I confess the last part of my summer holiday has been hijacked by a somewhat unhealthy obsession with the political drama south of the border.

But it is a not unimportant drama. And, particularly for Christians the choice of a POTUS, offers a profound opportunity for serious self-examination. So, I said on FaceBook this morning:

“some day someone is going to have to help me understand this: ‘Seventy-six percent of self-identified white evangelicals say their minds are made up in favor of Trump, while just five percent of white evangelicals who favor Trump say they could change their minds.'”

http://www.christianpost.com/news/white-evangelicals-made-up-their-minds-vote-donald-trump-poll-cnn-166977/#7AV6JlwsBkM2ehTk.99

And then, in the way the internet can often do, an answer popped up almost immediately:

I don’t think it is naivety. It’s not blind following. Those that follow along want something, too. If their pastor is standing on stage with the presidential candidate, then they are too. If they send their child to a university led by someone who gets a prime speaking spot at the RNC, then they have a voice, too. It’s power by proxy.

Trump gives a new offer. It’s a power negotiation. Pastors bring the voters; Trump shares the power. You invite Trump to speak at your university; Trump’s daughter sends your family clothes and fashion. It’s the art of the deal. Faith, convictions, and policies be damned.

Tobin Grant’s well-informed and thoughtful piece should be read in its entirety here:http://religionnews.com/2016/07/21/jerry-falwell-donald-trump-evangelical-leaders-back-trump-because-its-not-about-faith/

This article should be read, not only for its telling description of the evangelical world, but because it raises a startling question about how evangelicals use the Bible.

In the middle of his article Grant explains that Jerry Falwell Jr. has endorsed Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for president because,

Trump’s past—his multiple marriages, his ties to gambling—was irrelevant to Falwell. Endorsing Trump, in Falwell’s view, is no different than backing Ronald Reagan (a rare church attender and twice-married Hollywood actor) against Jimmy Carter (a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher with a prudish reputation).

Others, Grant says,

like James Dobson, have taken the route of denial, convincing themselves that Trump is somehow a recent convert.

But, if Tobin Grant accurately quotes Jerry Falwell Jr. in trying to understand the Liberty University president’s ability to overlook Mr. Trump’s checkered past, it is the stunning obscurity of Falwell’s biblical interpretation that leaves me scratching my head. Evangelicals honour, respect, study, and base their lives on the Bible. But what Bible is Mr. Falwell reading?

Asked if Mr. Trump’s past was irrelevant, Falwell Jr. apparently responded with a “biblical story” saying,

“Well, I think Jesus said we’re all sinners….When they ask that question, I always talk about the story of the woman at the well who had had five husbands and she was living with somebody she wasn’t married to, and they wanted to stone her. And Jesus said he’s – he who is without sin cast the first stone. I just see how Donald Trump treats other people, and I’m impressed by that.”

Does Mr. Falwell not know, or not care, that he has conflated two stories that occur four chapters apart in John’s Gospel. Nowhere in my Bible is there any mention of anyone wanting to “stone” the Samaritan woman at the well. In fact John writes that this woman had enough credibility among those who knew her that,

Many Samaritans from that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony. (John 4:39)

In my Bible, I have to wait four chapters before I get to any mention of any likelihood of anyone being stoned and of Jesus’ challenge to the scribes and Pharisees (not Samaritans),

Let anyone among you who is without sin be the fist to throw a stone at her. (John 8:7)

In this same context, Jesus also said to the Samaritan woman,

Neither do I condemn you. (John 8:11).

If Mr. Falwell considers himself a follower of this messiah who does not condemn, it is hard to imagine how he reconciles Jesus’ statement with a candidate for president who looks at Mexican immigrants to the US and says of them,

They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/9-outrageous-things-donald-trump-has-said-about-latinos_us_55e483a1e4b0c818f618904b

So, evangelicals support Trump because they want to be on the inside wielding power, no matter the cost. But, how do they support a Trumpman who appears to give slim evidence of those characteristics the Bible upholds as the goal of a truly human life:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22,23)

What biblical rationale is Falwell offering for Trumps enthusiasm for torture? Where does waterboarding fit in with the fruit of the Spirit?

“What do you think about waterboarding?” Trump asked the crowd. They cheered as he gave his answer: “I like it a lot. I don’t think it’s tough enough.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/28/donald-trump-ohio-rally-isis-torture-tpp-rape

How do evangelicals feel about Trump’s plan for dealing with terrorism? Commenting on Saddam Hussein, Trump has said,

“He was a bad guy — really bad guy … But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were a terrorist, it was over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism.”
And, how does Jerry Falwell Jr.’s “biblical” stance on human sexuality fit with his candidate’s Tweet on Arianna Huffington’s ex-husband?

Donald J. Trump

.@ariannahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision.
Could it be that all this time, the Bible has just been a useful tool for some evangelicals to support an agenda not rooted in Scripture and, when the Bible becomes awkward or embarrassing, they are happy to dispense with it as their guide and authority?
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