This morning, as the curtain rose on the Republican national convention, I — and people in many other Christian churches — read the 15th Psalm as part of the appointed lectionary.
The contrast between the person depicted here, and the person about to be nominated, couldn’t be more vivid.
Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.
Why, then, are so many professing Christians supporting Donald Trump?
I suppose you could say, as James Dobson did, that Trump is a “baby Christian” — still new to the faith and prone to making mistakes now and then. Dobson, who usually has the phrase leading evangelical next to his name in news stories, should know better. So should Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of Liberty University, who endorsed Trump before the first primary election.
So why are many self-appointed Christian leaders backing someone whose character is antithetical to what Jesus Christ (and the Psalm writer) taught? According to a well-reasoned piece by Robert P. Jones, it’s because they feel vulnerable. As traditional Christian values erode (they would say), they seek a champion who talks tough about turning the tide and restoring those values to preeminence. About “making America great again.”
Mr. Trump’s ascendancy has turned the 2016 election into a referendum on the death of white Christian America, with the candidate appealing strongly to those who are most grieving this loss.
Here’s the truth, though: the church doesn’t need Donald Trump to fight its battles. The church already has a champion — the one we call Lord and Savior — to fight for us. And to teach us how we should live.
I suppose the Trump nomination is inevitable. My prayer, then, is that every Christian will weigh the nominee’s words against the words of scripture. Words like Psalm 15.
Words like the ones Jesus spoke in Matthew 7:15-16:
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.