I wanted to throw up.
Here I was sitting in a room full of well-known evangelical leaders saying positive things about then- candidate Donald Trump, talking as if he was the best hope for all Americans.
Of course, none of them could publicly “endorse” him, but their exuberance for him was obvious.
How could they be so blinded? Did they not see what I could see? Did they not see Trump was contrary to everything they stood for…so contrary to Christ?
Many of them I highly respected. Many were mentors in the faith – ones who had taught me so much about hearing God.
How is it they were hearing something so radically different than me? Especially after I had clearly heard the complete opposite.
Some of them talked about the many private hours they had spent with Trump and how he really listened to them and was respectful. They talked about his love for ALL Americans.
What? You’re kidding me, right?
I wanted to stand up and shout, “You fools!!! Don’t you realize he’s manipulating you? As soon as he wins, you’re all gone. You’re just pawns!”
Of course, then they’d know my secret.
Did any of them know I had written a viral blog article, blasting Trump and his supporters – one that protesters were using to this very day to sway people against evangelicals’ cherished hope?
Did any of them know that even that “evil” liberal Huffington Post had picked it up and reposted it for thousands more to see?
Did they know that I had written several articles since trying to convince people to vote for anyone but Hillary…OR Trump?
Of course, I was support staff and not an official “leader” – so likely most of them had not read the articles; or if they did, they never picked up on that the author was me.
Still, I kept waiting for one of them at any moment to stand up, point at me and shout, “We have a traitor amongst us! Let’s bind him up, drown him in the nearest baptismal and see if he floats!”
I’m a big believer in listening to those you disagree with, and I must admit that as I listened they made a few solid points. But regardless, it was so contradictory to what I had heard from God several months before.
Had I misheard God on this? If so, that would really suck.
The voice I swear I had heard was the same voice that had called me into relationship with God. It was the same voice that called me to dedicate my career to Him, the same one that caused me to quit my job, leave college (just two hours short of two masters’ degrees) and move my family to a whole different state with no job lined up, and the same one that has gotten me through so many difficult times over the last several years.
If I had been mishearing God’s voice, then I was really screwed!
We broke for lunch and I took advantage of it to quickly find a private space, closed the door, got on my knees and prayed.
“God, I no longer know what the truth is. Please tell me what to do!”
(Note: I will tell you later what I heard back, but I’ll tell you now that, no, I did not suddenly become a Trump supporter)
The Crazy Year
As you can probably tell, this has been a very interesting past year for me.
I work in the evangelical world and my job allows me to interact with many of its leaders from throughout the nation. Though I am not a “leader” myself, I am privy to many of their conversations…including their personal thoughts on politics.
To be fair, when I had written the viral blog article titled If You Are a Trump Supporter These are the 9 Things I Assume About You, it was at the very beginning of the primaries when most evangelicals that I personally knew, including most of these leaders, were also highly critical of then-candidate Trump.
He was the last person they wanted and many of my peers readily cheered me on with the article.
I felt certain then that if Trump locked in the nomination, most of my fellow evangelicals would readily stand with me in opposing him, even if it meant sacrificing conservative political power on the altars of conscience and integrity.
Once I realized that may not happen, as evangelicals began to feel they had no other choice, I desperately tried to make my case. I wrote blog articles and frequently sparred with co-workers, arguing that “faith” was more important than “pragmatism.”
But alas, while there were still a few lone evangelical voices out there as well as several at my home church who stood with me in speaking against Trump, after the articles failed to generate the same positive response and after a couple friends, who are literally the kindest people you could ever meet, informed me they were still voting for the “lesser of two evils” Trump, I knew my battle was lost.
Some of my readers may have noticed that I have not written as much in the last several months. Part of that is because I needed to focus more on my book. The other part is because of all the articles I chose not to post. Oh, I had them written alright…at least in my head.
Missing are all the articles blasting the evangelical world. Missing are the ones where I tore everyone to shreds. I wanted to call them all hypocrites, compromisers, bigots and jerks. I wanted to accuse them of seeking power and forfeiting their souls.
Faced with the reality I could lose my job if I acted out in disrespect, I toyed with the idea of quitting in order to take a stand. Can you imagine the viral possibilities if I’d written, “Why I Left the Evangelical World Because of Trump?”
In the end, I stayed, and I’m so glad I did.
No, I continued to disagree, but as I’ve so often learned, it’s often good to spend time with you people you are against.
For at the end of those attacking words are always people…people like you and me. People who are trying to make sense of this complex world where everything is not always so black and white. If there’s one thing this last year’s election has been…it was very complex.
And as an insider, one thing I can assure you about most evangelical leaders, or at least the ones I personally know: contrary to popular portrayal, they don’t sit around, wringing their hands, laughing maniacally and trying to figure out how they can gain power over the world.
Instead, these are the same leaders who, behind closed doors, I’ve frequently heard pour out their hearts for creating greater racial unity. They are the ones who’ve devoted their lives to caring for refugees, widows and orphans, both near and abroad, and I’ve had a chance to see it in action.
They are the same leaders who I’ve listened to strategize about bringing justice for girls and women and helping them know their worth. They are the same ones who, with tears in their eyes, have wondered how can they still maintain a standard of truth, while making sure people who are LGBTQ know how much they are loved.
Flawed? Absolutely. They, like the rest of us, are still in the process of growing and learning, and they would readily admit that if you asked them.
And I will be the first to tell you that evangelicals have a huge messaging problem. Too often in the world of quick sound bites, attempts at easy answers and fears of compromising tenets of the faith, leaders fail to understand some of the messages they are actually giving…words that often wound when they are attempting to offer healing.
To complicate this, too much of Christian theology has become “Americanized” and entangled with Western Civilization thinking – so much so that we can no longer tell the difference between what is culture and actual Christ teaching…or even what is Republican and what is Christian.
Yet, when you get to know these leaders, flawed as they may be, you discover they are actually good people at heart, trying to follow in Christ’s ways.
So it was that day, when I sat in a room full of so many Christian leaders praying earnestly for a man I perceived so wicked, I had to ask myself, “How can good people support a man like Trump?”
Was I wrong? Should I see it another way?
So alone on my knees, I prayed, “God, please tell me what to do. Tell me what I should think.”
And the answer came back clear, “Stay on message.”
Stay on message. That meant a lot to me that day, but a big part of it was a reference to something that happened several months before that I’ve shared with very few.
Anyone that knows me personally may know that there is nothing more important to me than hearing God. My entire Christian faith was born out of hearing him and I have no greater passion than helping others to know they can hear from him, too.
There are times where I struggle to hear God, times where I think I might be hearing him and times where I just know I am. During those times where I know I am, I recognize it as the same voice that originally called me to Him and the same voice that called me to significant choices that had proved out time and time again. This was one of those times.
(Please note that rarely will you find me to be one of those people who go around saying, “God told me such and such…” I find that too often that is abused for people to give weight to their argument. I am merely sharing a couple instances here so you can understand what was going through my head)
It was shortly after I wrote my first article on Trump, after I received multiple antagonistic comments that seemed divorced from reality and after Trump won the first weekend of primaries, that I became increasingly concerned about where things could be headed and I prayed.
What I heard back was this:
That Trump and Clinton would end up being the candidates. Yikes!
Though, it was never made clear to me who would actually win the election, what I heard was that God was going to let Satan have his way with the primaries and election (as evidenced by the questionable behavior of candidates and parties, all the seeming blinders put over people, continual lies and “fake news,” and the incessant negativity and even sometimes violence from both sides) but that God had a greater purpose to this that was ultimately for the good.
Part of the good was that God would give two opportunities for both the nation as a whole and the church itself to repent: the first was after the primaries when we looked upon the character of the two potential leaders we had selected, and the second would be after the winning candidate took office.
My presumption was that it would be due to the devastating things the winning candidate would bring to the office, whether persecution or disaster.
As you can guess, once Trump won the primaries against all seemingly reasonable odds and once Clinton won after a strong challenge from Sanders, my faith in what I heard grew.
I had hoped, of course, for a heart change within the nation – more particularly within the church. I had hoped that the church would look at itself and cry out, “How did we get here?”
I had hoped the evangelical church would look within itself to see how some of the messaging it has been giving out helped lead to such an arrogant, fear-mongering, and hateful man becoming its “representative.”
I had hoped over-optimistically the entire church would unite (all denominations, liberal and conservative) in saying, “We cannot support either candidate. We do not care about political power. We will only stand on truth and righteousness” and would potentially stand behind someone else who would rise to the charge, even if it meant losing the election.
But alas none of that happened, so I sat back and prepared for the upcoming “disaster.” What I didn’t realize, however, was how much of a crisis of faith it would cause.
The Crisis of Faith
While “Stay on message” was reassuring to me and why I chose to vote for a write-in candidate rather than go with the flow of the 81% of fellow white evangelicals who voted for Trump, it still did not resolve one primary question:
How is it that other Christians were hearing God different than me?
While I would argue that a significant percentage of them were voting based upon either fears or pragmatism rather than actual faith, there were still many of these leaders who were responding to what they were “hearing.”
A few of these are actually mentors to me – ones who have taught me over the years what it looks like to live a life of hearing God. Not the kind of people who go around saying, “Thus sayeth the Lord” but the kind who have an intimate prayer life who sometimes open their mouth and wisdom – wisdom beyond normal human understanding – just pours out.
Often it has been spooky when I’ve heard them say some things in more private settings and it turns out to be true.
And here I was “clearly” hearing one thing and they were “clearly” hearing another.
Here I was with a Christian blog that was highly critical of Trump and here were some of them were on Trump’s Evangelical Council. Here I was trying to distance the church from Trump and here they were trying to stay as much in relationship with him as possible.
After Trump won the election, the “hearing” only got worse. Many claimed how miraculous it was and it was a clear sign that God had chosen him. Meanwhile, I’m picturing nothing but Armageddon.
One leader whom I especially admire, talked more and more about hearing directly from God how Trump has the potential be the greatest president we ever had.
But if he turns out to be great, how will that ever lead to repentance? If he actually does good, how will that cause the church to rethink any of what it has done? And that would just make me mad.
Did I mishear God?
Has this voice that has guided me throughout so much of my life simply been wrong? Have I given up so much for him and it turns out it’s not real?
Or were they mishearing God? If so, how could I trust anything they say ever again? Were they so easily manipulated by Trump, or were they manipulating me?
On top of all this, there were the few lone voices of faith who I also admire that were speaking out like me. Were they mishearing God, too? Or was this whole hearing God thing a sham to begin with?
Was my faith even real?
In the end, the only way to tell was to wait and see how this whole thing turned out.
Several evangelical leaders proclaimed that in spite of Trump’s character, he has given a more respectful listening ear to them than any candidate or president in decades.
Of course, cynics like me would continue to ask, “Where is the fruit?” If he’s listening to you and your message of Christian love, why hasn’t he changed? Why is his twitter feed still filled with arrogance and hate?
I became convinced that the only reasonable explanation was that Trump was manipulating them with a “listening ear” and that not long after he won the election the ability to “council” him would be cut off.
It would be then, and only then, that these leaders would realize the faultiness of their thinking and concur that I and other Trump dissenters had been right all along. At least that’s what I selfishly hoped for and needed to believe in order to reconcile my own faith.
After Trump won I waited patiently to hear reports that he had cut off relationship with Evangelical leaders and dissolved his evangelical council. That never happened.
I then became convinced he would cut off contact once he secured the electoral college. That again never happened. I then thought perhaps he would cut off ties once he was actually in office. Surprisingly, that has also not yet happened.
What was his end game? Why was he still listening?
I know enough about these leaders (despite some media portrayals) to know their council to him is good. I also knew they weren’t just cheering him on in everything he would do. They weren’t just being yes-men; in fact, some of their words were quite corrective and strong.
Who talks to a president like that?
Why would a man so narcissistic and un-Christ-like bother to listen to these Christians at all? Why allow them to say things other than just what he wanted to hear? He certainly didn’t have to now that he’d obtained the crown.
The only word that could come to mind was “miraculous.”
What? Did I just think that? Did that just lodge between my cynical ears?
How do I reconcile that with everything I’d heard?
But his continued behaviors still cast serious doubt on whether he is really listening at all. How do I reconcile that?
Yes, another crisis of faith. This wasn’t fitting with my personal theology at all.
Okay, God. You and I are going to have to have a serious talk! I’m feeling a little confused and pissed.
And so we did. We had a bit of a loud discussion. That’s when God led me to the story of Samuel and King Saul (as told in 1 Sam 8-12).
For those unfamiliar with the story, I highly recommend you read the whole story in 1 Sam 8-12. However, I will give you an extremely abbreviated version:
The people of Israel went to the prophet Samuel, upset with Samuel’s sons who were governing over them (the “swamp”) and fearful of foreigners who threatened to invade them, and asked for a king to rule over them instead.
In that request they rejected God because, rather than turning to God to save them from their “calamities” and “distresses” (1 Sam 10:19), they wanted a strong secular leader to “fight their battles” for them instead (1 Sam 9:20) – all while refusing to obey God and continuing to hang onto their various idols.
Samuel was then given an unusual and conflicting task: he was to warn the people about the consequences of their evil choice of a king while simultaneously, through God’s direction, helping to put that very king (Saul) in place by anointing and becoming a wise counsel to him. In a sense, he was charged with simultaneously cursing and blessing their choice.
Note that it was not the choice of Saul himself that was evil (for God himself picked Saul) but the choice of a human king over God. Furthermore, while God could have chosen a very weak and ineffective king to rule over them (consequently dooming them to destruction), he actually chose a very capable person in Saul, stating, “there is no one like him among all the people” (1 Sam 10:24).
It is my belief that, like the people of ancient Israel, the people of our nation have chosen not to depend upon God but upon government and have, therefore, cried out for a strong ruler to take care of our “calamities” and “distresses,” all while choosing to still pursue our various idols.
But this time, because we are a republic and not a monarchy, rather than offer up one king, God put before us two potential “kings” to choose from (Trump or Clinton), both skilled leaders in their own way, capable of rescuing us if they operate in wisdom and ruining us if they do not – each one a different representation of all the various idols we pursue.
Some of us demanded a leader that would secure our borders, all while hanging onto the idols of personal safety and comfort. Others demanded a leader who could take care of the distresses of those in need, all while we held onto own personal wealth and material things.
Some cried out for a leader who will give us religious freedom, all while compromising our faith through selfishness and licentious living. Others screamed for a leader that would give equality to all – at the same time sacrificing babies on the altar of convenience.
Some called for greater purity in society and others for greater respect for women – this while everyone continued to objectify women and girls through the idolatry of sexy ads and entertainment.
Samuel warned the people about things their king would do, listing out all the things that he would take from them rather than do for them. At the end, he exclaimed, “And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day” (1 Sam 8:18). Yet the people still insisted on a king.
Presented with our two options, our nation had a chance to repent but refused. So, we ended up with option Trump.
Here’s where the reconciliation comes in. During King Saul’s time, there was essentially only one spiritual leader in the nation. Thus, Samuel was tasked with anointing the new king and becoming a wise counselor to him, while simultaneously warning the people.
Today in the U.S. it is different in that there are many spiritual leaders. Therefore, I came to realize that God sent some to anoint and be wise counsel our new “king” and some to warn the people.
Unfortunately, sometimes it is difficult for people to see the big picture, and all too often when we are called to a specific gift or task, it is difficult to understand what others are doing when called to something different.
I fell into that trap myself, failing to understand what some of my mentors were doing.
So what’s the point of having anointers and warners if we are all just doomed at this point anyway?
Even Israel was given yet another chance. Despite his warnings, God continued to act in grace by assuring them, “if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well” (1 Sam 12:14). Of course, he gave equal warning of what would happen if they did not.
In the end, the people did not give up their idols and Saul did not listen to Samuel, his wise counselor. From there it was not good.
I believe in our nation we are at a precipice.
It does not have to go the way of Saul this time, however. President Trump has good wise counselors available to him should he choose to listen. I am now thankful that they are there. We should pray for him as well as them.
Should he choose to listen to them and start acting in wisdom, he has the potential to do great things.
Does this mean I am okay with all the things he has done? Absolutely not. To be clear, I am not okay with his “locker room” talk and how it demeans women; nor am I okay with how easily concern about it was dismissed. I am not okay with his vitriolic language that, intentional or not, tapped into the bigotry and fears of others. I am not okay with his continual lies that should have immediately disqualified him from office.
As I shared in a previous article, I also still have deep concerns about the casualties inflicted by the messaging that took place in the attempt to win.
And just as David fought against Saul to protect his own life, I will fight against President Trump on bad policy issues and do what’s necessary should he step outside the constitution.
I will not be like the “troublemakers” referred to in 1 Sam 10:27 who despised Saul and said, “How can this man deliver us?”
Donald Trump is our president now. He has been “anointed” with potential for this moment.
There are no guarantees which way things will go, but If I believe in the “miraculous” then I have to believe that God can change President Trump – if he will just humble himself and listen.
The rest is up to us. Notice the verse said “both.” If both the king and the people follow the Lord it will go well. That means we also must humble ourselves, turn to God and get rid of our idols.
The choice is now or later; and I don’t know about you, but I prefer the now.
But this isn’t about asking everyone else to change. It has to start with you. And if I’m going to ask you, it’s got to start with me first.
Over this last few weeks, since this all started making sense, I’ve done a lot of introspection and have had to start making changes in myself. I realized there are so many areas where I have never really yielded to God, and so I repent.
I repent of the arrogance I’ve had in me that thought I was so much smarter and better than everybody else.
I repent of how that arrogance caused me to demean and cut down so many people I disagreed with on social media and even this blog.
I repent of the lies, intentionally or unintentionally, I may have spread by passing along un-vetted articles just to make my points.
I repent of the disrespect I’ve often offered up to President Trump and that I have never prayed for him enough.
I repent that I talk so much about my love for God, yet I’ve hardly given him the time of day.
I repent of my hypocrisy of complaining about the objectification of women in society while continuing to watch programs and click on sites that do just that.
I repent of my lack of empathy for those in need, both near and abroad, while being so much more concerned about the things that make me materially comfortable myself.
I repent of the fact I have rallied so strong to make sure babies were protected but have never done enough to look out for the whole life of the mother.
I repent of my lack of ability to see from a minority’s point of view the struggles they undergo and my failure to make sure they knew how much their life matters.
I repent that I have spent so much of this last year tangled up in fear and worry that I forgot to really trust that God is God.
I could go on….
We stand at a precipice. I told you when I started this blog that I wasn’t going to lie. It could go good. It could go bad. There are no guarantees.
The only and best hope now is to pray for our leaders and…
It’s not too late.