The evangelical vote – from a higher perspective
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Get your popcorn ready. This final month of election watch is going to be entertaining.
If the first debate was any clue, where else can you watch Jerry Springer, Big Brother (reality TV) and Hunger Games all in one episode?
And now the president has COVID-19. Wow! It feels as if someone is in a studio writing the script (some are already suggesting “conspiracy”.)
One of my favorite side-shows (not really) is the evangelical squabble. It’s no secret about Donald Trump’s divided evangelical voting base. MAGA hat-wearing Christians love him. #NeverTrump Christians can’t stand him.
While Trump fans among evangelicals outweigh the #Nevertrump camp 4 to 1 (just over 80% of evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016), the latter is a loud group. I imagine the “haters” (I know, a strong word when talking about Christians) dislike Trump about four times more than Trump fans love him. So that makes the love-hate balance pretty much a wash.
We all pretend that we’re thinking of what’s best for our country – but we’re mostly emotional people voting with our hearts. The source of this division is pretty basic.
MAGA Christians rally behind Trump’s support for religious liberties, stacking courts with conservative judges and other evangelical hot buttons. They especially get fired up over Trump’s pro-life chants. Even the remote possibility of a Roe v. Wade reversal is enough to keep red hats on many evangelicals.
Meanwhile, opponents can’t stand Trumps playboy reputation, his past off-color comments and disrespect toward women, his arrogance…egotism…and narcissistic demeanor…and…(the list goes on).
Some Trump supporters think the man genuinely cares about Christian and conservative values. Some believe he’s a mastermind marketer and they’re ok with any disingenuity, as long as his leadership supports their causes.
But what’s God’s perspective? Does God care about Donald Trump’s fit for office? Is God interested in America’s election? Could it be that the real source of possible 2016 election interference was God… and not Russia?
These ideas get evangelicals really stirred up. Let’s break it down.
First, let’s revisit the election shock that rocked the nation four years ago.
Trip down memory lane
Trump’s stunning election plays into his polarizing persona. How else can you explain what happened in the 2016 election?
Consider the man’s political history. Trump was a registered Democrat in the 80’s who switched to Republican (1987), then Independent (1989). Most don’t remember his first run for President (2000) was with the Reform Party, but he quickly abandoned the campaign, flipped back to Democrat (2001), then back to Republican again (2009).
While running for President (2016), he threatened to run Independent before finally bullying his way back on the Republican ticket.
Throughout these decades, Trump gave money (always boastfully) to politicians on both sides, leaders representing the widest versions of policies and ideologies. He swam in the swamp long before he promised to drain it.
And then he becomes our president. This only makes the MAGA camp more proud – and the #Nevertrump’ers more disgusted.
The enigma of Donald Trump
How does one make sense of this? And how do we have discussions with families of teenage and adult children, especially while today’s younger generation is tinkering with a much different set of political ideologies and ideas than their parents?
Like with so many conundrums in life, Bible history gives us some clues. Let’s take a look at a few famous characters – Nebi and Cy.
Nebi (Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon) and Cy (Cyrus the Great, king of Persia) were proud tyrants. They led brutal takeover campaigns and mowed down whoever and whatever stood in their paths.
Nebi and Cy didn’t have Twitter, but if they did I’m sure they would have been able to hashtag with the best of them.
Throughout history, these leader types have been known to enjoy the company of beautiful women. Some have owned beauty pageants like our playboy president did in recent years. And some sponsored extreme makeover campaigns for selecting among hundreds of potential wives (as King Ahasuerus did with Queen Esther). Powerful men and beautiful ladies go hand in hand.
But here’s the real striking similarity. All three men have been pawns for God’s strategic moves with Israel.
Roughly 2,500 years ago God arranged for Nebi to conquer Jerusalem. Seventy years later, precisely according to the timeline prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah, God stirred Cy’s heart to pave the way for the Jew’s return back to Jerusalem.
These two events in Israel’s history – exile to Babylon and the release from exile – are legendary markers on the Bible timeline. Nebi and Cy were clueless about God’s big-picture agenda to preserve Israel. Still God used these men to line things up with His prophecy handbook.
Now 2,500 years later, history repeats. A proud, self-centered tyrant-like leader for a superpower nation is conducting God’s business for Israel.
Make Israel great again
One of Trump’s first year moves (2017) was to reset Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The play was largely out from left field to most observers. But astute Bible readers know that Jerusalem will be the focal point of the world one day.
Israel regained statehood in 1948 after being dispersed from Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Then seventy years later (2018), the keys to the city (Jerusalem) were formally placed back into Israel’s hands.
And then most recently in the news, Trump has been brokering peace relations between Israel and Arab nations. The Abraham Accords Peace Agreement adds new names (UAE and Bahrain) to the short list of nations shaking hands with Israel (Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994).
How in the world does a hotel/casino tycoon and former reality TV star preside over such precious business for the nation of Israel?
Shocking, I know. That’s the way it goes when God chooses seemingly random leaders to achieve His purposes.
Like Nebi and Cy, The Donald likely doesn’t have a clue of the significance of his leadership role. He is a pawn on God’s chess board. And God’s pawn-treatment of Trump is completely in sync with the very same moves God orchestrated 2,500 years ago with Nebi and Cy. It’s all about working out the strategic recognition of Jerusalem and the Jewish people.
How stunning is it that God uses a man like Donald Trump? And just like Cy and Nebi – Donald is merely a puppet in the hands of his Creator.
Trump’s electorates don’t even have Israel’s business on their radar. It’s not even a talking point on Trump’s platform, or even that of his opponents. We won’t hear the subject in the presidential debates.
I’m sure Nebi and Cy’s business 2,500 years ago was viewed much the same way. (Ho hum, it’s the Jews again. Can somebody do something with these people?)
So while evangelicals are hotly divided on whether Trump can or should represent Christian interests in America, the man has already taken care of God’s interests. And who knows, there might be even more Israel-related business ahead for Trump.
When character doesn’t matter
Nebi and Cy – and other rulers of Babylonian and Persian Empires – were not exactly Sunday school teacher material. They were powerful. Rich. Arrogant. And cruel. (If you think waterboarding is rough, consider the fiery furnace or the lion’s den treatment used by the kings of their day.)
But when it comes to God’s sovereignty, world leaders do what God wants them to do. It’s not because they are obedient, good guys – it’s because God is able to get bad guys (and good guys, too) to do whatever He wants them to do.
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)
Practically speaking, Donald Trump has the bully spirit to take on the opposition and will his way through obstacles. And that seems to be what God was looking for.
God Bless the USA?
It’s not about America, folks.
With Nebi – it wasn’t about Babylon. It was about the Jews and Jerusalem. And with Cy – it wasn’t about Persia. It was about the Jews and Jerusalem.
Empires rise and empires fall (God is in charge of that too). But Israel always seems to be hanging on somehow. Even in Nebi and Cy’s day, the Jews had been surviving and persevering for over 1,000 years.
Could it be from God’s perspective that Donald Trump’s position as POTUS is more about Israel than about the USA? If Trump is “God’s president” as so many evangelicals claim, it still may have very little to do with making America great.
As is with God’s business, we just don’t see everything so clearly.
So when I talk about Trump to my family – my college-aged sons and teenage daughter – I have to shoot straight. I acknowledge Trump’s star is not very bright when it comes to character and tact.
We likely won’t seem him leading a Bible study at the White House on the fruits of the spirit. (However, he does attend National Prayer Breakfast events so he can publicly roast his political opponents and boast of his achievements).
I’ve never heard Trump say, “I’m sorry.” He was quoted once saying that he doesn’t need forgiveness or repentance (a sizeable piece of the Christian faith equation).
Trump might be a fan of God. He sometimes appears friendly toward God. But that’s very different than being a child of God.
Nebi and Cy were the same way. Both men acknowledged the God of the heavens. Neither were in denial about a supreme creator. But that’s pretty much it.
Again, God doesn’t need followers to carry out His business. Often a world-class bully will do the job just fine.
So what’s the next four years for MAGA?
Will America have Donald Trump for another four years? Or might God use Joe Biden instead?
Remember – God uses clueless leaders to move forward His agenda, and He has two fine candidates (key word: clueless). God has the ultimate power when it comes to election interference.
We can’t always make sense of what’s happening in our world. But biblical history is a great guide for making some sense of what often does not make sense.
I do wonder, what does God have in store for Donald Trump, the person? If you remember your Bible stories, God took Nebi to the pastures, putting him on his hands and knees to graze grass in the fields like an animal for seven years. Nebi was humbled, finally. He found a new side of God and a new side of life.
Your vote matters… just less than you think
After Nebi’s unusual wilderness sabbatical, God gave Babylon a new leader. Then God dealt with Babylon and the empire was no more (conquered in a single night!).
But still, Nebi has an eternal fate – he’ll either spend eternity in hell. Or he’ll spend eternity with God.
Donald Trump has an eternal fate as well. You and I do, too.
No matter how great the election stakes are for America (and the world) and no matter how great the political stage might be, nothing compares to the stage occupied by each man or woman when they stand before the God of the universe.
Don’t lose perspective during this election season. Keep the big picture. This election can be emotional… but it too will pass.
And one day, all souls from the creation of the world (including today’s evangelicals) will stand before God. And not one of them will be thinking about the 2020 election. Or America.
God will make Creation great, again.
Some of today’s evangelicals will be part of that creation. Some will not (sobering truth). And it will have nothing to do with how they voted in 2020.
Our vote for president may matter today. But not nearly as much as we think it does.