No, Mr. Trump, You Are Not Ronald Reagan

Reagan-TrumpIn an attempt to legitimize Donald Trump’s candidacy in the eyes of conservatives, both Trump and his supporters like to say that his metamorphosis politically into a Republican is the same as Ronald Reagan’s. This is a comparison that doesn’t survive even the most casual scrutiny.

The only similarity is that both were Democrats. I would argue that Trump, essentially, still is a Democrat, but masquerading as a Republican. A fuller treatment of that thesis may be forthcoming. For today, though, let’s examine the supposed Reagan-Trump connection.

Ronald Reagan was raised in a Democrat household; he voted for Franklin Roosevelt in each of FDR’s election victories. After WWII, Reagan spoke out forcefully against the rise of fascism, for which his liberal audiences cheered. Yet one fateful day, when he ended a speech saying that if he ever found out that communists were a real threat to the nation, he would speak out just as forcefully, his speech before a liberal audience ended in silence. No applause this time.

Reagan had to reconsider his views and eventually realized that American liberalism, resident in the Democrat party, had a strong streak of sympathy for the socialist worldview.

General Electric TheaterDuring the 1950s and into the early 1960s, Reagan worked for General Electric and hosted its weekly television program. GE at that time was a bastion of conservative economic principles that spread the free-market philosophy among it workers nationwide. Reagan studied those economic principles seriously for the first time in his life and became convinced they were right.

So, to shorten the story somewhat, let’s just say that over a period of nearly two decades, Reagan carefully rethought all his former positions and came out a convinced conservative in his understanding of the Constitution, of the limitations on government, and in defense of economic freedom. He later added a strong stance against abortion when he belatedly realized that a bill he signed as governor of California opened the door to abortion on demand. Again, this was the result of careful study of the issue.

Donald Trump’s avowed conversion to conservatism doesn’t follow such a path. As late as 2008, he was supporting Hillary Clinton for president. Just a couple of weeks ago, he publicly stated that being conservative is not what matters; we just need to fix the country. Well, I would argue that the country cannot be fixed except through those exact conservative principles that he says aren’t all that important.

Trump’s assertion that he is now a conservative doesn’t pass the test. He claims a Reaganesque switch on abortion, yet continues to say that Planned Parenthood does some really good things. He would also like to see the abortion language in the Republican platform softened.

Do you really trust this man to defund Planned Parenthood and to appoint Supreme Court justices that will uphold the Constitution? You have more faith than I do.

There’s also the matter of both Reagan and Trump having been divorced. Trump’s people love to make that comparison. They say there is no difference. I beg to differ.

Trump’s divorces were entirely at his instigation. His obsession with beautiful women (I refuse to use his terminology about what he seeks) has led him twice to discard a wife so he could marry someone else. His entire attitude toward women, evidenced by his lurid language that he doesn’t mind using publicly, is an affront to common decency.

Reagan, Jane Wyman, Maureen, & MichaelWhat about Reagan’s divorce? He married actress Jane Wyman in the early 1940s. They began a family; he wanted it to stay that way. The divorce was not of his doing; he fought against it but lost. Wyman chose to leave him, not because he was unfaithful [he wasn’t] but because she had apparently tired of his political participation, among other reasons. She also had an affair with one of her co-stars in a movie at that time.

Wedding 3-4-52Reagan was devastated by the divorce and hit a low point in his life over it. When he remarried a few years later, it was a marriage that lasted the rest of his life—more than fifty years.

Does anyone really think Donald Trump was devastated over his divorces? Does anyone really believe he would be faithful to one woman for more than fifty years?

Is there anyone with even half a brain on this planet who truly accepts the superficial reasoning that dares to compare Donald Trump with Ronald Reagan?

I’ve outlined the many reasons I cannot support Trump in other posts, so I won’t repeat them all here. My goal today is to try to put to rest the silly attempt to equate the principled Reagan with the unprincipled Trump.

He who has ears to hear, please listen.

Obama’s Worldview & the Transformation of America

One’s worldview definitely matters. Take Barack Obama, for example. When he said he wanted to fundamentally transform America, he wasn’t kidding, and his inspiration for that goal is his radical worldview.

I believe that Obama’s vision is fueled by a fury against those he perceives as “oppressors.” He has an undercurrent of anger toward an orthodox Christian understanding of truth and the faith’s stance on morality. In his mind, Christianity provides the foundation of oppression.

That’s why he turns a blind eye to Muslim atrocities; they are an oppressed people simply getting back at a Christian-dominated culture that has unjustly kept them down.

That’s why he has turned morality upside-down, beginning with approval of homosexuality, followed by promotion of same-sex marriage, followed by a focus on transgenderism, leading to his decree that all public schools must allow any student who feels trapped in the wrong gender to use whichever restroom and locker room that student desires.

We Don't Care

Before proceeding, I can already imagine an objection, the tired old claim that Obama is a Christian. Well, using trendy terminology, I would respond that Obama may “self-identify” as a Christian, but his idea of Christian is more aligned with a radical, Marxist liberation theology, which is, at heart, anti-Christian. And his agenda has had the effect of putting long-recognized Christian morality on the defensive, hinting (and in some cases more than hinting) that those who hold to such ancient concepts of morality are rather bigoted and driven by hatred.

No, I don’t accept Obama’s self-identification as a Christian as legitimate.

I have two problems with Obama’s latest decree: the first is moral; the second is constitutional.

There are some people who are genuinely confused over their gender due to genetic disorders of some kind. That’s a purely physical cause, not a moral problem. But the percentage of the population in that situation, according to what I’ve read, at least, is about 3/10 of one per cent. What the Obama agenda requires is that we now reorient our entire society around those individuals.

And we all know his decree will be applied far more generously than that. Anyone who “feels” confused about gender identity will be allowed to use whatever restroom or locker room they choose. It’s a wide open door to sexual abuse; in a supposed move to be “fair” to a hypothetically discriminated-against segment of the population, the rest of the population will be forced to bow to the new morality.

It’s a certain Biblical passage now being manifested before our eyes:

Isaiah 5

Then there’s the constitutional side of things. Where, in that document, does one find the authority for a president—any president—to simply declare what will be the policy for all public schools nationwide?

Where, in fact, in that document, is there any authority whatsoever for the federal government to be involved in education at all?

Shot Constitution

I submit that no matter how long or how deeply one inspects the Constitution, such authority never will be found there. What we are seeing now is perhaps the most dictatorial action, among many other dictatorial actions, that Obama has ever attempted.

This is a clear case where states have all constitutional authority to rise up and say, “This will not happen here.” I applaud those state leaders who have spoken up already and sincerely hope more will join the chorus in the coming days.

We are supposed to be a nation operating by the rule of law, not by the whims of one man—and his party—who seeks to destroy all semblance of the rule of law.

We are a country at a serious crossroads right now. Is Biblical morality to be forever banished from our public policy? Are we finally going to kill whatever is left of our Constitution and give it a decent burial?

Or are we going to stand up for Biblical truth?

Answers to those questions are still forthcoming.

Lewis on the Decline of Christian Faith in Society

I’m of the decided opinion that Christian faith is under attack in our nation. I’m also convinced that the influence of that faith in the public sphere has declined precipitously in the last seven years (I wonder what that coincides with?).

God in the DockYet there is another angle of vision on this outward decline of which C. S. Lewis aptly reminds us. In one of his short essays found in God in the Dock, “The Decline of Religion,” he offers his perspective on that perception.

He wrote this essay just after WWII, but it is just as applicable today. First, he examines the perception of religion’s decline by looking at outward manifestations, such as chapel attendance at Oxford:

The “decline of religion” so often lamented (or welcomed) is held to be shown by empty chapels. Now it is quite true that chapels which were full in 1900 are empty in 1946. But this change was not gradual. It occurred at the precise moment when chapel ceased to be compulsory.

Lewis notes that some students used to attend only because it started later than the roll call before which they would have had to appear if they didn’t go to chapel. As a result, those sixty students never came back; “the five Christians remained.”

Therefore, this was not a genuine decline, but rather an exposure of what lay beneath the surface: “The withdrawal of compulsion did not create a new religious situation, but only revealed the situation which had long existed.”

But wasn’t England a Christian nation? Didn’t it have a moral code based on its solid Christianity? Lewis tackles that as well:

One way of putting the truth would be that the religion which has declined was not Christianity. It was a vague Theism with a strong and virile ethical code, which, far from standing over against the “World,” was absorbed into the whole fabric of English institutions and sentiment and therefore demanded church-going as (at best) a part of loyalty and good manners as (at worst) a proof of respectability.

For the first time, Lewis explains, accurate observations could be made: “When no man goes to church except because he seeks Christ the number of actual believers can at last be discovered.”

While this “decline” of outward religiosity was a problem for how the nation of England might comport itself, it did draw a clear line in the spiritual sand. Lewis continues,

The decline of “religion” is no doubt a bad thing for the “World.” By it all the things that made England a fairly happy country are, I suppose, endangered: the comparative purity of her public life, the comparative humanity of her police, and the possibility of some mutual respect and kindness between political opponents.

But I am not clear that it makes conversions to Christianity rarer or more difficult: rather the reverse. It makes the choice more unescapable. When the Round Table is broken, every man must follow either Galahad or Mordred: middle things are gone.

The upside, then, is that there is a definite demarcation line between God’s righteousness and the way of the world. People will see that choice more clearly. More genuine conversions may result.

Lewis concludes his essay by commenting on how the Oxford Christians, at least in 1946, had not yet had to face a bitter opposition: “The enemy has not yet thought it worth while to fling his whole weight against us. But he soon will.” He says that every strong Christian movement, while welcomed at first, will in the end face hatred from those who are “offended” by its bold stand for truth and morality.

Dislike, terror, and finally hatred succeed: none who will not give it [Christian faith] what it asks (and it asks all) can endure it: all who are not with it are against it. . . . To be on the Christian side would be costing a man (at the least) his career.

What will make that hatred all the more confusing to the mass of people watching it being played out is that the attack will come from those who themselves are claiming to be Christian. As Lewis puts it, “But remember, in England the opposition will quite likely be called Christianity (or Christo-democracy, or British Christianity, or something of that kind).”

PersecutionWhat are we witnessing in America in our day? A growing hostility toward the absolutes rooted in Christian belief. A bitter opposition charging us with being bigots, haters, etc. And many of those hurling the charges are claiming the mantle of the true Christianity—the one that loves everyone and doesn’t judge. We are labeled intolerant and reactionary; they are the new and more understanding advocates for what Jesus really meant.

I wonder how Lewis would view the current state of America where same-sex marriage and abortion are the law of the land. I wonder how he would respond to the demand that public restrooms should be open to all without regard to the particular sex we are born into.

One thing is pretty evident, though, from his analysis: if the line between what is genuinely Christian and what is not was clear in his day, it is so much clearer now. And while the decline of the role of Christianity in our public affairs is a sad testimony to the state of the nation, whenever real Christian faith comes into view, it will draw those who are seeking forgiveness and a new life.

The dark cloud descends upon us, but in the darkness, the Light becomes even brighter.

Cyrus Trump?

In the wake of Donald Trump’s near-nomination, some Christian voices are now being heard telling us we should accept and/or rejoice over this development because God has always used leaders who don’t acknowledge Him. The prime example being pushed is Cyrus, king of the Persian Empire during the exile of the Jews in the Old Testament.

CyrusCyrus was prophesied by name by the prophet Isaiah. The account of Cyrus’s decree to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple is found in the book of Ezra.

Trump, we are assured, is the new Cyrus. Even though he doesn’t believe he has to ask God for forgiveness for anything in his life, he will become the strong arm of the Lord as he takes down the false gods of political correctness, routs the denizens of the Washington, DC, swamp, and proclaims liberty once again throughout the land.

I would laugh if I didn’t feel more like crying.

Be careful with analogies. Cyrus was not exactly an elected ruler. The Jews had to deal with whatever whim entered the minds of both Babylonian and Persian kings. It wasn’t as if they said, “Look, there’s a pagan who is at least open to the possibility of allowing us to return to our land; let’s choose him.” Therein lies the difference.

Yes, God may work through evil rulers, accomplishing His purposes without them  even realizing they are carrying out His decree. It’s a whole other matter, though, for a people who have the privilege of choosing their political leaders to make a conscious decision to pick someone whose character and policies are at odds with God’s basic commands and requirements.

When choosing leaders in the church, we are given explicit instructions to focus on character. Just check out Paul’s first letter to Timothy sometime. So when it comes to advocating a political leader, are we to say, “Well, since the government is not a church, the character of the chosen leader doesn’t matter?”

Character always matters.

Suppose, just for a moment, you are responsible for choosing someone in an organization, business, community group, whatever, and you sit down with that person to gain some insight into the type of character he possesses.

Suppose, once more, that in the course of that interview, you discover that the candidate has openly mocked a disabled person by mimicking that person’s disability. Would that commend him to you as the right person for the job?

Again, what if, as you prod further, you find out that this candidate not only goes on Twitter rampages with rude, crude insults toward those he thinks have offended him, but he actually has posted pictures of spouses of those people, making fun of their looks.

Then, to top it off, the interviewee, apparently completely oblivious to his inane rantings, tells you that someone he doesn’t like might have been an accomplice in the assassination of a president?

If you could still want to continue that interview, you might ask about his fidelity to the beliefs and goals of your organization. If the response is “Look, I can be whatever you want me to be,” you might be excused for thinking the candidate isn’t really on board with what you want to accomplish.

Would you really recommend hiring such a person? Yet that’s what we are on the verge of doing in the Republican party right now.

Everyone is now talking about unity, but Trump doesn’t think it’s all that important; he can “win, win, win” without all those people who aren’t bowing down to his lordship:

King Trump

There’s another Biblical figure who didn’t acknowledge God, yet God used him to carry out a purpose. His name was Nebuchadnezzar. His purpose? To destroy Jerusalem and take the people into captivity.

If Trump resembles any ancient king, I see him more as a Nebuchadnezzar than a Cyrus. I just pray that our exile is shorter than the seventy years the Jews received.

Trump, Principles, & Conscience

When I first began this blog eight years ago, it didn’t take me long to decide on a title. My life and teaching have always focused on Biblical principles. My desire was to share those principles and to apply them to what we experience in this trek through a sinful world. That’s how the name “Pondering Principles” came about.

With that name, though, came a deep responsibility to remain true to the principles I believe the Lord has ordained. I’ve thought a lot about what I want to say right now with respect to the upcoming presidential contest. What I’m going to say will not sit well with many, but I will say it because it comes from that commitment I made to speak and write from those principles.

I’ve always voted Republican, no matter how much I’ve disagreed with the chosen nominee for president. Despite some misgivings over George Bush, I believed he was a good man, trying to do what was right. The John Kerry alternative gave me nightmares.

When John McCain got the nomination, I sighed and dutifully fell in line because I knew Barack Obama would be the most radical president in American history and would attempt to undo every constitutional precept that he could. At least McCain had shown remarkable courage as a POW and could be counted on for some conservative policies. There really was no comparison between the candidates.

Mitt Romney was, for me, a step further away from genuine Republican principles. After all, it was his health plan in Massachusetts that provided the blueprint for Obamacare. Neither had he been solidly pro-life. But the alternative, of course, was another four years of Obama, and I did believe Romney was a decent man who could be prodded in the right direction by conservatives in the party.

Now, in 2016, I don’t have a decent man to vote for on the Republican side. And that’s really what it comes down to for me. I have a lot of reasons to decide not to vote for Donald Trump, but the most basic one is that I see him as a totally despicable human being who may do irreparable harm to both the Republican party and the nation.

Please stay with me.

For those of you supporting Trump because he is an outsider, consider his personal history. He has been on the inside his entire life, using all his political connections for personal gain, often to the detriment of others. This is something he and Hillary Clinton have in common: they have used the system cynically and corruptly for their own advancement.

Crony Capitalists

Clinton’s corruption is clearly seen in multiple ways, but the investigation into the use of a personal e-mail server and the funneling of funds through the Clinton Foundation are the real icing on this half-baked cake.

Trump’s corruption is in how he has bilked people over the years (interesting, isn’t it, that the trial for the fake Trump University has now been delayed until late November), how he has attempted to use eminent domain to take private property away from an elderly lady to use for his own purposes, and how he has cleverly used the bankruptcy laws to stay on top while throwing others out of work.

Yes, they are a dynamic duo.

Bratman

On policy, he is all over the place, promising whatever will get votes. Now that he has the nomination all but sewed up, he’s tacking clearly to the left, saying he wants to get the Bernie Sanders voters.

This is our Republican nominee?

He claims to be pro-life now, but has always supported abortion, even the infanticide of partial-birth abortion. Even now, he hasn’t really opposed Planned Parenthood. It pains me to read of some pro-life leaders now being swayed into the illusion that he won’t be that bad on this issue after all.

I could go on about all his other “policies,” but the real issue for me is Trump’s character.

Unlike some people who only glance at headlines, I am a student of politics and government and the connection with character. I’ve watched Trump carefully for the past year, hardly believing what I’ve seen.

He has no dignity. His main avenue for personal opinion is insulting tweets. He has mocked and ridiculed his fellow candidates mercilessly. He is beyond rude; he is an arrogant, condescending, unprincipled mess of a man.

He is the classic spoiled child who never grew up. Putting him at the head of this nation, in my view, would be tantamount to elevating into power someone with the emotional maturity of a third-grader.

The planted fake story in the National Enquirer about Ted Cruz being an unfaithful husband is ironic, given Trump’s blatant immorality. The photo he used of Heidi Cruz is what a middle-school guy might do in a pique of adolescent rage.

And then there are the conspiracy theories he seems to delight in: Obama’s birth certificate (sorry, but I never bought into that one, as much as I would have liked to); George Bush somehow behind 9/11 and deliberately lying to get us into a war with Iraq; Cruz’s father as a co-conspirator in the JFK assassination.

Really, Republicans? This is your standard-bearer?

And after all of this, you call upon me to support this man for the sake of unity?

Time for Unity

And then you have the nerve to lecture me that if I don’t vote for this awful person, I am, in effect, casting a vote for Hillary?

A vote is a vote for something or someone. If I cast a vote for Donald Trump, I am saying I am for an unrepentant serial adulterer (possibly a rapist—that accusation is out there and not too hard to believe) who has always championed leftist causes with his donations, and who, even now, is pulling the wool over the eyes of his starry-eyed minions.

No, I cannot do this.

If Hillary Clinton wins this election, I place the blame on those who ignorantly raised this reality-TV “star” into a credible candidate when the joke of his candidacy should have been apparent to all. Those of us who sounded the alarm all along are not the ones who deserve the blame for his ascendancy.

Many Republicans are now falling in line with the reality of a Trump nomination. They are dutifully remaining loyal to the party.

Next Trick

I will not put party loyalty above principle. In the end, I don’t give an account to Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus, or Trump supporters who will try to convince me to change my mind.

In the end, I give an account to God only, and my conscience must be clear before Him.

There are people I love and respect who will disagree with me today. That doesn’t alter my love and respect for you.

If your conscience doesn’t bother you by voting for Trump, that is your decision. But please don’t call on me to violate my conscience. I simply won’t do it.

Jesus & Anxiety: A Lewis Primer

Letters to MalcolmAnother C. S. Lewis book that I read recently—for the first time—is Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. One section speaks directly to me with respect to a hard time I’m going through at the moment.

We would like the world to be predictable, something we can manage according to our expectations. Lewis says we have to lay that expectation aside:

But is it not plain that this predictable world . . . is not the world we live in? This is a world of bets and insurance policies, of hopes and anxieties, where “nothing is certain but the unexpected” and prudence lies in “the masterly administration of the unforeseen.”

Nearly all the things people pray about are unpredictable: the result of a battle or an operation, the losing or getting of a job, the reciprocation of a love. We don’t pray about eclipses.

Therefore, despite our faith, we can’t avoid the potential anxieties life throws at us. Lewis seeks, though, to distinguish between anxiety and sin:

Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ.

Jesus in GethsemaneJesus, Lewis reminds us, had to suffer anxiety in order to be fully human. His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to the crucifixion, held the hope, however slim, that He might not have to go through with it:

Lest any trial incident to humanity should be lacking, the torments of hope—of suspense, anxiety—were at the last moment loosed upon Him—the supposed possibility that, after all, He might, He just conceivably might, be spared the supreme horror.

If Jesus hadn’t sweat blood in the Garden, “perhaps He would not have been very Man. To live in a fully predictable world is not to be a man.”

Lewis concludes these thoughts with this:

We all try to accept with some sort of submission our afflictions when they actually arrive. But the prayer in Gethsemane shows that the preceding anxiety is equally God’s will and equally part of our human destiny. The perfect Man experienced it. And the servant is not greater than the master. We are Christians, not Stoics.

Who am I to think that I should be allowed a lifetime full of completely manageable, totally predictable moments? That expectation would place me above my Master.

I like Lewis’s final sentence very much. The Stoics attempted to glide through life unaffected by anything bad that happened. They sought to so completely control their emotions that nothing bothered them. That is unrealistic.

Christians should not expect to be unaffected by the sin and misery that are the common lot of us all, redeemed and unredeemed alike. What we have that the unredeemed do not is a Savior we can look to who knows what it is like to experience similar anxieties. He was fully human, even as He was fully God. He can come to our aid in our darkest hours.

God Is in Control?

In the wake of the Trump triumph/impending disaster, a number of Christians have resorted to what is certainly a wonderful promise in the Scripture. It’s found in the book of Romans:

Romans 8-28

I love that promise as much as anyone, but I’ve always been dismayed by comments about it that seem to overlook the condition mentioned therein: this is a promise “to those who love the Lord.”

What I hear all too often is that this is a promise that no matter what happens, everything will work out okay. After all (repeat the refrain after me), “God is in control.”

That’s a cliché of the highest magnitude.

What’s the matter with Snyder? Doesn’t he believe God is in control of the universe?

If you simply mean that everyone will ultimately answer to Him for their lives and the decisions they make, I agree. If you mean that He is the One who sovereignly determines when this sorry thing called humanity will come to an end, I agree again.

Yes, He is in control.

But if you mean that somehow even the worst decisions of mankind are all part of God’s plan, you lose me there. If you think that sin is ever part of what He wants, count me out of the congregation of the simple-minded.

I take comfort in Romans 8:28 in the sense that even in the worst of times, if I hold tightly to Him and His Word, and if I remain steadfast in my love for Him, He has promised to take the worst of times and turn it around somehow and bring unforeseen blessing out of it.

That’s not the same as a false hope that nothing will ever go wrong because “God is in control.”

Consider the faith chapter in the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, where the writer extols how God did miraculous things for his people in the past, saving them out of terrible circumstances. We love to quote that part of the chapter. Then comes the hammer-blow:

Others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.

They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

We would like to ignore such passages.

Again, I’m not saying that God’s Word is untrue; I’m saying we need to interpret it correctly. We’ve never been promised that all things on this earth will turn out right. Some of us will live lives of utmost misery, being mocked and scourged and, yes, even put to death unjustly.

But what we can say, with certainty, is that in all the turmoils we face, God stands with us, doing all that can be done to work things out for our good—provided we continue to love and obey Him.