Opinion: Why evangelicals ought to care about Trump’s lies (and different sins)

Opinion: Why evangelicals should care about Trump's lies (and other sins)


Honesty has all the time been thought of a keystone of character. Even youngsters know mendacity is incorrect. This is clearly communicated in our religion traditions as properly. For instance, the Bible warns in opposition to some type of mendacity at least 116 times. It’s proper there within the 10 commandments — “Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” and echoed from the Old Testament (“A righteous man hateth lying…” Proverbs 13:5) to the New Testament (“Do not lie to one another…’ Colossians 3:9-10).
Whether lying matters is, of course, not an idle question. A core component of President Donald Trump’s coalition is evangelical Christians — people who have righteously railed against a lack of character and ethics in the White House in the past and advocated for a return to family values. This presumably does not include lying. But the fact is that conservative Christian voters supported Donald Trump in 2016 at a higher rate than they did George W. Bush, a born-again Christian whose faith shaped his “compassionate conservative” politics.
Few would use the same phrase to describe Trump, who commands evangelical respect, even though the respect is not necessarily returned in private. He does not seem preoccupied with questions of Christian ethics in action and there is no evidence that he feels a particular fidelity to the truth.
Let me say it extra plainly: it’s not biased to explain Trump as a liar. It is a matter of goal and demonstrable reality. The Washington Post has catalogued greater than 22,000 false or misleading claims over the course of his time in workplace — and people are simply those that he is uttered in public. And he has lied as a lot as 50 times a day throughout the remaining stretch of this marketing campaign. “The depths of his dishonesty is simply astounding to me,” Trump’s former chief of staff, Marine Gen. John Kelly has told friends, “The dishonesty, the transactional nature of each relationship, although it is extra pathetic than the rest. He is probably the most flawed particular person I’ve ever met in my life.”

Historians usually agree that character is an important high quality for a president. There’s a cause that our biggest president’s nickname is Honest Abe. But in Donald Trump’s Washington, mendacity has grow to be normalized. Perhaps the newest and stark signal of it was within the abandonment of alleged precept to push ahead the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

More than 40 Republican Senators declared that they would not advance a Supreme Court nomination in an election year to justify the unprecedented blocking of President Barack Obama’s 2016 pick Merrick Garland. The most notorious was South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said: “I would like you to make use of my phrases in opposition to me: If there is a Republican president in 2016 and a emptiness happens within the final 12 months of the primary time period, you possibly can say Lindsey Graham mentioned, ‘Let’s let the following president, whoever it may be, make that nomination.’ And you can use my phrases in opposition to me and you would be completely proper.” When that exact circumstance occurred, Graham shrugged it off. You can call it situational ethics. You can call it the triumph of partisan politics over principle. You can also call it shameless lying.

The irony is that perhaps the most religious and socially conservative Supreme Court nominee in decades will have been put in place by an abandonment of the basic ethical standard known as the Golden Rule, articulated in the Bible as “Do to others as you’ll have them do to you.”

For many conservative Christians, the ends may justify the means in this case. Other partisans will reach for whataboutism and point to lies by previous Democratic presidents. But in terms of the sheer volume of lies, we’ve never seen anything like President Trump. For voters motivated by questions of faith and ethics, how should they view the President’s lying and the effect it seems to be having on our politics?

I asked two priests what role they thought it should play in election calculations.

Refugees like my ancestors are part of what made America great

“How ought to Christians account for a sample of mendacity in casting their vote?” reflected the Reverend Don Waring of Grace Church in New York. “Quite merely, they need to not vote for anybody who intentionally deceives. Lying is a mortal sin, and the dominion of God shouldn’t be superior by means of unrighteous means. It by no means does anybody any good to have public officers in workplace who play quick and unfastened with the reality. One lie results in one other, and it all the time catches as much as them. Then we’re all embroiled in distracting public scandals that taint the entire political course of.”

In his view, normalizing lies threatens to drag our whole democracy down.

But the Reverend Al Zadig, of St. Michael’s Church in Charleston, South Carolina, no doubt reflects the views of other conservative Christians by weighing lying against other sins.

“Certainly, there’s a presidential character that requires fact telling,” Zadig says. “Lying is a sin. There isn’t any hierarchy of sin within the eyes of God though the results could also be totally different in society. This creates an actual wrestle for a lot of clergy and folks of religion with the sin of homicide from the attitude of abortion. …Again, sin is non-hierarchical, however the penalties between mendacity and homicide are so vastly totally different. As a priest, it gives an trustworthy and highly effective dilemma. But the widespread nature of what we name the seven lethal sins is that they kill the guts and the soul of an individual.”

Good people can disagree about abortion — especially if they see a difference between personal decisions and political prohibitions. But a look back at the seven deadly sins — lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride — is a reminder of just how many Donald Trump embraces as a matter of his core brand. He has long been an avatar for greed and conspicuous consumption (chased by platters full of fast food), with tabloid sexcapades he wore both as a badge of honor and a sign of virility. Pride defines him — and many of his lies are about bolstering his reputation. His ego also reflects his insecurity and envy while wrath defines his political style. Regardless, all of these are overlooked or unremarked upon by Trump partisans.

Instead, the President’s favorite weapon—projection — is deployed at political opponents, regardless of truth.

Even Joe Biden’s political opponents in the Senate acknowledge that he is a decent and honest man even if they fundamentally disagree with him on policy. But to muddy the moral waters, the Trump campaign has tried to spread totally baseless accusations — some truly sordid and others simply designed to deflect, including a series of Facebook ads that claim “Joe Biden is a liar and must be held accountable.” The aim is to try to persuade people that each candidates are liars, and to allow them to take that difficulty off the desk. In good circularity, the adverts are themselves lies.

All of that is to say that if faith and advantage matter when casting your vote, then mendacity ought to matter as properly. Because honesty issues. Character issues. On the flip aspect, campaigns that concentrate on worry or greed run counter to fundamental tenets of religion. If we overlook these bedrock virtues to focus as an alternative on one or two coverage positions — regardless of how deeply held — we lose sight of probably the most basic teachings of religion and run the danger of reaping the whirlwind as a society.

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