Pastor Robert Jeffress is one of Donald Trump’s most fervent evangelical defenders. He has recently tweeted the following: “If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.”
What bothers me about this tweet is the exaltation of a man to the point that removing him from office would be tantamount to the kind of division that caused the Civil War. What is perhaps even more disturbing is that Donald Trump chose to retweet this comment. He considers himself that important.
I was teaching this week about the onset of America’s Revolutionary War and shared with students Patrick Henry’s famous “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. Those are the words most often quoted from the speech, of course, but there are others that are poignant as well. What does this have to do with President Trump? Hang with me as I draw from that speech and apply it to what we face today.
Henry stood before his fellow Virginia legislators at a crucial moment, hoping to convince them that they had to face certain facts about their precarious situation. He began with these words:
The question before the house is one of awful moment to this country. . . .And in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty towards the majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
My first takeaway: I have been holding back my opinions lately on the crisis we face as a nation with Donald Trump as our president. I’ve done so because I don’t want to be pugnacious. The Lord’s servant should not be quarrelsome, and that is not my aim. Yet the question before us as a nation is, as Henry states, “one of awful moment to this country.” He then says that truth can only be arrived at by freedom of debate, and that debate must be allowed or we will be guilty of treason toward our country and disloyalty to the majesty of Heaven. I agree.
My primary responsibility before God is to speak what I believe is the truth, and that includes what I believe is the truth about Donald Trump. Those who are staunch defenders of this president have just as much of a right to speak their minds, but I will not be silenced when I believe I have a responsibility before God to speak.
Henry then points to a common problem that affects everyone in every historical era:
It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of Hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth. . . . Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation?
Republicans in general, conservatives overall, and evangelical conservatives specifically, are engaging in the “illusions of Hope.” We are shutting our eyes against “a painful truth,” and that truth is that Donald Trump is not fit to hold the office of president of the United States. His character reeks of pettiness, juvenile backstabbing, and constant insults toward anyone who disagrees with him. His ego outsizes even that of Barack Obama, in whom I saw a constant air of arrogance. Further, I believe he has virtually no respect for the rule of law, has no knowledge of the Constitution (Article 2 does not give him the right as president to do whatever he wants—a claim he made recently), and cozies up to dictators at the expense of our allies. This most recent flap over Ukraine is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
We—meaning conservatives who declare their allegiance to the rule of law and the Constitution—have become, as Patrick Henry says, part of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation.
Does this mean I desire an impeachment proceeding that will put the nation through a shredder? No, I would not want that if it can be avoided. The only positive thing it can possibly achieve is that it will force Republicans to take a vote so we can know which ones still have a shred of principle left.
No, the easy way out of this is for Donald Trump to step aside: easy for the country, but obviously hard for Trump, as his ego probably would never allow it. But think, conservatives, and evangelical conservatives especially—would you really balk at the switch from President Donald Trump to President Mike Pence? From a monstrous ego to a man who, despite his mistakes along the way (such as deciding to ally with Trump) will bring a Christian perspective to the White House with a character to match?
I fully expect this post will not go over well with people I genuinely love and respect, but I hope you will see my heart here. It’s not hatred toward a man; it’s deep concern for the future of this nation and the fidelity of Christians to truth, honor, and the type of character the Lord requires not only of leaders but of those who elect those leaders.