During the 2016 campaign, a number of my more conservative friends wondered how I, as a charismatic Christian, could be serious about supporting Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. After all, they said, Trump had shown he had conservative values while Hillary didn’t. To this day, its bewildering to think that ending abortion and rolling back marriage equality matter so much that we have to accept a morally and temperamentally unfit man in the White House.
This debate has continued unabated since Trump’s upset victory. You already know that there are a number of evangelical luminaries who are all-in for Trump. To hear them talk, God, not Russia, hacked the election for Trump. According to this line, Trump isn’t just making America great again, but making America Christian again–and therefore, his boorish and bullying behavior really doesn’t matter.
On the other side of the coin, several evangelicals have argued that whatever good Trump does simply isn’t worth the damage he has done to the country’s image. This side contends that by supporting Trump at such an otherworldly level, evangelicals risk doing serious, long-term damage to their own cause.
Earlier this week, pastor, author and activist Michael L. Brown waded into this debate. One of the original leaders of the Brownsville Revival at Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida; Brown struck out on his own in 2001 and now leads a ministry committed to Brownsville-style revival and unstinting social conservatism. The latter led him to hold his nose and vote for Trump in 2016. He argued that in this case, the ends–stopping a “pro-abortion radical and an extreme supporter of the pro-LGBT agenda”–definitely justified the means.
Brown seemingly hasn’t backed down all that much since then. In 2018, for instance, he argued–with a straight face–that voters shouldn’t consider Trump’s “demeanor and leadership style,” but whether a prospective congressman would vote to “thwart or advance the president’s agenda.” And earlier this year, he claimed that even if Trump could was “sometimes vulgar and crude,” he was still preferable to a “radical liberal.”
But unlike a number of pro-Trump fundies like Lance Wallnau, Jim Bakker and Jesse Lee Peterson, Brown is at least willing to give never-Trump evangelicals a fair hearing. Earlier this week, he invited Ben Howe, author of “The Immoral Majority,” on his radio show, “Ask Dr. Brown.” Howe contended that whatever good Trump may have done is more than offset by the damage to evangelicals’ credibility. Later in the week, New Testament scholar Darrell Bock took a similar line, arguing that Trump may have actually done more harm than good by degrading us as a country.
For his part, Brown rightly noted that there are times where we face situations so serious that even if the means to rectify them are less than noble, the ends are still noble. He cited a person who broke a number of traffic laws to get a badly needed antidote for snake venom to a playground in time to save the lives of several children. He believes a number of pro-Trump evangelicals take a similar line. Their position is, in so many words, “Do you think babies in the womb or persecuted Christians in Syria or Israeli Jews care if Trump can sometimes be a brute?”
Apparently most of Brown’s audience is of the same mind, judging by the results of two polls he posted on Twitter.
For his part, Brown believes that if Trump is the best candidate after weighing everything up, we should vote for him while “making clear this is just a vote.” He does, however, believe that voting for Trump does not obligate a Christian to “defend him at every turn.”
With all due respect, Michael, there are times when a vote isn’t just a vote. When one candidate breaches every standard of decency that is known, it doesn’t matter if you agree with him or her 100 percent–you can’t give him or her your vote.
That was why I absolutely, positively ruled out voting for Trump when he plastered Jorge Ramos’ private cell phone number on his social media feeds. While any Republican would have a really hard sell to make in order for me to give him or her any serious consideration, there was no way I could in good conscience vote for someone who was that reckless.
And that would be true if I tilted more conservative. If ending abortion and rolling back marriage equality were so serious that I would have to overlook such a serious disregard for anyone’s privacy and safety, my moral compass would have been severely warped.
Indeed, there were no fewer than three outrages from Trump that would have been enough in and of themselves to be dealbreakers had I been a Republican. It wouldn’t have been “just a vote,” Michael. It would have been saying that I was willing to put political gain above basic standards that apply to us all.
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