It was an interesting question.
It caught me off guard.
I had to pause to think.
For one thing, Donald Trump would never ask me what I thought and I can’t imagine any scenario in which I would get a personal audience with him. So, to be quite frank, the question had never entered my mind.
For another, I knew that the person asking really liked Trump. She asked sincerely and respectfully but I could sense that the answer she was looking for was something positive and encouraging…something like “Stay strong, Mr. Trump! All this legal stuff is just a politically motivated attack on you because they are scared of you. Despite everything that is happening, you will be the president of the United States again.”
Maybe that wasn’t the answer she was looking for but I am pretty sure that many Trump supporters would want to tell the former president something similar…probably with a lot more fervor, passion, and hope.
Not knowing exactly what to say, I stumbled with my words.
“Wow, that is a great question. I haven’t thought about it before. I would probably tell him that it is time to step aside and let someone else lead. But, to be honest, I don’t know.”
And I still don’t know.
One thing I have learned over the past seven years is that there seems to be no middle ground with Donald Trump. You either love him or you hate him. You either see him as some divinely gifted leader or as some devilish narcissist.
Bring up Donald Trump in a mixed social gathering and be prepared for the party to break up into distinct factions…with a punch bowl turned over and a few punches thrown in between.
Calm rationality goes out the window.
Passionate emotions fill the room.
It is not a pretty scene.
So I tread carefully.
I have family members and close friends on both sides of the equation. I have interacted with people who love Trump and with those who hate him…and I have even been caught in between at times.
So my goal is not to stir up more dissension and arguments. We certainly don’t need more of that in our politically polarized culture. My goal is to offer a few calm, rational, biblically-informed thoughts which I pray could be helpful to someone out there.
Let me start with something basic.
Donald Trump is merely a man.
He is not the Messiah and he is not the Antichrist.
If you tend to think that he is one or the other, then all I can say is that there is no reason to keep reading what I have to say. It will only make you more angry. So here is a page on the internet that you can click on to make everything okay.
Donald Trump is a flawed man (like us all). He is weak. He is fallible. He is mortal. He is subject to physical tiredness, sickness, and aging. He can be swayed by his moods and his emotions. He is limited in his understanding and perspective. He is prone to slips, lapses, mistakes, and sins.
He is, quite simply, human.
You may think he is a great leader, above par from everyone else out there, or you may think he is a charlatan building his success off his name and eccentricity. But whatever the case, he is merely a man and not worthy of any kind of special veneration or vilification.
Sever yourselves from such a man,
Whose breath is in his nostrils;
For of what account is he? (Isaiah 2:22, NKJV)
Or as another Bible translation put it:
Stop trusting in mere humans,
Who have but a breath in their nostrils.
Why hold them in esteem? (Isaiah 2:22, NIV)
Donald Trump is not worth the emotional outrage or adoration that he seems to generate.
He is a man.
He lives by breathing out his nostrils.
His life is limited and his strength is weak.
Put your trust or your focus elsewhere.
Donald Trump has supported policies and made decisions that align with Judeo-Christian values and principles.
Some people wonder how any Christian could have voted for Donald Trump.
It’s really not that hard to figure out.
For one, the options were limited. When the other major presidential candidate was Hillary Clinton (2016) or Joe Biden (2020), then every voter had to make a decision to vote for the Republican candidate, vote for the Democratic candidate, vote for a third party candidate (with no statistical chance of winning), or not vote at all.
Maybe in an ideal world a lot of us would have chosen different candidates. But we have to vote in the real world not a virtual one and that requires choosing the best option, or the least disagreeable option, available to you.
When I go to a particular Mexican restaurant with my wife (which is her favorite and probably my least favorite), I have to find something on the menu that I don’t mind eating. I may wish that there was a Chick Fila sandwich or a Five Guys cheeseburger on the menu, but there isn’t. So I have to make the best choice with the limited options that I am presented.
That’s what the last two presidential elections have been like for me.
When I read the Republican and the Democratic platforms, then, as a Christian, I choose to vote for the party that, at least on paper, advocates for the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage, the priority of the family, the value of religious liberty, and the importance of individual responsibility and work. Other Christians may have different values or priorities but I don’t see how they can ignore the importance of these issues from a biblical standpoint.
Again, we make the best choice on the menu we are presented.
I can appreciate anyone who looks at the issues, looks at the available candidates, and then makes the best choice that they can according to their own conscience and convictions.
That’s the best that any of us can do.
For all of Donald Trump’s flaws, he did support several key issues and policies that a great number of Christians hold dear. And he didn’t seem ashamed to talk about them. That made him a favorable candidate to many Christians and a “best of the available options” choice for many others.
Donald Trump has not exhibited a character that aligns with Judeo-Christian values and principles.
I don’t think many Christians would dispute this…though many might excuse it.
“We are voting for a president not a Sunday School teacher!”
The qualifications to be president are much different than a volunteer Sunday School teacher…or even a full-time pastor.
But one thing should still be a constant.
This used to be a given in Christian circles, even when talking about political leaders.
No, they didn’t need to be perfect. No, they didn’t need to be a church-going Christian. No, they didn’t even need to have the best marriage or family life. But they at least needed to have a character that exhibited the traits of integrity, honesty, civility, and leadership.
Character in many ways is everything in leadership. It is made up of many things, but I would say character is really integrity. (Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower)
Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy. (Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf)
The conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh hammered this point as well:
Character matters; leadership descends from character.
Of course, Limbaugh said this during the Clinton years. He echoed the voices of many Christian leaders at that time too.
I remember those days well.
I even wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper on why character matters, even in secular, political leaders. I used Proverbs 25:19 as the basis of my comments.
Putting confidence in an unreliable man is like chewing with a sore tooth or trying to run on a broken foot.
The Hebrew word for “unreliable” refers particularly to a person who is not faithful in his marriage, in his relationships, in his words, or in his general conduct. He tends to use people for his own ends.
Relying on such a person is like having a tooth that hurts every time you chew or trying to run when your foot is broken. It is painful and you ultimately don’t get very far without causing further damage.
Like Limbaugh said, “Leadership descends from character.”
You lead out of the person you are.
You have no other choice.
So let’s be honest. Almost all of us can agree that Donald Trump is not a paragon of virtue.
His mouth is caustic.
His sexual past is notorious.
His self-promotion is usually on full display.
And his personal relationships are either non-existent or frayed at best.
There have been few presidents with as much turnover in his Cabinet as Donald Trump and perhaps none who have turned so vehemently and viciously against some of his closest political allies and friends. Jeff Sessions. Gen. James Mattis. Rex Tillerson. John Kelly. John Bolton. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. Bill Stepien. Chris Christie. Nikki Haley. Betsy DeVos. Elaine Chao. Stephanie Grisham. Tom Bosssert. Alyssa Farrah Griffin. Eric Herschmann. Anthony Scaramucci. Ty Cobb. Michael Cohen. Richard Spencer. Gary Cohn. Mick Mulvaney. Mark Esper. Ann Coulter. Bill Barr. And even his former vice-president, Mike Pence.
Now his legal troubles are about to engulf him.
Perhaps all his indictments could be labeled “politically motivated.” But isn’t just about everything politically motivated in today’s world? The question isn’t if it is politically motivated but whether there is any validity to the claims. And most avid supporters, even if they think Trump is being unfairly prosecuted and persecuted, would probably acknowledge that he has acted unethically and flouted the law to some degree.
If there is no fire, he certainly has produced an awful lot of smoke.
In the end, you may still see Trump as the “best of the whole corrupt bunch,” the strongest candidate out there, and the only one who speaks for you. That’s fine. But whatever you do, don’t put all your hope in Donald Trump or see him as some kind of prophesied political messiah. That’s not “fighting the Deep State” but rather flirting with heresy.
There’s only one Messiah. There’s only one Savior. There’s only one blessed hope.
And his name is not Trump.
On the other side of the coin, if you can’t stand Donald Trump and think he was one of the worst presidents to ever sit in the White House, it does no good to keep talking about him incessantly or demeaning anyone who may support him. It is actually counter-productive. Part of Trump’s appeal is that he is hated by the liberal elite and all those who think everyone in rural America is a redneck hick. So every time you insult him, you actually inflate him. The best thing you can do is ignore him, support the candidate you think stands for your values, and spend your time on better things.
So back to my original question.
What would I say to Donald Trump?
I still don’t know.
But if by some strange convergence of unlikely events the opportunity presented itself, then I think I would go with the words of Daniel.
The prophet Daniel worked with the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful leader known for his harsh mouth, hasty decisions, and hardened heart. Daniel both loved him and disagreed with him.
When Nebuchadnezzar’s pride reached a boiling point, God gave him a dream that unsettled him. When Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel for the interpretation, Daniel did not hesitate to tell Nebuchadnezzar the truth. He did not try to flatter him or coddle him. He spoke with urgency and compassion to this powerful leader.
What was the message that Nebuchadnezzar needed to hear?
The Most High rules over the kingdom of mankind
And He bestows it on whomever He desires
And sets over it the humblest and lowliest of men. (Daniel 4:17b)
So this is what I would respectfully say to the former president.
God is God.
God is sovereign.
And you are not.
Humble yourself. Love others. And exalt Him alone.
And if you truly love this country and want to make it great again, then remember that America is only great when America is good.
So step away, stop talking, take personal inventory, and do what is best for this country not what is best for yourself.
This is the heart of a servant.
This is the character of a leader.