Should a Christian Vote for Donald Trump?
The long-standing partisanship of the Christian's voting record is rather obvious, if not also flawed. Most Christians vote Republican. There may be some that lean more to the middle than the right on economic and social issues, but by in large, Christians go red in every election. So will the trend stay the same no matter who represents to GOP in next November's presidential election? More specifically, if he is the candidate chosen, should Christians vote for Donald Trump?
Since 2000, the GOP nominated candidate for president has earned the favor of Christians (white Christians, at least) in each election. In that hotly contested 2000 election, George W. Bush garnered 56% of the Protestant vote, compared to just 42% for Al Gore. That number of 56% has stayed relatively consistent since, dropping no lower than 54% in favor of John McCain in 2008's election of Barack Obama.
The core issues for many Evangelical Christians seem to stay the same each election year, and because the Republican Party seems mostly unified on one side of the fence on those topics, they typically can trust churchgoers will click their name at the ballot box. These issues stem from one law established decades ago (abortion), one law relatively new (gay marriage) and one ideal that many younger Christians don't even really understand (standing with Israel). While for believers of Christ all of these issues hold a certain place of importance when voting, it becomes a problem when those are the only issues a Christian cares about when they vote.
Enter Donald Trump. The man himself is nothing short of cringe-worthy entertainment. His raucous bravado has injected life into a rather stale slate of GOP candidates. His brutal honesty is always void of tact, but has a curious way of rallying grassroots Republicans who are exhausted of the status quo. Yes, even Christians, who seem willing to look past Trump's borderline racism and xenophobia for his sheer energy and quotable gotcha-isms. His repeated thoughts on building a wall to keep Mexican immigrants out rallied the fervor of Republicans who want no part in Obama's offering of help for those desiring to come to America. He's also wanting a system that will track Muslims in America, a la German Nazism in the 1940's. While all of this sounds right to Americans that fear foreigners of different religions, it seems odd to stand on such a side that completely defies the religious freedom America was founded on.
The appeal of Trump caters to a specific type of Republican. Strangely enough, this turns out to be Christians who see the need for personal security to be greater than that of compassionately loving others. And now a presidential candidate has (seemingly) succeeded in getting Christian voters to buy-in to the anti-Muslim/anti-immigrant rhetoric that Trump has been blasting. But have no fear church goers, Trump is here to save Christianity! And while he does it, he'll certainly try to do things that we would expect any president to do: create jobs, stabilize the economy, and keep the U.S. as a strong world leader. Which is fine if said president actually respects and cares about the people they're serving.
He frames as more of an obnoxious caricature than he does future world leader, but Donald Trump is arguably a genius. He has rallied a base so strongly that whatever he says is cheered as a tag line against anyone that could remotely threaten Americans. He comes across as aloof, but is certainly calculated in his brash attacks on anyone who opposes him. This includes culling together Christians who should probably be a bit skeptical of a man willing to shut down mosques , knowing that only opens the door for government to at the very least turn churches into taxable businesses. Donald Trump has become the schoolyard bully who has managed to gain affection from the very children he's stealing lunch money from. He's even mocking people with disabilities (though he denies it).
What do Christians do with him? Can those claiming to be followers of an inclusive Christ vote for a man so ready to exclude anyone not like him?
The broader question needs to be centered on what Christians need to look for in a president. Knowing it is not a vote for a pastor-in-chief but rather for someone who espouses American values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We can't ask the question "Who Would Jesus Vote For", because Jesus never voted. We instead need to seek out the man or woman that values life (unborn and foreign ones included), liberty (for religions that aren't like our own), and the pursuit of happiness (helping those who simply cannot help themselves). Does someone who is so open about his disdain for Muslims and immigrants encapsulate those values? In fact, does Donald Trump promote any of these values? Perhaps some. He has said he is pro-life . Is that position alone worthy of the Christian vote?
We can question other candidates as well, and we should. There are numerous issues where Christians will split views and stand on opposing sides. The very idea of "pro-life" alone has so much weight to it beyond abortion that it never settles clearly into black and white. There won't be one candidate that Christians can all unify around to vote for, because no single candidate lines up completely with all of the teachings of Christ. So we enter the voting booth with prayer. We vote in good conscience for the candidate we feel has the best interests of Americans at heart, not just our own personal best interests at heart. For some Christians, that person may be Marco Rubio, or Ben Carson, or Bernie Sanders. It's difficult, however, to think that candidate could, beyond all of the others, be Donald Trump.