“Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found.
Was blind but now I see.”
On the night he won the Florida Republican Primary, Donald Trump faced a crowded ballroom of supporters and several hundred media people.
He began his remarks by saying, “I am the greatest gift God ever gave evangelicals.”
Watching on television, my reaction was, “So you, Donald John Trump, consider yourself a greater gift to Christians than Jesus.”
Wow, I thought. How unbelievable anyone would make such a preposterous claim.
But, coming from a man who also said, “I’ll be the greatest president God ever made,” why be surprised, given all of the incredible and offensive things Trump said during the course of his campaign; why even mention his claim to be a greater gift than Jesus? Because I had never heard anyone say that before; had never heard anyone say something so astonishingly egocentric about themselves and Jesus.
But I’m writing this to answer a question put to me by a family member, outraged so many Christians voted for Trump (as did 81 percent of white evangelical/fundamentalist Christians, says Pew Research Group).
This family member wanted to know, “How could they do that? How could they vote for someone who fathered the Birther Movement, who denigrates women, who makes fun of people with disabilities, who cheats small businessmen, who’s been through five bankruptcies, who lied about Trump University, who’s been married three times and talks about grouping women’s genitals, who praises Putin? How could Christians support someone like that, someone like Trump?”
This family member is not a Christian and rejects categorically the claims of the Christian faith, and said, whatever consideration he might have given Christianity, ended when so many followers of Jesus voted for Trump November 8.
It troubles me a family member would say this to me, given my very public stand as a Christian, as someone who has gone to church more than 10,000 times, who headed an organization of 125 Christian churches, who writes articles for Christian publications, and who, as a layman, has been invited to preach from some of the nation’s most prominent Protestant pulpits, including Washington’s National Cathedral.
I understand my family member’s anger at evangelical/fundamentalist Christians in voting for Trump, because that’s a shared reaction, but I am not sacrificing my faith on the altar of the hypocrisy of other Christians.
The “hypocrisy” labels fits those who tolerate Trump’s lifestyle and values, which are the antithesis of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth; the very Lord to whom Christians are called to pledge their lives and fortunes.
“Conservative Christians need to remember”, Michael Gerson, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post, warned recently, “When religion identifies with a political order, it is generally not the political order that suffers most. It is the reputation of the faith.”
How then does it happen that evangelical/fundamentalist Christians were willing to look past Trump’s egregious behavior and embrace his candidacy?
It happens because at the heart of Christianity is the belief that God offers unmerited grace, as the New Testament affirms in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
That promise is unconditional. No matter the magnitude of your sin, from cheating on your taxes to cheating on your wife, whether a serial rapist or serial killer, God’s grace in Christ provides absolution and forgiveness.
Last summer Trump told Focus on the Family founder, Dr. James Dobson, that he had “given his life to Jesus Christ as his Savior,” and once that was made public by Dobson, Trump was on his way to becoming president.
Because to evangelical/fundamentalist Christians, the deeds of your past are gone; your sins forgiven and forgotten (Psalms 103:12), all things have become new, and that is as true for Donald Trump as for any man or woman who ever comes to repentance – God’s grace is greater than one’s collective sins.
But for others, who also claim Jesus as Lord and believe in God’s unmerited grace, it’s not that simple. It’s one thing to say, “I’m a Christian, I’ve accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior,” quite another to live your life in accord with the teachings of Jesus; to understand that Christ calls you to live an exemplary life, where you treat people with dignity, respect, and love; where you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless (Matthew 25:36).
Since Dobson wrote about Trump’s becoming a Christian, I’ve seen nothing in Trump’s pattern of behavior to suggest he’s a changed man. His conduct now, even as President Trump, seems no less offensive than it was before he said he accepted Christ – he’s still tweeting insults, still making false claims, still denigrating others (as in calling journalists “liars”).
The man who wrote “Amazing Grace,” was the captain of a slave ship. His name was John Newton, but when he became a Christian, he gave up his evil trade, knowing that trading in slaves was immoral and incompatible with walking with Jesus. Once a Christian, he never returned to his evil ways.
I wonder if Donald Trump knows the story of John Newton?
George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader. He may be reached at, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: National News