SPRINGFIELD – I’ve covered politics for more than 30 years, and I still scratch my head when I encounter folks who embrace politicians despite personal behavior that defies their stated beliefs.
Twenty years ago, it was the feminist leaders who stood by Bill Clinton despite his despicable treatment of women. They liked his Supreme Court appointments, agreed with his stand on abortion and thought his family-leave policy was swell.
But they looked the other way when it came to the accusations of Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky and Kathleen Wiley. This embrace of realpolitik diminished the groups’ moral standing.
Today, the story is much the same. But the group playing realpolitik are evangelical Christians. Many evangelical leaders have forgotten the admonition in the book of Matthew, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
For a few Supreme Court appointments, they will look past the three marriages, the serial adultery, the daily lies, the cruel words, the bigotry.
As an evangelical Christian myself, I acknowledge that, yes, we are all sinners. And no politician is perfect.
But we should expect a level of moral leadership from our president that we have not received for the past three years.
The recent editorial in Christianity Today calling for either voters or Congress to remove Donald Trump from office stands out as an act of courage.
Editor Mark Galli’s said, “To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come?”
The words ring true.
Donald Trump calls Christians “fools” and “idiots” and “schmucks” in his book “Think Big.” During his time in office and before, he has preached a philosophy of retribution.
He also said he’s never had reason to ask God for forgiveness.
Could anything be more antithetical to Christianity?
Folks support Trump for a variety of reasons. One of the most repeated explanations I hear is that he is better than the alternatives.
But the Christian theologian C.S. Lewis said when it comes to choosing between the lesser of two evils, don’t choose either.
Back in 2016, Illinois fiscal conservatives spent nearly $3 million toward helping the campaign of Ken Dunkin, a liberal Chicago Democrat with a long history of spending taxpayer dollars with abandon. But, hey, he laid low when House Speaker Mike Madigan needed him the most to override the Republican governor’s veto of a measure to strip the governor of his labor negotiating powers.
For this reason, allies of then-Gov. Bruce Rauner were willing to support Duncan, who once extended his middle fingers to the House when more than 100 of his colleagues voted against one of his bills.
He lacked principle, and he lacked class. But still he received the support of those who said they were driven by their convictions.
When groups embrace realpolitik they cheapen their message and sell away their moral authority. That’s as true of evangelicals today as of feminists in 1998.
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist and freelance reporter; ScottReeder1965@gmail.com.