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Trump idolatry is a real thing. And it must stop

Matt Braynard (L) helps artist Tommy Zegan (R) move his statue of former President Donald Trump to a van during the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 27, 2021 in Orlando, Florida.
Matt Braynard (L) helps artist Tommy Zegan (R) move his statue of former President Donald Trump to a van during the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 27, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. | Getty Images/Joe Raedle

Christ is worthy of His Bride, the Church. And Christians, those who comprise the Church, owe our Groom an unapologetic and uncompromised commitment to His Word. This biblical worldview should be the blueprint of our lives, including our political postures — both in policy and messaging.

A Christian vote for Trump is easily justified. In 2016, a large majority of Christians, myself included, voted for Trump as a means to an end. Considering the impending Supreme Court vacancies and Hillary Clinton as the alternative, Christians’ support for Trump was largely about the issues, not the person.

But then things got weird.

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A cultish tribalism amassed during his presidency, a fierce mutation from the pragmatic means-to-an-end posture from before. This movement weaponized Christianity to idolize a political leader who opposes abortion bans and refuses to say that boys cannot become girls. Christian conservative’s idolatry for Trump is a self-inflicting wound on Christianity, with a secondary offense of butchering conservatism.

Sadly, pragmatism became grossly tribalistic; ideology became idolatry.

I say this with no reservation, this idolatry demands repentance.

For clarity, here’s how I distinguish the Trumpist from the pragmatic Trump voter.

  • The Trumpist rallies behind Trump at every point and refuses to criticize him, even when it’s most imperative.
  • The Trumpist swiftly delivers out-of-context responses to Trump’s opponents. To the Trumpists, context only matters when they’re defending Trump’s statements.
  • The Trumpist is a sheep who allows Trump to narrate conservatism, instead of holding Trump accountable to the conservative values he was elected to advance.

Disclaimer: I voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, and, given his nomination, I’ll vote for him come November and will sleep with a clear conscience that night with a My Pillow and my AR-15, which has its own My Pillow … okay, no it doesn’t. I speak for tens of millions of Americans when I say that his presidency gave me everything I wanted when I voted for him: A Court to overturn Roe, a religious freedom advocate, international peace (wasn’t he supposed to start WW3?), and a healthy economy.

But this simply fulfilled what should always be seen as a transactional voting posture:

  • The candidate makes promises (advertisement).
  • The citizenry elects them (the purchase).
  • The candidate delivers (the product).

When we eclipse the transactional posture with affection for the person themselves, we grease the path for idolatry, which creates a biased discernment for holding our candidate accountable.

This is exactly what happened with Trump. Trumpists became so enamored with him as the “most pro-life president in history” that when he publicly opposed abortion bans in 2023 and failed to say that a boy cannot become a girl, he still retained his galactic lead in the primaries. Can you imagine if Mike Pence said the same? Trumpists would have roasted him endlessly. But, you know, it was Trump, so it’s okay. Abortion and transgenderism are among the biggest battles fought by conservatives, and yet when Trump squishes on both issues, he retains the loyalty of “based conservatives.” As a wise colleague of mine put it, “In reality, they aren’t based at all. They’re conformists.”

Let’s go back and review Trump’s first election real quick…

It was 2016, and just like every other election in history, this was the most important election in history. To be fair, this election did wager a consideration that both sides largely agreed was unusually significant: The Supreme Court.

Indeed, the highest court in the land was up for grabs, with four of the nine justices aged to vacate their seats soon. It should also be noted that in 2016, the Court had a 5-4 moderate conservative-leaning, which means the next president could transform the high judiciary into an ideological bastion of conservative or liberal jurisprudence. For perspective, the same first-term potential impact on the Supreme Court hadn’t been this likely in nearly 50 years when Nixon took office. In 2016, voters prioritized the Court because abortion, free speech, religion, and all issues important to voters would be subject to the incoming Court’s decades-long precedents.

This election was not about the nominees. Considering that each party’s constituents harbored animus with their nominees, the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was fiercely ideological.

Clinton had vowed to install the Court with pro-abortion justices, which, ideologically speaking, means justices of all-around progressive jurisprudence. Thus, despite Trump’s immoral and less-than-conservative past, the answer was clear for the Church: we must elect Trump.

Again, this election was about the issues, not the nominee.

But over time, a small niche of Trump cheerleaders from 2016 had amassed into a large body of Trump pantomimes. Throttled by Twitter (I gave up on calling it X), Trump’s rallies, his unrelenting name-calling of the media (okay, they mostly deserved that), and his election 2020 fraud rhetoric, Trumpists grew from the niche in 2016 to a prominent and embarrassing mass.

If your faith is more important than your politics, which it absolutely should be, then why are you more inclined to call out an opponent on a political matter than you are to call out your political idol when he botches the faith? Which is more worth defending? Your faith or politics? While both are very important, defending the Christian faith must trump political banter, pun intended — kinda.

Also, it is good and righteous to maintain your credibility. So many Trumpists criticize his competitors’ statements with no charity towards context, but they’re mysteriously silent when Trump is inexplicably wrong on major issues.

For example, Trumpists dishonestly blasted the devoutly Christian Mike Pence for allegedly saying (read: he most definitely did not say) that ailments in America were “not my concern,” as a viral out-of-context video on Ukraine suggested. To Charlie Kirk’s credit, among the loyalist of Trumpists, even he said the video wasn’t fair. So, they’ll openly lie about Pence but will remain oddly quiet when Trump, “the most pro-life president in American history,” denounces pro-life heartbeat bills or fumbles when asked whether a boy can become a girl. Yes, when Megan Kelly asked Trump in late 2023 whether a man can become a woman, he fumbled and did not answer the question. In the same video, he said he’s against gender transition processes for children but also said it should be up to the parents.

Protect our Christian integrity

For the sake of justice, we should vote for Trump. For the sake of our Christian integrity, we must criticize his public ungodly behavior. If criticizing his sinful behavior is too much to ask (it isn’t), then at least stay silent instead of making desperate attempts to justify his behavior when it’s clearly sinful.

When voting for someone because their policies align with Christianity, it becomes even more necessary to criticize where they do not align with Christianity so as to retain the integrity of our biblical standards.

Ethical argument

Church, we don’t need to spiritualize Trump to vote for him. The ethical argument of voting for a man who will do more good than harm is all you need. We should strongly oppose abortion, gender fluidity, and all forms of injustice. So, for those who hold Trump as the best option to combat these evils in the general election, I believe voting for him is not only justified but morally compelling.

Many in my circle refuse to criticize Trump because they worked in his admin and hope to again. Even if they’re not a big fan of his, they want to have a positive political influence via his administration. Respect to them, until they speak out against other Republicans for stuff that pales in comparison to things Trump has said/done.

The recent viral “God Sent Trump” video further illustrates the way the MAGA movement has distorted the Christian faith into a tool for political advancement. Thankfully, many Christians, such as Jonny Root and the Daily Wire’s Megan Basham, have used their platforms to denounce the video as “blasphemous.”

David Closson, the director of biblical worldview at the DC-based Family Research Council, provided an uncompromisingly biblical take on the video, saying:

“In my view, the video is a legitimate example of an inappropriate synthesis of religion and politics.

Although advocating and championing one’s political candidate is a valid civic exercise, Christians must resist the temptation to infuse politics with transcendent meaning. A telltale sign that faithful engagement has devolved into idolatry is the misuse and misappropriation of Scripture to baptize one’s preferred candidate or platform.”

Keep to the Cyrus narrative: An ungodly man called by God 

In 2016, a prominent biblical argument addressed the acquittal of voting for Trump, specifically despite his worldly character. King Cyrus, despite being Pagan, freed Israel from Babylonian exile and enabled them to build in the Promised Land as God had intended. The Old Testament describes him as “anointed” by God. To be clear, anointed does not denote sanctification or even favor from God. It simply means called by God for a specific purpose. There is no evidence in Scripture that Cyrus ever became a God-fearing man, and Israel never hailed him as such while celebrating the good that he did.

Keep to the Cyrus narrative. Two things can be true at once: Trump has done good things for America and Trump is not a righteous man.

What routinely led Israel into disfavor with God? Idolatry. O the irony that we would idolize someone whom we compare with a God-installed deliverer from Israel’s idolatry.

John Wesley Reid is a Sr. Fellow with the Hungary Foundation focusing on free speech and religious freedom. John is a U.S. Marine veteran, former firefighter, and spent six years in Washington D.C. in various media capacities with a focus on abortion, free speech, and the Supreme Court. 

Before moving to Budapest, Hungary, John’s tenure in D.C. included the roles of editor-in-chief for Liberty University’s Standing for Freedom Center, digital media director for Family Research Council, and social media news producer for CBN News. He’s an avid gun collector and an alumni of Biola University and Hillsdale College’s James Madison Fellowship.

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