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Scholars Speak on Trump’s Nomination

Ted Cruz’s departure from the Republican race, and most recently, John Kasich’s, catapulted long-time front-runner, Donald Trump, to become the national representative of the GOP in this election cycle. Trump’s remarkable rise has shocked the media and many of the conservative voices of our day. Many of these conservative voices have made it abundantly clear that voting for Donald Trump will precipitate the end of the party and the end of the conservative ethos of the party of Ronald Reagan.

This entire process has left conservative evangelicals asking the question: “How shall we then think?” Kuyperian Commentary asked several Christian scholars to offer their answers to such a profound question.

Andrew Sandlin
Founder and President, Center for Cultural Leadership

More troubling than Trump the candidate are the cultural forces that have propelled his success. That long list is topped by the erosion of classical liberalism ( = modern conservatism). Its chief features include the dignity of the individual, the separation of powers, the priority of reasoned discourse, the protection of private property, and the universality of moral standards. The cultural Marxism that gradually captured the Democratic Party since the late 1960’s undermines every tenet of classical liberalism. The truly shocking development has been the more recent and swift adoption of  Trump’s populism, which also abandons classical liberalism:

He champions his own form of identity politics that mirrors cultural Marxism.

He considers Congress an obstructionist institution that should be bypassed.

He shouts down thoughtful opposition, just like campus neo-Marxists.

He disdains reasoned discussion in favor of ad hominem denunciations.

He advocates trade policies that raid the wallets of middle-class American consumers.

He employs almost any gangbanger tactic — just like the neo-Marxists — as long as it accomplishes his sordid political objectives.

The most ominous aspect of this development is that classical liberalism, the political theory of the Founding and rooted in Christianity, is no longer represented by a major American political party.

This development is unprecedented in American history.

Brian Mattson
Senior Scholar of Public Theology, Center For Cultural Leadership

Vote your conscience. Some musings:

My loyalty and obligations are to the truth, not a political party. The GOP electorate has decided it will no longer be a welcome home for classical liberalism, and therefore it is no longer my home. Political realignment is now a full-scale reality, whether I realize it, like it, or even participate in it.

One approach: vote for Donald Trump and hope for the best. Stack a final, tiny, leaky sandbag on the pile, hoping and praying it stops the torrent of radical leftism while not producing something even worse. But with the distance between two evils so slight (in my view), I think subsidizing this ideological decline with our votes might be the real abdication of our civic responsibilities.

Another approach: Reject Donald Trump. Energetically participate in the political realignment. Congress is the levee wall: support solid down-ballot candidates. Bolster institutions that stand for the truth, strengthen alliances, and plant long-term seeds that will flourish when (if) our national nightmare recedes. I am sitting here looking at my daughters, and I owe them better than a sandbag and a wish.

Maybe you can do both. But I can’t and won’t.

Peter Leithart
President of the Theopolis Institute

Andrew Sullivan has determined that the Donald’s candidacy is a blast from the last trump, announcing the end of democracy. Sullivan underestimates the federal government’s blessed capacity for gridlock, and Trump’s capacity for compromise, change, and moderation.

The real worry is less that, if elected, Trump will make good on his promises; he won’t. The real worry lies elsewhere. Trump’s campaign has been a masterpiece of scapegoating, blaming our economic stagnation on China and Mexico and our decline in global prestige on feckless political and media elites. You can be morally certain he won’t accept responsibility for his failure. And then who will the Trump tribe find to blame?

If Trump isn’t the end of the world or American democracy, he may be the end of the GOP as we know it. To that, we can say a hearty Good riddance. It’s become difficult to see what the conservative party still conserves, other than the wealth of its donors and the lifestyle of its Beltway elites.

What we’re hearing is not the last trump, but Trump may be an agent of divine judgment against the Party that has been most promiscuous in invoking God’s name. Here’s hoping He shakes the GOP down to the foundations, and keeps shaking until only permanent things are left standing.

Thomas S. Kidd
Distinguished professor of history, Baylor University

I’ve said for months that I could never vote for Donald Trump for president. Trump becoming the presumptive GOP nominee has not changed that. I will not vote for either Trump or Hillary Clinton, assuming she becomes the Democrats’ nominee. Christians will argue about which of these two options is worse, and I’m honestly not sure how I would distinguish between the two. In any case, I can’t vote for either of them.

What to do in November, then? I will wait to see if there is a reasonable choice for a third party or write-in candidate. If not, I won’t cast a vote for president. I do believe that we have a civic obligation to participate, however, so I will vote for the down-ballot offices. I generally won’t vote for Democrats, but this time, I also won’t vote for GOP candidates who actively support Trump. I may have a relatively incomplete ballot!

We Christians should remember that as we express dismay about election 2016, we are hardly without hope. American Christians have too often put too much importance on politics, anyway. It’s a great time for us to remind ourselves that our ultimate citizenship is in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

George Grant
Pastor of Parish Presbyterian

During that particularly distressing post-Nixon, pre-Reagan period in American history, Francis Schaeffer prophetically declared,

“This is our moment of history and our responsibility: not to just to write and talk of far-off ideals, but to struggle for Scriptural and practical means of doing what can be done in a fallen world to see people personally converted and also to see what our salt and light can bring forth in the personal life and the political and the cultural life of this moment of history.”

His exhortation is as apt today as it was then—and perhaps, even more so.

Faced with the prospects of a desultory presidential electoral cycle, many Christians today have given vent to handwringing jeremiads. In truth, this election affords us a tremendous opportunity:

We have the opportunity to stand courageously for Biblical truth severed from the compromises of political partisanship. The Republican Party has long disregarded us. Now, it has altogether discarded us. We are thus morally, culturally, and politically unencumbered by their half-measures, empty promises, and feeble entreaties.

We have the opportunity to mobilize a groundswell of support for principled and purposeful reformation at a time when the two major parties have little more to offer than revolutionary fantasies.

We have the opportunity to model ardent prayerfulness. It was John Bunyan who quipped, “You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” We have acted as if the opposite were true. We no longer have the luxury of that foolhardy project.

Finally, we have the opportunity to display an unwavering confidence in the Gospel hope. When all about us are despairing, we can reaffirm that the throne room of the Most High has not been vacated, that the Ascended Christ still has His iron scepter and the earth remains His footstool. As Chuck Colson asserted, “Thankfully, hope doesn’t ride on Air Force One.” We need not set our hopes upon either Tweedledee or Tweedledum.

This is our moment. It is past time for us to roll up our sleeves and go to work. It is high time for the church to be the church.

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