In a recent PBS documentary on the musical Hamilton, Daveed Diggs said of the character he plays, Thomas Jefferson (a slaveholder who had children with one of his slaves…who was also a brilliant writer, politician and leader): “You don’t have to separate these things with Jefferson. He can have written several incredible documents with things that we all believe in, and he sucks.”
He makes a good point, relevant to this election as well. Our Founding Fathers, who we sometimes see as perfect, weren’t. They were also gifted leaders who had to make difficult choices in a new nation.
Many people will make the comparison to Trump. (I could also write about Hillary, but I have more followers/friends who are Republicans than Democrats, so I’m going to be ignoring her for a bit here.)
Personally, I would disagree and say that Trump is not Jefferson or Washington—in my view, he has more of the failures and less of the skills/qualities needed for the job—but I realize some people feel caught between two less-than-ideal options and are picking the one they think is least damaging.
(Quick sidenote before I keep going: remember that I love and care about my friends who disagree with me politically. The things I say next may not apply to you. Even if they do, please do not read anything I say as a personal attack. We can’t do much good from a posture of defense, and besides, this is just a reminder because it’s something I’m concerned about, not a lecture.)
So, if you think Trump is the leader we need in America (or his policies are), vote for him. But, please, don’t minimize his moral failures. Don’t justify what he’s said and done. Especially if you are a Christian posting on social media, I think that confuses what people believe about our faith. I think it already has.
It’s totally fine to be vocal about politics (in a gracious way). But I’m uncomfortable with people saying Trump isn’t that bad, or someone else is worse, or those words aren’t who he really is. He is bad, comparison to others is never the point, and “out of the outflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Whether or not you think his apology for his sexual assault comments was genuinely repentant, you can’t really say the same about his general egotism and mean-spiritedness, or the many lies he’s told and continues to tell.
A typical politician? Cynical, but maybe. I’ll grant you that. I just don’t want to see Christians justifying the actions of a typical politician. And I’ve seen a lot of them doing so, and a lot of unbelievers asking, confused, “Wait, so this is what you believe about treatment of women? About the poor, immigrants, or people who disagree with you? About pride and humility?”
Can you see the danger? Right or wrong, people are coming to conclusions about what Christianity is based on what their Christian friends say.
Again, I am not writing this to talk you out of voting for Trump. I understand why so many feel it’s their only option (although I already wrote about why I’m comfortable voting third party). I’m not even writing this to tell you to stop telling people, in person or on Facebook, that you’re voting for Trump.
But here’s a challenge for you: have the courage to hold Trump’s moral failures and your vote for him in tension. Please. Say, “You don’t have to separate these things with Trump. He is only acceptable choice I see for this nation, and he sucks,” to put it in Daveed’s words.
Let’s make political statements, not moral justifications…which is another way of saying we are representatives of God first, not a political party. Let’s say true things about our faith in how we talk about politics.