The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump:
30 Evangelical Christians on Justice, Truth and Moral Integrity
What should Christians think about Donald Trump? His policies, his style, his personal life? Thirty evangelical Christians wrestle with these tough questions. They are Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. They don’t all agree, but they seek to let Christ be the Lord of their political views. They seek to apply biblical standards to difficult debates about our current political situation.
Vast numbers of white evangelicals enthusiastically support Donald Trump. Do biblical standards on truth, justice, life, freedom, and personal integrity warrant or challenge that support? How does that support of President Trump affect the image of Christianity in the larger culture? Around the world? Many younger evangelicals today are rejecting evangelical Christianity, even Christianity itself. To what extent is that because of widespread evangelical support for Donald Trump?
Don’t read this book to find support for your views. Read it to be challenged—with facts, reason, and biblical principles.
Ronald J. Sider is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Theology, Holistic Ministry and Public Policy, Palmer Theological Seminary at Eastern University and author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. For more info on Ronald Sider please visit here.
“If you are looking for deep religious wisdom about the 2020 Presidential election, here it is. For those wanting their faith to inform their vote, there is no more important book to read before November 3. Ron Sider has always helped the evangelical community see truth–carefully, biblically, fairly, and courageously. In bringing forth The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump, he has done so again. The title says it all. These 30 outstanding evangelical voices are not talking mere politics. They explore the roots and reasons underlying the spiritual crisis created by Donald Trump’s presidency. Their well-reasoned, well-researched, theologically grounded voices, from the U.S. and the world, are compelling. Listen. Share. And then you’ll be better equipped to answer, how does being a disciple of Jesus Christ shape the choice I am asked to make about the next President of the United States?” ~ Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America; Author, Without Oars: Casting Off into a Life of Pilgrimage
“Well done good and faithful servant! Ron Sider’s steadfast voice is welcome during this trying time. He continues to be a beacon for followers of Jesus who care about justice and morality and being told the truth. I commend this book to anyone struggling to align their faith with their choices at the ballot box. I am grateful for his ongoing witness to God who loves us all with a passion for justice and a heart full of mercy.” ~ Tony Hall, Ambassador and former U.S. Representative (1979-2002); author of Changing the Face of Hunger
“This timely and careful critique of the Evangelical movement’s surprisingly fervent embrace of Donald Trump draws on biblical, theological, sociological, and historical sources to argue persuasively against his leadership and reelection to a second term of office. Humble and sacrificial loyalty to Jesus Christ should reign above all other loyalties including seeking political, personal or cultural power. In light of Trump’s documented “badly damaged soul,” the authors warn of the spiritual damage to the soul and witness of Evangelicalism in America. Issues of character, speech, and behavior as well as policy choices on racial justice, immigration, treatment of women, and the needs of the poor and marginalized should be shaped by the teaching and example of Jesus and the Scriptures. Christian witness and faithfulness to the Gospel are all at stake. I recommend this book.” ~ Roberta Hestenes, Presbyterian minister; former President, Eastern University; theology faculty member, Fuller Seminary; International Minister-at-Large, World Vision
“Whether you agree or disagree with these voices, I believe their perspectives and arguments are urgently in need of being heard. Listening should always be the first act of a leader, and even more for a leader seeking to live as a follower of Jesus. What I so appreciate about this collection of essays is the careful way these authors have tried to listen carefully — to Donald Trump, to his supporters and detractors, and to the national and international climate of our day. Beyond that, however, they are all people trying to listen as deeply and wisely to God in Jesus Christ as they can. This is what I believe leads them to conclude that the United States, including especially the church in this nation, faces in Donald Trump not just a political leader with a political vision that some like and some don’t, but a personal and spiritual force-field of a far more dangerous and destructive kind. Whether or not you accept these voices, I hear in their perspectives and arguments many things that are urgently in need of being heard. What is at stake is far too important to do otherwise and risks multi-generational damage. Lord, may it not be so.” ~ Mark Labberton, evangelical scholar and theologian
“The dominant narrative in the public square is that the evangelical Protestant church provides unwavering support for Donald J. Trump. While this may be true, I am thankful for the witness for the editors and contributors of The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump that this claim is far from universally true of all evangelicals and also for their crucial warning that continued support will lead to the deepening erosion of the church’s witness to the world. My hope and prayer is that all Christians, whatever their present political leanings, will be open to the case made in this book.” ~ Tremper Longman III, author of The Bible and the Ballot: Using Scripture in Political Decisions
“The support of American evangelicals for the presidency of Donald Trump will likely be recorded as one of the most consequential acts of any religious group in world history. It cannot be overstated. That is why this carefully compiled collection of essays is so timely and important. Whether you agree with their opinions or not, Ron Sider, his fellow editors, and their contributors treat this subject with the seriousness it deserves. If Trump supporters believe it is worth risking the very reputation of the gospel to re-elect their candidate, they should at least explore what these dissenting voices have to say. If Trump detractors believe evangelical support for his presidency is, indeed, dangerous, this book will equip them to defend their positions and persuade others to join them in opposition. Regardless of where one stands on Christians and Donald Trump, this compilation explains significant political differences within evangelicalism and sets out reasons why evangelicals across the theological and social spectrums will continue to play a critically important role in the political life of our nation, for good or for bad. Evangelicals and those who want to understand them better cannot afford to ignore this book!” ~ Rob Schenck, President, The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute; author of Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister’s Rediscovery of Faith, Hope and Love
“This book is an appropriate lament that faithfully records a dark chapter in American evangelicalism. Its warning notes to the blind guides who have anointed Donald Trump as God’s instrument are firm, urgent, and offered out of loving concern for the integrity of Christian witness. The contributors consistently plead for the embrace of the foundational Christian virtues of humility, truth-telling, and justice. They remind us that Jesus alone is King, that his politics were decidedly not based on fear and hate, and that he is the only person to whom unqualified allegiance is due.” ~ Amy L. Sherman, author of Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good
“The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump is a compilation of timely essays that document the perilous seismic and public shift from evangelicals endorsing the policies of a presidential candidate to evangelicals ordaining that same candidate. Today may be a great day for evangelicals politically but this day may ultimately lead to believers having less and less real spiritual influence on their neighbors around them. Judged by our own actions, good news will be seen as fake news and Jesus will soon be relegated to the alternative way, the alternative truth, and the alternative life. That’s the spiritual danger of Donald Trump.” ~ Eric Swanson, Director, Leadership Network; co-author of The Externally Focused Church
“People who care about this country (and the whole world) need to use every medium to urge the public to restore sanity in the highest echelon of our government. Yes, including a full-length book. A sharp contrast to curt, snarky remarks through social media, The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump is a thoughtful, interdisciplinary multi-voiced, Christ-centered, prophetic exposé of danger—social, political, and spiritual—that every person of faith must read.” ~ Al Tizon, Executive Minister of Serve Globally, Evangelical Covenant Church
“Ron Sider curated essays that integrate biblical insights, with deep reflection to challenge Christians to think about what their faith should look like, lived out in the public sphere. The voices from the global evangelical community provide helpful nuance to short-hand versions of evangelicalism. A thoughtful collection of essays, grounded in biblical reflection, that helps Christians ground their conclusions on the heart of Jesus’ teachings. A timely, thought-provoking book!” ~ Nikki Toyama-Szeto, Executive Director, Evangelicals for Social Action
“Ron Sider is one of the most faithful followers of the person and teachings of Jesus Christ that I have ever known. I wholeheartedly believe that in this Trump era or any other, the silence of many white evangelicals to outright evil who seek to occupy the quiet political center is instead an insidious form of complicity that affirms the morally indefensible status quo. I pray that The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump will help spark conversations across the country that will finally end that silence for good. It’s time to move from caution to courage in the most important election of our lifetimes.” ~ Jim Wallis, Founder and President, Sojourners
The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump
978-1-7252-7178-4/ paperback or eBook / $25.00 Click here to purchase from Cascade Books (Use Coupon Code DANGER40 to receive 40% off) An Imprint of WIPF and STOCK Publishers
“In his tweets and comments, Mr. Trump habitually ridicules, describing his opponents as ‘unhinged,’ ‘crazy,’ ‘lying,’ ‘disgraced,’ ‘losers.’ When our nation’s leader speaks with disdain and contempt about those with whom he disagrees, he’s making America worse.” “Why ‘Mere’ Words Matter,” Mark Galli
“Evangelical Christians should acknowledge the profound damage that’s being done to their movement by its braided political relationship—its love affair—with a president who is an ethical and moral wreck.” “The Deepening Crisis in Evangelical Christianity,” Peter Wehner
“After just three years in office, Trump has made over 16,000 false or misleading statements, a number previously unimaginable when it comes to the most powerful person in the world. And, tragically, the frequency of his lying is accelerating. In 2017, Trump told 1,999 lies, an average of 6 a day. In 2018, he told 5689 lies, an average of 16 a day. In 2019, Trump told 8155 lies, an average of 22 a day.” “God Hates a Lying Tongue,” Chris Thurman
“So far in this crisis, Donald Trump himself has obviously failed to rise to the challenge of leadership, and it does no one any favors to pretend otherwise.…” The editors of the conservative National Review, quoted in “President Trump and the COVID-19 epidemic,” Ronald J. Sider
“After reading the sampling above of Trump’s own words, even the most objective of people would have to admit to a disturbing trend of chronic objectification and sexualization of women (and girls). It is a damaging witness to the name of Christianity to defend Trump’s anti-Christian words and actions. Remaining silent will only further damage the witness of the church.” “Trump’s Low View of Women,” Vicki Courtney
“As a Latin American evangelical and as an American citizen, I cannot support President Trump. For me it would be supporting a pagan war-maker in clear contrast with a Christian peacemaker. Trump is a pagan, and this is demonstrated by a behavior in which wealth, sex and power were the dominant values in his life.” “Voices from the Global Evangelical Community,” Samuel Escobar
“The lack of humility and expansive presence of pride in the words and deeds of Donald Trump make him unqualified to be President of the United States of America.” “Humility,
Pride and the Presidency of Donald Trump,” Michael Austen
“Evangelicalism died on November 8, 2016.” “Donald Trump and the Death of Evangelicalism,” Randall Balmer
“Evangelicals lost their way and elected a race-baiter, misogynist and fool.” Napp Nazworth
“Our aim is to try to account for the seemingly inexplicable support evangelical Christians are giving the president whose conduct in office violates many of the very norms and standards that evangelicals have traditionally insisted upon.” “Evangelical Double- mindedness in Support of Donald Trump,” James W. Skillen and James R. Skillen
How should evangelicals respond to Donald Trump?
Always, evangelicals must start with Jesus and the Bible. Biblical values about truth, justice, personal moral integrity, concern for the poor, opposition to all racism, respect for women, personal sexual integrity, and respect for human life and dignity are all central biblical demands. Evangelical Christians must ask whether Donald Trump promotes those norms.
What are the big problems with Donald Trump?
Trump lies constantly. He has repeatedly demonstrated adulterous sexual behavior. He fails to make justice for the poor a major agenda in his decisions. He consciously stokes white racism. He failed to act promptly and courageously to stem the coronavirus pandemic.
Rather than acting to prevent devastating climate change, he has made things much worse with numerous awful decisions. He constantly attacks the press as “fake media”, thus threatening democracy.
Is Donald Trump the kind of person Scripture warns us about?
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul warned “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather that lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). Biblical Christians have to ask themselves if this is a description of our current president.
What criticisms have pro-Trump evangelicals thrown at anti-Trump evangelicals?
Pro-Trump evangelicals typically attack anti-Trump evangelicals in certain ways. First, those who oppose Trump are labeled as left-leaning liberals who are pro-choice. Second, they are accused of working against the cause of Christ. Third, they are accused of trying to overturn the election. Fourth, they are accused of arrogantly assuming to be morally superior to Trump. Fifth, they are accused of harboring unrighteous anger toward Trump. These essays help readers decide whether such charges are accurate.
How can evangelicals support a president who is a pathological liar?
The only way you can support a pathological liar is to deny that he is one. That’s what Franklin Graham did when he said that Trump “sometimes misspeaks like all of us do,” rather than admit that Trump has made over 17,000 false or misleading statements in his first term in office. Yet, his supporters seldom call him on it and demand that he repents. Trump is not a pathological misspeaker, he is a pathological liar. God hates a lying tongue. Apparently, some of Trump-supporting evangelicals couldn’t care less.
How does evangelical support for Donald Trump hinder evangelism?
Non-Christians look at Donald Trump and see two things. First, they see in his personal behavior and political decisions things that flatly contradict biblical norms. Second, Trump’s strongest supporters are white evangelical Christians who claim to ground their faith and action on biblical standards. But in their support of Trump, white evangelical Christians are willing to abandon many of those biblical values for political influence. Both non-Christians and younger evangelical Christians look at this behavior and say in disgust: “If that is what Christianity means, forget it.”
What should biblical Christians do in 2020?
In his chapter in the book, Ronald J Sider asks: “Will centrist evangelical Christians remain silent in 2020?” The National Association of Evangelicals is the largest evangelical network in the country. They have a document called FOR THE HEALTH OF THE NATION, which is their official public policy document. It says, “faithful evangelical political engagement must have a biblically balanced agenda.” The document then goes on to spell out what that means. They should be pro- life and pro-poor, pro-family and pro-racial justice, pro-sexual integrity and pro-creation care and peacemaking and justice for the poor. Biblical Christians must evaluate Trump’s policies using that biblically balanced agenda. And they must also ask whether a man with Trump’s lying tongue, personal sexual sinfulness, and blatant disrespect for those who disagree with him, is the example they want their children to follow.
Table of Contents
PART I: ON TRUMP
Why “Mere” Words Matter: The President’s Words — and Our Words about the President | 3
God Hates A Lying Tongue | 10
Donald Trump’s Low View of Women: Silence Is Not an Option | 20
Race-Baiter, Misogynist, and Fool | 32
Humility, Pride, and the Presidency of Donald Trump | 42
The Trump Brand and the Mocking of Christian Values | 47
10 Reasons Christians Should Reconsider Their Support of Trump | 54
—Christopher Pieper & Matt Henderson
President Trump and the COVID-19 Epidemic | 62
—Ronald J. Sider
PART II: ON EVANGELICAL SUPPORT OF TRUMP
The Deepening Crisis in Evangelical Christianity | 73
Donald Trump and the Death of Evangelicalism | 78
Will the Evangelical Center Remain Silent in 2020? | 88
—Ronald J. Sider
Voices from the Global Evangelical Community | 96
—J. Samuel Escobar, David S. Lim, & D Zac Niringiye
“If You Board the Wrong Train . . .”: American Christians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Donald Trump | 107
Hymn for the 81% | 117
Trump, the Last Temptation | 122
Immoral, Spineless, Demonic, Prideful, Blind, Stupid, and Lacking in Grace? | 131
Setting Your Own Rules and Cogintive Dissonance: The Case of Donald Trump and Conservative Christian Evangelicals | 139
—Edward G. Simmons, David C. Ludden, & J. Colin Harris
PART III: ON THEOLOGICAL, HISTORICAL, AND CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES REGARDING TRUMP
Christ the Center and Norm | 151
—Miroslav Volf & Ryan Mcannally-Linz
Evangelical Double-Mindedness in Support Of Donald Trump | 157
—James W. Skillen & James R. Skillen
What White Evangelicals Can Learn about Politics from the Civil Rights Movement | 169
At Odds: The Collision of Scripture and Current Immigration Policy | 175
Quo Vadis, America? | 181
—Steven E. Meyer
Three Prophetic Voices against Silence | 195
—Edward G. Simmons
An Anvil Which Wears Out Many Hammers: A Call for the Church to Remain Holy in and Era of Bitter Partisanship | 202
The Constitution and Faith: Does It Matter? | 211
—Julia Stronks Afterword
On Returning to Christ
—Ronald J. Sider Recommended Reading | 221