Robin Smith / February 1, 2016

You Will Know Them By Their Fruits

Politicians seeking Christian votes should tread carefully.

In this most unconventional election cycle, there have been a few things that have remained constant. One of them is the effort on the campaign trail to appeal to Christians.

Call them by whatever name of the era — the “Moral Majority,” the “Religious Right” and now “evangelicals” — those who generally affiliate with the Republican Party due to non-negotiable issues of their faith comprise a large number of voters. That’s especially true in early contest states like Iowa and South Carolina.

In the 2012 Iowa Caucus, those who self-identified as “evangelical” or born-again Christians in an entrance poll by Edison Research numbered 57% of all participants. The value of this group of voters is undisputed; yet winning the hearts and minds of these voters seems to be awkward for many campaigns, which, alone, should convey a message.

Evoking surprise from some candidates and their Beltway consultants, these voters are driven by their faith in the civic arena to pursue obedience in Christ’s command to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light to the world.” These same values voters aren’t looking for a preacher but are sure quick to spot the inconsistencies of pandering politicians who fall back on props and catch phrases.

A few weeks back when Donald Trump took the platform at Liberty University, the audience of the Christian school, founded by evangelical stalwart and pastor Jerry Falwell, caught the real-estate tycoon making reference to a Bible verse in a manner that exposed his unfamiliarity with Scripture. Instead of quoting “Second Corinthians,” Trump referenced “Two Corinthians.”

Gaffe of the century? Hardly, but his cavalier dismissal of questions about his faith made it something to ponder.

Trump’s ascendency has been borne out of an absolute disgust toward “the GOP Establishment,” which excels in empty promises and deliberate lies to the base so as to get elected. Those promises have too often been forgotten by those safely ensconced in their DC digs. The obvious question has to be asked, “Why are these same voters permitting Donald Trump to use their faith with such disregard and deception?”

Was it more disgusting to watch an abortion-loving, same-sex-marriage-defending Leftmedia screech indignations about Trump’s misuse of the Bible, or to witness the very casual and superficial use of God’s Word by someone proclaiming it the only book better than his own?

Far more important was another of Trump’s illustrative musings.

Speaking to a group of Christians at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa last summer, Trump’s response to pollster Frank Luntz’s question should have alarmed values voters. When asked, “Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?” Trump’s answer appeared to be far from a sincere evocation of one’s need of a Savior who redeems from sin and more a calculated reply to continue the narrative that he controls his own destiny: “I’m not sure I have. … I don’t think so. If I do something wrong, I just try and make it right.”

That’s the answer of a man who seemingly doesn’t understand the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith.

With just these two examples, never mind the long list of liberals and their secular causes that Trump has supported over the course of time, all may easily discern that his goal is an awkward courting of Christian voters. With a longer history of behavior and actions that seem as comfortable easing in and out of the talking points that fit a specific audience as one would be taking off a jacket in a costume change, Trump has been very adaptable over this election cycle to woo his loyal following.

There is danger in patronizing devout Christians to garner their votes. One account in Scripture records Jesus Christ passing a fig tree, full of foliage yet barren of the buds that would produce fruit during season. Christ, finding no signs of the early edible precursors to figs, gave a harsh response to the tree’s healthy appearance and lack of creative obedience to yield fruit. His curse caused the tree to wither and was a clear demonstration, among many others, that the expectation to produce fruits of the faith is part of the life of obedience as a believer.

A word of caution to voters and activists: The moment that our time, talent and treasure go disproportionately to causes that compete for our faith and the passions of our efforts, we are idolaters. The passion for winning a political campaign in the heart of a Christian should be fueled by the desire to honor Christ and not to gain power, prestige nor the prowess of the purse.

Further, politicking for Jesus followers while taking liberties with His Truth to which Christians are called is dangerous. While some are personally pious, others, paradoxically, employ the Biblical Buffet approach to make one’s platform of issues “Christian enough” but culturally acceptable.

It’s clear. There is power in the votes belonging to values voters. It’s also evident that some dare to touch that which is sacred and precious in a very cheap and demeaning manner to appeal to those voters.

Values voters don’t want a theocracy and know that Liberty enhances the practice of one’s faith. Yet the same deception employed by the governing class to be elected only to squander the GOP majority must serve as the benchmark to authenticate leaders who operate from consistent principles, rather than those whose foliage is appealing to the eye but bears no fruit.

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