An Evangelical Scarlet Letter?

Increasingly, there is pressure on those of us who have always identified with the Republican party but who cannot bring ourselves to support Donald Trump to lay aside our objections and come together for the sake of unity. And to stop the ultimate horror: Hillary Clinton.

Many who were quite verbal in their detestation of Trump early on (such as former Texas governor Rick Perry) have done a complete 180, now saying he’s just marvelous. Perry, who had said Trump was “a cancer on conservatism,” “a barking carnival act,” and who called Trumpism “a toxic mix of demogoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that will lead the Republican party to perdition,” later said he would love to be Trump’s VP choice.

poll-numbers

Ah, principle! It’s so ennobling.

I can’t go there.

There are so many reasons why I cannot that it has become difficult to encapsulate them in one simple blog post. One of the first impressions I had of Trump when the primary debates began was his simple-mindedness, his elementary-level vocabulary, and his complete lack of knowledge on issues of utmost importance.

forrest-trump

Forrest Gump, though, was likeable and never had an insulting, rude bone in his body. Not so Donald Trump.

tip-top-shape

His constant personal attacks on the other Republican candidates were legion. The ones that stay with me the most, of course, are those on Ted Cruz, who received the full treatment because he was the greatest threat to Trump’s ascendancy.

In case you have suffered from a type of political amnesia brought on by partisanship, let me remind you of a few of those. First, he questioned Cruz’s status as a natural-born citizen, despite the fact that Cruz’s mother was an American citizen and the fact that the law declares anyone born to at least one American citizen is a natural-born citizen as well.

This wasn’t Trump’s first time using this conspiracy theory. He was one of the leading proponents who questioned Obama’s birth. Now, I know many on the conservative side of the political spectrum still want to beat that proverbial dead horse, but it truly is dead.

Even Trump had to admit that a few days ago . . . sort of:

born-in-hawaii

Those in the know realize he was pressured into accepting it publicly by his advisors, but he continues to hint that it was purely a political move. What a surprise.

Did he ever apologize to Cruz for that foray into political manipulation? Right. Donald Trump apologizes for nothing.

He has never apologized for pushing a false story about Cruz having many affairs (never mind The Donald’s own personal life), nor for attacking Heidi Cruz (claiming he will “out” her for some deep, dark secret) and allowing a horrid photo of her to be placed alongside his model wife (third one, if you are counting—maybe more to come), nor for intimating that Cruz’s father was somehow involved with the JFK assassination.

And then he expects Cruz to endorse him?

I could also go into how he has taken positions contrary to traditional conservative policy; conservatives who used to oppose those positions now suddenly find them delightful because their nominee is proposing them.

excellent-shape

Ah, principle. It’s so ennobling.

Wait a minute. Didn’t I already say that?

In my view, those of us who will not vote for Trump are the ones holding more firmly to what the Republican party says it believes.

lost-my-party

Erick Erickson, a staunch voice against Trumpism, wrote an essay the other day that he entitled “Reconsidering My Opposition to Trump.” At first glance, that would lead someone to think he has now capitulated. Not the case.

The essay begins with a serious indictment of Hillary Clinton, ending with the words, “In short, I see the election of Hillary Clinton as the antithesis of all my values and ideas on what fosters sound civil society in this country. Further, she should be in jail.”

Then why not support Trump? While he goes into a lot of detail why even the threat of Hillary will not move him away from being anti-Trump also, these paragraphs get to the heart of it for me:

More importantly, while I think Hillary Clinton will do long term damage to the country, I believe Donald Trump will do far more damage to the church, which must be my chief priority. A Clinton Administration may see the church besieged from the outside, but a Trump Administration will see the church poisoned from within [emphasis mine].

I see it happening even now. This past Friday I debated the merits of Trump and sat next to a Christian who argued that because God chose sinners, we should choose Trump. She argued that a bunch of other Presidents were terrible, immoral people so we should be okay with Trump. She argued that God chose Abraham, Samson, and David, so we should choose Trump.

I do not recall John F. Kennedy writing books bragging about his affairs. I do not recall Bill Clinton telling a television audience he wanted to have sex with his daughter.

How far a Christian must fall to justify the low morals of one man by tearing down the reputations of others in sometimes exaggerated manners. And I do recall God choosing Abraham, Samson, and David and all of them repenting of their sins. That repentance stands in studied contrast to Donald Trump who has three times said he never had to ask for forgiveness and only recently said his advance of the church, if he is elected, might be the only thing that gets him into Heaven.

My priority is the same as Erickson’s. I want the Christian witness to the world to be consistent. Support for an openly immoral man who sees no need for repentance undermines that witness. By the way, it also doesn’t help Donald Trump. When he sees all those evangelicals lining up on his side and extolling his virtues, how will he ever be brought to repentance? Fervent evangelical support may have the opposite effect and ground him ever more firmly in his sin.

Potential short-term political gain must be subordinated to long-term promotion of the kingdom of God. I’m afraid that Christians who tie themselves too closely to Trump will, figuratively, have to walk around later with a scarlet letter emblazoned on their Christian witness.

Healthy Candidates?

The health of the presidential candidates has come into prominence as the election approaches, as well it should. In the past, candidates have tried to hide health problems, so we are seeing nothing new today.

Franklin Roosevelt was far too ill to run again in 1944, but he did so anyway. He then died three months into his fourth term. John Kennedy’s publicity machine made him appear youthful and vigorous when, in fact, he had a number of physical ailments that led him to trust in a “feel-good” doctor who gave him injections of steroids to mask his infirmities.

Hillary’s near-total collapse at the 9-11 remembrance has apparently caused a tumble in her polling numbers. We’ll have to see if she has bottomed out yet. The campaign brushes it off as simple dehydration complicated by pneumonia. Well, why shouldn’t we trust what her campaign says? Maybe it has something to do with her history of secrecy and misdirections.

reflex

The release of some of Colin Powell’s e-mails, with his negative comments on both Hillary and Trump has caused some stir. Publicly, he has rejected Hillary’s attempt to tie him to the reason she set up a secret e-mail server. He thinks neither candidate deserves support, apparently.

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Shortly after Hillary’s “episode” on 9-11, there were rumors of finding a replacement. I know of at least one person who is waiting in the wings:

break-glass

Trump refuses to release his medical records also. Anyone who is 70 ought to let the public know his health status. All we get is an assurance from a doctor (a loose description of this particular individual—I’ll let you research him on your own) that Trump is the healthiest man ever to run for the presidency. The language sounds like it emanated from Trump himself. The hyperbole makes one less confident in the assessment, not more confident.

Perhaps the first debate should start this way:

treadmill

The public’s trust in both candidates is probably the lowest of any presidential election. The percentage of voters who have chosen third-party candidates in previous elections is about 9%; some are saying that percentage may conceivably double this time.

Yet, when it comes right down to it, it was the voters who chose to go with these candidates in the first place.

examination

We reap the consequences of our foolish choices.

Hillary & the Seared Conscience

The Scriptures tell us how people can develop a seared conscience. It comes from committing a sin so often that, after a while, it no longer bothers the person committing the sin. The sin itself becomes part of that person’s character.

We see two outstanding examples of this phenomenon in both of our principal presidential candidates, but Hillary Clinton’s propensity for unremitting lying has been getting most of the attention lately . . . and shall I say finally?

Nearly every statement she has ever made about her e-mail server has now been publicly exposed as a lie. The latest revelations in the FBI notes when that agency interviewed her are that her people used what they hoped would be a super-strong program to wipe the server clean and that many of the phones she used were destroyed, sometimes simply by using a hammer.

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problem-with-phone

Intimately connected with the server/e-mail lies are the lies associated with the now-infamous Clinton Foundation, the recipient of funds from people (some being foreign powers) who sought favors from the Hillary-led State Department, which is probably the reason for all the e-mail server secrecy in the first place:

every-lie

But what has caught the public’s attention more recently was Hillary’s collapse as she exited the 9/11 ceremony early on Sunday. If you have seen the video, it is startling just how incapacitated she appeared, having to be supported wholly by others as she was practically thrown into the waiting van.

Eventually, the campaign said she was suffering from pneumonia. With all the stories circulating about far worse health issues, many are finding that explanation something less than believable. If she will lie about everything else, why not her health?

i-can-treat

Whatever her real condition, one can gauge how serious it must be if one follows the Clintons’ history:

must-be-serious

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the episode is the relative silence coming from Donald Trump. What happened to his Twitter account? Where are the usual insults and inane comments that his campaign has to clarify afterwards?

response

Those of you who thought you were getting someone who was not a “manufactured” candidate might have to rethink that assumption. The professionals are doing all they can to make him seem credible and normal. Give them a break; it’s a tough job.

Seeking God’s Mercy in an Election Year

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump continue to make news, not all of it very inspiring. Well, hardly any of it inspiring.

On Hillary’s part, the key has been to hide as much bad news as possible, such as the Labor Day weekend dump of the notes made by the FBI when she was interviewed. The hope was that no one would pay attention on a holiday weekend. The word is getting out, though, that she plays fast and loose with the truth on nearly everything.

The Hillary camp’s mantra, though, remains consistent:

Notes

Then there’s the issue of her health. It’s not just anti-Hillary outlets that are now commenting on it. It’s hard to ignore increasing coughing spells that last for minutes.

Happens Every Time

So, naturally, Trump makes an issue of it as well, raising questions about whether she can handle the office. He demands she release her medical records. I agree she should. The other side of the coin, of course, is that 70-year-old Trump should do the same, but he refuses also. Shouldn’t this apply to both equally?

Then there’s the demand from the Clinton camp that Trump needs to release his tax returns. On this point, I am in complete agreement. In the same way that she seeks to hide her health records, he seems bent on letting no one see the truth about his income, charitable deductions, or other questionable things that might come to the surface upon examination.

Hypocrisy abounds for both.

Trump also is making news about his position on immigration—whatever that really might be. It kind of depends on the day and the audience before which he is speaking.

Immigration Position

This election season corresponds with the height of hurricane season. There are similarities:

Two Storms

Never have the two presidential candidates in an election year been so roundly despised by the electorate:

Negative & Negative

This has led to new strategies for voters:

Cancel Out

For my part, I think we lose regardless of who wins. That’s why I will not vote for either one. I’ve covered the ground before for why I have come to that decision, so I won’t repeat it all here.

My hope is that those who claim to be Christians will humble themselves and admit there is no human solution to our problems and cease to promote anyone who doesn’t deserve our support. Perhaps then God will show mercy and do things behind the scenes to lessen the consequences of our foolishness as a nation.

2016 Is Not a Replay of 1980

So we now have the notes the FBI took when they interrogated Hillary Clinton about her e-mail server. What have we discovered? She is adept at blaming her staff for everything and protesting that she doesn’t “recall” almost anything having to do with training on how to handle sensitive documents.

This is after having signed forms that testified she knew the specifics of how to handle such documents. What comes across is that she is playing the “I just don’t get all this technology” card in an attempt to escape prosecution (which the Justice Department at the behest of the FBI has allowed her to do).

Don't Understand

And we’re supposed to believe this baloney. It’s about as surreal as it can get. Has there ever been a presidential candidate who has been exposed as this corrupt before?

Self-Inflicted

Yet she may be our next president.

With Donald Trump putting illegal immigration back in the news with his foray into Mexico and his speech on the topic afterwards, one might want to ask Hillary (if anyone is allowed to ask her anything) what her stance is on the subject.

Ready to Assimilate

I’ve read parts of the transcript of Trump’s speech and seen excerpts. While there are points in the speech with which I agree, I still can’t stand his attitude. This is the moderate Trump?

Earlier in the day, he was all sweetness and light with the Mexican president. Later, in the speech, he threw out the red meat to his followers, sounding like the “old” Trump. One thing his followers might have missed, though, is that he didn’t say what he would now do with those currently living here illegally. Wasn’t the big deportation thing one of the main reasons he amassed such rabid support at the start? Now he’s backing down on it (which only makes sense) and very few of his supporters seem to have a problem with his flip-flop on an issue that they considered a cornerstone.

Consistency

He’s been all over the place, trying to come up with something that can be called a genuine policy. He’s done the same with abortion in the past. He’s totally unreliable.

Back in 1980, we were in the throes of the Carter administration. That led to a revival of common sense under Ronald Reagan. Some people are seeing a historical parallel in that we are in dire straits similar to what we experienced under Carter, and that another Reagan is waiting around the corner. Here, though, is where the parallel breaks down.

Doesn't Cheer My Up

Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan and 2016 is not a replay of 1980. Sadly.

The Most Corrupt Power-Couple in American History

Let’s see. Last week another treasure trove of Hillary e-mails was discovered—15,000, to be exact. Now investigators have uncovered another bundle that were supposedly personal and destroyed, among which 30 are related to Benghazi.

Nothing to it, Hillary assures us. She jokes on late-night television that her main embarrassment over the e-mails is that they are so boring. And the audience goes along with the joke. Isn’t the joke perhaps on all Americans?

It also appears that the e-mail scandal is really only the operational side of how the Clintons schemed to enrich themselves through their phony foundation. The two are inextricably intertwined.

But there’s nothing here to see, right?

Lot of Smoke

Hillary’s office at the State Department must have looked a little different than when others occupied that same office:

Old Office

Well, she can count on her spouse to put the best face on all of this. After all, he’s had a lot of practice fending off allegations:

Financial Relations

Foreign nations could always count on the Clinton Foundation for direct access to the highest level of the federal government and for the favors that followed in the wake. Some, though, didn’t get the message that Clinton Foundation connections could work to their advantage:

Still Be in Power

Well, at least Hillary is going to face tough questioning on this, isn’t she? Oh, that’s right, she hasn’t held a press conference for more than 200 days. Maybe the press can learn a lesson here as well.

Hillary Press Conference

We are now on the verge of welcoming back to the White House the most corrupt power-couple in American history. Oh, how I wish the Republicans had given us a viable alternative.

Where I Come From & Where I Am Today

I’ve been musing the past few days on the roots of my political and/or governmental philosophy. Why am I where I am today in my understanding of what’s best for the governing of this nation?

I wasn’t raised in a home that taught me what I now believe, so it’s not a matter of merely copying what my parents thought. In fact, I grew up thinking the Democrats were the party to support.

I was conservative as far as I understood what conservatism was, but didn’t grasp the drift taking place in that party. I thought that because I was sympathetic to the civil rights movement, I was a good Democrat.

Liberal-ConservativeIt took a conversation in college with someone knew the difference to show me I was truly a conservative in outlook and that my views lined up better with the Republicans. That actually surprised me.

Yet I didn’t just follow the advice of that person blindly. I began to investigate what I should believe and why. Two factors guided my thinking: my growing Christian faith and the influence of certain writers I was beginning to enjoy reading.

First, I began to learn about Biblical principles and how they should be applied to society, including government. Those principles continue to guide me today.

William F. Buckley Holding BookSecond, two periodicals honed my thinking in accordance with those Biblical principles: National Review and The Freeman. The first offered witty and insightful commentary on the current political scene, and I greatly admired William F. Buckley, the founder of the magazine; the second grounded me in free-market concepts.

When I decided to pursue my doctorate in history, I was in a time of uncertainty spiritually. I was searching to see if anything else could fill that void. My professors, generally speaking, were far more liberal than I, and some of the reading I was given allowed me to test my convictions. Would they stand?

They did. I was now grounded in what liberals thought, as I expanded my understanding of both worldviews.

My advanced degrees offered no answers for life; God mercifully drew me back to Himself. Yet that pursuit of higher education did prepare me to better define what I believed and why.

My path to what I believe is not everyone’s path, by any stretch. My spiritual quest combined with my educational quest to make me what I am. It was a fascinating integration of intellectual and emotional satisfaction.

TextbooksI have been in higher education circles ever since. Seven of my years of teaching were at the graduate level; another five at a college that stressed classical education.

In my courses, I try to communicate to my students a worldview that is spiritually and intellectually sound.

I’ve always approached politics from this foundation of Biblical principles and solid reasoning from a well-grounded conservative philosophy. I don’t repent of any of this, but I do think my approach has left me a little bewildered by the politics of 2016.

As I meditate on what has developed politically over the past year, I have been astounded by what seems to me to be a devastating loss of principle in both the Christian world and the corresponding conservative world.

Donald Trump at DebateI’ve been trying to understand why this is so. You see, for me, the first time I saw Donald Trump on the stage with all those other candidates, I came away thinking that this was the biggest con of recent political history and that no one would take him seriously. Why? Because I didn’t perceive him as a serious candidate.

Trump had no command of the issues. He was an egotist who blustered, interrupted, and insulted anyone he thought was in his way. His entire history was as a liberal Democrat, and now he was trying to convince everyone he was a Republican.

I thought everyone would see through this charade. I’ve been sorely disappointed.

True, he didn’t get the majority of Republican votes in the primaries. I console myself with that fact. But once he became the nominee, so many who had previously said he was unacceptable suddenly decided he was now worth supporting, and anyone who disagreed should be shamed and guilted (is that a word?) into abandoning their principles and declaring their undying allegiance.

My entire background and training doesn’t allow me to board this train. I’m dismayed that so many others have decided to do so.

PrinciplesI’ve learned a valuable lesson, though. I have to realize that not everyone makes decisions based on principles only. Sometimes emotions carry the day. The emotion that leads some to vote for Trump now is fear—fear of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

I understand that fear. What I don’t get is why those same voters don’t see the danger of a Trump presidency as well. In my view, both are equally undesirable.

Some probably wonder why I continue to warn about Trump when it is clear that one or the other—Trump or Hillary—will be the next president. The answer is this: I’m looking beyond this election; I’m trying to keep us thinking about what comes next and whether there will be a Christian witness left to the nation after this, and whether there will be any conservative movement to build upon and salvage the disaster that is sure to come regardless of who wins this particular election.

We need to be principled people. My task, I believe, is to stay true to that calling and convince as many others as possible to do the same.