It’s a difficult time to be an online conservative Christian with a strong interest in the law and politics (and a strong aversion to populism). Since the ascent of Donald Trump to the presidency, my conservative Evangelical leanings have been considered tacit support of a populist political leader who I see as acting in both immoral and foolish ways. It even leads some to accuse me of the most heinous beliefs and ideas, and attack me as evil, or stupid because I happen to be an evangelical Christian (a demographic that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump). Of course, I’m Canadian, so I didn’t vote for Trump, and was frankly thankful for not having to vote in the American election, but it seems most of my American friends on both sides of the electoral divide have decided that an Evangelical faith in Jesus Christ is somehow closely tied with American politics of the Republican brand, making those who are Christian obviously trump supporters, and those who question Trump obviously unChristian.
This is even true for conservative Christians who supported Donald Trump in the previous election. They assume that I am also in support of Trump, and are likely to accuse me of Apostasy for my daring to point out that torture is evil, and refugees should not be limited based on religious background (though to be fair, Trumps executive order doesn’t technically limit Muslim refugees, any more than Obama’s record on accepting Christian refugees from Syria was technically anti-Christian bias). Much less for the fact that a president shouldn’t be running the country via executive orders (something I also opposed when Obama did it).
What strikes me as most damaging of all of this is not the fact that it shows disagreement between people in the free world, but that both sides seem intent on simply demonizing their opposition, even when the person speaking claims to trust in Jesus Christ.
This is very likely to increase strife, not limit it…
Sadly, at least in my reading, my concern has most clearly been expressed by a legal scholar I generally disagree with:
Because if America is to avoid slipping into civil war, the people we need to keep in focus are the people who elected Donald Trump. I get that the easy way to think and talk about those Americans is to call them racists, or sexists or idiots. No doubt there are some who are those (as there are some on the other side who are each of those things too). But it is neither true nor helpful to simplify this story into good versus evil. The citizens who elected Trump are not evil. And if America is going to survive this crisis, we need to convince them first that their President should not be President. We need to show them that their own values are consistent with ours, in this respect at least.
This is good advice from a practical perspective, but much more so for Christians, whether we like Donald Trump as president or not. We are called by our Lord and Saviour to love others as we love ourselves (quoting laws from God in the Old Testament, recorded in Leviticus, no less), and very few people go out of their way to assume that their own motives are impure, so it is pointedly unChristian to assume evil on behalf of others, even when we vehemently disagree with the conclusions they’ve drawn.
Instead, we need to be the kinds of people who lovingly, but truthfully make our cases, assuming that the other person is open to reason.
When explaining what love looks like, the Apostle Paul goes out of his way to explain how love is patient and kind, and how it rejoices in truth (see 1 Corinthians 13). All of this means that it doesn’t behoove Christians of either side of this particular debate to assume the worst of people who disagree with you politically.
I would also say, given my own opinions on how the Trump presidency is shaping up so far, it might be possible for left leaning people to find allies on the other side of the political divide on the issue of this president, if only the case can be made without demonizing your perceived opponents.