David Barton (left); Eric Metaxas (right)
Yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Eric Metaxas was allowed to opine on what he called “The Christian Case for Trump.” In essence, he argued that Trump’s failings don’t matter as long as Trump opposes abortion and supports religious liberty for Christians. I argue in response that there is no distinctly Christian reason to favor one president over another when it comes to applying the law. Assuming for a minute that we can determine what Christian public policy is, a president who holds those policies still must abide by the law or face the consequences.
Metaxas begins by faulting the editorial of Christianity Today’s Mark Galli which called for impeachment of removal of Trump from office. Galli called the president “profoundly immoral” and stipulated to his guilt in the Ukraine affair. Metaxas objected that Galli misapplied Christian doctrine:
But these subjective pronouncements promote a perversion of Christian doctrine, which holds that all are depraved and equally in need of God’s grace. For Christianity Today to advance this misunderstanding is shocking. It isn’t what one does that makes one a Christian, but faith in what Jesus has done.
I believe it is Metaxas who confuses the matter. Galli does not make a judgment about Trump’s salvation, but rather Trump’s fitness for office. Trump may or may not be a Christian but that isn’t at issue when it comes to conviction on the articles of impeachment. If we take Metaxas seriously, then no law breaking office holder could be held accountable — after all we are all sinners so who should throw stones?
Metaxas dismisses Galli’s proper comparison of Trump to Clinton. In Galli’s editorial, he noted that Clinton’s sins led many evangelicals to call for his ouster. However, many evangelicals now look the other way with Trump and excuse his actions. Metaxas’ justification for this is political:
In the 1990s some Democrats were antiabortion. Neither party could exclusively claim the high ground on this deepest of moral issues. Mr. Clinton spoke of making abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” No longer. Despite ultrasounds and 4-D imaging, Democrats endorse abortion with near unanimity, often beyond viability and until birth. If slavery was rightly considered wicked—and both a moral and political issue—how can this macabre practice be anything else? How can Christians pretend this isn’t the principal moral issue of our time, as slavery was in 1860? Can’t these issues of historic significance outweigh whatever the president’s moral failings might be?
The last question is really the heart of Metaxas’ argument. For good measure, he paints the Democrats as favoring open borders, socialist and Christian hating. So for Metaxas, Trump’s problems are better than the only alternative he considers which is a Democratic-socialist takeover.
Metaxas’ analysis is misleading on a key point
There are several fact based problems with Metaxas analysis. I will take just his key point. Abortion was just as divisive in the early 1990s as it is now. I am old enough to remember the absolute Republican hatred of the Clintons and the belief by pro-life advocates that Hillary was evil. I was much more involved in pro-life and Republican circles in the 1990s and I can tell you the divide is the same.
In his short op-ed, Metaxas drops fact challenged hints (refers to “socialists,” the FBI’s “J.Edgar Hoovers”) that the Democratic deep state alternative universe would be so bad that Trump is a far better alternative no matter what impeachable offense he has committed. In short, Metaxas plays the role of a demagogue, mongering fear to move people away from their critical sense.
Walk by Sight Not by Faith
Another serious problem with this kind of reasoning is that fear mongering causes people to walk by sight and not by faith. Metaxas tells Christians that they need Trump. Their world will fall apart if Trump isn’t president. Abortion will be worse, you won’t be able to pray in public, the worst will happen, the sky is falling. God will not be on His Throne.
In fact, if Trump is convicted, Mike Pence will become president. This is right now the choice. Then Christians of that persuasion can vote for Pence next November. The fear based choice offered by Metaxas is a false one. Metaxas and the president’s court evangelicals aren’t acting from faith or principle, they are reciting talking points.
The only real issue for the Christian or any citizen right now is Trump’s guilt on the articles of impeachment. Christians don’t have a political team. The Christian position on impeachment and conviction is for senators now to do impartial justice as the Senate oath specifies. To argue otherwise is to make a case against the Constitution and rule of law.