Sunday Meditations: Wayne Grudem

I have to say, I don’t care about American politics that much.  America is America and the people of God are the people of God, and my allegiance and focus belongs to the latter group.  I live in America, I obey America’s laws and pay America’s taxes, and it’s a fine enough country as countries go.  But I also know that she’s going to do whatever she’s going to do.  She’s not the kingdom of God and never was.  Money, power, and violence run America, not peace and compassion.  My investment is in a community of people that does run off peace and compassion as an alternative to America.  If it turns out that the whole of America ends up preferring this alternate community, that’s awesome, but I’m not holding my breath.

So, in most elections, I’m just sort of meh.  While I might find that one party tends to skew a little more “peace and compassion” while the other tends to skew more “money and violence,” the fact is that for someone to successfully be in power in America, they’re already severely compromised.  I rarely think Candidate A is going to usher in a new era of embracing the outsider, establishing justice based on mercy, and caring for the poor while Candidate B will be the end of all those things.  Everyone at the top of the world’s food chain gets there, somehow, and it’s rarely a path of unbroken virtue.

This election, I feel a little differently, because I think having Trump as Commander-in-Chief of the military will end up with large swaths of the world being a smoking, radioactive wasteland, but I digress.  My point is, 90ish percent of the time, American politics are just not that interesting to me, and if I had to describe my overall demeanor to the state of American politics, it would probably be: bemused resignation.

But now Wayne Grudem has become a media darling for evangelicals who, like Dr. Grudem, swore they’d never vote for Trump but now are encouraging everyone to do just that.  He’s important to the discussion because many Christians, rightly, wonder if they can honestly support someone like Trump.  Grudem has given them an “out” with the brilliant theological argument, “Well, he’s not as bad as the other person.”

This has caused something of a stir for all sides, so I forced myself to listen to “Washington Watch” this weekend, on purpose, because I wanted to hear from the man himself how he would articulate his position in person, especially in light of the back and forth that has happened since he first said something about it.

What, in the mind of this eminent theologian, is the moral calculus that has led him to believe that Donald Trump was the most moral choice in this election?  Had Dr. “Not a Rapper” Wayne done some research and discovered that Trump’s ideas would drastically reduce poverty?  Had he found some kind of political halo effect that would bring education to the nation’s uneducated?  Had he figured out some way that deporting Muslims would actually advance Freedom of Religion?

The radio host got right to the heart of the matter as well, asking Dr. Grudem what the one takeaway would be he wanted people to get.  Here are the issues that Dr. Grudem explained were the great pillars of his moral equation:

  1. The restrooms used by transgendered people
  2. The right of businesses to refuse service to homosexuals

Yes.  The completely anti-Constitutional and anti-humanitarian internment and deportation of a religious group, the stated view that there’s no point in having nuclear weapons unless we start using them, the complete absence of any cognizance of poverty, and the promise to prevent Putin’s advancement into the Ukraine that already happened two years ago pale in comparison to the two, major threats to America’s welfare: a person born biologically a woman ending up in the men’s restroom and a public business being legally obligated to provide goods and services to all people without discrimination.  The horror.

This perhaps should not have been as much as a surprise to me as it was.  Grudem’s primary contributions to Christian scholarship are book after book about who has what genitals and how central that is to Christianity and just societies.  His strident critiques of “evangelical feminism” let us know that it’s very important that white men get to define women and decide what they are and aren’t suited for.  Whether or not you have a penis and where that penis ends up are the issues that define the overwhelming majority of Grudem’s contributions to theology, the value of which has been literally incalculable.

Nevertheless, I have to admit that this is another, big notch in my Disappointments With Evangelicalism Belt (not an actual belt).  Really?  Really, Wayne?  These are the primary issues that you feel morally obligate Christians to vote for Trump?  These are issues whose cumulative moral value outweighs any of the moral considerations of, I don’t know, using nuclear weapons?  The forced deportation of American citizens because of their religion?  Personally, I’d allow every transgendered person who could fit into my stall follow me into every public restroom I ever used for the rest of my life if it would avoid a nuclear exchange, but I guess mileage on that may vary.

The reason this all had such an impact on me is because, ostensibly, Wayne Grudem is a member of the kingdom of God, represents at least part of the views of people who are ostensibly part of this kingdom, and is actively trying to alleviate the cognitive dissonance / conviction of the Holy Spirit that evangelicals feel when they think about voting for Donald Trump.  Is this what we believe?  Is this what we do?

To that end, I have a few questions for American evangelicals at large:

One: Is there anybody you wouldn’t get into bed with in exchange for political power?

I mean this seriously.  If Donald Trump is an acceptable bedfellow, then who isn’t?  What would have to happen for you not to vote for the Republican candidate?  How bad would they have to be?  Would they have to mass execute Muslims in front of your kids instead of deporting them?  Would they have to detonate a nuclear warhead in your favorite restaurant?  Would they have to send your sons and daughters to war to lower the price of pre-aged denim jeans?  I mean, really, if Trump is not the line, what is the line?  Paint me the picture of the person that would make you say, “As a Christian, I cannot vote for the Republican candidate.  I feel I must vote for the Democratic candidate, a third party candidate, or not vote at all.”

You know, Israel was called a harlot by the prophets because of her alliances with the worldly political powers of her day.  There was none of this, “Well, Egypt is flawed, but they’ll be better for the nation,” or, “Assyria basically is ok with YHWH, but they’re new converts, so you have to be patient with their orgies and overt idolatry and tendency to kill us.”

Those passages have no relevance to America’s alliances, but they are very pertinent as to the identity of the people of God in the world.

Two: Are LGBT issues more important than any other possible consideration?

Obviously, they aren’t more important than heterosexual issues.  You’ve firmly established that actual heterosexual sins are nowhere near as grievous as someone using the “wrong” restroom or homosexual activity.  We already know serial unfaithfulness, serial divorce, and sexual abuse and rape in most cases are not problems for you.  So, I’m not even going to try to plead with you on that.  That line in the sand is already drawn.  Being a monogamously gay Christian is a jillion times more offensive to God and destructive to America than a heterosexual pagan having multiple divorces because they keep cheating on their spouses.  Message received.

But even with that aside, are you fully prepared to tell Jesus that nuclear war or punishing massive amounts of innocent people because you think they might commit a crime someday was an acceptable compromise to you because it meant bakeries wouldn’t have to sell cake to gay people?  You are honestly going to tell me that reading through the Gospels has convinced you that selling cake to gay people or the wrong gender in the wrong restroom is a far, far more vital concern to Jesus than violence, poverty, or how outsiders are treated.

Obviously, for Wayne Grudem, those issues are far more vital to Jesus’ heart than any of the issues Jesus actually talked about, and people seem to agree.

Listen, if you are a Christian in America, you have to make your own decisions about A) whether to vote at all, and B) whom you’re going to vote for.  In any election, I don’t think any of that is ever clear cut and black and white.

But I will urge you that, whatever you do, at least be honest about it.  Don’t play this whole, “Well, even though we’re voting for this horrible person, we’re still coming out ahead, morally.”  You’re not.  You’re clearly not.  Not even close.  Unless you are prepared to declare, along with Wayne Grudem, that gendered restrooms and the legal requirement for public businesses to serve everyone without discrimination are the most important moral issues that eclipse literally everything else, then just own up to it.  You want political power in American government, and you think Trump will give it to you.  And then accept the consequences of that decision and what that means for the identity of the people of God in the world.