie so brazenly. However, it is way more difficult to explain how a Christian, whose commandments specifically speak against lying, can support someone who lies so often without any sense of conscience. In addition, whatever rationale conservative evangelicals may have, they all sound selfish. As Galli wrote, “None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.”

Support for Trump despite his moral failings is indicative of Christians who have their priorities out of order. The church does not exist to protect its ability to discriminate. It does not exist to use the force of law to cajole people into living by the precepts of a God that they may have not accepted in their hearts. The goal of the church is not to ensure that it continues to receive a tax exemption from the government. The goal of the church has always been exceedingly simple – imbued with the power and authority of Christ, we are to go and make disciples, and teach them the things that Jesus commanded us. That is our mission. To become caught up in anything else is ultimately a distraction, even if that distraction yields a tax cut, two Supreme Court judges, and even religious liberty protections. Mark Galli was right. It is high time for each church and church member to “Remember who you are and whom you serve..”

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[1] While a debate over the particulars of this case is not the goal of this piece, I would be remiss if I did not address the particulars. I think the first charge rests on fairly sure footing – largely because many of the people directly involved have admitted to the elements of the crime in public. However, even if someone were not convinced by the initial charge, I think it is a fairly open and shut case that Trump obstructed the power of Congress to investigate. The White House ignored lawful subpoenas and document requests, something that cannot be allowed if the legislature is to exercise its constitutional check and balance with the Executive Branch.

[2] On a personal note, it took me about 20 minutes from the time I found out about the article to actually read the piece because I could not access the site.

[3] This in my opinion is the great hypocrisy in the Trump argument. So many of the people who argued that character and morality mattered in the late 1990s are now the same people making the argument that Trump’s character and morality are of no consequence.

[4] Now in truth I would argue that Trump has shown he doesn’t know how to use his Twitter properly, and that he does not know/ or needs the best words.

[5] I think this issue is a little easier place to make the argument than other issues that also have a lot of good evidence, like Trump’s racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia.

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Jason Hines is a former attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at AdventHealth University. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at www.TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.

Previous Spectrum columns by Jason Hines can be found at: https://spectrummagazine.org/author/jason-hines

Image Credit: Unsplash.com

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10109
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How about church members but not churches?

The new commandment of Jesus is a one-to-one command, not a one to many command, or worse a many to one. It is the one-to-many engagement that is the distraction it seems.

The perception by denominational leaders that that members are outsourcing their moral testimonies to denominational leaders, is a form of suffocating pneumonia loosed into what used to be termed, the Advent Movement.

It is to Spectrum’s credit that there is no editorial board seeking to promulgate a normalized version of what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist. Reporting and commenting is the path forward, as here.

“Remembering who we are and whom we serve” is lost in the royal we.

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Kudos to CT. It was time (a 15K lies late??)

I never understood (and still don’t) how can Christians support an individual like Trump to be the leader of this great Nation. As if one’s morality were not important in regards to the POTUS (now aka iPOTUS or imPOTUS). What kind of “pass” is this anyway? … :thinking:

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actually what the majority dems found was more egregious: trump abused his power in extorting the government of ukraine with the ultimate goal of announcing an investigation into former vice president joseph biden…

whatever trump pretends, it wasn’t lost on him that one big reason he won in 2016, outside of the russian help he colluded with, was comey’s announcement that he had opened up an investigation into hillary on the virtual eve of the election…trump understands that the announcement of that investigation, apart from its result, was what gave him a critical boost at the right time (one wonders why he wasn’t colluding with zelensky to announce something in october, 2020, assuming biden wins the democratic nomination, which at this points seems a safe bet)…

perhaps we should stay tuned for a barr announcement on october 28, 2020…

i don’t think this captures why evangelicals have looked the other way while supporting trump…as i see it, many evangelicals view themselves as being under siege by what they consider to be an increasingly secular, anti-god society…that is, they see themselves in an existential fight…a few SCOTUS rulings, like roe v. wade, lawrence v. texas (which overturned bowers v. hardwick), and especially obergefell v. hodges, and then miller v. davis, have cemented in their minds that their beliefs are being systematically attacked…and this is depite a plethora of sympathetic rulings, like boy scouts of america v. dale, masterpiece cakeshop v. colorado civil rights commission, and what appear to be favourable pending cases, like our lady of guadalupe school v. morrissey-berru, and st. james school v. biel, given hosanna-tabor v. EEOC…when evangelicals think of SCOTUS, they likely think of the hoopla surrounding the decision to decline the case involving the forced removal of the ten commandments from the front lawn of bloomfield’s city hall, with the result that not only were those ten commandments removed, but bloomfield was sacked with ACLU’s $700,000 legal bill…they don’t think SCOTUS, or any of the courts, is on their side…they believe they have to take their case into their own hands…

evangelicals’ selection of trump, then, is really their bid to play the system against itself for the sake of their larger interest of self-preservation…they believe they have no other choice…but the minute trump caves into pelosi’s dems on abortion, gay rights and religious freedom, which some see as a possibility in a trump second term, they’ll dump him without regrets…their calculation is that they can pick up the pieces of their image after trump has done what they need him to do for them…in all fairness, evangelicals would have had no use for trump had they seen any other way to protect their beliefs, and what they see as their existence…

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For a couple of decades large groups of “Christians” have been supporting
various Political Candidates. Presidential, Congressional, Judges.
Candidates are Human. All humans have their strong side, their weak side.
Just watching the “trial” on the TV for me showed what a farce the impeachment
hearings were. If I was the House, I would also be AFRAID to send the materials
to be judged by the Senate. And for the Senate to Vote YES we agree based on
the House materials.

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“The goal of the church has always been exceedingly simple – imbued with the power and authority of Christ, we are to go and make disciples, and teach them the things that Jesus commanded us. That is our mission. To become caught up in anything else is ultimately a distraction, even if that distraction yields a tax cut…”

Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from Syria may well be remembered as one of the most egregious and inhuman disasters that he has ever taken since he came to power. For a President of the United States to make such a critical decision with so many implications, simply based on a conversation with Turkish President Erdogan, not only shows his shortsightedness and total lack of strategic approach, but his inability to appreciate how that will adversely affect our friends and please our foes. We are already witnessing the unfolding disaster, and there are no words to explain how and by what logic the President of the United States in particular can take such critical steps, knowing how disastrous the repercussions of his actions would be.

What may seem like a “distraction” to Jason Hines is in fact a life and death matter to others Interestingly, many evangelicals have thus far accepted and even embraced Trump’s follies on scores of domestic and international issues, they have not done or said hardly anything against his repeated egregious actions, lies (14,650 since inauguration), misstatements, and self-indulgence. This time, they finally raised their voices and condemned the precipitous withdrawal from Syria. They understood how dire the regional consequences will be in particular for America’s allies throughout the Middle East.

It is no secret that Trump’s decision was also largely motivated by his financial interest in Turkey, which goes back many years to 2012, with the opening of Trump Towers in Istanbul. To think though, that the President of the United States would sell America’s interests and abandon its allies for the sake of personal financial gain is not merely outrageous but criminal. To me, this amounts to nothing less than treason.

Needless to say, the countries that benefit the most from this ill-fated decision by Trump are Turkey itself, Russia, and Iran. Turkey’s invasion of Syria will simply not end by defeating the Kurds; Erdogan will ensure that Turkey remains permanently in Syria, as this was all along part of his sinister strategic ambition.

We are already witnessing the humanitarian disaster that has been inflicted on the Kurdish community in Syria. They are the very same Kurds who have fought courageously and valiantly against ISIS and suffered thousands of casualties, demonstrating their commitment to fight to the end, at which they have largely succeeded. The last thing that any Kurdish fighter could imagine is for the United States to betray them, having demonstrated their loyalty at a terrible cost with horrifying losses.

The goals of the church are to have Fellowship and Community. To reach out to others outside of our group and church and and to Make a Difference in people’s lives in Jesus’ name. We cannot turn away from the reality of evil found in the political world and settle for “make America great again” isolationism.

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I didn’t vote for Trump nor Hillary. I’m not a fan of his, but I find this impeachment a kangaroo court. Pelosi’s patriotic posturing when the House voted to impeach him made me sick. Trump is like rotten mackerel by moonlight. He shines and stinks. On balance, I like a.good deal of his message, but I don’t care for the messenger. In 2020, given the alternatives, I will most likely hold my nose and vote for him.

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don’t rule out the working theory, not yet disproven, that trump is an agent of russia…as pelosi has so famously said to trump: “with you, all roads lead to putin”…

one thing this theory has going for it, not to be overlooked, is that it explains all of trump’s actions, from his hiring of paul manafort to manage his campaign, pro bono no less; to his changing of the GOP platform on ukraine at his election; to his off the record meetings and no doubt phone calls with putin; to his request to putin for an outline of a course of action on n. korea; to his pull out of syria; and now, in newly uncovered retrospect, to his order to withhold congressionally stipulated tax funds to ukraine to defend itself against a russian invasion, as part of a pressurized quid pro quo…this explanation unfolds not only plausibly, but perfectly…if such concordance were applied to any area of science, it would long ago have been treated as fact…

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In this case, the US must have a “kangaroo Constitution.” And the POTUS is allowed to be above the law.
I don’t think this is the case.

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Jeremy,
I hope one day we will learn what is it that Putin knows about Trump that he manipulates him so easily and so completely. It must be something huge and horrible. So far Trump has done everything possible to favor Putin and Russia, in detriment of the US’ best interests. Unpatriotic and treasonous! But many will still vote for him again anyway, against their own best interest. Go figure!

Interesting, isn’t it? … :wink:

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personally, i think what putin has on trump must go beyond a few harmless nudies with hookers in moscow…i also think it must go beyond the possibility of a trump tower in moscow after trump leaves office…i’m thinking now that trump must have been initiated through some offshore edition of KGB academy, and, like russian and a few ukrainian oligarchs, is propped up financially by putin on pain of death for any and all infractions…no-one can lie as incessantly, smoothly, reflexively and with such determination as trump without some kind of KGB background and motivation…

i’m also quite sure that trump’s tax returns would show tell-tale signs of russian input, which i believe is why he’s hiding them…according to MSNBC’s cynthia alksne, all eyes are on SCOTUS for rulings in june in trump v. mazars, trump v. vance and trump v. deutsche bank…personally, i think trump v. deutsche bank will be most dispositive with respect to trump’s russia connections and illegalities like money laundering, although trump v. mazars will likely uncover systematic tax evasion…but trump v. vance could very well determine whether trump joins michael cohen in federal prison if he is defeated or removed from office in 2020, and even if he wins re-election and remains in office until 2024, since it specifically involves the hush money payments to stormy daniels and karen mcdougal…one thing’s for sure: SDNY isn’t messing around, and letitia james sounds to me like she’s had it with trump…i think her death grip in manhattan’s trump v. vance case is why he’s relocated to florida…

i have to say that the one person i feel genuinely sorry for is melania…i think her meticulous, flawless dress and gaze are a silent plea for help…i don’t think she ever dreamed she’d end up in such a web of crime when she innocently left slovenia for the big wide world beyond her quaint little sevnica slovenia home…

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I love it when the Spectrum democratic bloc rails against the moral failings of Trump and his need therefore to be impeached. I support Trump for what he has done to reduce the trade imbalance with china (and others) his insistence that NATO help pay their fair share for defense, his ability to bring back jobs and manufacturing to the US his railings against MS 13 and illegals who commit some pretty heinous crimes against US citizens. I dont think he is a candidate for SDA baptism but I long ago stopped judging political leaders based on their morality–"brother Bill and his enabler in the 90’s. Jason and et al have a perfect right to question the moral fitness of Truimp but leave it at that–stop the implication that there’s something wrong with the “deplorables” who may be supporting his policies rather than judging his character

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Florida taxes are much lower than they are in New York, state and city.

but trump has had the opportunity to move to florida for many decades now…

Trump is not being impeached for his immorality or even for lying. He was procuring the help of a foreign country aiming to get political advantage over Biden. This is prohibited by the Constitution. And obstruction of Congress is obviously a major violation. These facts cannot be denied.

I wonder if violating the Constitution should or should not be taken seriously. :thinking:

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It is always worth remembering that the “depolorables” are defined as the ulltra right wing such as white supremacists and neo nazis. Own it only of it fits.

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Let’s say that Hunter Biden got political kickbacks procured by his father, and Trump was pressuring the government of Ukraine to investigate these…

How is that behavior unconstitutional? Is investigation into corrupt practices of politicians, opponents or not, beyond the scope of presidential responsibility or power?

Yes, one can always choose to be naive. Or pretend to be naive. Or, for people who know better, it’s just accepting facts as they are. Matter of choice.

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