Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long.
But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. Jeremiah 20:8-9
I am not a prophet, and I certainly wouldn’t want to have the same mission as Jeremiah. It got to him at times, which led to the comment above. Jeremiah, all you ever talk about is the down side of things, his contemporaries complained. We’re tired of hearing that.
That’s my lead-in for assessing the first year of a Trump administration. Since most of you know my reservations about this man being in the Oval Office, you might be thinking you don’t want to continue reading this. Yet I hope you will.
Whenever I write about Trump, I know there will be two opposite reactions from those on the polar ends of the political spectrum. There are those who style themselves The Resistance who will not be happy with anything but a Trump impeachment. Unfortunately, the media is filled with Resistance types:
The other end of that spectrum is comprised of those for whom Trump can do no wrong, and even if he does, they readily provide an excuse or simply proclaim they don’t care.
I will never please either of those groups by what I write. However, I continue to try to help those caught in the middle to sort out what is good about the Trump administration and what is not. Those are the ones I’m addressing.
Last year, when Trump was inaugurated, I wrote this:
I will do my best to be an honest commentator as the Trump administration goes forward. I will not dump on Trump as a reflex action (I’m not a Democrat). I will give him credit where it is due.
If he follows through on his promises, I will say so. I truly hope he surprises me in new ways over the next four years, and my fervent prayer is that God will use him (whether or not he acknowledges that’s what’s happening) and those he has chosen to serve with him to help restore our spiritual and moral foundation.
When I do critique his actions, though, I also hope that my readers will realize I am doing so not out of personal pique but as a sober assessment of what he has done.
I have stayed true to that pledge, and as I assess what has transpired in the past year, I can definitely see some high points. Some of my fears have not been realized; I am relieved by a number of accomplishments of this administration.
What do I like?
First, I am heartened by the Trump administration’s support of the pro-life position.
Second, I appreciate that federal judicial appointments seem to be conservative, noting that the Federalist Society apparently is in charge of forwarding names of qualified people to be nominated.
Third, the economy is recovering from Obama-era doldrums, particularly the stock market, which indicates more confidence in the future.
Fourth, I already like the tax cuts passed by Congress; I see the result in my last paycheck.
Fifth, I’m encouraged by some members of the administration who can speak forthrightly. In particular, I’m impressed by Nikki Haley, our ambassador to the United Nations. The next president, anyone?
Those are the positives that stand out to me. I readily and gratefully acknowledge them.
You might have noticed, though, that I am crediting the Trump administration overall more than I am crediting the man at the top. There are good people in the administration that, I’m sure, are more responsible for these successes than the president himself.
Why do I say that? He is erratic. Just follow his tweets, if you can. One day he is in favor of a certain policy, then he reverses himself the next day. He publicly demeans anyone in his administration that he deems out of step with himself, apparently hoping they will resign.
In other words, Trump is still Trump. He’s the same man I couldn’t support in the first place.
Yet we must make do with what we have.
A number of commentators that I believe have integrity have offered assessments at this one-year anniversary. Let me share some of their thoughts. I’ll begin with Princeton professor Robert George, a staunch constitutionalist, who reminds us of this:
Social conservatives should be sober realists about DJT. His support for us, where he has given it (e.g. judges), is transactional. He does not share our principles nor has he lived (or aspired to live) by them. There is real danger of his discrediting them among persuadables.
Be clear-eyed, George counsels. Recognize foundational principles and realize the long-term danger of having none.
Erick Erickson, founder of The Resurgent website, has tried his best to be balanced, yet he remains concerned about those in the middle who will be turned off by Trump’s antics. He also is concerned about Christians tying themselves too closely to the president.
Along the way, conservatives are ceding moral arguments and policy arguments. There will always be partisans on the left who hate anything those on the right do. But they are not who conservatives have to worry about.
Conservatives have to worry about those in the middle who are persuadable. They have to worry about minority voters increasingly skeptical of the secular drift of the Democratic Party. They have to worry about younger voters. All of these people are not only increasingly alienated by Trump’s behavior but also by his defenders’ constant justifications for it.
At a time of growing hostility to people of faith in the United States and a collapse of morality, the evangelical embrace of Trump hurts their Christian witness and minimizes the number of sympathetic ears to their cause.
I have tried to make the case numerous times that our Christian witness is the most important aspect of our political involvement. We must be careful how closely we align ourselves with someone who may implode. We will lose by association.
Another writer, at Red State’s website, focuses on a similarity between Trump and Obama and offers this warning on the effects of “tribalism”:
There is not much thought that goes into such a worldview except blind allegiance to a person. It’s not as if we haven’t seen the same thing in years past. Barack Obama received undying adulation during his eight years in the White House. He was praised for every move he made, no matter if it was substantive or not.
That’s what idol worship looks like.
Now we’ve seen the same exaltation of Trump, a man whose questionable character and behavior would make his own MAGA disciples think twice about throwing their support his way but only if he was a member of that other political party. Again with the idol worship.
Let me conclude this survey of assessments with what I consider to be poignant words from commentator Susan Wright. For her, as for me, the primary concern is with Christians and our political alliances:
I’ve watched with a deep sorrow for this nation and the direction we’re heading, as over and over, even “Christian” supporters have said: I don’t care.
The fatigue of constantly covering for the man, near-daily pronouncements of, “What he meant to say was…” and a lot of moral relativism have brought us here.
I would suggest that many didn’t care about the numerous reports of sexual misconduct and a litany of provable falsehoods before the election. It’s how he got in.
Before, however, his supporters at least cared enough to make excuses for him. Now, they don’t.
To have large swaths of the nation shrug off the odious behavior of a sitting president does not bode well for our trajectory.
I’ve heard them say, “What about Clinton?” as if a former president of the opposing party’s foul behavior means we should have our own version, just to keep things evened up.
THIS: If you ever complained or showed outrage over Bill Clinton’s adultery and alleged sexual assaults, but you’re giving Trump a pass, you are a partisan and a hypocrite.
I don’t say this to condemn you, but to urge you to think, and hopefully, begin some serious self-inventory.
When we die, our spirits are not taken to Mar-A-Lago.
And yes, I absolutely know what I’m saying is not popular. I do know I’m stepping on some toes. Those might be the very toes that need to be stepped on, however. It’s worth it if it causes even one believer who has defended the indefensible to stop and consider what is right in God’s eyes.
Those are strong words, but I personally add my “amen” to them.
I am well aware that what I’ve written today will not be accepted by some of my brethren on the conservative side (where I also reside philosophically), but I would appeal to them to at least consider these concerns and not just react emotionally. After all, isn’t that one of our main criticisms of those on the liberal side of politics?
Let’s be clear-eyed. Let’s recognize what is good and what is not so good about Trump and his administration. I leave you with another comment I made a year ago, and which still is my heartfelt cry:
What I’m concerned about now is another group that perhaps can be labeled AlwaysTrump. These are people who will defend Trump no matter what, who will find a rationalization for everything he does, regardless of how unconstitutional or offensive his decisions/actions may be.
Here’s my appeal: don’t allow yourselves to be AlwaysTrump; never surrender your reasoning powers and your conscience; stand instead for principle; keep your integrity.