Hey, Christians Voting on Nov 3: Consider Your Legacy
You may have heard the news: Jerry Falwell Jr., president of one of the largest Christian colleges in the world, was caught with his pants unzipped. Caught, as in he posted a picture of himself, underwear out, while hugging a woman who isn’t his wife.
Then a far more damaging story broke. A business partner of the Falwells named Giancarlo Granda said that the couple preyed on him starting when he was 20, pressuring him for years to have sex with Jerry’s wife while Jerry watched. “Becki and I developed an intimate relationship and Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room,” Granda said, backing his claims with texts, emails, and audio recordings.
“They approached me. She invited me to their hotel room. They offered me an equity partnership in a property.” — Giancarlo Granda, business partner to the Falwells
As might be expected, this isn’t particularly great branding for Falwell’s evangelical university. He’s since resigned and is under investigation. (Don’t feel too bad for him, though: He’s still getting a $10.5 million payout, funded in part by student tuition.)
To anyone who wasn’t previously enamored of Falwell, none of this is surprising. He’s been one of Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters even after Trump boasted about cheating on his third wife and after being accused more than two dozen times of harassment or assault. Yet Falwell continued to stump for Trump, going so far as to pose with him in front of a framed Playboy cover featuring… Donald Trump. All the while, Falwell’s university punished students for “any form of sexual behavior that would undermine the Christian identity.”
Far too few of you understand how damaging your support of Trump has been and will be to your legacy and your religion.
Speaking for myself, no single event turned me away from institutionalized Christianity like the election of Donald Trump. Before the election, I’d taken issue with some of the literal truth claims espoused there as well as some of the ethical positions, but I still held that the church contained beauty and goodness on the whole.
However, when I saw that it was white Christians who overwhelmingly elected Trump, my belief in the overall beauty and goodness of institutionalized American Christianity cracked.
Then that belief shattered. In 2018, you had the chance to band together with other Republican Christians and launch a moral primary challenger to Donald Trump. Instead you overwhelmingly embraced him. That’s when it fully hit me: The institution cares more about team politics than morality.
When you had the chance to primary Trump in 2018, you sat on your hands. You could have voted in someone who supported your policies and who had a strong sense of morality. Instead, you embraced Trump.
The Hypocrisy Runs Deep
If sitting on your hands and electing Trump in the primary were your first instance of hypocrisy, that would be one thing. But it’s clearer to me now that the hypocrisy runs deep, from abortion to war to money to sex trafficking:
In 1979, six years after Roe. v. Wade, you made abortion your banner issue. Why? Because that was when Jerry Falwell Sr. — the father of the guy who just resigned for pressuring a 20-year-old to have sex with his wife — wanted tax exemption for his segregated college.
The initial Christian response to Roe v. Wade had largely consisted of silence or mild approval, with evangelicals seeing abortion as a “Catholic issue.” But Falwell knew evangelical apathy about abortion would split the broader Christian vote and hurt his chance to be tax exempt. So he spearheaded a highly funded, highly calculated campaign to scare evangelicals into joining the Catholics against abortion. These religions together formed the “moral majority” and elected Reagan, who immediately tried to make segregated colleges tax exempt. Since then, in an astounding turn of hypocrisy, abortions have decreased more under Democratic presidents than Republican presidents.
In 2003, you pushed for war in the Middle East at a cost of more than $6 trillion and at least half a million deaths. And now you’ve elected a man who campaigned against the very wars you once pushed for, while he told baldfaced lies about always being against them.
In 2009, as part of the Tea Party, you protested the deficit. And yet the deficit increased far more under Trump in his first three years compared to the previous three years under Obama.
Since Covid-19 the deficit has exploded to unprecedented levels—enough to make the 2009 deficit increase look paltry. And now you’re silent?
In 2016, you said Trump would be good for the economy, but here’s the truth: In the three years prior to Trump, the unemployment rate dropped 2 percentage points. In Trump’s first three years it slowed, dropping only 1.2 percentage points. Then it skyrocketed to levels not seen since the Great Depression. Even before Covid-19 hit, manufacturing under Trump plateaued, wages remained stagnant, GDP growth slowed, and the cost of rent shot up.
Put simply, Trump has been terrible for the economy—before and after Covid-19. Trump touts the stock market, a phony indicator of economic health, while the economy as a whole collapses. We should expect nothing less from a guy who pretended to be a businessman on TV while behind the scenes he repeatedly went bankrupt and who told Forbes he was 20 times richer than he actually was to get on their list.
In 2020, I see a growing number of you expressing concern about child sex trafficking. You say that Trump is working to save these children. The only problem with this view — and it’s a major problem — is that under Trump federal investigations and prosecutions for child sex trafficking have fallen by a lot.
As is the case with so much that Trump does, he talks a big game and makes the right PR moves. He gets people to think he’s doing a great job. But in reality, it’s hot air.
Young people are tired of this flagrant hypocrisy. We’re angry at political and religious leaders who implicitly or explicitly support men like Trump while also claiming to follow Jesus. It’s one reason why 40% of Millennials now claim no religion—a number that will almost certainly continue to increase as you keep embracing Trump.
Your hypocrisy is one reason why 40% of Millennials now claim no religion — a number that will almost certainly continue to increase as you keep embracing Trump.
We see men such as Mike Pence, who embodies the hypocrisy of contemporary American Christianity. In a biting video, Pence is shown saying, “I, for one, believe that the 7th commandment [thou shall not commit adultery] is still a big deal,” but his words are juxtaposed with a list of the women Trump cheated on, the porn stars he paid off, and the women he assaulted while Pence gleefully looks at Trump and claps.
But… What About Biden?
Finally, you might say that you’re not voting for Trump so much as voting against Biden. On that point, I’ll concede. That’s somewhat valid. As I’ve recounted elsewhere, Joe Biden has a history of breaking physical boundaries with women and young girls, producing endless gaffes, spinning false stories about himself, and excusing nepotism.
However, this is increasingly the only move you have: What about Biden? What about the media? What about the Democrats?
What I am saying, however, is that you should be honest about the fact that Biden, a lifelong Catholic, is far more committed to Christianity than is Trump. Trump uses your religion as nothing more than a prop. Biden has a long history as a Christian.
In addition, you should be honest about how most accounts from co-workers (including Republicans) portray Biden as someone deeply empathetic and compassionate, in line with the core teachings of Jesus.
By contrast, people who have worked with Trump say just the opposite. His former White House employees say he’s clueless and selfish, and his former business employees paint the picture of someone who’s callous and narcissistic. His own sister calls him “cruel” and says, “he has no principles.”
“He has no principles. None. None. And his base, I mean my God, if you were a religious person, you want to help people. Not do this.” — Maryanne Trump Barry, Donald’s sister
So, what can you do?
First, stop making embarrassing excuses for Donald Trump. Don’t say, “Yeah, he’s a buffoon who’s rough around the edges, and I wish he didn’t tweet so much, but…” Instead, be honest about who Trump actually is. Regularly assaulting women, constantly bullying the least fortunate, and pathologically lying aren’t the marks of someone “who’s rough around the edges.” They are the marks of someone who is fundamentally at odds with the heart of Christianity.
Second, consider your legacy. If you want to push your descendants away from your religion, vote for Trump. One day you might look around and wonder why they’ve left. Perhaps it’s because the Christ they read about in the New Testament is the inverse of the party led by people like Falwell, Pence, and Trump that you support in your churches.
Third, do what you know you should do. Acknowledge that despite legitimate shortcomings, Biden is still worlds apart from Trump when it comes to human decency, morality, and Christian values. (It helps that his policies are also generally far more compassion-driven, particularly when it comes to the environment.)
Stop the hypocrisy. Throw out Trump. Vote for Biden.