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Donald_Trump_Victory_Tour_at_Hershey_PA_on_December_15th_2016_01I'm not a betting man, and it's a good thing I'm not. I would have bet that anyone other than Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination. And after his surprise victory, I would have bet that Hillary Clinton would beat him in the general election.

Yet here we are, on the eve of Inauguration Day 2017 when Donald J. Trump will become the 45th president of the United States.

I know many Christians, some who voted for Trump and some who did not, who were preparing themselves for a Hillary Clinton presidency. They were preparing for new threats to religious liberty, the potential for hardening the Supreme Court's commitment to abortion, and the possibility of Sexual Revolution ideology being enshrined into law. They were ready for Christian witness in the age of Clinton, only to discover that God's plan was different.

Today, we are called to be faithful to Jesus in the age of Trump. And that task may actually be harder. Why? Because the lines between Christian principle and Trump's policies are drawn in different and unfamiliar places, and because many conservative Christians belong to the party that Trump now leads.

So what will faithfulness in the Trump era look like? Here are four words of caution for believers today that should apply to you, no matter how you voted.

1. Don't let your personal feelings trump your prayers.

If we are to be faithful in the age of Trump, we must be united in prayer. Paul urged "that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority." Our prayer life demonstrates our "godliness and dignity," and it "pleases God our Savior" (1 Timothy 2:1-3, CSB).

Praying for the president is not optional. It is a discipline that God uses to temper our rhetoric and grant us a measure of compassion and respect for whoever is in the White House, even when faithfulness may require resistance and dissent. Such was the case during the Obama era and the same must be true for Trump.

2. Don't let party priorities trump Christian principles.

Recent studies show that your party affiliation has a gradual impact on the positions you take. For example, people who join the Republican Party tend, over time, to become more pro-life. People who belong to the Democratic Party tend, over time, to support stricter gun control laws. Party affiliation plays a large role in the political positions we believe, first, to be plausible, and then, later, to be right.

This phenomenon happens at a speed that can be disorienting. There was a time when many Democratic leaders were pro-life (Ted Kennedy, Dick Gephardt, Jesse Jackson, Al Gore). There was a time when many Republican leaders (Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush) had views on immigration that were strikingly different than the position of President-elect Trump.

Words like "conservative" and "liberal" can shift over time, taking on new connotations. Different political priorities and perspectives that were once on the margins can, in the span of a few months, suddenly become plausible. Party affiliation and the high hopes for a new president can lead people to change their principles.

The danger is that the same can happen with Christians.

For example, one of the intriguing aspects of today's political alignment is the fact that the party with the most unabashedly pro-life platform includes politicians who champion the use of torture as a legitimate and morally upright act in today's world. When Christians who are staunchly and rightfully pro-life go wobbly when it comes to Christianity's ethical stance on torture, it's likely we are seeing party pressure at work.

The danger, in this and every era, is that we would bend our principles or sideline our Christian ethics or excuse injustice or minimize sinful behavior in favor of good standing within a political party. If we're not alert to this temptation, our allegiance to a party will trump our Christian principles by blinding us to the places where our party is not in line with Scripture. This happens regularly on both the right and the left, and so all Christians must be vigilant.

3. Don't allow short-term gains to trump long-term witness.

Many white evangelicals reluctantly voted for Donald Trump because they believed the long-term impact of the Supreme Court overcame all other obstacles. They reasoned that it was worth voting for a terrible candidate if there was a chance that a Supreme Court Justice would protect life long-term and set up barriers against the enforcement of Sexual Revolution ideology. They weren't motivated primarily by short-term wins for the Party; they hoped for long-term impact on the Court.

Other evangelicals withheld their vote from the Republican nominee for a similar reason: they worried that a short-term gain would hurt the Church's long-term witness. They reasoned that evangelical support for Trump would send the signal to the Republican Party leaders that there is absolutely nothing that will ever jeopardize the loyalty of evangelical voters. And they worried that this would lead Republican leadership to give less attention to evangelicals as a voting bloc in the future.

Ironically, both sets of voters (those who reluctantly pulled the lever for Trump and those who did not) had similar motivations: they are concerned about long-term witness. The reasoning that led to their choice is strikingly different, of course, but perhaps common ground can be found at the level of motivation.

Regardless of how you voted, in the era of Trump, we must recognize the need for Christians to take the long-term view. We cannot rejoice in short-term victories at the expense of the Church's long-term witness. Otherwise, we sacrifice our children on the altar of political expediency.

Regarding the pro-life movement, we should pray for a Supreme Court Justice that believes in the right to life. At the same time, if politics is downstream from culture, then we have much work to do in society to persuade people toward a pro-life position. We need a multi-pronged approach for pro-life victories. The Court is a crucial component of this, of course. But so is the cultivation of a culture that sees the sanctity of all human life.

4. Don't let the voices of your political allies trump those of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

As we move forward prayerfully, and with great hope, we must seek out wisdom from believers in Christ in other parts of the world, and Christians here who may look and vote differently than we do. If we are to see progress in racial reconciliation in the days ahead, then all Christians (especially those who belong to the majority culture) will need to look for ways to become uncomfortable.

We will not be faithful in the Trump era if we allow the voices of conservative non-Christians to overshadow the voices of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are of other political persuasions, or from other cultural and ethnic backgrounds. We will not be faithful in the Trump era if we allow American voices to drown out the voices of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.

Of course, the Scriptures must overshadow even the voices of the global church, for God's Word challenges us all at different points. The sword of God's Word cuts both ways, and no particular culture has everything right.

Still, Christians should always be looking to strengthen what is good, challenge what is lacking, and denounce what is bad in our political parties. We can't do that with our partisan blinders on. We need the wisdom and insight of Christians who don't share all of our political views, but who are radically committed to the Scriptures, to the gospel, and to God's mission in the world.

The sword of Jesus' love cuts across all artificial lines, including the "conservative" and "liberal" divide that shows up in strange ways in the Republican and Democratic Party. We need brothers and sisters to show us which lines are artificial if we are to be faithful in any political era, and now, in the age of Trump.

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14 thoughts on “Faithfulness in the Age of Trump”

  1. Curt Day says:

    The first three words of caution are excellent but were given too late. Why were no warnings given before 2016 about party priorities trumping Christian principles when we were considering policies and laws that allowed for the exploitation of both workers and the environment or allowed for foreign policies that saw our nation replace democracies and democratic processes with dictatorships or saw our nation engage in immoral and illegal wars?

    The fourth word is questionable to me because we need to ask if, in the political sphere, there are some principles that should trump our Christian principles. The reason for my questioning here is because we have sometimes used select Christian principles as an excuse for failing to share society with others as equals. That occurred during slavery and Jim Crow and it most recently occurred prior to the Supreme Court ruling on SSM.

  2. Walt says:

    I see what you did there, with the ‘trump’ in every point. Clever.

  3. Andy says:

    Good points Trevin. Good to think through. Personally as a Born again and somewhat reluctant Trump voter I don’t feel any more anxiety to be faithful to God in the trump age (perhaps the most radical republican candidate) than I did in the Obama age (perhaps the most radical democratic candidate). Spiritually to me the presidential candidate is a wash to my faithfulness to God. Christ built his church through the evil roman empire, and through the faithful Constantine… and the gates of hell did not prevail against it.

    As an evangelical community though, you’re totally right, in that I’ve never seen such a divisive issue as Trump among us. And a call to faithfullness to God is necessary. Very strange for me to watch us, and especially the YRR community draw daggers over it. Once you get over the media hype of it all though, the direct implications of the president to our cause have proven to be borderline irrelevant. Anyone that survived the 2008 election (and the Y2K bug for that matter), should testify to that.

    Times like these I’m super thankful for the ridiculous desiring god article archive… to help us remember history better. I could go back further through clinton articles, but let me just conclude with the JP logic found in this 2012 article.

    “Here’s my reasoning. Barring catastrophe, Obama or Romney will be president (yes, I know you may see it as a catastrophe even if either does get elected). The likelihood that both presidencies will be identical in the good and evil they do is infinitesimal. One will very probably do more good amid the bad, even if only a little.

    We can be part of that guess, or sit it out. God promises wisdom to those who seek it. So the likelihood that prayed-up, Bible-shaped Christians will tip the scales toward the incrementally worse regime is small. Therefore, the likelihood that we will waste our time voting seems small.

    Not a very inspiring rationale. I just find it compelling in a fallen world that is not my home.”

  4. steve says:

    Why, according to Mr Wax, is it going to be “harder” for Christians to remain faithful in the “age of Trump” than it was in the “age of Obama”? My brothers and sisters on the Left made it very difficult for us Conservatives to remain faithful the past eight years – as much as I’ve learned to love them faithfully despite that situation, maybe it’s time for them to walk in our shoes for awhile. Hummmm…….?

  5. john allcott says:

    Your point number (3) is the best analysis I’ve ever seen of how the Church differed on voting for Trump.
    Profound yet concise.

    1. john allcott says:

      …I still think my view (our witness was tarnished by cheering for a notorious sinner) is better, but I respect the other side’s motives.

  6. Curious says:

    Interesting. Torture is always wrong according to biblical ethics? Could you point to some resources/articles that develop an argument for that?
    It doesn’t appear that John Frame or John Murray address it.

    I’m inclined to be against it, but don’t personally know how to respond to arguments like this:

  7. Jean Peavler says:

    Great article! However, I do have some concerns with your paragraph regarding torture. I am against real torture which actually harms people. However, many on the left are now trying to redefine what is considered “torture” to include acts which scare people but don’t actually harm them – maybe the acts even inflict pain but do not have any lasting effects. As terrible as that sounds, there are times when it may be necessary, when we are dealing with terrorists who are harboring pure evil.

    Thank you for considering my different point of view.

  8. Truth Unites ... and Divides says:

    “Don’t let the voices of your political allies trump those of your brothers and sisters in Christ.”

    Particularly appropriate for those who vote Democrat.

  9. Jonny Violette Skye says:

    I’m curious what you mean by “Sexual Revolution ideology”, you refer to it twice but it is a vague phrase. The Sexual Revolution was the name of the women’s liberation movement in the US up until the 1980’s, so I can’t think you are referencing a movement from 30 years ago. I couldn’t find any other reference to it on a search of this site.

  10. HpO says:

    Sorry, but there’s really nothing imperatively unique about what you said, Trevin – unique in terms of imperative applicability just for the next four or eight years under Trump. For you pretty much said the same old, same old these past eight years when Obama was in power.

    Sure, now you’re asking, then answering your own question, “So what will faithfulness in the Trump era look like? Here are four words of caution for believers today that should apply to you, no matter how you voted. 1. Don’t let your personal feelings trump your prayers. … 2. Don’t let party priorities trump Christian principles. …3. Don’t allow short-term gains to trump long-term witness. … 4. Don’t let the voices of your political allies trump those of your brothers and sisters in Christ.”

    In fact, however, you pretty much proposed the same thing about faithfulness in the Obama era. For instance:

    (a) “The 2008 presidential election (of Obama) represents a major setback for the pro-life cause. … I could not help but wonder if (my son’s) generation might be the one to end this barbaric practice once and for all. But it will take honest teaching of the issues at stake … As I hear of evangelicals shifting away from single-issue politics, part of me rejoices. A variety of issues cry out for Christian concern. But my prayer is that even as some evangelicals broaden the agenda, God will raise up single-minded leaders … who will shake us out of our complacency and give us a passion for standing up for the voiceless. … Evangelicals who are disappointed in the setbacks of the 2008 Election … should never give up hope.” (The Gospel Coalition, November 5, 2008)

    (b) “President Obama …said this: ‘… One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.’ … Which begs the question, In which century does such brutality have a place? … simply claiming that the tides of time have done away with such brutality, … is … to appeal to societal advance as the rationale for opposing ISIS, not good and evil. … As Christians, we … uphold the portrait of humanity so richly presented by the Scriptures. Humans are not basically good, building the future of progress toward paradise.” (The Gospel Coalition, August 25, 2014)

    (c) “For President Obama, faith is not the enemy, but confidence. … [That means] When you think the problem is due to someone having too much confidence in the truth of their religion, you are implying that the content of their religious beliefs is irrelevant. … It’s simply not true, (however) no matter how often our leaders tell us, that confidence in our beliefs is bad while the content of our beliefs is neutral.” (The Gospel Coalition, February 12, 2015)

    (d) “My friends on the left don’t understand why calling Islamic terrorism ‘by its name’ is such a big deal to conservatives. They see the president’s unwillingness to link ‘Islam’ and ‘terrorism’ as a matter of prudence. … the thinking goes, the president’s calculated restraint in linking ‘Islamic’ with ‘terrorism’ deserves commendation, not criticism. Not so fast, say conservatives. Obama has been too guarded in his rhetoric, causing many to wonder if we are underestimating the religious aspect of today’s terrorist threat. Here are three reasons why conservatives want Obama to mention Islam by name. 1. Political correctness run amok. 2. The Islamic State’s theological foundations. … 3. The need for forceful rhetoric.” (Religion News Service, and Washington Post, April 13, 2015)

  11. Joyce Bell says:

    This artical was written just for me at a time when the election, marches, riots, and tension had just about done me in. I am sound of mind, just extremely frustrated, and your piece just showed up on my facebook timeline. Have no idea how it got there, except God must have said, “Write this for my poor distressed servant, Joyce Bell.”

  12. Paul Jones says:

    Thanks for the article Trevin. Yes we must firstly remain united by the gospel despite our political differences. I think for both Democrat and Republican voting evangelical Christians however the public promotion Mr Trump is giving to presenters of the prosperity gospel is concerning…

  13. Sandy says:

    Tell me who has stood up for 58 million lives aborted? Who is the best candidate?
    King David murderer and adulterer, man after Gods own heart….And we love him. Stop listening to main stream media and watch the actions. The scriptures on judge not apply to this.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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