My Journey with Donald Trump
I actually met Donald Trump years ago when he was the host of the hit reality TV show The Apprentice. There was an open casting call for contestants to show up at his downtown office in Manhattan. Being free at the time and a fan of the show, I decided to give it a try. I took public transportation from NJ to lower Manhattan on a weekday only to discover a long line around the block. Nevertheless, I waited patiently with my briefcase and some reading material to keep me occupied. As I got closer to the lobby door, there was some commotion in the front of the line. There was Donald Trump with a small entourage greeting the would-be contestants waiting on line and he was walking towards me. Quickly, I opened my briefcase and whipped out a copy of his book The Art of the Deal and flashed it in front of him. He stopped, shook my hand and said "Good Book" and moved on. I was so shocked that he even noticed me that I didn't think to get his autograph. As I shook his hand, the thought occurred to me "Man, this guy's got the softest and fluffiest hands I've ever shaken. He probably never worked a day of hard labor in his entire life." I never dreamed that someday he would be the president of the United States.
Since that brief encounter, I've always liked Donald Trump and tried to give him the benefit of the doubt but I write today as a fellow citizen and as a Christian to my fellow Christians that he must be defeated on Nov. 3rd. He cannot be re-elected to a second term of office.
I hesitate to write this blog as I rarely go public on my political views but the stakes are so high and the choice is so clear that I cannot stand by and say nothing. Christians often quote Edmund Burke's saying “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I will not stand by and do nothing. (See also Connie Chung's appeal.)
I can understand why people in general and Christians in particular voted for Trump in 2016. Back then, the political system gave us an impossible choice. On the left, a Hillary Clinton with the second highest unfavorability rating in polling history (Donald Trump had the highest). Even when I taught at a Presbyterian seminary in South Carolina back in 1998, just the mention of Hillary's name would send a chill up many a spine. I was hoping that as president, Donald Trump would moderate and become more presidential. But he only became worse. I can understand why Christians voted for Trump in 2016 but not this time in 2020.
Back when Bill Clinton was impeached, evangelicals were saying "character counts." What about now? Well, character still counts and because of his lack thereof, Donald Trump cannot be trusted with the reins of government; he must be defeated. But evangelicals say "He fights for us and our conservative causes." Yes, but there are plenty of other conservatives and Republicans who can do the job. We don't need Trump. Christians often quote Augustine, "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity." Integrity, decency and character in our president is an "essential" regardless of your party affiliation. Worse comes to worse, hold your nose and vote Democrat this year and then Republican in 2024.
I happen to be preaching a series on the Ten Commandments. It occurred to me that I think Donald Trump has broken almost everyone of them. "You shall have no other gods"; business and ratings are his gods. "You shall have no graven images"; note Trump Tower, Trump University, Trump Steaks, etc. "Remember the Sabbath"; Mary Trump wrote in her book that when a relative heard that evangelicals like Jerry Falwell, Jr. were supporting Trump, she said 'What's wrong with them? Donald never goes to church' (Kindle Location 150, my paraphrase). "You shall not commit adultery"; cf. Stormy Daniels. "You shall not steal"; Trump has filed for bankruptcy six times and paid no taxes in ten of fifteen years prior to his presidency. "You shall not bear false witness"; by August, he has made 22,247 false or misleading claims. "You shall not covet"; I'll let you be the judge of that.
It is not as if I'm the only evangelical opposing Trump. The premier evangelical magazine Christianity Today came out with a editorial back in December "Trump Should Be Removed from Office." Recently, thirty evangelicals contributed to a new book The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump. On a different note, prominent evangelical author and pastor Tim Keller warns of the danger of evangelical party partisanship:
Trump's biggest failure however is in his handling of the corona virus pandemic. This is unforgivable. To date, South Korea has had 457 deaths, Hong Kong 105, Taiwan 7 and the US 229,986. Our president cannot even promote something as simple and easy as wearing a mask.
I still have a love/hate relationship with Donald Trump. Sometimes, I like him; sometimes I hate him. He has many gifts. He communicates well (I love the way he moves his hands when he says "One day, the virus will just go away."). He is a master of the media. I've heard he's even quite charming in person. When I saw his reaction upon hearing of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he seemed genuinely saddened. I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt that given the life-and-death pressures facing him, he chose the side he thought would help him most. Unfortunately, he chose the dark side. And for that reason, he cannot be our president. He must be defeated. If you are a supporter of President Trump, I hope you will understand my position and forgive me. I hope someday to shake his hand again but in humbler circumstances.
Milton's observations on life, faith and the contemporary.