Originally posted 30 Jan 21
Here is an excerpt:
In his article defending the President, Grudem declares that he knows of “no evangelical leader who ‘brushed off’ Trump’s words and behavior.” (He cites his criticism of Trump following the release of the Access Hollywood tape.) But since Trump has been president, the criticisms of his unethical behavior have been either ignored or dramatically minimized by much of the political leadership of the white evangelical world. They would have you believe that Trump is at worst imperfect—just as we all are, they will quickly add—perhaps a little unrefined, coarse, and rough around the edges, but then again, that’s because he’s “authentic,” “politically incorrect,” and a “fighter” who is rightly defending himself against grave injustices and unfair attacks.
Here’s how white evangelical leaders typically talk of Trump. Last year, Ralph Reed, speaking to his Faith and Freedom Coalition supporters, said, “There has never been anyone who has defended us and fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump. No one!”
Robert Jeffress, the pastor of a Baptist megachurch in Dallas, described Trump as a “warrior” for Christian values who is “not perfect, just like none of us is perfect.” Indeed, only a week ago Jeffress declared, in another fawning interview with Fox’s Lou Dobbs, “I like [Trump’s] tweets. I like everything about him”—a comment Trump gleefully quoted in a tweet of his own. (During the 2016 campaign, Jeffress said, “I’ve said I want the meanest, toughest SOB I can find to protect this nation. And so that’s why Trump’s tone doesn’t bother me.”)
Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, one of the largest Christian universities in the world, put it this way: “Conservatives & Christians need to stop electing ‘nice guys.’ They might make great Christian leaders but the United States needs street fighters like @realDonaldTrump at every level of government b/c the liberal fascists Dems are playing for keeps & many Repub leaders are a bunch of wimps!” When asked in an interview if there was anything Trump could do that would endanger that support from him or other evangelical leaders, Falwell replied, “No … I can’t imagine him doing anything that’s not good for the country.”
And Grudem himself says of Trump, “Far from being ‘morally lost and confused,’ Trump seems to me to have a strong sense of justice and fair play, and he is (I think rightfully) upset that the impeachment process in the House was anything but just and fair.”
For all my objections to the op-ed by Grudem—who, it’s important to say, is not guilty in his piece of dehumanizing his political opponents—the mind-set it reveals is for me a cautionary tale. I know enough about human nature and about myself to know that confirmation bias is not confined only to those who see the world differently than I do. It’s something that we all struggle with, that I struggle with. I’m struck by how easy it is to see in others, and how difficult it is to see in ourselves. To be sure, confirmation bias is more acute in some than it is in others. Still, we all need help in that effort: to widen the aperture of our understanding, to have our views held up to scrutiny and reason, and to have people with standing in our lives identify our blind spots. Because, to paraphrase the British philosopher and poet Owen Barfield, we should be more interested in truth than victory.