Friday, August 19, 2016

The Christian defense of Trump

A recent article was written by Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People For the American Way Foundation, about the arguments that various Christian authorities are making in support of the Trump candidacy for President.  The article refers to quite a few Christian leaders and seems to be well-referenced.

 Stretching to Make Trump ‘God's Guy’: 25 Religious Right Justifications for Backing the Donald  

  The idea of supporting the secular billionaire as a Christian candidate is absurd, and accordingly the justifications are a stretch.  Trump is compared to Elijah, Cyrus, and Paul of Tarsus, among others, including Lincoln and Washington.  (He isn't compared to Jesus, though, since that might be too much even for them.)  They argue that Trump must be favored by God to win, because otherwise, how could someone who made so many mistakes still be in the race?  

  These kinds of arguments support the conclusion that has been reached by many people who study Biblical arguments about any topic.  The Bible is such a large, diverse collection of books that anyone can find something in it to justify any conclusion.  This isn't a new point, but this article is a particularly good illustration.  The implied result is that Biblical arguments are almost worthless.  If any conclusion can be justified from some Biblical quote or other, how can anyone tell the good conclusions from the bad ones?  A bad argument can appear just as valid as a good one.  As a result, Christians are welcome to take inspiration from the Bible, but if they want to make a civil argument for any particular policy, including support of Trump, they should find another, rational, secular way to make their case, rather than relying on a Biblical quote.

  But believe it or not, there is one point that is made by a Christian in the article that I agree with.  The Christian is no less than Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell who founded Liberty University.  Falwell is quoted as making the following comment, in point #17:
During the primaries, Falwell responded to evangelicals who were critical of his endorsement by saying it’s wrong to be worried about electing the “most righteous” candidate. “God called King David a man after God’s own heart even though he was an adulterer and a murderer,” Falwell said. “You have to choose the leader that would make the best king or president and not necessarily someone who would be a good pastor. We’re not voting for pastor-in-chief. It means sometimes we have to choose a person who has the qualities to lead and who can protect our country and bring us back to economic vitality, and it might not be the person we call when we need somebody to give us spiritual counsel."
   Separation of church and state is a founding principle of the United States.  WASH and many other secular organizations have long argued in favor of church-state separation.  Falwell has made an argument in favor of church-state separation, not just from an ideological principle, but also from functional reasons.  He says that a reason for separation is that the people who perform political duties have different qualifications than people who have religious duties.  A person who makes a good president is a different kind of person from one who makes a good religious leader.  King David did different things than Jesus did.  Hence, giving a civil political leader the responsibility to lead a religion is a bad idea, because that political leader is unqualified to lead a religion.  

  A point like this may seem obvious in the U.S.  However, in the Muslim society, it isn't so obvious, and it is one of the things that is causing them problems.  For example, Iran is a theocracy and their supreme leader is a religious leader, an ayatollah.  ISIS is a Muslim organization.  The religion of Islam, at least in some interpretations, has some aspects involved in civil government, such as Sharia law.  The close association of church and state in Islam encourages the possibility of martyrs who are willing to kill themselves for a religious reward in support of a political state.  That doesn't mean  that all Muslims interpret their religion in the same way, and some American Muslims seem to accept the principal of separation of church and state as a valid principle.  But Muslims may have a problem with religious warriors unless they agree with Jerry Falwell that religious leaders and political leaders are different kinds of beasts.

No comments: