When Pope Francis recently questioned whether Donald Trump is a Christian, he received a torrent of criticism for an obvious reason: It is problematic to cast doubt on anybody’s faith or values, especially without knowing him personally.
That said, one thing is clear: When it comes to words and deeds, Trump is a mirror image of America and Americans. He embodies what is clearly right and what is desperately wrong with our country. While what is right deserves commendation, what is wrong requires repentance. It highlights the need for Donald Trump and America with him, including the tens of millions of Americans known as evangelicals, to repent today.
What is right with America? Despite serious setbacks since the 9/11 attacks nearly 15 years ago, America remains the world’s beacon of opportunity and freedom where ingenuity and hard work pay off and rags-to-riches stories remain common. Today, poor Americans live better than most wealthy people at any time in history.
To their credit, most Americans have resisted politically correct forces seeking to belittle these achievements or deny and destroy American exceptionalism. From securing our borders to reaffirming America’s role in the world, they’ve refused to bow down to these corrupt forces.
So what is wrong with America? Its moral and spiritual foundation is crumbling. Witness the coarseness of its culture, the gutting of civility, the decline of traditional marriage, including the serial breaking of marriage vows, the prevalence of pornography and promiscuity, the legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage, the frenzied worship of power and financial success, the all-out idolizing of glamor and fame, the narcissistic demand for constant attention and the quest for non-stop entertainment.
Builder Donald Trump remains a symbol of American opportunity realized, turning millions into billions through hard work and ingenuity, and helping transform New York’s skyline and the city itself. And in his run for president, he has altered the political landscape, igniting a firestorm against political correctness, while focusing on the need to finally build a wall to secure the southern border.
But Donald Trump mirrors America’s vices as well as its virtues. From Twitter storms to debate antics, throughout his presidential campaign, the thrice-married candidate’s gross incivility toward all who dare criticize him models the conduct of millions of other Americans. The same is true of his coarse words and cruel put-downs of people based on their appearance. While currently claiming to be pro-life, he has a history of supporting the right to late-term abortion. No American is a more recognizable symbol of the nation’s obsession with appearance over substance, self over community, braggadocio over humility and the worship of worldly power over the power of godly worship.
Finally, no one has better expressed the defiant, rebellious attitude of millions of Americans than Trump in his statement to CNN’s Anderson Cooper last summer:
“Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness if I am not making any mistakes?”
Contrast this with the words of Scripture: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8, NIV)
In his best-selling book, “The Harbinger,” Jonathan Cahn notes how America, especially since 9/11, has sought to rebuild on a foundation other than the God of its forefathers. In like manner, Trump’s promise to “make America great again” glaringly excludes a call to return to America’s spiritual foundation.
Unfortunately, Cahn is more the exception than the rule. Too often, Christian leaders honor with their lips the Gospel of humble surrender to God while building glitzy, entertainment-driven organizations that measure success on worldly standards of “being a winner.” Some have dispensed with the Gospel altogether, replacing it with teachings directly promoting worldly success. Others have nearly defined sin out of existence. They have dispensed what anti-Nazi pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer once called cheap grace, “forgiveness without … repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. …” They have preached “grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Millions of evangelicals are poised to join others and vote for Donald Trump. But until we all as Americans, including Trump, face up to our moral and spiritual condition, we are in no position to choose our next leader, just as Trump is in no position to be that leader.
We, all of us, including Donald Trump, must take a good hard look in the mirror, and not let one more day pass before we ask God to change what we see and heal our hearts and land.
Then, and only then, can we dare decide who should be our next president.
*Richard Kelly is a writer in Tampa, Florida. This article appeared at WND and is reprinted with permission.