EVANGELICALS LOVE TRUMP'S PRAISE MORE THAN GOD'S
BY M.C. DE BOER
“You shall have no other gods before me.” So reads the first of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7). Failure to abide by this primary commandment, a prohibition, counts as the cardinal human sin in the Bible and leads inevitably to moral chaos. Moral chaos is characterized by the behavior prohibited by the last five of the Ten Commandments: killing, theft, adultery, bearing false witness, and covetousness.
These prohibitions have their positive counterparts. When a scribe came up to Jesus of Nazareth and asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” he answered with these words from Deuteronomy 6:4–5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This positive version of the first commandment leads Jesus to mention a second, found in Leviticus 19:18, which is a positive summary of the behavior prohibited by last five of the Ten Commandments: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” According to Jesus, “there is no other commandment greater than these two” (Mark 12:29–31).
Leaders of many evangelical churches all over America have become unthinking apologists for someone whose personal life and political actions are marked by the moral chaos that the Ten Commandments seek to prevent and that contravene the teaching of Jesus about loving your neighbor. President Donald Trump has demonstrably violated the commandments not to kill, steal, commit adultery, bear false witness, and covet. He has not only violated them himself but also, as the apostle Paul puts it, applauds others who have done so (Rom 1:32), pardoning a brutal Arizona sheriff and a murderous Navy Seal commander. He does not repent of his actions but persists in them and excuses them, mocking not only God but also his evangelical supporters.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of the president’s moral corruption, evidence he himself provides almost daily, many evangelicals in America have decided to love Donald Trump with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. In doing so, they have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie [Trump]” and have “served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). They have forgotten that the one true God is a jealous God who tolerates no competition, which is to say, no such falsehoods. Many Protestant evangelical leaders seem to have lost any fear of the Lord and his righteousness, living in fear only of Trump and his Twitter feed, which is his bully pulpit. They have come to love the praise of Trump more than they do the praise of God. They have forgotten that as Christians they were not called to be successful in American politics but to be faithful to Christ and to him alone.
“Don’t be deceived,” Paul the Apostle wrote, “God is not mocked” (Galatians 6:7). You cannot treat God with contempt. There are consequences. You reap what you sow. The word of the Lord that many centuries ago came to a shepherd of Tekoa contains a message for evangelicals and their idolatrous shepherds: “I hate, I despise your festivals. And I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Take away from me the noise of your hymns, I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:21, 23–24). The message is clear: You cannot worship God and at the same time be unconditionally loyal to someone who treats God’s righteousness with utter contempt.
M.C. de Boer is a retired professor of New Testament and lives near Amsterdam. He is a citizen of both the Netherlands and the United States. He has held teaching positions in the Netherlands (Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam), the United States (Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey) and Great Britain (University of Manchester).