Posted Aug 17, 2022 by Michael L. Brown

Before you read another word, if you are a Trump hater, you should know that the purpose of this article is not to bash the former president. If you are a Trump lover, know that this article is not here to extol him. Instead, the focus is on followers of Jesus, not Donald Trump.

Are we ready for another, potential bid for the White House by the former president? Can we remain uncompromised in our ethics and with our Christian witness intact, whether we are for him or against him? That’s the question I’m posing here.

Do I believe that Trump, in the midst of his many positive accomplishments, had a profoundly negative affect on much of the Church of America? I certainly do.

But I don’t blame President Trump for that. That’s on us, not on him.

After all, he was the man he had always been: a rough and tumble, often contentious, frequently nasty, quite narcissistic, wealthy New York businessman turned politician. And while many of us hoped he would change, he did not.

But to repeat, that’s the man we voted for. He remained in character during his tenure as president and he has remained in character to this day.

The great surprise was that he did so many excellent things and kept his promises to his conservative Christian base. That’s what stood out as exceptional. In four short years, despite constant opposition and harassment, he did a tremendous amount of good on both a national and international level.

But if we voted for him hoping he would change and he did not, we can’t blame him for that. That’s the risk we took or the calculation we made when voting. He simply continued to be who he had always been.

The fact that many of us exalted him as some kind of political savior is our fault.

The fact that we enjoyed watching him belittle and mock his political opponents, often in crude and cruel ways, is our fault.

The fact that we divided over him so passionately, some to the point of literally loathing him and others to the point of talking about him more than they talked about Jesus, is our fault.

The fact that he changed us more than we changed him, with some of our social media pages looking more like political attack sites rather than the pages of Jesus lovers, is our fault.

That is the man we voted for, and it’s entirely our fault that many of us were negatively impacted by his negative traits.

To give an analogy, it’s as if we elected a comedian famous for telling dirty jokes, hoping that once he was in office, he would stop telling jokes, especially dirty jokes. Not only did he not stop telling those jokes – again, that’s who he was – but we started laughing at the dirty jokes. Worse still, we started repeating them ourselves.

Will we do any better with Donald Trump if he decides to run again?

In my first Trump-related book, published in 2018, I devoted a chapter to the subject, “Evangelicals and Donald Trump: A Match Made in Heaven or a Marriage with Hell?” The title of my second, Trump-related book, published in 2020, asked the question: “Will We Pass the Trump Test?”

By the “Trump test” I meant, “Can we vote for Trump and still preserve our Christian witness?” And, “Can we remain united around Jesus even if we disagree about Trump?”

The answer to these two questions was a resounding no. While we could easily justify our vote for Trump as followers of Jesus (as opposed to voting for Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden), the way many of us joined ourselves to him deeply hurt our witness. So, it was not vote for Trump that hurt our witness but our actions as Trump supporters that did.

In many ways, by our carnal behavior, by our obsession with the elections, by our over-exalting of a man, by our savaging each other over our differences, by our following false prophecies, by our embracing of QAnon conspiracy theories, we deeply hurt out witness to a watching world, becoming better known as the Trump supporters than as the Jesus followers.

What’s worse, many of our spiritual leaders were at the forefront of these divisions, railing on those who dared oppose Trump (or support Trump), and focusing more on winning the elections than on winning the lost.

But it’s not as if this hit us blindly.

In the first book, I listed 7 priorities for the church if we were to get things right when it came to our relationship to politics in general and Trump in particular. And I was hardly the only one sounding this alarm.

In the second book, I listed 10 more priorities for the church, all of them weighty and important. And, to say it again, I was hardly the only one saying these things.

Then, in the last chapter of my brand new book, The Political Seduction of the Church: How Millions of American Christians Confused Politics with the Gospel, I recapped these 17 priorities, evaluating how we fared.

By my count, we failed on 15 out of the 17 items listed. Yes, 15 out of 17. That is what you call failing badly.

And note the very title of this book: The Political Seduction of the Church. Seduction is normally covert rather than overt, looking so attractive before it stabs us in the back. That’s why it is so seductive.

In the case of Trump, there were so many good things he stood for, so many admirable things he championed, so much courage he displayed, so much of our burden that he shared, that it was all too easy for us to get seduced. (By seduced I don’t mean voting for him; I mean acting the way we did.)

In the process, we compromised our witness, put our trust in the political system, and divided over the president rather than united around Jesus. Will we do better if Trump decides to run again?

This much is sure: If we don’t recognize our past errors, take stock of our own lives (and/or ministries), and make serious adjustments at the root level, we will not be ready for Trump 2024.

To repeat: that’s on us, not him. (And to be clear, the purpose of this article is not to advocate voting for him or against him if he decides to run. My purpose is to call the church to be the church in the midst of election fever.)

*No sooner had I written the last words of this article than I opened a new email sent to our ministry by a pastor who wrote: “We would be honored to have you speak regarding your new book as it pertains to what I have been trying to preach to this congregation for the past few years after I watched politics seduce and divide our people and even break up families.” This is why we must do better, in 2022, in 2024, and beyond.

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Comments

OT posted a comment · Aug 22, 2022
Sir Who is Tom Hoefling of Iowa to me? Never heard of him!
OT posted a comment · Aug 22, 2022
Sonofasaph “wasting our vote on less worthy individuals.” Who would that have been in 2016 and again in 2020?
OT posted a comment · Aug 22, 2022
I hope Trump gets another chance God willing!
OT posted a comment · Aug 22, 2022
Voters had a choice between two candidates one Republican and one democrat! Sorry for confusing you with the the addition of the word binary it has nothing to do with genders but simply denotes two! In a perfect world I wish God would put forward a candidate… boom problem solved !
Sonofasaph posted a comment · Aug 22, 2022
Great wisdom in this article. I would like to remind others than our voting is not a binary choice between democrats and republicans. For myself, I voted for Tom Hoefling of Iowa in 2020. He is a constitutional conservative Christian, chairman of America’s party, a personhood abortion abolishionist and a associate of Alan Keyes. While I am thankful for the accomplishments of Trump’s presidency I believe Hoefling is a much better choice in that he most closely stands for the principles which made this nation great. Exodus 18:21-22 should be taken very seriously in our voting decisions. While God made binary a distinction of our male/female genders, this is not so in regards to political elections. I believe we should vote for candidates who most clearly are congruent with biblical principles and trust God for the outcome rather than wasting our vote in less worthy individuals.
OT posted a comment · Aug 21, 2022
Trump was not the lesser of two evils! He was the choice of the greater good between two less than perfect candidate’s!
OT posted a comment · Aug 21, 2022
This whole Evangelical vote thing is really over blown and a really skewed fragmented recall on the 2016 election….. actually in the 2016 primaries 2/3 of self identified evangelicals did not vote for Donald Trump they voted for Marco Rubio, Ted Cruze, Santorum, Huckabee, once they got to the general election and faced with a binary choice between Trump and Clinton voters questioned both on character issues they both had issues of character.. but after Trump announced his positions he was pro-life , protect religious freedoms, on Israel, economic strategy, oil & gas , domestic and foreign policy, then and only then did they in good faith cast their votes for Trump! They didn’t choose Trump They rejected Clinton! Big difference to say they worship him! They rejected Clinton!
Deancooper posted a comment · Aug 20, 2022
Hi Swkh310, no that was not tongue-in-cheek. I actually believe what I wrote. Just look at the differences between the red and blue states, like say California and Florida. I think even you will admit there are clear differences. The Democrats have clearly turned to the Left, while the Republicans have moved more towards traditional values. Of course neither are perfect, just like Trump is not perfect, but the Left doesn't just support non-traditional values, they want to destroy the traditional ones. But then you add in their support for the woke agenda, ESG, DEI, BLM, defund police, open borders, totalitarian policies with Covid, and it's not hard to see where they're going. Go read Rod Dreher's "Live Not by Lies" to hear how people who fled communist countries see the same things they grew up with happening here. The thing is, the Left has taken control of a lot. Big media. Big Tech. Big Government. Schools. To me, if it wasn't for praying Christians and a God who hears their prayers, we'd be doomed. And so yes, I absolutely think God has sent us Trump. Not exactly the person we thought he'd send. But then we didn't see how much the Left would attack whoever God sent. Allen Ray mentioned climate change. I agree that it's real, it's serious, and man has caused a lot of it. However, there are cheap solutions to it. But just like with the cheap solutions to Covid, the Left isn't interested in them and fights against them. Instead, in both cases, it wants solutions that end up hurting lots of people. Sure, many on the Left mean well, and yet they do the most crazy things. Seems satanic if you ask me.
OT posted a comment · Aug 20, 2022
LOL !
Swkh310 posted a comment · Aug 20, 2022
I wonder if "Dean Cooper"s post was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. (1) "One side" is pure and the other is demonic? Sorry, Dan: there is no perfection in American politics. If you think there is a "clear" choice, you're are living in blissful ignorance. (2) "tRump is actually very different in person"? Says who? (3) Listen to Eric Trump? Forbes Magazine (not exactly a left-wing publication) published a lengthy article in June 2017 accusing him of stealing millions from St. Jude's Children's Hospital -- an article little Eric has never challenged or questioned. (4) "God is clearly behind tRump." I have seen absolutely nothing in any of tRump's actions -- dating back to the mid 1980s when I lived in New York and witnessed first hand his racist, vile, totally unfounded attacks on the Central Park Five -- that even slightly suggest even a modicum of humanity (let alone Christianity) pulsates through his veins. The difference, Dean, is that I accept the reality that no politician is "God-endorsed." I hold my nose and pick lesser of two evils. You, however, obviously vote from the lens of a fool's paradise.
allenrayjohnson posted a comment · Aug 20, 2022
One of most difficult challenges for Jesus followers when they exercise their citizenship responsibilities including voting and witness is that of intersectionality of policies that can bring in bad with the good. Yes, abortion kills innocent babies. So does war and air pollution. Yes, the pressured "normalization" of same sex marriage and transgenderism is distorting scientific and anthropological truth. So also is anthropogenic climate change denial of overwhelming scientific evidence. Unlike many of today's self-described prophets who teach for money to their fans, the Old Testament Hebrew prophets were in nobodies pockets. They spoke out against idolatry, oppressive injustice, and unholy alliances. Kings were rarely praised if at all. And most of the Presidents (I mean, Kings) of the Bible were wicked, and even the few good ones had significant moral sins and bad judgments. In any given election, does God run a candidate and the Devil run a candidate? Or, according to the Temptation narrative in Luke 4:5-8, the Devil is in charge of political power and gives it to who will worship him? As for Romans 13, read it alongside Revelation 13.
OT posted a comment · Aug 20, 2022
Thank you Deancooper for a logical , sane comment.
Deancooper posted a comment · Aug 20, 2022
This is why we must do better? As in not being seduced by politics and having people divide over it? But how is that possible when one side clearly has an antichrist agenda and the other side is the opposite of this? If politics is merely deciding whether we should tax more or less, or have a larger or smaller safety net, then fine, let's not divide over that. But we're way beyond those things. One side supports the queer agenda, the other side traditional norms. These cannot coexist. Ether we support God's definition of "normal" or Satan's destruction of all we hold dear. And of course Trump is going to run again -- even if he has to run from jail. So sure, we shouldn't take on his bad qualities, but he actually is very different in person, and he has changed a lot. Go listen to Eric Trump on Thursday's podcast of Elijah Streams, and you'll get a better idea of why people like me can support Trump so enthusiastically. I'm not conflicted like you clearly are. I'm glad to support Trump because to me God is clearly behind him. To me, only Trump could endure the attacks and hold firm like he has. He really cannot be replaced by another. Trump is the one to break the antichrist hold on our nation, or America won't exist much longer. That doesn't make him our savior (or perfect), except in the sense that Washington or Lincoln were as well. We pray that God will raise up leaders for our nation. Well to me, God has answered our prayers. Can we discern God's hand in this? We had better. Everything we value is on the line. The neo-Marxists are on the verge of taking over, and we write columns like yours. Wake up Dr. Brown. For God's sake, wake up.
OT posted a comment · Aug 19, 2022
“We must always represent Him first and foremost.” And of course Explain to Jesus why you vote for baby killers, and same sexers, and the list goes on and on , so now your advocating Christian’s shouldn’t vote! Seriously. I vote for trump and I’ve sold my soul ! You vote for biden the baby killer, and your golden ~ how idiotic is your logic ! Skwh310 says we’re all sinners so is trump! Trump has killer, The blood of all aborted baby’s is on the hands on those who advocate for it! If a vote makes one culpable and is your litmus of moral standing ! I vote Trump !
allenrayjohnson posted a comment · Aug 19, 2022
Thank you, Dr. Brown, for a good Christian argument. For some, Trump is next to the right hand of Jesus, to others the left hand of Satan. The evangelical church is split asunder by the Trump wedge. You admit that Trump's personality traits and actions did not changed during and after his presidency. Yet some of his followers did. As you describe, this is a seduction of the Church. However, remember that Satan typically gives lots of goodies, with a poison pill sneaked in. Trump flagrantly violates all seven on the deadly sins list. So does character matter when we choose a leader? The Southern Baptist Convention is having to face that decades too late. So what about choosing the lesser of two evils when casting a vote? Does a Jesus follower have to stick a clothespin on his or her nose and pick the least worst? Or can a Jesus follower accept the stigma of being "unpatriotic" and refrain from voting on that office? That was my decision, to not vote for Biden or Trump. But I have spent at least 200 days in Washington and my state capitol witnessing for what I feel is good public policy, have written numerous letters, phone calls made, and rallies and public witnesses. Voting is just one of several ways to exercise citizenship and hopefully in a Christian way.
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mlapoff posted a comment · Aug 19, 2022
Well said Mike! I agree wholeheartedly. We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven and are ambassadors of our King Yeshua. We must always represent Him first and foremost.
OT posted a comment · Aug 18, 2022
So many arguments for and against, so now the vote equates to worship! What a bunch of gaslit BS
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Jeremy M posted a comment · Aug 18, 2022
This is the most self-aware thing that I have ever seen you write. But it is still not close to enough. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. You cannot support a monster, and still maintain your moral high ground by telling us all about your reservations and mixed feelings for supporting him. Trump's appeal was his nastiness and cruelty from the very start. That "Trump: F**k Your Feelings" merchandise didn't just happen by accident. Republicans and Evangelicals were taking out their hatred on liberals (or, more accurately, their Fox News caricature of liberals) with their support for Trump since the very beginning. No amount of cruelty, corruption, or law-breaking was too much, as long as it made some liberals cry. I've seen reporting that by the end non-religious conservatives were starting to identify as Evangelicals just because they heard that no one worshipped Trump as ardently as Evangelicals, and that was what they wanted for themselves. Evangelicals learned precisely nothing from their six years of ever more degrading fealty to Trump, and they will continue to learn nothing through 2024 and beyond.
OT posted a comment · Aug 18, 2022
Because people voted for Trump and He beat The diabolical Hillary Clinton ! Given all she did botched embassy deaths, W/classified documents/computer servers /email bleached hard drives the list goes on and on she gets a FBI pass typical Washington elite! Skwh310 no credibility! Swamp?
OT posted a comment · Aug 18, 2022
The reality of what came out of the Republican chute was Presidential candidate Trump 2016 under the most intensive scrutiny that not even (skwh310 the self proclaimed sinner) would not survive. When I look at all the biblical characters in the book of judges . If we continue in disobedience, we invite God’s discipline, not because He enjoys our suffering, but “because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son". The Book of Judges is a testament to God’s faithfulness. Even “if we are faithless, He will remain faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13). Though we may be unfaithful to Him, as the Israelites were, still He is faithful to save us and preserve us (1 Thessalonians 5:24) and to forgive us when we seek forgiveness (1 John 1:9). “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9). GOTQUESTION.COM
OT posted a comment · Aug 18, 2022
I voted for TRUMP based on his policies and what he said he would do ! Not his personality! hindsight is 20/20 and we all know what democrats (FBI) did! We need to Drain the swamp! “In DC.”
Swkh310 posted a comment · Aug 18, 2022
All of this self-righteous hand wringing seems phoney. The symbiotic relationship between the Deranged Demagogue and the Evangelical/Born Again crowd has served it purpose. He needed them to get elected; they needed him to stack the federal judiciary. Both parties delivered. But moving forward? The Orange Creature would still need the "Christian" Nationalists, but he has nothing to offer them in return. (Or to use science {never a popular topic on this site} as an example: the aptly named "Clownfish" can't feed off of the sea anemones any more.)