Donald Trump had a really big meeting with many Christian leaders Tuesday. Some of the attendees were people I really, really respect for their solid faith, conviction, and trust in Christ. Franklin Graham, Dr. David Jeremiah, Dr. James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Kelly Shackelford, and Tim Wildmon were among those who attended at the meeting.
Wildmon is president of the American Family Association, one of the most powerful cultural forces for Godly living in America. After the meeting, he sent an email to AFA members describing the experience.
On a personal note, I met several people who have known Donald Trump personally for several years and said he is not the brash, arrogant, sometimes rude person he appears to be on television. I will say without the media cameras in his face, he was pleasant, relaxed, funny and more thoughtful.
I have heard this again and again. “The Donald” and the private Trump are two different people: A Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of thing. Though I’d be glad to deal with the Jekyll side of Trump–the charming, listening, sober man who says things to indicate he is engaged in the conversation–the Hyde is still a problem.
And it’s a biggie for me.
One of the most basic principles I’ve always taught and lived by when running businesses or my own family life is integrity. The word has two meanings. The first is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Of course, Trump fails that test in his public, private, and business life. But we, as Americans seeking a leader, and as Christians in the knowledge we are all sinners, can forgive these failures. God knows we lived through eight years of Bill Clinton and he’s still a nice guy.
The second definition of integrity is a bigger issue: “the state of being whole and undivided.” That means the public and private personas are integrated, as in the same. You get what you get. “Let Trump be Trump” isn’t necessarily true when he’s in a private room surrounded by pastors. You won’t likely hear him say “F**k free trade” in that venue (I know, that’s true of a lot of people).
But you won’t hear Trump blow his dog whistles to racists, or rabid anti-Semites, or ultra-nationalists in that venue either. You’ll hear him engage, listen to questions, be gracious, funny and relaxed (all the things Wildmon wrote).
Let me offer an extreme example: I trust President Obama’s intentions more than I trust Trump’s.
I dislike Obama’s policies. I dislike his approach to government, social problems, crime, and economics. I would probably dislike him in person if we engaged in a policy discussion. But from everything I’ve read, the public Obama and the private Obama are the same. The man has a wholeness of character–he’s got the second definition of integrity. Sure, he lied about his positions on a variety of issues, but he’s the same liar in private as he is in public. Therefore I can trust in his reactions; Obama never surprises me.
Trump’s views on so many issues have so dramatically changed, and the chasm between his public persona and his private self is so great, that he stretches far beyond “politician grace” that frequently makes us hold our nose while we support a candidate.
Wildmon hints at the charm and pleasant Don Trump winning him over.
I think it was admirable and honorable for Trump to meet with Christian leaders. He is not our enemy. I believe he has instincts that are reverent and patriotic. He’s 69 years old and remembers an America that was once a great country but has lost her way. But he also comes from a very secular world and that way of thinking is a part of who he is. In some ways, he strikes me as an enigma, a man still searching for spiritual answers in his life. But that’s just my opinion. I will say this, he is listening to some great men of God that I have a lot of respect for, and that’s a good thing.
If Christians who meet him in person decide to support Trump, I pray for them to maintain discernment and presence of mind. But the stretch is just too far for me and a majority of Americans who realize the country needs a leader with a wholeness and coherence of personality.
In the end, it comes down to trust. If I can’t see what Trump is really thinking, versus what he’s saying to “win” something, I can’t trust him. And neither should you, because the man will certainly surprise you in a very disappointing way.