Is Donald Trump “Our Dream President?”

Jun 10th, 2017 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

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President Trump delivered the Commencement address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia this year.  This is the institution founded by Jerry Falwell, founder also of the Moral Majority and other organizations in the late 20th century.  Falwell epitomized the attempt by evangelicals to influence the direction of Republican Party politics in 1980s and 1990s.  In many ways, he also symbolized what became known as the “Religious Right” in those decades.  His son, Jerry Falwell, Jr., is now Liberty University’s president.  In introducing President Trump a few weeks ago, the young Falwell called him “our dream president.”  As support for that rather extraordinary claim, Falwell cited Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, his support of Israel and his slight modification (via an Executive Order) of the Johnson Amendment dealing with ability of pastors to support political candidates and other political issues from the pulpit.

In this Perspective, I want to examine this remarkable claim that, for evangelicals, Trump is a “dream president.”  If we define “evangelical,” for example, as someone who affirms the absolute authority of God’s Word, the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the importance of evangelism, then I am an evangelical.  But, as an evangelical leader, I cannot agree with Falwell in stating that Trump is my “dream president.”  Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Broadly defined as a voting bloc in the 2016 presidential election, 81% of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump as president. The reasons for this astonishing allegiance to Donald Trump are varied.  But that allegiance defies consistency and adherence to the standards God sets for leadership.  Throughout his entire life, Donald Trump has evidenced arrogance, indeed hubris, not normally embraced by evangelicals.  That arrogance and hubris has followed him into his presidency.  Sexual immorality and numerous divorces have characterized Donald Trump’s life—factors evangelicals rarely have embraced in their political candidates.  Trump has evidenced a disregard for truth and has consistently misrepresented facts, commitments and contracts.  That demeanor has followed him into his presidency.  Yet, amazingly, 75% of evangelicals in a recent Pew Research Center study approve of his job performance—“strongly” so.  Evangelicals are now overlooking every aspect of Donald Trump’s despicable personal character.  He begs Christian evangelicals to see him as the one who will rescue them from the sense of grievance and cultural dispossession they now feel.  For much of American history, evangelicals have been in places of power (culturally, economically and politically) and often actually set the agenda for the culture (see Frances Fitzgerald’s new book, The Evangelicals, for a worthwhile overview of this premise).  But no longer!  Evangelicals are in a clear minority and feel dispossessed and their list of grievances with the cultural left grows weekly.  In short, evangelicals now see Trump as their cultural savior.  Hence Falwell’s astonishing claim that he is our “dream president.”  No matter how you analyze this extraordinary claim, this is political expediency and (in light of how evangelicals spoke of Bill Clinton’s immorality and lying) hypocritical.
  2. Donald Trump ran as a candidate on the promise that he would “drain the swamp” in Washington. In the words of conservative columnist Ross Douthat, “the various outsider groups that cast their lot with him—from working-class ex-Democrats to antiwar conservatives to free-trade skeptics to build-the-wall hawks to religious conservatives fearful for their liberties—have seen him pick very few difficult fights on their behalf.”
  • For the working-class voters, there is no infrastructure bill and the health care overall is a disaster. Instead, his proposed budget recommends upper-bracket tax cuts and spending reductions on programs that would most directly impact the working class.
  • So far, his foreign policy choices have been minimal in impact. In fact, his attempt to cozy up to Vladimir Putin is actually causing a significant crisis in his administration because of unethical and perhaps illegal things done by his associates.
  • For religious conservatives, there is Neil Gorsuch but he has made no movement on anything dealing with the LGBT movement, a major concern to evangelicals. There is much rhetoric but little substance.

Douthat concludes that “the conservatives rising to his defense need to recognize that there is no elite ‘counterrevolution’ here for them to resist, because there is no Trump revolution in the first place.  You don’t want to sell him out to the establishment; I get it.  But open your eyes:  He’s already been doing that to you.”

  1. Conservative columnist Peggy Noonan, who was one of Ronald Reagan’s speech writers, contends that “the president of the United States has produced a building crisis that is unprecedented in our history . . . The president’s staffers seem to spend most of their time on the phone, leaking and seeking advantage, trying not to be named in the next White House Shake-Up story . . . The president spends his time tweeting his inane, bizarre messages—he’s the victim of a ‘witch hunt’—from his bed, with his iPad.” The tragedy of this debacle is that there is a real need to do the serious business of the American people:  Tax reform, regulation reform and the desperate need to begin fixing our infrastructure as a nation.  On top of this is of course the need for significant reform or replacement of the Affordable Care Act, which has raised unrealistic expectations within the American population that the US government can fix the health care system of the United States.  So far, this has not happened.  At this point in any young presidency, the new president can rely on competent staff members that are settling in and adjusting to their new role.  But Trump has an enormous number of staff not yet appointed.  And those vacancies will probably remain so because talented people on the outside do not wish to join an administration that evidences such dysfunction and despair.
  2. One of Vladimir Putin’s primary objectives is to demonstrate the failure of western democracies. His view is that his authoritarian approach to government is what is needed today—not the American model of democracy!  Hence, he has sought to undermine the western democracies, as he did in our election in 2016, as he sought to do in France a few weeks ago, and as he continues to do in the fragile eastern and central European democracies.  Because of the incredible dysfunction of the Trump administration, he is achieving his objective.  The world views what is occurring in the US as a circus.  The Trump administration is not building confidence and it is not providing the model that the US has been since World War II.  As Noonan advises, the top Republicans need to confront Trump and declare, “Stop it.  Clean up your act.  Shut your mouth.  Do your job.  Stop tweeting.  Stop seething.  Stop wasting time.  You lost the thread and don’t even know what you were elected to do anymore.  Get a grip.  Grow up and look at the terrain, see it for what it is.  We have limited time.  Every day you undercut yourself, you undercut us . . . Act like a president or leave the presidency.”  “The president needs to be told: ‘Democracy is not your plaything.’”

Our nation’s democratic-republic is fragile, yet amazingly resilient.  It has survived numerous crises since 1963, each one a potential catastrophe for our democratic-republic:  John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  Richard Nixon faced impeachment but resigned rather than face certain conviction.  Ronald Reagan faced potential impeachment over the Iran-contra crisis.  Bill Clinton was impeached but not convicted.  George W. Bush was perceived by many as an illegitimate president because of the disputed electoral votes in Florida in 2000.  The crisis we are facing with Donald Trump is just as serious.  Putin loves that dysfunction, for it feeds perfectly into his claim that only authoritarian government works in the 21st century.  Western Europe no longer believes it can trust the US.  As the Trump presidency goes forward and the promises he made remain unfulfilled, the crisis of our democratic-republic will only deepen.

We must pray that God in His mercy will be gracious once again to this nation.  We desperately need His help.

See The Economist, “Lexington” column (20 May 2017), p. 27; Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal (20-21 May 2017); Ross Douthat in the New York Times (21 May 2017); Michael Gerson in the Washington Post (15 May 2017); and Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post (28 May 2017). PRINT PDF

8 Comments to “Is Donald Trump “Our Dream President?””

  1. Peter Wiebe says:

    While some of the descriptions are accurate, some have a leaning towards what the media would have you believe and unless there is some recognition of the bias media to do everything in their assumed illegitimate right to distort facts and attitudes, we too, will get a bias description of the Trump presidency. While I have no particular reason to admire Trump in the past, I am extremely thankful to God that he using Trump as president. I am getting extremely uncomfortable with what I see happening, what the mainstream media would like to see happening, and that is this bias looking at Trump with all his faults, some real, some in-keeping with the media’s portrayal of his presidency.
    In all honesty, we desperately need to look from what God rescued us. If anyone thinks that we, as a country, especially we as Christians, would be better off under the Clinton Administration, then I suggest we are not living in reality. we must not let the media slant our thinking. The deterioration of the expression of Christian beliefs and displaying of Christian morality has deteriorated significantly over the last 8 years and this deterioration would only have accelerated under the Clinton administration. Anyone suggesting that Hillary Clinton was more honest, less arrogant, more concerned about the average American and dedicated to their well-being is certainly living in a different reality. In taking an honest look at our governmental situation and doing an honest evaluation MUST also compare what might have happened had God not intervened. If you want to condemn Trump, as the violent and hate-filled left-thinking Americans want to do, you will have every opportunity to do so. If we want to be honest and really look at what we might have had, then yes, he is “the dream president, because, I do believe that he can be used by God. I do NOT believe the same of the alternative candidate. Let’s be honest and stop looking only at condemning Trump following the lead of the mainstream media which is becoming nauseating. We need to be a little more honest.The media is prepared to paint Trump as a villain no matter what he says, does not say, does, or does not do. They are out to get him. He is under constant attack. Christian leaders following this same pattern need, as we all do, seek wisdom from God. God has blessed us and intervened we need to stop acting like the Israelites did in the 40 years of wondering in the wilderness. God did not appreciate the constant complains. When they suggested that they would have been better off remaining in Egypt, they had a distorted view. We need to do some praying and expressing some thanks to God and also pray for Trump to open himself up to God’s guidance and open himself up to receiving advise from those who are under God’s influence. This would be more beneficial than joining those who are filled with Satan’s hatefulness and constantly attacking Trump. Look at what Hillary Clinton would likely have done, and then maybe we could echo what Jerry Falwell, Junior said in his introduction of President Trump. I believe his words ring more true than those that seek only to attack Trump. As much as I deeply appreciate reading these articles, when it comes to the frequent, misguided and unfair, attacks on Trump I cringe because I am so tired of them because they are so very one-sided, and truthfully, a little dishonest, to much like the mainstream, bias media. Let’s look to God for guidance, not the secular, hate-filled media. May God grant us wisdom and protect all of us, including President Donald Trump.

    • Jim Eckman says:

      Are the standards of righteousness, honesty, integrity, truthfulness applicable to President Trump? If they are, then do we as citizens and as Christians not have the responsibility to call him to account? The people I quoted in my essay were not left-wing journalists. They are conservative Christian leaders who are very concerned about President Trump, his abrasive Tweets and his dishonesty. I am not parroting the liberal media line. I too am thankful that Hillary Clinton is not president, but I am raising issues of concern about President Trump and about his character. As I said in another email response, for some evangelical Christians, loyalty to Donald Trump seems almost equivalent to loyalty to Jesus Christ. In fact, if anyone should be holding President Trump to the high standard of leadership, evangelicals should. This is not baseless criticism. Evangelicals are affirming in President Trump the very things we criticized when Bill Clinton was president. That seems to me to be rather dangerous and hypocritical.

  2. Arlie Rauch says:

    Should we pray for this President?

    Were David and Solomon “dream kings”?

    Prov. 21:1 ¶ The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord;
    He turns it wherever He wishes.

    1Tim. 2:1 ¶ First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,
    1Tim. 2:2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
    1Tim. 2:3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
    1Tim. 2:4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
    1Tim. 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
    1Tim. 2:6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. (NASB)

    • Jim Eckman says:

      I pray for the president every day Arlie. I guess I want to boldly ask: Are you comparing President Trump to King David? To King Solomon? In our democratic-republic, is it not proper to call the president to accountability when he lies, distorts and undermines the credibility of our government? Is not righteousness important for him too? Or as Christians are we to simply affirm God’s sovereignty and then never raise a question, a criticism or a clarification? What saddens me so with what has occurred within evangelicalism is that evangelical Christians have become so involved in politics that they neglect those things so dear to God’s heart (e.g., lost people who need Jesus, the poor, the downtrodden, etc.). Loyalty to Donald Trump is almost equivalent to loyalty to Jesus Christ.

  3. Steve Wiemeyer says:

    While there are some who herald President Trump as a “dream president” most evangelicals that are in my circle understand he has many idiosyncrasies and some can be a bit offensive. Unfortunately, he often times responds more like the a leftist, rather than an intellectual. However, he does not pull stunts like Kathy Griffin nor does call for the untimely death of his numerous opponents. What he acts more like is a hardcore businessman trying restore some of America’s lost creditability, both here and abroad. I could be mistaken, but I do believe he wants to see America great again, he just does not do it in a very sophisticated manner.
    The leaking of information out of Washington has become like an influenza, and it seems to have infected everyone in the “swamp.” However, the leftists are masters at the game and along with the media use it masterfully to degrade and diminish President Trump at every turn. It does not justify President Trump’s people using the same tactics, but lets no forget that Clinton was an acolyte of Saul Alynsky (“Rules for Radicals”) and that is the left’s manual of operandi against their enemy and they use it with great and effective results. But I would hope we evangelicals would also applaud President Trump for some of the good things he has accomplished rather than just focus on his negatives.
    President Trump is not a career politician who has mastered the art of speaking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time or speaking volumes without saying anything. While I would prefer a more honest and intellectual approach, hopefully, over time President Trump will learn to use language that is less offensive, while still being poignant. But l do believe God has placed President Trump in this position “for such a time as this.”
    While we should hold him accountable for his infallibility, we should also affirm his productive efforts at the same time. However, we live in a world of hypocrisy and we need some hard-nosed language to communicate to our allies that we not all hype any longer, but actually some substance. Though Europe may not trust us they are a mess (especially regarding Islam) and there political leadership is nothing but PC with their open border policies. Prayerfully, in time we evangelicals will come together and demonstrate to the world that we “Love the Lord our God, with all our heart, with our soul, with all our strength, with all our mind, and love our neighbor as ourself.”

  4. Richard Pendell says:

    Our President has rapidly made himself ‘radioactive’ in Washington. Hence, his nearly universal isolation. Persons who could ‘help’ the situation are staying out of range, all expecting the ship to sink under the weight of its own, self-created scandal. His daughter needed to have had the ‘phone talk’ with him long ago and it take it away until he can learn to use it responsibly. At this point, he has so little credulity, I don’t know of a single HR Dept. who would even consider him a serious candidate for any responsible position. Yet, he has the Oval Office, a place I honestly don’t believe he ever truly expected to land. But, to his and everyone’s surprise, he did. At every level, he is a genuine embarrassment. What’s even more embarrassing is that 4 out of 5 identifying as ‘Evangelical’, a now completely meaningless identity, put him there. So, they will both go down together into the sea of political infamy. It’s just a matter of time now.
    P.S.: A cardinal survival axiom in Washington is “DON’T make an enemy of the FBI.” Many have tried. Many have died. Our President won’t survive crossing that line. Again, it’s only a matter of time before they land him with a knockout punch.

    • Peter Wiebe says:

      “Crossing the line” against God is much more significant than “crossing the line” with the FBI. While you are absolutely correct about Trump being isolated is certainly true, some of that is of his own doing but a huge amount of that can be attributed to the Progressives in America and also the left-winged media, who cannot understand that Hillary Clinton lost the election and Donald Trump won. Also, the extreme self-justification of people who mimic the media and malevolently and viciously attack all of Trumps moral and ethical deficiencies, add to this problem. We can be very helpful in assisting the process of degrading Trump. ” Crossing the line” with the FBI might not be all that “holy” as you seem to point out. After having listened to a number of former Director’s responses to questioning, it becomes very clear to me that the Democrats were right on numerous occasions when they angrily indicated that he had lost all credibility. It was only when Trump fired him that he became so desirable. His explanations of his actions and inaction have truly pointed out very clearly that he needed to be removed from that position. However, and more importantly, why can this hateful attack not be put on “hold” for awhile and let the President do the work people elected him to do. Yes, there are some positive things that he has done and we, as Christians, need to recognize. Hillary Clinton was all for expanding the use of abortions. The President of Planned Parenthood was very adamant that increasing abortion would reduce deaths. As a Christian, do we support that concept? If not, credit President Trump in slowing that down. Hillary Clinton said “. . . and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed . . . Christians in America must deny their faith in every aspect of society, this is the great unfinished business of the 21st century. Trump has assured Christians that their right to their Christian practice will be protected. The Democrats had the Arch of Ba’al unveiled ready for worship. President Trump has halted that. As a Christian, which side do we support? Most Christians are aware that God made a covenant with Abraham and God said that he would bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel. Trump’s actions are much more inline with blessing Israel than are Hillary’s. As a nation, do we ask for God’s blessing or are we inviting God’s curses? Is Trump the perfect candidate to be President. No! But many at the time would say the same about David or Solomon. Is Donald Trump a David or a Solomon? That is not the point. The point is that God is still the same. I believe it is appropriate that give Donald Trump a break and see what God can do with him. It is God who is significant, not Trump. All this insightful, malevolent and hateful passionate pointing out of all of President Trumps shortcomings are totally not helpful. When we pray to God for President Donald Trump, we need to ask God to grant him wisdom to allow God to use him in a manner that is helpful to America according to God’s plan. If our prayers a laden with Trump condemnation, we are only asking for this condemnation upon ourselves. We also need to read Romans chapter 13. When we are told not to judge, does this apply to us in this situation? All this personal attack on Trump is dangerous because we are setting ourselves up above God. Is Trump God? Absolutely not. Neither are you and I. The point is, do we think God is capable of using Trump, even with all his faults? Let’s get off our self-righteous podium long enough to give God a chance.

  5. Lou Cartier says:

    Thank you, Dr. Eckman and thoughtful correspondents. Mr. Trump presents an extraordinary challenge to those on the religious and political right, for reasons laid out clearly and persuasively in this discussion. For me, “hubris” is the defining, convicting trait, as revealed in the president, his critics … and in myself. I pray for the corresponding gift and grace of humility … to renew my (our) trust in our Creator and Redeemer to use His wounded creatures for good.

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