On Support for Donald Trump: An Open Letter to Albert Mohler

Earlier today, Louisville Baptist pastor Joel Bowman posted this open Facebook letter to likely incoming Southern Baptist Convention president Al Mohler regarding his support for Donald Trump in 2020.

Open Letter to R. Albert Mohler, President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Dear Dr. Mohler,

I am writing to you in this medium, because the likelihood of you meeting with me face-to-face is quite low. Moreover, your public remarks require my public response.

Sir, you said during the 2016 election cycle, to support then candidate, Donald J. Trump, would cause evangelicals to lose moral credibility. You also said if you were to support him, you would owe President Bill Clinton an apology, given your judgement of his character. Now, you are endeavoring to be president of the SBC, and suddenly, you announced not only your support for Trump, in 2020, but that you would vote Republican for the foreseeable future. Given your position, as well as the position you endeavor to hold, you did not have to voice support for any candidate or party, in 2020. Further, I think it would have been wise for you not to do this.

1. You owe Clinton an apology. Not to give him one speaks of lack of integrity on your part.

2. Given your influence among Southern Baptists and white evangelicals, as a whole, you have inextricably tied the evangelical movement to the Republican Party, for better or for worse, and,

3. Your book, “Conviction to Lead” no longer has a place in my library. It wreaks of hypocrisy and ecclesiastical opportunism.

It grieves me to say you have, in my estimation, lost all moral credibility. You no longer have a prophetic voice. Now, you simply blend in with popular, politicized evangelical thought. Rather than being an apologist for the Gospel, you have become an apologist for political conservatism. Your assertion that a vote for Trump or a Republican candidate is THE expression of a Biblical world view is myopic and tribalistic.

You once had my high respect, though we disagreed on some secondary and tertiary issues. As a Louisville pastor for 21 years with affiliation within the Louisville Regional Baptist Association, Kentucky Baptist Convention, and some involvement in the SBC, I am deeply disappointed. I feel like ripping your chapter out of the book, “Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention”. It is all meaningless chatter, empty rhetoric to me, now.

There was a time I was working toward stronger involvement within the SBC, through the Cooperative Program. Due, in part, to your recent remarks, I am placing this on hold. As an African-American of evangelical theology, I lack confidence in your leadership in the area of Biblical justice.

I pray the Holy Spirit convict you in this area. I say all of this with every ounce of love and respect I can muster, as your brother in Christ.

Sincerely,

Rev. Joel A. Bowman, Sr.
Founder & Senior Pastor
Temple of Faith Baptist Church
Louisville, Kentucky

I feel pretty sure that white evangelicals on average do not comprehend how differently their black brothers and sisters on average see the endorsement of Donald Trump. This is a key sentence:

I feel like ripping your chapter out of the book, “Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention”. It is all meaningless chatter, empty rhetoric to me, now.

Here is the most recent illustration of the vast gulf between Donald Trump,  his supporters and the minority perspective.  Donald Trump tweeted this about the angry, armed, white men who stormed the Michigan Capitol Building in a re-open Michigan protest.

I cannot believe the results and reaction would have been the same if those protesters would have been angry black men carrying weapons into the Capitol. What a perfect example of white privilege that they were not arrested and got a commendation from the president.

Some of the rallies feature Confederate flags and Nazi slogans and Trump does and says nothing to discourage it. The protesters like him and that’s what matters. You simply have no credibility with most African-Americans if you tolerate white supremacy. There is nothing pro-life about that.

Masks = Slavery? What Madness is This?

Today in nearby Mercer PA, a small protest against PA’s stay at home restrictions was held and a friend took this photo:

Starting Sunday night, Governor Tom Wolf requested “as many people as possible wear a nonmedical or homemade mask when leaving their homes.” Apparently, this woman has no idea what slavery is or was because there is nothing equivalent about slavery and a requirement to wear a mask to prevent the spread of disease. It is impossible to take protests like this seriously when this kind of absurd and racially insensitive rhetoric is featured.

This same woman is not permitted to walk down the middle of the street or drive on the wrong side of the road. These rules are for her good and the safety of others. Today I wore my mask when I went out and I plan to protect myself and others for the duration.

It is beyond belief that Donald Trump has done nothing to discourage these protests. He has actually promoted them with his tweets to “liberate” three states with Democratic governors. I can’t think of a comparable situation in my lifetime where an American president says one thing to the public but provokes his followers to ignore what he says. He could put a stop to this by calling out the protesters. They are carrying Trump signs and flags. Some are carrying Confederate flags. He has every reason to discourage the protests for public health reasons but he winks and nods and they continue.

In Harrisburg, PA today, an antivax message was prominent as a part of the protest.

More Al Mohler on Bill Clinton and Public Morality

By now, those who keep up on religion and politics are aware that president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and nominee to be the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Al Mohler, has endorsed Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

Mohler did not endorse Trump in 2016. In fact, he criticized Trump and cast his opposition as being consistent with his criticism of Bill Clinton on moral grounds. After citing an article decrying Clinton’s morals, Mohler said in 2016:

I cite that article I wrote during the Clinton crisis to document arguments the importance of sexual morality and character to leadership. I read those words because I want to make certain I am consistent over time and not bending my argument to the political urgency of the moment. If I were to support, much less endorse, Donald Trump for president, I would actually have to go back and apologize to former President Bill Clinton. I would have to admit that my commentary on his scandals was wrong. I don’t believe I was. I don’t believe evangelicals who stood united that time were wrong.

Several commentators have pointed out Mohler’s flip flop in articles that are well worth reading: Jonathan Merritt, John Fea, David French.  My interest in this post is demonstrating just how far from his former position he has moved. During the Clinton years, Mohler was one of several evangelical leaders who took a very persistent stance that Bill Clinton’s character disqualified him from office. Here are some illustrations.

Lying Destroyed Credibility in 1998

In September 1998, Mohler was quoted as calling for Clinton’s resignation over the Lewinsky affair.

Mr. Mohler, the Southern Baptist theologian, has called for Clinton’s resignation, as have other leaders of Clinton’s own denomination.

“An apology requires moral credibility, and the president has destroyed that moral credibility,” he says. “Basically, he’s saying to the American people, ‘I lied to you, I lied repeatedly, I lied even most recently, but I am not lying now.’ That just does not wash.” (1)

At last count, Donald Trump has made 18,000 false or misleading statements during his term. Just recently, for instance, he saidAnybody that needs a test, gets a test. We—they’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.” That wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now. Mohler was so incensed about Clinton’s lies in 1998. Now, after constant lies from Trump, Mohler endorses him. To quote Mohler, “that just does not wash.”

According to the Baptist Press, Mohler signed a statement in November 1998 which

called on Clinton to resign because restoring trust to the presidency “can only be accomplished by your relinquishing your office.”

Apparently, we no longer need to trust the president.

Character Mattered in 1999

On February 18, 1999, the Baptist Press reported that Mohler made his third appearance on “Larry King Live” to discuss, among other things, Clinton’s character. The article quoted Mohler at length:

“I think what we see here is a great culture war, the great moral divide in this country being made very apparent. … [People] saw the president’s sins, and the resulting consequences which should come of them, in entirely different worldviews. It was impossible for persons on one side of that divide to understand the other.

“I think we’re all losers here. … I think we’ve learned something new about the moral climate of America, something very disturbing.

“There is sin all around. No one has any right to act as if there is no sin in him,” Mohler said, reflecting comments from some of the other guests who noted the sick and dark condition of Americans’ hearts and souls.

“The issue is what do we as culture … rightly expect to be the moral standard whereby our leaders should live and be accountable to the American public?” Mohler asked.

“The real issue is the president’s character … [and] the way we have separated sin from consequences. That is fatal for a society. … We’re becoming very satisfied with an inconsequential understanding of moral evil.”

Mohler said later generations will be “greatly harmed” by some of the immoral messages afloat in American culture, including the message sent by the senators who acquitted Clinton.

Apparently, the president’s character is no longer an issue when the president is a Republican.

Core Evangelical Values in 2016

In 2016, Mohler questioned whether Trump supporters adhered to core evangelical values.

MOHLER: We have taken comfort in the fact that there have been millions and millions of us in America. And a part of that evidence has been the last several election cycles, with the evangelical vote being in the millions. And now we’re having to face the fact that, evidently, theologically-defined – defined by commitment to core evangelical values – there aren’t so many millions of us as we thought.

On CNN, Mohler told Don Lemon the election of 2016 was a disaster for evangelicals. He didn’t favor Hillary Clinton but had special criticism for Trump. Watch:

This quote is haunting: “When it comes to Donald Trump, evangelicals are going to have to ask a huge question: Is it worth destroying our moral credibility to support someone who is beneath the baseline level of human decency for anyone who should deserve our vote?” Apparently, it is worth it to Mohler to destroy what moral credibility evangelicals as a group have left to endorse Trump.
 

Character Still Mattered in 2018

Mohler probably needs to apologize twice to Clinton because as late as June 2018, he was banging on Clinton for his morals. In a column reacting to Clinton’s inadequate answer about his lack of apology to Monica Lewinsky, Mohler wrote:

That’s the twisted, convoluted, moral world that many of us remember from the 1990s and the play out of the sordid affairs concerning Bill Clinton as president of the United States. I bring it up today on The Briefing simply because of this. We need to remember that this kind of action has consequences, and the consequences continue.

I could go on but I think the point is made that Al Mohler has used Bill Clinton as a punching bag since the late 1990s, was consistent when judging Trump at first, but has now flipped. He owes more than Bill Clinton an apology. He owes every Christian who listened to him an apology.

As David French pointed out in his excellent commentary, Mohler’s endorsement comes as Donald Trump presides over a dismal performance as president during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we speak, Trump is undermining his own COVID-19 task force by encouraging civil disobedience among his supporters. Instead of telling his supporters to go by the social distance guidelines, he tweeted for them to “Liberate” their states. Trump’s unfaithfulness may no longer involve women, but it has consequences nonetheless.

After all is said, the only thing I get out of Mohler’s turnabout is that he has done what he said he didn’t want to do – bend his “argument to the political urgency of the moment.”

 

Eric Metaxas Claims Trump Spoke Hyperbolically About Having Total Authority

Yesterday, Donald Trump told reporters in the daily Coronavirus briefing that the president has total authority to open the states for business. Listen:

Trump sure sounded like he meant all of that to me. However, one of his court evangelical apologists said he was “speaking hyperbolically.”

Greg Thornbury disagreed and they continued their conversation. However, it is uncanny to me how anyone could watch those exchanges and think Trump did not take himself seriously. In fact, today he tweeted this:

I don’t actually fear Trump being able to take over as a dictator in certain respects. However, he did stonewall the Congressional investigation into Ukraine and Robert Mueller’s investigation as well. He got away with ignoring Congressional oversight. He seems to believe he has this power and apparently wants to use it.

I know it has been asked before, but can you imagine the gnashing of teeth from conservatives if Obama said something like this?

You’re So Vain, I Bet You Think This Crisis is About You

Just when I think there is a bottom, there isn’t. Today Donald Trump tweeted the following:

As I write this, 137,025 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 2418 Americans have died. Trump brags about his ratings as if the crisis was about him. Narcissism was named after the myth of Narcissus who was smitten with his own image. Perhaps it is time for a new term derived from Trump. He is so sure that he is the center of everything and that it is him we are tuning in to see.

At the least, I have some additional illustrations of how narcissists operate. Many narcissists know enough to hide their self-absorption. A wise and discrete narcissist would realize how self-centered it would seem to appropriated one of the most catastrophic events of a generation and make it about how great his television ratings are. But not Donald Trump. He is just out with weapons-grade narcissism. He doesn’t see the issue. He is a star and everybody who matters will admit it. If they don’t see it, they are lame and don’t matter anyway.

For those who don’t get the title of this post:

Carly Simon – You’re So Vain

Eric Metaxas Finds His Moral Whisper About Harassment Claims Against Mike Bloomberg

Oh I see how it is. Mike Bloomberg’s past harassment allegations get some press and Eric Metaxas finds his moral concern.

I don’t think this was “whoa” as in “whoa, he is as much of a louse as Trump, maybe I should support him too.” I think this was “whoa” as in “whoa, that’s bad.” What do you think?

Metaxas and other Trump court evangelicals will be severely blasted if they try to play the morality card on Trump’s opponents during this election. They can’t really do it with a straight face. I suspect Metaxas only wrote a muted “whoa” because he knew he would be ridiculed unmercifully if he went for a stronger condemnation.

Recently CBN’s David Brody (a supporter of Trump) acknowledged that making an issue of Pete Buttigieg’s sexuality was not a winning play for Trump supporters since Trump has no moral high ground. Watch:

Brody just ruled out this out as a plausible strategy given Trump’s questionable behavior. I don’t think Bloomberg is going to prevail, but I can’t see how Republicans can make an issue of it if he does.

Ted Cruz’s False Ukraine Narrative

There are so many lies and half-truths floating around the trial of Donald Trump that it is hard to know where to start. People who do fact checking for a living are working round the clock to try to keep up. I picked this one mainly because I am interested in it and because I see it as a deliberate, clever and sadly effective attempt to deceive masses of people. I have seen this approach used often by David Barton in his historical misadventures. Often, Barton takes a little truth, a little error and puts them together for a false story that seems plausible to the listener who wants to believe it.

In this case, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has accelerated his promotion of the Russian narrative that Joe Biden’s opposition to Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin in 2015 was motivated by a desire to bring financial gain to his son Hunter. Watch:

The main point is summarized by Cruz at the end:

If you have a sitting Vice President making public policy decisions to benefit his family to the tune of $1-million a year, that raises a serious question of corruption and a president is not only justified in asking for that to be investigated but has a responsibility to see that that’s investigated.

I suppose Cruz could defend himself by saying that he qualified his statement by saying, “if.” However, the video presents a narrative that has Joe Biden withholding over a billion in funds from Ukraine until the Ukrainian leadership fired Viktor Shokin, their prosecutor at the time. That part is true but incomplete. Cruz goes on to suggest Biden did that in order to protect his son’s company from scrutiny from investigation by that same prosecutor. That is false.

At the end of this post I provide annotated links to articles which describe the bipartisan and widespread support for the ouster of Shokin. Shokin was not investigating corruption in Ukraine which is why the U.S. wanted him removed. Biden acted on directives from the Obama administration. If anything, Shokin’s removal made an investigation of Hunter Biden’s company more likely because it increased the chances that a prosecutor with integrity would be appointed. If Biden wanted to help his son, he would have supported Shokin and wanted him to stay in office because Shokin was leaving Burisma (Hunter Biden’s company) alone.

This is fairly easy to learn by reading reports filed at the time in the international, U.S. and Ukrainian press. The Congressional Research Service also provided a similar perspective on this situation and was not controversial at all until Trump needed a defense of his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Burisma. I have no doubt that Ted Cruz has been briefed on this and is aware that Shokin was not a reformer and that Biden did not act alone or in his son’s interest to get Shokin fired. He knows that U.S. and EU policy at the time favored the removal of Shokin and that Biden was just the person on the scene to carry it out. As Vice President, Biden’s presence in Ukraine signaled how serious the donor nations were, but he wasn’t acting on his own.

I realize I am speaking to readers who know this. Most, if not all, regular readers here know this. I am revisiting this because I want to document this shady use of events to craft a false narrative for myself and my teaching. I also want to provide the links below as a resource for those who want evidence to provide skeptical friends who have been bamboozled by Trump’s defenders.

Annotated timeline of Viktor Shokin’s tenure as Prosecutor General:

February 10, 2015Shokin replaces Yarema as top prosecutor – Viktor Shokin was a deputy under former prosecutor Vitaliy Yarema. Yarema failed to prosecute officials in former President Viktor Yanukovych’s administration and generally showed no results in fighting corruption. Shokin’s nomination was opposed by corruption fighters in Ukraine since he came from the same office as Yarema. The Ukrainian Weekly reported:

Fiery debate preceded the vote in which critics warned he’d perform just as badly as Mr. Yarema, having served at the heart of Ukraine’s corrupt law enforcement system for more than a decade, including under the Yanukovych administration.

Shokin did not have a reputation as a corruption fighter when he entered the job.

July 24, 2015Shokin and Guzir were “burned” under the GPU – After just five months on the job, the Center for Combating Corruption in Ukraine grew impatient with Shokin’s lack of action and burned him and others in effigy. This is a Google translation of the Ukrainian statement underneath the video.

Avtomaydan, together with the Center for Combating Corruption and activists from Kharkiv, Poltava, under the GPU, hold an action for the resignation of sabotage reformers of Prosecutor General Shokin and his deputies Huzyr and Stoliarchuk.

September 24, 2015Remarks by US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt at the Odesa Financial Forum – In his remarks, Pyatt specifically scolded the Prosecutor General’s office for interfering with a UK investigation of Burisma. Shokin’s predecessor had failed to cooperate. Then Shokin failed to hold anyone accountable for the neglect of a thorough investigation of charges against Burisma. If Biden wanted to encourage corruption and take heat from Burisma, he would have left Shokin alone. Instead, Biden carried out U.S. policy and insisted he be relieved of his position.

October 8, 2015Testimony of Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – Viktor Shokin was still Prosecutor General when Nuland said the following to the Senate committee:

Like Ukraine’s police force, the Prosecutor General’s Office has to be reinvented as an institution that serves the citizens of Ukraine, rather than ripping them off. That means it must investigate and successfully prosecute corruption and asset recovery cases – including locking up dirty personnel in the PGO itself;

October 12, 2015Sobolev’s case for firing Shokin steadily gains momentum – Ukrainian legislator Yegor Sobolev’s effort to get Shokin fired was featured in this Kyiv Post article. Biden was just one of many people inside and outside of Ukraine who wanted Shokin replaced. What did Sobolev have to gain from Shokin’s removal from office? According to Sobolev, legislators were fearful of speaking out because Shokin used the power of his office to target his political enemies.

Sobolev has so far collected 114 signatures in parliament for dismissing Shokin, still well short of the 150 signatures needed to put the issue on the agenda.

He said in an interview with the Kyiv Post that not a single signature has been collected since the Sept. 17 arrest of Radical Party lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk on suspicion of bribery. Critics see the arrest as political revenge by Shokin for Mosiychuk’s support for his firing.

“After Ihor’s arrest everyone started thinking ‘what if this happens to me tomorrow’?” Sobolev said. “One of Shokin’s goals is to show to lawmakers what consequences could happen to those who submit signatures for his dismissal.”

October 31, 2015Protesters drive to Poroshenko’s mansion to demand dismissal of Shokin – About 200 protests drove to the Ukraine president’s house to call for Shokin’s removal. Were they working for the Bidens?

February 16, 2015; March 29, 2015 – It seems clear from a review of sources during the term of Shokin that he was not popular with reformers and corruption fighters. The U.S., EU, and Ukrainian politicians and civilians wanted him removed. Joe Biden delivered the message which was consistent with U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Shokin resigned initially on February 16, 2015. He didn’t leave office right away though and had to be voted out by the legislature which occurred on March 29, 2015.

 

Why You Should Not Listen to Dennis Prager Ever Again

I have never been a fan of Dennis Prager or Prager University. Now, I can say that sentiment has risen to a recommendation to avoid it completely. Watch this clip about the relationship between private comments and character. Specifically, Prager makes reference to Donald Trump’s vulgar comments on the Access Hollywood tape.

You can watch the whole fireside chat here.

In this video, he correctly says that humans in private say and think things that are bad. This observation follows from the Christian doctrine of sin. Private evil is also consistent with a psychoanalytic perspective, whether it stem from Freud’s id or Jung’s shadow. However, Prager’s reference to Trump’s Access Hollywood comments as “private” is deeply flawed. As a result his moral lesson is also flawed.

Trump spoke on a television set to another person about what he had done (“moved on her like a bitch”) and what he claimed to do as a matter of course (sexually assault women). His comments were not private and they were not about his private wishes. He described what he had done and claimed to do as a matter of practice.

What Trump disclosed to Billy Bush in that conversation was not normal. For Prager to attempt to excuse this or normalize it is a disgrace. Remember Trump did not say that he worried about these fantasies or that he wished he didn’t have them or that he was fighting them. He wasn’t disclosing troubling thoughts to his therapist in an effort to help himself rise above them. They weren’t even jokes or hyperbole (which would be a less reliable indicator of character). Trump boastfully described something he had done and might do again.

Prager’s general point that private talk “is not an accurate indicator of a person’s character” isn’t consistent with common sense, the Bible, or psychological work. While I agree that humans are flawed, we are not all troubled in the same ways. It is not original with me to cite the words of Jesus on this point:

Social psychological research has demonstrated several ways that we present a front. We manage our appearance and behavior to give socially advantageous impressions. The results of self-report on tests is often questionable because of social desirability bias. Even though we don’t often know ourselves well, we often put on a different persona than we really feel. Most people agree with the idiom: you can’t judge a book by its cover. Prager wants us to believe you can’t judge a book by the book.

Prager’s effort to level the moral playing field to the lowest common denominator is a transparent effort to ease the conscience of Trump supporters. If Prager is going to be consistent then he will need to tape another fire side chat to excuse the private behavior of Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

Prager was unprepared to speak intelligently about the matter. He didn’t even know the name of the show (he called it “Planet Hollywood”) and he tap danced around the specifics of what Trump said. Prager also revealed something about himself, saying that he engages in stereotypes about gender and ethnicity while he is driving. I can honestly say that I have had lots of road rage, but I have never attributed a person’s bad driving to their ethnicity or their religion. That information is something he probably should have kept private.

Additional point: Other Trump’s defenders want us to judge what they say is Trump’s heart and not his public words or actions. Defending Trump’s apparent ridicule of a disabled reporter, Kellyanne Conway once asked Chris Cuomo:

You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.

So if we can’t judge based on private disclosures and we can’t judge based on his public actions and words, then how may we judge him? I get the strong suspicion that Trump’s followers don’t want anyone to judge him at all.

Image via Wikipedia, taken by Gage Skidmore

Crown Him with Many Crowns – Trump Upon His Throne

This speaks for itself.

Keep in mind that this is a political rally in a church. These evangelicals have political goals which are more important than their religious ones.

For more, see these posts by John Fea and Andy Rowell.

Does Romans 13 Support the Case for Keeping Trump?

In response to Mark Galli’s Christianity Today op-ed calling for President Trump to be removed from office, Peter Leithart at First Things appeals to Romans 13 as one reason to put up with a bad executive. I have heard this in defense of Trump, but I don’t think it is a correct application. First, here is the passage:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

It seems obvious that governing authorities involve more than the president. Congress is an authority, the Judicial branch is an authority. There are state and local authorities. Critically, the Constitution via the Supremacy clause is the law of the land. Paul did not specify a form of government. In our form of government, the authority is the Constitution. Rulers are elected by the people and are considered public servants. Citizens and rulers are subject to the Constitution which is the governing authority.

Thus, it is important for Christians to respect Congress and who God has placed in office there. Many Christian Trump supporters right now are myopically focused on the executive branch. However, I believe they have encouraged President Trump to violate Romans 13 by supporting his resistance to subpoenas and parroting his rhetoric about a witch hunt. I think a case can be made that Trump is in violation of Romans 13 since he will not bring himself under the authority of Congress and the Constitution.

Trump supporters might counter by saying he has a right to go to court to seek a favorable interpretation of the law in his resistance to Congressional oversight. While that is true, it should be noted that he has argued that the president has absolute immunity from investigation and indictment while in office. The president could commit a crime in broad daylight and according to the argument he has advanced, he could not be investigated until he leaves office. This is an extreme position and has not prevailed in any court challenge thus far. The Supreme Court will hear related cases soon.

Trump’s legal strategy aside, my main point is that current Christian Trump supporters must find a way to respect all of the authorities. I think Leithart is clearly wrong to say Christians should put up with bad behavior in our Constitutional form of government when Congressional oversight exists.

In Leithart’s article, I read no argument for why Christians must honor the executive branch more than the legislative branch. Trump Christians have shown a consistent bias on this front. The Constitution gives impeachment power to the House. Trump Christians such as Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, and Robert Jeffress blasted the impeachment procedures as biased and unfair. In fact, the House leaders had the right to conduct the business as their preexisting rules dictated. Giving Congress honor and respect as an authority was not at all what these leaders did. Instead, they left their religious callings and became partisan political players.

Now, Senate Republican leaders are threatening to dishonor the Constitution by making the trial a sham. Christians should insist on a trial which brings forward evidence. Christians should publicly call on the president to obey subpoenas and submit the authority over him — the Constitution. Christians should honor the Constitutional order for the role of the Senate. The Senators take an oath to be impartial. Christian Senators who follow Romans 13 should strive to follow that oath. Christian citizens should call on the Senate to follow their oath and honor them for doing so.

In short, governing authorities involve more than the executive branch.  Christians need to support the legitimate work of the legislative branch and insist that the president honor the Constitution. There is no reason to elevate one branch over another in our system since the law of the land isn’t a potentate but the Constitution.

UPDATE: This post at American Creation blog is a nice summary of Calvinist views of Romans 13. Gregg Frazer, Dean of The Master’s University and historian of the founding era wrote to address Calvin’s perspective on political rebellion. In short, without some governmental sanction for resistance (e.g., impeachment), Christians should not rebel. However, impeachment and removal is built in to the Constitution and therefore legitimate. Christians should not appeal to Romans 13 as a reason to oppose impeachment.