By Scott Robertson
A little more than eight years ago, I wrote a column that appeared in The Business Journal of Tri-Cities, TN/VA entitled, “For whose glory?” In it, I discussed my disdain for someone using loud proclamations of his or her own faith as a tool to achieve earthly success.
If I have seen the faith, or the character (or the lack thereof) in a person, I will take that into account in my business dealings. But I don’t want someone telling me how faithful he or she is in order to sell me something. Faith, I said in the column, is to be demonstrated every day, not to be taken credit for in self-glorification when opportunities for personal advancement arise.
Faith is a life choice that guides all the choices afterward. The fact that choices which are guided by faith often lead to success on earth is but a pleasant side effect.
I bring this all up because of the offense I take at Donald Trump’s trip Monday to Virginia and the reception he received. Trump, in an appearance at Liberty University, attempted to paint himself as the candidate who best identifies with Christian conservatives. On many issues, he does. But it was at best a mistake to pretend he was anything other than an attends-church-at-Easter-and-Christmas-only Christian. He has admitted as much in the past, but this week cast himself in the role of Defender of the Faith.
Liberty University’s leadership obviously did not have the problems with Trump that I do. The university’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., took the time to present an enthusiastic and lengthy introduction for Trump, something he did not do for Ted Cruz when Cruz formally announced his candidacy at Liberty last March. Falwell called Trump “visionary” and said Trump reminded him of his televangelist father. He said Trump has lived, “as Jesus taught in the New Testament.” Falwell also was careful to say he was not endorsing Trump (Gotta protect that tax status). That claim, Cruz might argue, would seem to be calling the light darkness and the darkness light.
You may have heard by now that Trump showed his Biblical ignorance at Liberty by referring to Second Corinthians as “Two Corinthians.” To be polite, Trump did not give the impression he has spent a great deal of time in Bible study class.
You can view his full speech for yourself by googling “WDBJ7 Trump Liberty.” If you do watch it, you may notice that for a man who represents traditional Christian conservative values, Trump sure does cuss a lot. His text is peppered with “damn” and “hell.” And he’s not using those terms in the way a preacher might.
Don’t get me wrong. I cuss too. A lot. But I’m not on the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
And I’m not running for president.
And I’m certainly not running by trying to convince people (who actually know which Testament Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians appear in) that I’m one of them.
Religious figures far more knowledgeable and more conservative than I share my appalled reaction to Trump and Falwell’s pretense. If you think I’m just hating on Trump because I’m a moderate Republican, then go ask the head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Russell Moore, what he thinks about Trump’s appearance at Liberty.
Here are Moore’s statements, directly from his Twitter account:
• Trading in the gospel of Jesus Christ for political power is not liberty but slavery.
• Absolutely unbelievable (in response to Falwell calling Trump, “loving, friendly and charitable.”).
• Politics driving the gospel rather than the other way around is the third temptation of Christ. He overcame it. Will we?
• This would be hilarious if it weren’t so counter to the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
• Evangelicals can love a golden calf, as long as Aaron promises to make Mexico pay for it.
I’ve thought all along in this presidential race that Trump has been simply saying what he thinks conservative voters want to hear. I view him as a self-promotion addict who has never seen a camera he didn’t like, whether it be as a game show host or a professional wrestling participant (Do we really want to be the nation whose president once shaved Vince McMahon’s head on pay-per-view?). I believe Trump will say almost anything to stay atop the polls.
Still, if Trump wants to say he is qualified to be president, I can live with that. The country will decide and live with the consequences either way.
But if he wants to claim to share the faith of the devout in order to further his chances at earthly success – to chase glory for himself – I find that deeply troubling. And I’m not alone.