In light of more recent incidents of public outrage over Donald Trump’s presidency, this time during a visit to England, it seems relevant to try and answer what is now a very common question in evangelical circles, “Should evangelical Christians apologize for voting for Donald Trump?” With this post I realize I may be putting myself in the crosshairs of two, somewhat rival camps (possibly with friends on either side). Still, it’s a question that needs attention. In the first camp then are evangelicals, who without hesitation, would respond, “hell no!” The second, would alternatively retort, “oh, heavens yes!” But, which is it?
I think the answer to the question whether or not one should apologize for Trump is not obvious. It will depend on several factors, but most importantly it will come down to two key points: 1) when did the person vote for Trump, and 2) on what basis. Before proceeding, however, let me disclose up front that I did vote for Trump, that I do not regret it, and neither do I feel compelled to apologize in any meaningful way (at least, not yet). Further, I don’t really think that any US Citizen needs to apologize for their vote. I would not ask anyone to apologize for voting for Clinton, even if the decision to do so boggles my mind (especially if one is Christian). Still, since Christians are held to a higher moral standard, a biblical one, then the question is in this sense, relevant.
That said, maybe some evangelicals should be at least somewhat penitent for their Trump vote. What would matter, I believe, is at what point in time of the election cycle that particular evangelical voter began to support Trump. More precisely, when did he or she make the conscious choice that Trump would receive their vote?
It seems that evangelicals who supported Trump during the primaries are in a worse moral dilemma than those who supported Trump only upon his winning the primary. Also, I think the earlier in the primaries one made the conscious choice for Trump, the more culpable one might be for some kind of ignoble, or sub-Christian motivation.
So, that is my first distinction. An evangelical who supported Trump right from the start, as opposed to an evangelical who first supported another candidate, like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Carly Fiorina, is in a worse position than his counterpart, who voted for Trump as a last resort. He is in a worse position because he could have made a better, more moral choice at that time in the election process.
So much should be obvious, since if there is a candidate who is both conservative on the issues and more admirable in their personal ethics, then that person would be the better pick for the biblically-minded evangelical. Really, Trump was neither of these. In fact, it still astounds me that so many evangelicals did support him early on, since his position on many issues could hardly be called conservative (at least, at that time).
The second point is more complex as it has to do with the actual grounds for casting a Trump vote at all. This is obviously hard to determine apart from a in-depth survey of individual Trump voters. However, again, it seems that the motivation for casting the Trump vote correlates with the timing of the evangelical voter’s conscious decision to cast for Trump. Evangelicals who decided for Trump right from the outset likely had a different motivation than those, who voted for Trump mainly because he was not Clinton. I, for one, saw Trump as the least conservative and least ethically respectable of all 17 or so Republican candidates. Yet, once those other 16 were out of the race, I saw him as obviously more conservative and, yes, even more morally respectable than Clinton. Not very respectable mind you, only more respectable than she.
Further, I think Christians who voted for Trump because they saw him as the obvious choice when it comes to the possibility of ending legalized abortion, so long as they didn’t support him from the outset, had good reasons to have voted for him upon winning the Republican nomination. For although some may charge pro-lifers as being “one-issue” voters, I would argue that that is one awfully important issue. After all, if one cannot agree on what a human being is, then I doubt one will agree on much with regards to policies that concern those same human beings. Minimally, one is off to a very rocky start if you cannot agree on some fundamental aspects of human persons, like when they begin to exist.
However, there is perhaps one kind of motivation that might have been key in some evangelicals casting for Trump that would be suspect. And if this motivation was present, then I believe some form of repentance might be in order. It is also a motivation that I think might have actually been held by a few, who did back Trump from the beginning. Therefore, if an evangelical had decided for Trump, from the outset, out of a desire that Trump would somehow empower the Church, or bestow some kind or degree of worldly blessing on Christians, or through political power plays or legal machinations privilege the Church and its institutions, or evangelical communities, or other conservative Christian groups over and above other kinds of communities (religious or non), then I think this kind of thinking is terribly misguided, and also probably unbiblical.
That said, however, I do not know what kind of privileges or worldly blessings evangelicals might have expected that are not also privileges and blessings that should be extended to people of other religious beliefs (e.g. Mormons, Muslims, or Manichaeans alike). I’m just saying that to desire to attain political or social power through the exercise of political or social means for the sake of political and social privilege is not a Gospel mindset. It is the wrong way for a nation to be redeemed.
In sum, however, I don’t think there were many people who actually voted Trump out of these motivations. But, I do wonder if those who did vote for Trump right from the start did have some motives that were indeed less than biblical, and, therefore, less than righteous. I also wonder if some evangelical votes were made out of a spirit of anger: anger at media bias, anger at the aggressive Leftism of the university, and anger at the constant ad hominem attacks by leftists. If there were intent by some evangelicals to vote in a sort of Christian “strong man” (not that I think Trump is one), then that would also count as a sub-Christian motivation, and could indeed require some form of apology. To whom, I have no idea, but perhaps a quite prayer to the Lord might suffice.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” – Psalm 20:7