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Does Truth Telling Matter to Evangelicals?

Sat, Oct. 01, 2016 Posted: 10:55 AM


Jennifer Rubin, a conservative columnist who strongly opposes Trump, lamented in a Washington Post column on September 26, 2016 that to the most vociferous right-wing voices “Facts are fungible; it’s all what you want to believe.” Her greater lament seems to be, though, that so many who ought to care about truth do not. “It is however disturbing that many certainly know he is lying — or out of touch with reality — and still support him,” she went on to say after offering a plausible explanation for why the less educated are duped by his dishonesty and many falsehoods.

Several media outlets annexed the comments of both major candidates for president during the week of September 19th. The result is staggering. Trump had eighty-seven instances when he told outright lies with the highest ratings, compared to Clinton’s eight. That is eleven to one.

A further breakdown of the lies is no less revealing. Trump lies with every three minutes of speaking, when all lies (including lies of varying degrees) are tallied. Clinton does the same every twelve minutes. This is empirical evidence that removes all doubt about who is the real liar of the two. With all due respect to Paula White and James Dobson, if Trump is a Christian, then Clinton is also a Christian; she at least speaks more clearly and with more understanding of her own faith and of Christian doctrines.

It is not just the habitual and frequent lying, but the persistence in repeating well known falsehoods that is most disturbing about Trump. It clearly demonstrates his blatant disregard for truth. He knows he is lying, and desires to do so. “FactCheck.org, also non-partisan and an initiative of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, last December dubbed Trump the "king of whoppers," adding, "he stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims, but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong" Rem Rieder, USA TODAY September 28, 2016.

This is the champion of evangelicals.

Yes, there are those evangelicals who do not support him on moral and biblical grounds, but when three out of four white evangelicals do, it is an evangelical problem. It is a real spiritual and theological problem for the Church.

Evangelicals are putting their hope in a liar
How much evidence do evangelicals need to break their feverish attraction to Trump? Recent events have removed any doubt that Trump is an inveterate liar. He denied his own words spoken before millions less than thirty minutes after saying them – and that lie was to practically the same audience.

Putting their trust and hope in a liar? Given that evangelicalism is all about the Truth, it is incomprehensible that a prominent evangelical would come out and try to convince Christians to vote for him.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson opined September 30th on Christian Post that Christians should vote for Trump because of what they know. That is, they know that Clinton would do such terrible things (he listed the well-worn social concerns in apocalyptic terms as evangelicals are wont to do) and, get this, they know what Trump has promised he would do.

Patterson was not at all subtle even though he wanted to appear to give a fair and balanced assessment of the choice we face this November. He said “Choose the candidate who offers hope, not the candidate who guarantees disaster. And you will make that decisive choice.” What he means is that Trump is the only hope Christians have; and that is what constitutes a decisive choice.

Indeed, his characterization of what will happen under a Clinton presidency is a familiar trope that is becoming tired. The same kind of dire predictions preceded the Obama presidency. By now all rational thinking Christians know that the predictions of disaster and doom was just a crying wolf. Technology and social media guarantee that those failed predictions will live on as ammunition for skeptics willing to point to a perceived Christian hypocrisy; the very thing that is energizing the exodus of millenials from the Church.

How do you trust a liar?
Patterson’s rationale for trusting Trump is that “His record is anything but stellar. But we do know what he has promised, and we are already aware of the docket of judges from which he promises to name those charged with the protection of constitutional rights. Should he keep his promises on only half of these issues, Americans will have a chance to save the lives of infants still protected in the wombs of their mothers and the sanctity of religious liberty.”

Does anyone see the irony here? "His record is anything but stellar." Patterson knows Trump’s record, and must know that one cannot trust a liar. He also knows there is a high probability that Trump will not keep his promises. Trump’s entire life and career is one of lying and breaking promises. How gullible must evangelicals be to think that in this political season a “promise” from a candidate is anything but bait – especially when those promises come from a candidate who lies every three minutes. A liar cares only about himself and what benefits him. And this is the person Christians should put their hope and trust in?

The losses suffered in the culture war was handed to us by a conservative court deeming the positions of the religious right unconstitutional. Not much has been gained under Republican presidents with a conservative leaning court in the forty years since the Moral Majority hitched their wagons to the Republican Party. All of the constitutional guarantees afforded the “liberal” side were given under the supervision Chief Justices appointed by Republicans to a majority conservative court. Trump has already changed the list of judges he promised to appoint. A reality check is required here.

Truth matters
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” John 18:37 (TNIV). Emphasis is mine.

Christ was born to testify to the truth. Truth matters!

To advocate that the cause of the Kingdom of God requires the believer to promote a liar as "Champion" of the Church is sacrilege. The attempted euphemisn that we do not have to vote for someone we like or agree with, just so long as that person promotes our interests is lost in a caldron of disingenuousness and sophistry. It is no different from saying that in order to promote the Grace of God we must engage in sin. To that Paul says "God forbid!" (Romans 6:1-2).

The disconnect cannot be overlooked here. Christ is the Truth, and there is no guile in him. He taught in the John 8 that the liar lies because that is what he is at heart. He goes on in John 18:37 to say that everyone who is on the side of truth listens to him.

Believers who identify with Christ cannot also identify on religious grounds with a liar. Scripture teaches that in the eschaton all liars will be cast into the lake of fire, the second death from which there will be no escape (Revelation 21:8). There is an eternal divide that cannot be reconciled.

Evangelicals cannot say that they are testifying to the truth and embrace a liar. There is no Christian witness in a situation like that. The collective decision for evangelicals to side with a liar means that they are taking sides against the truth, and therefore against Christ. It means that truth does not matter to them. It means that they are not listening to Christ.

Marvin Thompson