Disciples of Trump
There was quite a bit of criticism from evangelicals and others of the piece. What did you make of that opposition?
I was a little surprised that Donald Trump and then Franklin Graham thought it was worth commenting on. And it did strike me as a bit ironic that they both said that it wasn’t significant or going to make any difference. It makes you immediately think that they do think it’s significant, or they wouldn’t comment on it.
Despite that, of course, evangelicals as a bloc largely support President Trump. Is there anything Trump could do to lose that support?
I’ve been surprised by the ethical naïveté of the response I’m receiving to the editorial. There does seem to be widespread ignorance — that is the best word I can come up with — of the gravity of Trump’s moral failings. Some evangelicals will acknowledge he had a problem with adultery, but now they consider that a thing of the past. They bring up King David, but the difference is King David repented! Donald Trump has not done that.
Some evangelicals say he is prideful, abrasive and arrogant — which are all the qualities that Christians decry — but they don’t seem to grasp how serious it is for a head of state to talk like that and it does make me wonder what’s going on there.
Do you think evangelicals’ willingness to excuse Mr. Trump’s behavior will translate to a more broad willingness to forgive bad behavior by politicians, or does it seem to be Trump-specific?
I think his supporters would say it is limited to Trump. But I will say that some of his closest followers are, in a sense, being discipled by him. Mr. Trump’s typical response to a critic is to frame the entire conversation as a competition between success and failure. When the editorial published, the first response coming out of the mouth of some leading evangelicals was “That’s Christianity Yesterday” or “You’re a dying magazine.” They’re taking their cues on how to react in the public square from Donald Trump, whose basic response is to denigrate people.
Do you view politics or religion differently than you did before Mr. Trump’s presidency?
I’m actually not a political person. I don’t follow political reporting too much. I find it caustic, both to the culture and to one’s own heart. I often say the most political things Christians do is, every Sunday, go to church and say “Jesus Christ is Lord.”
I’ve been thinking more deeply about what the relationship is between Christian faith and political life. I had drawn much more of a separation between politics and faith in my past, and I need to rethink that. I certainly don’t want to do what mainstream Christianity has done and make politics indistinguishable from faith — especially on the left, and now on the right. But is there a way to talk about our nation’s issues that is not merely partisan, but raises questions of ethics and morality and ideals?
Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Editor of Christianity Today Laments ‘Ethical Naïveté’ of Trump Supporters (reformatted, bold added)