Humayun Khan was killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. His father, Khizr Khan, spoke to the Democratic National Convention last week, criticizing Donald Trump for seeking to ban Muslim immigrants from the US. After Trump responded, a media firestorm resulted. Chris Christie is making headlines this morning as he joins other Republicans who have disagreed publicly with Trump’s remarks.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton continues to generate controversy over her emails. She told “Fox News Sunday” that FBI Director Comey called her answers on the issue “truthful.” The Washington Post found her statement so untruthful that it gave her its maximum “Four Pinocchios.” In addition, parents of servicemen killed in Benghazi continue to claim that she misled them as Secretary of State.
Despite these controversies, each candidate’s core supporters are still their core supporters. Why?
One: Each side is passionately opposed to the other.
In the latest CNN/ORC Poll, 42 percent of Clinton’s supporters say they will vote for her primarily to prevent Trump from being elected. Fifty percent of Trump’s backers say the same regarding Clinton. What their candidate does or says has little influence on those who are voting less for them than against the other option.
Two: Each side believes in its candidate.
Many of Trump’s supporters see his temperament and personality as essential for the challenges we face. An article I read this week said of him, “Yes, he’s a bit rude and crude and offensive. But that may make him the perfect warrior to save America, American exceptionalism, capitalism and Judeo-Christian values.” By contrast, actor Robert De Niro says Clinton has “earned the right to be president.” Actress Elizabeth Banks agrees, calling her “a smart, committed, successful woman.” Both candidates have core supporters who are not swayed by temporary controversies.
Three: Truth is what we say it is.
For generations, Americans have been taught that “truth” is how our minds interpret our sensory experiences. As a result, all truth claims are subjective and personal. It’s not that seeing is believing—rather, believing is seeing. We interpret the world through the prism of our presuppositions. Thus many supporters of Trump and Clinton believe that no one has the right to tell them they’re wrong.
These factors are producing what may be the most divisive campaign we’ve ever seen. Here’s my appeal to Christians: Be a thermostat, not a thermometer. Don’t reflect your culture—change it.
Decide how you will vote, but show those who disagree with you “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Pray for the candidates to be people who can say sincerely, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Measure what both candidates say and do by biblical truth (James 1:25). Decide that you will speak God’s word to those you influence while praying for our nation to turn to the Lord (Jeremiah 18:20).
And refuse to be discouraged. Victor Hugo wrote, “Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones. And when you have finished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.”
Note: On the most recent controversy regarding Donald Trump, see Nick Pitts’s Jesus Welcomes Children but Trump Removes Them.