As pained as I was to critique Dr. Wayne Grudem’s endorsement of Trump, I find myself even more conflicted to address the recent Charisma online article by Dr. Jim Garlow. Dr. Garlow is the Senior Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, California. He is the recent author of the book, “Well-Versed”, a great resource of biblical insight applied to the tough issues and topics of today. You may read his endorsement and reasons at the following link Here .
Dr. Garlow is no stranger to cultural engagement and political activity. To his credit he has rallied pastors to preach biblically inspired messages on “political” topics to challenge the Johnson Amendment to the IRS Code 501 (c) 3 and has used his influence to impact political candidates and public policy. He is a cultural warrior. Personally, his ministry impacted me in some profound ways over 30 years ago at a pastors retreat in northern Ohio. To say I respect the man is an understatement. His series of messages at that retreat were used by God to redirect my ministry in a life-changing way. I may be any one of a number of things, but ungrateful is not one of them. That is why to challenge his perspective is a weighty thing for me. However, when highly respected and notable pastors and academicians use their influence for a direction that may be detrimental to the greater purposes, precepts and processes of God, then a response is in order. At the very least, Christian people should be able to hear what the differences may be and come to their own conclusions since obedience to God hangs in the balance. This election has provided the opportunity to have the conversation as to how Christians should vote according to their biblical values. How do we empower political candidates with our vote and retain our biblical and spiritual credibility? Is there a voting template which God has unveiled in His Word which would honor Him and provide the ground of obedience which He might move through to reach this nation? These are not small considerations.
Dr. Garlow’s endorsement contained some 18 points as to why Trump is the one for evangelical Christians. While I could respond on each of the 18 points and contend with many of the premises upon which they are built, I have decided to take the broader approach and simply condense my concerns in FOUR categories which in some fashion address the eighteen.
1. The Suspension of Biblical Precepts
As I have read a number of endorsement articles from various Christian leaders I am always struck by the feature that almost invariably the reasoning defaults to a pragmatic approach as to why Trump is better than Hillary rather than offering a biblical precept as to why Trump is qualified to be a civic ruler. To his credit, Dr. Garlow is clear that Trump is no choir boy and his verbal antics are indefensible, but that, along with other features of Trump’s character, never seem to reach a level of disqualifying concern. Which leads one to the ask, “How bad must a candidate be in order to violate our biblically trained conscience?” Is there a line which a Christian simply cannot cross? Would these national leaders care to explain to us where a GOP candidate would be unacceptable no matter how bad the other candidate might be?
This is important. We hear these platitudes that “one sin is no worse than another”, “we all have sinned”, “Jesus isn’t on the ballot”, and “if you expect perfection you’ll never vote”. It’s time for Trump supporters to step up and state clearly where some lines of concern should be if Trump is not near any of them. If making your money by exploiting the poor through casino operations and destroying the family by building strip clubs isn’t the line, then please tell us where the line should be? If it’s permissible to use a novice Christian as President of the United States but not as a deacon in your church, then please explain to us how mature our candidates should be. These national leaders need to make that case based on biblical qualifications and not situational election races. Otherwise, the pendulum of character defects continues to move towards the egregious end. We got these two candidates because we have continually accepted the notion through the years that the lesser of two evils would be acceptable. It has come home in 2016 to expose our lack of commitment to biblical fidelity when it comes to how we should vote.
2. An Eschatology of Panic
Dr. Garlow is convinced that America is at 11:59 pm on the destruction clock. I would certainly agree that America is in incredibly bad shape. It is, perhaps, the worst it has ever been; of course, we hear that every four years. Therein lies the problem. Our votes for unacceptable candidates are being solicited on the basis of panic, fear, and defensiveness. We are told that if the “other” reprehensible candidate is elected the “sky will fall” and Christians will be thrown to the lions. Therefore, you MUST vote for the lessor reprehensible candidate lest you participate in the destruction of western civilization.
Now I will say that Dr. Garlow didn’t go as far as my embellishment (although I saw another pastor on Hannity tonight who went even farther than my example). However, the vibe is still present. We are told that this election is the gargantuan election. We are told that this election will determine the fate of all you hold dear. And what then happens is, we panic and slip into fear and play defense on Election Day with our votes thinking we are helping the situation when in fact we are perpetuating America’s dysfunction. At what point do we as the Church say, “Enough”, and dare to obey a biblical precept which in all likelihood would birth a new paradigm? If a day is as a thousand years to the Lord, then perhaps we have more time than we think. It is time to fear God more than we fear a political candidate. It is time to cast off our anxieties and faithfully obey God believing that obedience is the window for miracles, not pragmatism.
3. The Forfeiture of our Moral Authority
For respected, evangelical leaders to endorse Trump is to forfeit any future discussion about the moral fitness of candidates. We have lost our moral authority this year. I have already stated that I respect Dr. Garlow and we are friends, but I am quite sure that a generation is watching these endorsements and scratching their heads. Our ranks (rightly) pummeled Bill Clinton on his sexual escapades while we give Donald Trump a pass. We are losing our prophetic edge by doing this. We are losing our voice for real and lasting change by acting as lobbyists rather than prophets.
Dr, Garlow rightly points out that the GOP Platform is perhaps the most conservative and best in years. It appears to have some moral substance to it. He suggests that as we vote we consider this as a priority in our reasoning to vote Trump. I would point out that at the convention we had pagan prayers offered, a radical homosexual venerate his sin to a standing ovation, and not a word from our candidate about his pro-life position. Yet, he gets the endorsement despite missing the perfect opportunity to demonstrate his new found fidelity to Christianity and our concerns. We are losing our credibility as a movement when our leaders do not see these kinds of moral and spiritual disconnects.
4. Elevating Subjective Hope while Devaluing Objective Fruit
I chose not to list 18 responses to Dr. Garlow’s 18 reasons because I felt that the vast majority of the reasons could be summed up under this heading. He has elevated (as well as innumerable others) the subjective hope that Donald Trump will advocate for our causes while devaluing the fruit of a life which contradicts many of those hopes. Let’s be honest, every Trump supporter is “hoping” he does what he has promised or inferred. Dr. Garlow even paints it in the genuinely touching story of his wife’s cancer battle when the hope of the “unknown” treatments were more persuasive than the reality of the “known” treatments. Gratefully, it provided his wife with longevity which was not only a blessing, but a statistical miracle. I too am glad for that outcome in that deeply personal situation. But I am not convinced that cancer treatment on an individual is analogous to a nation selecting its leadership. Donald Trump has a track record in life which simply cannot be overlooked. His ability to exercise restraint or self-control with regards to his senses. His ability to keep his word with regards to his marital relationships. His reactionary tendencies demonstrated daily on his Twitter account. His ability to forgive and not be vindictive. These are just a few genuine concerns based on the fruit of his life that the hope in his promises do not automatically dismiss. And beyond that, does the Scripture ask us to know a man by his promises or by his fruit?
I agree with Dr. Garlow as he concludes his article that we must indeed honor Jesus Christ in all we do. I am fully convinced that the goals he holds dear would probably mirror to the exact number the goals that I have for this nation as well. The hardest part of this election season is the reality that our disagreement over Trump is among people who hold many if not all of the same goals. But those goals will never be reached by perpetuating the same game plan evangelicals have played for over 30 years. It is time to shake off fear and panic and trust the Lord through obedience to passages like Exodus 18:21, Deuteronomy 17:14-19, and Romans 13:4,6. If we honor God by obeying His Word, He will honor us by restoring our nation.