Celebrity “Conversions”: The Trump Report

In my decades as a Christian believer, I’ve witnessed a number of claims about celebrities who recently became Christians. In my early years, each claim was very exciting, as it seemed to show how God’s mercy reaches to everyone no matter how morally depraved they have been.

Then I would expectantly wait for their lives to be changed and their testimony to be life-changing for others. Most of the time, I have been disappointed; they seemed to continue on their former path, albeit with some vague language about God that might not have been there previously.

Let me be clear: There were some reports that were accurate; some lives were changed, so I’m not discounting all such stories of conversion. However, I have become skeptical of most of these reports based on what has transpired over the years.

James DobsonThe latest celebrity “conversion” was made public a couple of days ago by Dr. James Dobson, who passed on the word that he heard from someone else that Donald Trump recently gave his life to the Lord. Now, I’ve always admired and respected Dr. Dobson, so I’m not trying to undermine all the good work he has done or the word of his testimony out of some kind of disrespect. Yet you can color me more than a little skeptical of this news.

One of the things that bothers me most about modern evangelicalism is the tendency to call someone a Christian on the basis of some kind of mental assent to the deity of Jesus or for having prayed a prayer to “accept” Jesus.

While I try to avoid such clichés, I agree with the critique of what some have called “easy believeism,” or “cheap grace.” The entrance into the kingdom of God comes at a cost. Yes, Jesus paid the price for salvation at the cross, but there are conditions we must meet before He accepts us.

First, we must recognize our sins. This goes beyond some facile statement that says, oh, yes, we’re all sinners, so I must be also—sure would like to go to heaven so I’ll admit that I’m a sinner, too.

Frankly, an acknowledgement of sin must go deeper than that. There needs to be a corresponding sense of guilt and remorse over how one has destroyed what God intended for good. There must be a great desire to turn away from sin and seek a life that pleases God in all ways.

Repentance 2Second, that desire to turn away from sin has to be manifested in a thorough repentance. The word means a total change of thinking about God and oneself. It means that from now on we earnestly want to serve Him supremely and not our own selfish interests. It means we dethrone ourselves and put God exactly where He belongs as not only Savior, but also as Lord—the One who has the right and the authority to tell us how to live.

Third, we then turn to the cross of Christ and see that He humbled Himself on our behalf and took the penalty of sin for us. The love manifested through the life and death of Jesus should then break down our rebellion and lead us into a life in which we are constantly figuring out how best to follow Him and please Him in all ways.

When those steps occur, salvation is real. Anything less is a superficial mental agreement to certain doctrinal statements without any real impact on the relationship with God or how we live. Unless those steps occur, we are still in our sins; nothing has been accomplished except stark hypocrisy.

How are we to know if Donald Trump has experienced a genuine conversion? Dr. Dobson cautions us to realize that a baby Christian doesn’t change overnight. Well, I agree up to a point. Yes, a new Christian has a lot to learn and needs to continually grow in the faith. But, as the apostle Paul noted, when a person is in Christ, he becomes a new creation.

That means that the motivation for life changes right from the start. There should be evidence immediately that something has happened. A true conversion signifies that the person now has a new humility and purpose; it’s now all for God’s glory, not his own.

Donald TrumpHere are some ways that Donald Trump can convince me he has undergone a genuine Christian conversion:

  • His hubris will come to an end. He won’t be bragging about how great he is, how wonderful he always has been, and how he is the answer for everything that’s wrong with America.
  • He will finally acknowledge that he has sinned greatly in the past and has now gone to God for forgiveness for those sins.
  • Specifically, he will apologize publicly for the many things he has done in this campaign that impugned others: his disparaging comments about Carly Fiorina’s face; his conniving to plant stories about Ted Cruz being a serial adulterer; his despicable depiction of Heidi Cruz in a photo that compared her to his own wife; his mocking of a disabled reporter by imitating his disability; his manipulative ways to undermine opponents, particularly in his silly questioning of Cruz’s American citizenship and his attempt to link Cruz’s father to the Kennedy assassination.
  • He will stop throwing out a constant barrage of personal insults via Twitter, and instead will try to point people to the faith he now has taken to heart. [Note: after writing this, I became aware of a number of snarky tweets Trump sent out about conservative commentator George Will, who announced he was leaving the Republican party because of its embrace of Trump—no change yet in Trump’s responses to people who go against him.]

If he were to do all of these things, I would be more inclined to believe a conversion has taken place. Even then, because he is in the midst of a presidential race in which he knows he needs the support of the evangelical community to have any chance of winning, I would still have my suspicions that this could all be more manipulation.

Judging OthersI can hear the voices already, putting forth the usual objection: judge not that you be not judged. Well, when you say that, aren’t you judging me?

Check out that passage again if you haven’t done so recently. It’s found in Matthew 7. The context makes it clear that judgment is supposed to take place, but only after ensuring that one isn’t being a hypocrite.

Jesus also said in that same chapter that we would know by the fruit of a person’s life whether he is genuine or not. That requires some judgment, doesn’t it?

I’m also reminded of a verse in the fifth chapter of the book of Hebrews, in which the author tells us, “Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”

We are to be a discerning people. That means we don’t accept everything we hear without first examining all reports through the lens of Scriptural truth.

Let me be clear again: I would welcome the news that Donald Trump has done a 180-degree turn via a real recognition of sin in his life, a true repentance from that sin, and a sincere faith in Christ that will transform his every thought and action from now on.

I’m just not going to believe it until there is adequate evidence for it. I urge fellow Christians not to blindly accept this news without testing it first. Love is not synonymous with naivete.

Trump Meets the Evangelicals

Yesterday, 900-plus evangelicals met with Donald Trump to ask questions and try to figure out if they can support his candidacy. I know only some of the names of individuals who were present. The audience was mixed, I’m sure, in its attitude toward the presumptive Republican nominee.

Meeting with Trump

I don’t wish to unfairly criticize those who attended; in most circumstances, I too would want to have the opportunity to hear a candidate and get a better feel for him/her. Neither am I disdainful of any attempt to try to influence a candidate toward policies that I would favor as a Christian.

In most circumstances.

But this is not a typical circumstance, and the candidate is not typical either. I have followed Trump very carefully through the entire primary process, watching his manner and listening to his words. Based on what I already know about him from personal observation and a significant amount of reading with respect to his past, his business dealings, and his overall character, I would not have attended this meeting if invited.

Let me be clear: I was not invited.

There were Christian leaders there for whom I have great respect. Others present were ones for whom I have lost some respect due to their eagerness to jump on the Trump train and for their rather critical attitude toward those of us who are never going to join this misbegotten candidacy.

I have spilled thousands of words in this blog explaining my objections to Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. Let me summarize why I cannot support him.

First, his personal character is abhorrent: self-centered, vindictive toward those who criticize him, petty, insulting, willing to lower himself into whatever gutter is nearby to destroy others. His divorces and his overall arrogance toward women is another factor; the remarks he makes about women (take Carly Fiorina and Heidi Cruz, for example) are always focused on their looks. For him, that’s the measure of a woman’s worth.

6 or 7

He continues to think Planned Parenthood isn’t all that bad; he attacks the judge in the Trump University lawsuit (a clearly fraudulent university) because of his Mexican heritage; he cavalierly retweets comments from racist supporters; he expects American troops to follow his orders even if they involve the killing of women and children of the enemy; and he is a conspiracy nut, culminating in the bizarre idea that Ted Cruz’s father is somehow implicated in the JFK assassination.

His supporters within the Republican party are constantly having to say they don’t agree with his tirades; some are saying they just won’t comment on him anymore until after the election, since they are so embarrassed by him.

Campaign of Crazy

He is truly a loose cannon; one never knows what to expect next. Well, that’s not exactly true—it’s clear he’s going to continue to be a national embarrassment.

One Type

Those are my bedrock reasons for rejecting his candidacy, but those form the cornerstone for why his campaign is now such a wreck. He has no ground game ready to go; his fundraising has been nonexistent and the campaign is running on fumes financially; a lot of the money he has spent has gone to his own salary and other Trump organizations; he thinks he can just hold rallies and win the presidency; he is slated to lose big, and he will drag the party down with him, possibly losing both houses of Congress in the process.

To fix this, he fires his campaign manager. Now everything’s going to be fine, he promises. But who is really driving the campaign? There’s little an underling can do to redirect The Donald.

You're Fired

He has become so poisonous to the party that a new threat to his nomination is bubbling: an attempt to deny him the necessary votes at the convention. His actions have pretty much destroyed Republican party unity:

GOP Unity

So add to moral degenerate the appellation of incompetent.

And I haven’t even addressed the problem of his knowledge of issues, a deficit that led him to avoid a direct debate confrontation with Cruz one-on-one. He would have been massacred intellectually.

David French wrote an excellent piece a couple of days ago as this meeting with evangelicals loomed. It is an appeal we need to hear and heed:

American Evangelical Christianity does not exist for the purpose of placing one or two decent judges on the Supreme Court. It — along with its Catholic and Orthodox counterparts — represents the body of Christ on this earth. It is a flawed vessel, to be sure, but its moral witness is still of incalculable worth.

He concluded the article with this warning:

Evangelical leaders: If you back Trump, for the rest of your days, you will be forced to live with having had a hand in fracturing our nation on the basis of race, discarding the sanctity of marriage, and scorning honesty itself — all for the chance, the remote chance, that Trump will make one or two decent Supreme Court picks. You will be selling your integrity for the most meager of returns. . . .

Christians have had to take tougher stands in darker times before. They do so in other nations today. This decision, by contrast, should be easy. Trump is not worth your consideration or even one moment of your time. Let others bend the knee.

But . . . but . . . that means a Hillary presidency! Let’s be honest, it’s probably going to be a Hillary presidency anyway. Republicans have chosen the absolute worst nominee available; a number of others who were on the stages with Trump would have been locks to put away the worst Democrat candidate in that party’s history. Choosing Trump has now made that unlikely.

I’ve said it before and will say it again: don’t blame those who cannot, in conscience, support Donald Trump. The blame for this upcoming fiasco lies in the laps of those who became lapdogs for Trump.

Christians, to maintain their witness to the world of integrity, honesty, and moral character, should walk away from Trump. If they don’t, they will forever be linked to his sordid legacy.

No Trump Train for Me

Come on, Snyder, get on board the Trump Train. We’re going all the way to the White House, so don’t you want to take whatever meager credit you might get for being part of the Team? Besides, if you don’t get on board, we’ll blame you if we lose. You wouldn’t want that, now, would you? We’ll make you responsible for Hillary’s presidency, and you’ll never be able to live that down.

Yes, the pressure builds. But it doesn’t change my mind because I’m not tied to a political party or any political savior. I wanted Ted Cruz to be the Republican candidate. If, though, Cruz should come out tomorrow as a full-throated supporter of Donald Trump, I would not follow him into that swamp.

Just as I’m not following Republican leadership into the moral morass known as Trumpism.

Stephen HayesStephen Hayes, in the Weekly Standard, wrote some poignant words yesterday that speak for me. As he described Trump’s campaign as a “con,” he took aim at all those Republicans now lining up at the train station, hoping for a good seat:

Three months ago, most GOP officeholders and conservative opinion leaders understood Trump to be an ignoramus and a boor, a vain reality-television star and a longtime donor to Democrats who had built his candidacy on the kind of progressive populism most of them had spent their careers fighting.

Today, many of those same Republican elected officials and prominent conservatives are hailing Trump as the future of their party and the ideological movement it houses and excoriating anti-Trump conservatives who hold to the same position they took just a few weeks ago.

And in case you’ve missed what Trump has done since he has become the presumptive nominee, Hayes provides a detailed breakdown:

In the time since he effectively captured the GOP nomination, Trump has doubled down on his slanderous claim, borrowed from the National Enquirer, that Ted Cruz’s father helped Lee Harvey Oswald months before the JFK assassination; refused to apologize for attacking Heidi Cruz’s looks, once again calling her “fair game”; picked a fight with David Cameron, leader of America’s longest-standing ally; distanced himself from his own tax plan; recommitted himself to releasing his tax returns and then declared defiantly that those returns are his private business and would not be released; backed off his proposal to ban temporarily entry to the United States for Muslims and then reiterated his support for such a ban; and, finally, lied on national television about a 1991 audio recording in which he created a fake persona—”John Miller,” a made-up spokesman played by Trump himself—for an interview with a gossip magazine, in order to boast about his virility and his virtue.

Pick and choose your favorite out of that list. The most abhorrent are the accusations against Cruz’s father and Trump’s continuing claim that Heidi Cruz was “fair game” for his team’s attacks on her. The silliest, and in some ways the most insightful, gambit was his attempt to say he wasn’t the fictional “John Miller” or “John Barron” when he publicly admitted he was years before.

I think if Trump had his way completely, his administration might look something like this:

Dream Team

All through this campaign season, I kept hoping that Republicans would come to their senses. It didn’t happen. We went from one inconceivable scenario to another:

No Way

I don’t want a Hillary presidency. It might destroy the country. I don’t want a Trump presidency. It might destroy the country.

That’s where I stand, and that’s why I won’t vote for either one. I’m not boarding the Trump Train—not now, not ever.

The Republican Obituary

I toyed with the idea this morning of writing nothing but Scripture passages. I will get to those, but I have to say a few words as well.

The Republican voters (and for the sake of brevity, I’ll just assume most were Republicans) have decided that a man who rejects nearly every line in past Republican platforms will be their nominee for president.

Republican voters have concluded that morality, integrity, the rule of law, and the Constitution must be discarded in their headlong dash into an angry reaction against all politicians, even someone like Ted Cruz who has fought the good fight for Biblical and constitutional principles all his life.

In doing so, they have brought this nation to the brink of near-total collapse. No matter who wins in the fall, Republican or Democrat, Christian values will be subjected to even greater governmental suppression. No matter how Trump fares in the general election, the very fact of his nomination is a dismal indication that whatever honor and principle remained in the Republican party is now in the past.

This photoshop going around this morning may be accurate:

Republican Tombstone

Resurrection of the Republican party depends on whether it comes to its senses once this debacle is over. Until then, while I will vote for good Republicans down the ticket, I will not associate myself with the man at the top of the ticket. I am now publicly declaring my political independence from the Republican party.

I’ve always said to Republican groups when I’ve spoken to them that I am first a Christian, second a constitutionalist, and third a Republican—and that I will remain a Republican only as long as the party remains true to my first two identities.

The voices have already begun: but if you don’t vote for Trump, that’s a vote for Hillary. I reject that argument, but I won’t address it today. There will be plenty of time in the coming days to explain why I cannot, in good conscience, support Donald Trump.

For now, I’ve been directed, I trust this is by God, to certain Scriptures that, to me, describe our current situation. In II Thessalonians, chapter 2, in the context of what will occur in the endtimes, the apostle Paul explains that many will be willingly deceived, and he ends with these words:

For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

I honestly believe that many have been deceived by Trump. I don’t think this verse applies to Trump specifically, so don’t misunderstand my point. But there is a principle here that does apply. When people are so willing to believe a lie, God allows them to follow their own evil hearts into destruction.

The bigger problem, of course, is that the rest of us are dragged down with them into the consequences of their foolishness.

We’re also admonished in the third chapter of II Timothy,

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers . . . ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. Avoid such men as these.

I look at that list and see the man who is now the presumptive nominee for the Republicans. His lifestyle is pretty much drawn from this description. And you are telling me I am supposed to vote for him? I will instead take the instruction of that final sentence: avoid such men as these.

Finally, I go to Romans, chapter 1, where in a passage the deals directly with the sin of homosexuality (yes, I said sin, so I might expect some societal blowback for that), Paul then goes on to say,

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; . . . strife, deceit, malice . . . insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil . . . without understanding, untrustworthy. . . . And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Are we really at that point in our society? It’s no cliché to say that we need to pray now more than ever. Our only hope is to cry out for God’s mercy. Consequences will come first, but we hold out for mercy in the end if enough people awaken to the truth and realize we are on the path to destruction.

This hasn’t been a very uplifting post today. There are times for messages of warning and judgment. This is one of those times.

The Trumpian Path to Oblivion

Today’s vote in Indiana could well determine whether Donald Trump gets anointed as the Republican nominee or whether Ted Cruz can successfully overcome the false narrative being promoted by the media and emerge as the logical alternative.

If only Trump supporters would actually listen to everything Trump says, they might have second thoughts:

Tells It Like It Is

Yet, as the above cartoon indicates, there is almost a cult-like willingness to overlook any and all discrepancies in their preferred candidate. Never mind that he is not really the “outsider” who is going to shake up politics. Never mind that he has given thousands upon thousands to Democrat politicians. Never mind that John Boehner is his texting and golfing buddy.

If Ted Cruz had all of that baggage in his background, do you think they would ever support him? But since it’s Trump, who cares? He’s our savior.

The System

Yes, the system is indeed crooked, but that system has worked for Trump throughout his life and continues to work for him today. He has garnered a far higher percentage of delegates than the percentage of his vote in all the primaries. How is that fair?

And all that talk about being the best “unifier”? The childish insults that emanate from his mouth betray the lie of being a unifier:

Unifier

His supposed major foreign policy speech last week was so canned and programmed, it was painful to watch. The segment I viewed had him pronouncing the word “says,” not as “sez,” but as “saze.” That mispronunciation made it obvious that he was reading a script. He was the puppet, repeating what someone else wrote for him.

Others have pointed out another embarrassing mispronunciation of the nation of Tanzania. His knowledge deficiency is earth-shaking.

How to Pronounce

Yet what do we witness? A rising tide of support from within the Republican establishment for this pseudo-candidate, all because they think he is inevitable. What a sad spectacle.

Join 'Em

This kind of sellout on principles is what will doom us as a nation.

We have had our first black president. We may have our first woman president, particularly if Trump is the nominee. If, by some weird freak of the vote, he should actually win the presidency, we will have—as one of my Facebook friends noted—the first third-grader as president.

Indiana, please don’t make that path to oblivion any easier.

Cruz-Fiorina 2016

Donald Trump was supposed to be at the top of the news cycle yesterday with what he called a major foreign policy speech, but Ted Cruz deflated that with the bold announcement that Carly Fiorina had agreed to be his vice president should he receive the nomination.

Cruz-Fiorina Ticket

It was a bold move, one that no presidential candidate still in the hunt for the nomination had tried since Ronald Reagan did it in 1976. Reagan waited until the convention to do so; Cruz chose an appropriate time, the day after Trump’s wins in the eastern primaries, designed to lessen the effect of those wins and regain the narrative in this race.

All the usual suspects are dismissing this move as some kind of cheap trick, but I think it is brilliant, both in the image it projects and in substance.

First, the image: by putting a woman on the ticket who has a business background, Cruz capitalizes on Trump’s woman problem (they don’t like him all that much) and has someone conversant with the business world who can take on Trump’s supposed acumen in that area (if by acumen, you mean four bankruptcies and a fraud case going to trial over the fake Trump University).

I’m not one for identity politics. Having a woman on the ticket is not the big thing for me. But having a woman with principles is.

That’s the second half—the substance. Fiorina impressed me throughout the campaign with her solid pro-life stance, her command of facts, and her ability to verbalize those facts intelligently. The combination of Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina is, in my view, a ticket with a higher level of intellectual firepower and devotion to principle than we have seen in a long time.

Trump, of course, ridiculed the selection. That’s his standard operating procedure for anything he feels threatens his dominance. He’s busy touting his latest endorsements: Bobby Knight and Mike Tyson. Interesting endorsements. Knight, as longtime basketball coach at Indiana University, was infamous for his temper tantrums during games, making a name for himself by throwing chairs. He was his own Trumpertantrum before anyone heard of the term.

Knight also raised a furor once when he commented that if a woman knew she was going to be raped, she should just relax and enjoy it. Really. And Tyson? He was convicted of sexual assault back in 1991 and served jail time for it.

These are celebrity Trump endorsers; they kind of mirror the “best people” Trump always says he surrounds himself with—bullies and thugs.

So, back to Cruz and Fiorina. I applaud what Cruz has done here. He has taken the reins and shown courage as he continues his quest to keep the Republican party from committing suicide. May that quest be successful.

Keep Calm, Carry On, & Pray

Well, now we can put those states behind us. You know, those northeastern states that everyone knew Trump was going to win last night, and which he did. Those are states where the majority of Republicans believe more like moderate Democrats than real Republicans, and regardless of who the nominee is for the Republicans, none of those states will go for that nominee in the general election anyway.

We have two kinds of Republicans nationwide; last night was one type, but another type awaits in the midwest and the west. Cruz had his run of victories prior to the last week; Trump now has had his. The landscape changes to places where Cruz has a solid chance for another run.

Everyone pretty much gives Cruz Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana. He’s also looking strong in Washington. Indiana next week is the key. A Cruz victory there—and he is pulling out all the stops—would start the primary ball rolling in his direction again. The goal is to keep Trump from getting that magic number of 1,237.

Right now, those who are only superficially involved in analyzing this campaign season are perceiving a Trump juggernaut, and the media would like to perpetuate that perception. But perceptions change. If Cruz takes Indiana and those other states I mentioned, all talk of a Trump train that cannot be halted will itself come to a halt.

Then it will all come down to California.

When I was in New Zealand a few months ago, I saw a sign in a home that said, “Keep calm and carry on.” The genesis of that phrase was unknown to me at the time, but I have since learned it was a motivational poster created by the British government as WWII approached. The goal was to raise the morale of the public.

It’s time to apply that slogan to the current campaign. For those of us supporting Cruz, we need to keep calm and carry on.

I think I’ll also add this: keep calm and pray for the nation. We are at a crossroads.

Prayer-Fervent