Donald Trump’s success in his bid to be the Republican presidential nominee has far exceeded what anyone (other than him) could have predicted last June. But while that success has been surprising, the reason for it is even harder for many pundits to fathom. You see, one of the main reasons that he has distanced himself from the other candidates is the support of evangelical voters. Roughly one-third of evangelical Republican voters in South Carolina cast a ballot for Trump, and he has received similar support in the other states so far.
While Trump says that he has a good relationship with God, his crude language, belief that he doesn’t need to ask God for forgiveness, and his stance on Muslims and Mexicans hardly depict someone evangelicals would typically support. So why is it that so many have bought into his message and want to see him become America’s 45th president? The Washington Post‘s Joseph Loconte offers a suggestion.
Loconte argues that evangelicals are flocking to Trump for much the same reason that Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne, another political leader whose actions were often out of step with biblical values: they want a “protector in chief.” Essentially, the medieval church twelve hundred years ago and evangelicals today were both looking for someone who could defend their way of life against a perceived threat and were willing to overlook the myriad of ways that such a protector contrasted with their system of beliefs to do so. For Leo, that threat was the group that had run him out of Rome after a failed attempt to take his life. For evangelicals today, it’s the way the government and the larger culture often seem increasingly antagonistic towards Christian beliefs.
While that comparison is helpful, a more apt analogy is perhaps Charles V. As the Protestant Reformation grew, the Roman Catholic Church found itself increasingly unable to halt the reformers’ progress. They were largely forced to turn to Charles V, who, as leader of the Habsburg Empire, could have potentially put an end to the Reformation. And that is exactly what he did throughout much of Europe, so long as it was in his interests to do so. However, when he needed the help of the German nobility in defending his lands against the Ottoman Empire, he allowed the Reformation to continue in return for their aid. That decision is one of the primary reasons that Martin Luther and the other German reformers were able to endure when Protestants in Spain and Eastern Europe could not.
Essentially, as long as Charles’s interests were aligned with those of the Catholic Church, the pairing worked quite well. However, when he found another group that he needed more, the Roman Catholics were left in a precarious position and haven’t been the same since. That’s the risk you run when you choose your leaders based on fear rather than faith. If a person’s primary appeal is that they make you feel more secure, but you never stop to question the manner in which they will provide that security, then you open yourself up to the distinct possibility that they will leave you behind when they need another group’s support more than yours.
That is true of Trump, but the same could potentially be said for any of the candidates. My purpose here is not to tell evangelicals who to vote for but rather to help us really think about what is motivating our choice. Scripture is clear that fear should never play a role in our decisions (Philippians 4:6, 2 Timothy 1:7) and history shows that when it does, events hardly ever end well. Rather, God’s word teaches that such decisions should come from seeking the Lord’s wisdom and aligning our hearts with his (James 1:5, Matthew 6:10).
Ultimately, who you choose to vote for in the upcoming election is between you and God. And there are a number of reasons why evangelicals might be inclined to vote for Trump. However, if you are truly seeking God’s will with regards to where you should cast your ballot, then fear should not be the primary motivation for your choice. So take some time to ask God what he’s looking for in a president and then vote accordingly. Only then can you be confident that you are making the right decision for the right reasons.