- CRITTER TALK
Apparently, my “White Evangelical” friends cannot seem to stop placing obstacle upon obstacle in front of those who want nothing to do with the modern-day church. I need to be clear here: I do not EXPECT Trump to “act” as though he were a Believer because for him to do so, would be clearly disingenuous.
After all, he is on record stating he “never has asked for forgiveness,” because he frankly does not believe “he has ever done anything which requires him to do so.” Just so we are all clear: This answer was provided to a media personality in a “Christian” environment. And despite THAT answer, the media personality interviewing Trump was just fine with Trump’s response, and so were 81% of those who self-profess being “Christians” in this nation; those labeled “White Evangelical.”
However, I also want to be clear here about an ancillary issue: Not all of us are like those leaders who find every justification under the sun for Trump’s worldly behavior. Many of us are disgusted with Trump and those evangelical leaders providing such excuses for him.
I cannot imagine the disconnect you folks hear when you see a man like Franklin Graham interviewed on television, specifically CNN, and is asked why evangelical leaders continue to support Trump only to hear yet another justification, a lie, and I might add a false gospel. Also, many of us do not “use” our religious beliefs to justify our political positions. In fact, many of us do not even mix politics and religion. However, when supposed “men of God” DO engage in this practice, people like me feel compelled to answer, using the exact same book THEY persist in banging on your collective heads to get you to believe what they believe, act like they act, and worship as they worship. Me? I am in sales, not management.
According to Graham, who apparently can see into the hearts of men better than God, states the key difference between Trump and say Bill Clinton and sexual affairs, is that “Clinton continued while in office,” while “Trump has stopped.” In addition, according to Graham, the “President has matured in the past eleven months.” I also realize Franklin Graham is the same man who when asked whether “he thought Obama ‘could’ be a ‘Christian,’ stated quite clearly, “I don’t think so.”
First, perhaps you are wondering how or WHY Franklin Graham can make such proclamations. Let me answer: He can’t and the very Book he preaches from states so. For example, in Luke 16:15, Jesus Himself states, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.”
Let that sink in, folks. What Graham values highly – Trump – is detestable in God’s sight. Those are not my Words, but those from the very Book we as Believers are to live by.
Second, Graham’s “opinion,” or better yet, his “judgment” about Mr. Obama’s ability to “be a Christian,” is moot. Why? Again, the very Book we as Believers live by states in I Corinthians 2:11 these words: “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except his own spirit within him? So too, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” In other words, the ONLY people who KNOW what is in their own heart on this issue are Trump, Obama, and God Himself. Not me, not you, not Mr. Graham. This is precisely why it is best that we as Believers concern ourselves with well, OURSELVES versus placing value judgments on others. We are as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:12 to “Work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.”
Third, as Believers, despite our never being able to KNOW who is or who is NOT a Believer, and despite the very clear directive outlined in our scriptures to ensure we do not “judge” another lest we “be judged in the exact same manner,” we ARE to avoid what Paul refers to as “unfruitful works of darkness.” He states with no equivocation in Ephesians 5:11, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
Fourth, what justification do I as an individual have to confront this issue? According to Romans 16:17, this IS my responsibility as Paul states, “Mark them which cause division and offenses contrary to the doctrine you have learned; and avoid them.” That word “mark,” is an important word because it provides the reason why I as a self-professed Believer have no other choice but to point out the disconnect these Church Leaders have, especially when their words could affect future possibilities of those outside the Church from coming in.
This is precisely why I apologize to those outside the Church. I firmly realize the implications of leaders failing to lead in a biblical manner, that is saying one thing, and doing another, especially when what we do violates the very Book we preach from. I realize how confusing it must be when you see influential Church leaders such as Tony Perkins giving a “mulligan” for Trump’s alleged affair, or Dr. Robert Jeffress’ near-messianic worship of Trump, or James Dobson’s desire for prayer for our nation to prevent Trump from being impeached, to yes even Franklin Graham who acts as though he KNOWS what is inside the hearts of man.
As a pastor and social psychologist – always a pastor first – I have NEVER made a value judgment as to what is in a man’s heart. I also do not determine who is or is not a “believer,” because THAT isn’t in my job description. I DO, however, follow the fruit. If the fruit is rotten, I do not take a piece and dine on it. I point that fruit out to the vendor and allow Him to do with it whatever it is HE wishes to do with it while making clear that I personally do NOT wish to have that fruit, also telling him that others are unlikely to want it either.
And I realize in our world littered with so much fruit, things can get pretty confusing. That is why I like to keep things simple. Galatians 5:22-23 is clear about the kind of fruit we as Believers ought to bear:
“But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these kinds of things.”
I will allow the reader to determine if Mr. Graham’s assessment of Trump is accurate or not.