Judgment DAY: God, Trump and the meaning of morality

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The presidency of Donald Trump has created unavoidable moral dilemmas not just for the members of First Baptist in Luverne but for a distinct subset of Christians who are overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly evangelical and more uniformly pro-Trump than any other part of the American electorate. In poll after poll, they have said that Trump has kept his promises to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, fight for religious liberty, adopt pro-life policies and deliver on other issues that are high priorities for them.

Judgment days: In a small Alabama town, an evangelical congregation reckons with God, President Trump and the meaning of morality

Clay Crum opened his Bible to Exodus Chapter 20 and read verse 14 one more time.

“Thou shalt not commit adultery,” it said.

He prayed about what he was going to do. He was the pastor of First Baptist Church in the town of Luverne, Ala., which meant he was the moral leader of a congregation that overwhelmingly supported a president who was an alleged adulterer. For the past six weeks, Crum had been preaching a series of sermons on the Ten Commandments, and now it was time for number seven.

It was summer, and all over the Bible Belt, support for President Trump was rising among voters who had traditionally proclaimed the importance of Christian character in leaders and warned of the slippery slope of moral compromise. In Crenshaw County, where Luverne is located, Trump had won 72 percent of the vote. Recent national polls showed the president’s approval among white evangelical Christians at a high of 77 percent. One survey indicated that his support among Southern Baptists was even higher, surpassing 80 percent, and these were the people arriving on Sunday morning to hear what their pastor had to say.

By 10:30 a.m., the street alongside First Baptist was full of slant-parked cars, and the 80 percenters were walking across the green lawn in the sun, up the stairs, past the four freshly painted white columns and into the church.

“Good to see you this morning,” Crum said, shaking hands as the regulars took their usual places in the wooden pews, and soon, he walked up to the pulpit and opened his King James.

“Today we’re going to be looking at the Seventh Commandment,” Crum began. “Exodus 20:14, the Seventh Commandment, simply says, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ ” The people settled in. There was the sound of hard candy unwrapping and thin pages of Bibles turning.

The presidency of Donald Trump has created unavoidable moral dilemmas not just for the members of First Baptist in Luverne but for a distinct subset of Christians who are overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly evangelical and more uniformly pro-Trump than any other part of the American electorate.

In poll after poll, they have said that Trump has kept his promises to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, fight for religious liberty, adopt pro-life policies and deliver on other issues that are high priorities for them.

48 Comments

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Varnel Watson

    Trump and morality ahahaha Nelson Banuchi Joseph Kidwell I have lived to see the day The folly of evangelical holiness

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Nelson Banuchi

    The last sentence I read was, “There was the sound of hard candy unwrapping and thin pages of Bibles turning.”

    Is that where it ends? If there is more, how do I access the rest of the article? Thanks!

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Varnel Watson

    • Reply July 29, 2018

      Nelson Banuchi

      Well, that was an interesting piece.

    • Reply July 29, 2018

      Varnel Watson

      telling ya Jan Dixon Sykes Joseph Kidwell

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Nelson Banuchi

    Thanks…btw, when I click to view the original, it just sends me right back to the same Pentecostal Theology page …just so you know.

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Varnel Watson

    as much as facebook allows I guess Jan Joseph Kidwell

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Daniel J Hesse

    How did you get a picture of a young Carl Harris? In the center.

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Varnel Watson

    FB auto assigned I think thats Jan Dixon Sykes praying on the picture

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Daniel J Hesse

    What year?

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Varnel Watson

    during Evangel ?

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Robert Erwine

    an adulterer should not be in any leadership position , is that too much to ask for ?

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Varnel Watson

    in church or politics ?

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Robert Erwine

    everywhere . that kind of man should not be trusted . good sense will tell you if pick up a snake and it bites you why would anybody be surprised when it does?

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Varnel Watson

    Jan Dixon Sykes says his playboy years are over

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Jan Dixon Sykes

    He’s 72, guys….

    • Reply July 29, 2018

      Nelson Banuchi

      He can but hasn’t, yet…nevertheless, this is not excuse for giving him mulligans.

    • Reply July 29, 2018

      Jan Dixon Sykes

      When he starts diddling the interns in the White House, let me know.

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Varnel Watson

      you mean like the playmates from his shows or the 12-16 women who filed harassment charges against him? Consider yourself notified

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Jan Dixon Sykes

      A. I already said Trump was a playboy. B. Trump has always been rich. Since the Apprentice, Trump has also been famous. C. Trump started running for president in 2015. Yet only a month before the election, a dozen women SUDDENLY all decided to sue. Sorry, that’s called the Clinton politics of personal destruction machine. Trying to win by smearing the opponent. D. Not a single woman has even said he hit on her since he has been president. E. When he starts diddling interns in the White House, let me know.

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Nelson Banuchi

      The issue of Trump aside, this meme is not only misleading but fails to take understand what it means to fear God.

      Yes, Rahab was righteous. That she agreed to help the Israel to save herself and her family was grounded on a right fear of God (Joshua 2:9-11). If not, then every Christian who comes to Christ for salvation, from the disciple to the present, can be charged with “merely is negotiating a self-serving deal” …including you.

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Jan Dixon Sykes

      Yep, “there is none righteous, no not one.” Our righteousness to God is but “filthy rags.” We need to get over ourselves. Admit we are but human animals with a soul that God loves so much he wants to redeem us.

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Nelson Banuchi

      Jan Dixon Sykes Although, that none are righteous as fallen is besides the point.

      The point is Rahab’s assistance to the spies was grounded in the right fear of God, not from some mere selfishness. It is not selfish to want to preserve your life and to say otherwise is to be silly. What is selfish is to save your life at the expense of others or without other being considered, which Rahab was not doing.

      There are those who emphasize too much of a righteousness in man, either as believers or unbelievers; yet, by the same token, there are those who emphasize too much the sinfulness of men as believers not realizing that (1) we are no longer sinners once we are incorporated into Christ by faith, and (2) we are empowered by grace through faith to live in a righteous manner that pleases God. It seems for some that grace is no powerful enough to overcome living an unrighteous life although we are made righteous and empowered by that righteousness through the Spirit of regeneration.

      Btw, we are not “human animals”; we are human.

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Varnel Watson

      Nelson Rahab helped them over the wall. Trump wants to place them behind the wall. Jan call Evangel and ask your money back on their hermeneutics class

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Jan Dixon Sykes

      I have sat through many-fear based altar calls: Come receive your fire insurance from Hell. As disgusting as that sales pitch was, it was the beginning of many Christian walks. So was Rahab’s. She was afraid of the Israelite God and hid the spies in her home. And whom did she save from genocide by hiding the scouts? Her family only. Not a single neighbor or friend. ……………. As far as your pot shot about my education, Troy, I was raised by two parents who graduated from Southwestern. Then my dad got two more theology degrees from what is now Vanguard. His contemporary at Southwestern, Klaude Kendrick, was the man who eventually became the president of Evangel, whom we entertained in our home. Klaude had written a recommdation for my dad to be a professor at one of the AG colleges when my dad had graduated the 2nd time from Vanguard, except my grandfather died right then & my dad instead took a church near his NE ranch so he could oversee it, as well as pastor. We repeatedly visited Klaude in his AR retirement home as well until he died. …………. As evidenced, my dad was no dummy. He was president of the school board at our local public school for ten years. As well as president of the Cattlemen Association. As well as having a daily five-minute devotional on the local radio station. He liked to travel, including to Israel. My dad was also a contemporary of the man who became the head of AG missions in Springfield, Loren Triplett. He was in the service with him when Loren was first called to the mission field. My dad later visited him on the mission field in Nicaraga. We spent time in his Springfield home after he became the head of missions as well. Loren sent flowers to my dad’s funeral. ……………….. When my mother was a teenager, her pastor, Frances Berkiheiser, later became the head librarian at Evangel. We visited Frances often as well, as she did us. Frances retired in Nashville where I also lived for 20 years, so she & I continued to visit occasionally. …………. In my own right, I was president of the church youth group president as a teen, taught vacation Bible school, taught Sunday School as an adult, & founded the women’s mission’s group in a new church plant. I think it is a hoot you guys talk down to me. Destiny Image actually published a book I wrote in 2001 based on my understanding of such theological topics as justification vs forgivenenss, Law vs grace, etc. I even now have chapters in other authors’ Christian book compilations. However, I have written MORE in the political milieu, in that I had an opinion column in a newspaper for ten years. Hence, I weigh in more on the political topics than the theogical ones. Since I consider that more my lane than yours, which I thought yours was SUPPOSED to be debating things such as Calvinism vs Arminianism. …………….. You guys tend to wear your virtue of how you have MORE compassion than I. You are quick to assign negative motives. But 1st Corinthians says charity “thinketh no evil.” So we need to be believing the best of all of each other, not the worst of each other. ……… And yes, Nelson, our bodies are human animals. Mammals, to be exact—not reptiles. Our souls are what are eternal. Doesn’t reduce how sacred our bodies are. It elevates how sacred the rest of God’s creation is. Remembering, though, we are all the CREATED, not on par with the CREATOR.

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Jan Dixon Sykes

      Oh, one of the other things I left out was David Wilkerson met with my dad personally shortly after David started Teen Challenge & had written his book. He wanted to add a ranch as rehab for these his inner city druggies. So a portion of Dad’s ranch was one of three contenders. David finally picked one closer to airports. My mother carried The Cross & the Switchblade in her Christian Book store she owned & operated.

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Nelson Banuchi

      Jan Dixon Sykes Interesting and impressive life.

      Despite your education, I must disagree with your assessment of Rahab. Her concern for herself and her family was godly based on a righteous fear of God.

      I don’t separate man’s physical and spiritual self to determine his being; therefore, for me, Man is neither animals nor “human animals”; they are human. The rest of creation is sacred purely because they are created by God. If there were no humans, they would still remain sacred. Human sacredness is greater by virtue of being made in God’s image.

      Curious, what’s the name of your book?

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Jan Dixon Sykes

      The publishing company named it In Search of Jesus Lost. I hated the name because Jesus wasn’t lost. They also changed one paragraph in it about justification to better match the editor’s belief, which was against the very point I wanted to make. So I never got out and promoted the book like they figured I would do. Did go on some radio station in Nashville. I’m sure it is out of print by now. Took on the prosperity gospel in it too, which has finally, thank God, sort of run it’s course. …………. As for Rahab, your point is sort of my point. From our carnal point of view, her decision was selfish. But if we have a yielded heart, God tends to define our actions as noble. Hence the prostitute’s listing in the hall of faith. I think we need to try to see things more from God’s point of view than ours. …………. I use the same tactic with the thief on the cross’ “self-serving” prayer of repentance “remember me when thou comes into thy kingdom.” Where’s the contrite “Please forgive me“ line the purists demand Trump to say when he eats his little cracker and drinks his little wine? See? It’s a heart thing. Not the wording. …………….. Yes, while we are made in God’s image, I see no reason our mortal bodies can’t be a highly complex species of an animal. I don’t see being made in his image & being an animal as mutually exclusive. He breathed the breath of life only in us. Yet the lilies of the field are arrayed better than we. And the stones would cry out if none of us praised him. And like where do stones rate in the hierarchy of his creation? I simply like staying humble. Sometimes I think my Lab dog is smarter than me. ? But none of this doesn’t mean I am not a sweet savor, a royal priesthood, his workmanship, etc. The biggest thing to me to make me feel totally valued by God was when my mother told me as a child that if I had been the only person on earth that Jesus would have still come down to die on the cross for only me.

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Varnel Watson

      IF Rahab was alive today she would be helping refugees over Trumps wall #there

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Jan Dixon Sykes

      Considering she only saved her own family?

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Varnel Watson

      If everyone saves just one Joe Absher

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Nelson Banuchi

      Jan Dixon Sykes “From our carnal point of view, her decision was selfish. But if we have a yielded heart, God tends to define our actions as noble.”

      No. That’s not what I’m saying. It seems from your perspective it was selfish. Not from mine. And maybe you missed the sentence where I stated in my last comment that the concern she had for herself and her family was *godly* grounded on a *righteous fear* of God.

      You also say, “I use the same tactic with the thief on the cross’ self-serving prayer of repentance ‘remember me when thou comes into thy kingdom.’ Where’s the contrite “Please forgive me“ line…?

      Wow, you are sure reading the Bible from a below perspective. That’s not at all how I read the thief’s encounter with Christ. Like Rahab, his prayer was godly, grounded on a righteous fear of God, otherwise Jesus would not rejected to answer it. What do we think? That God answers prayers that are centered on self rather than on God, that have one’s own concerns and none of God’s concerns in mind? I, personally, don’t think so.

      Anas for the thiefs, ““Please forgive me“ line, well, it is obviously right there in Luke: 40-41: “But the other criminal rebuked the him [i.e. the thief who demanded to be saved if Jesus were Messiah!], ‘Don’t you fear God…we are punished justly, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you enter into your kingdom’.”

      The expression of godly repentance grounded on righteous fear is all over this text.

      Also, who said that wanting to be saved from eternal damnation was necessarily a selfish thing? Might as well tell someone with cancer going to a doctor asking to find a cure for him that they are being self-serving.

      I’m surprised with your education that you miss this. Perhaps you are stuck in certain theological presuppositions that skip over the implied (as with Rahab) or clear (as with the thief) understanding of these texts? No?

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Nelson Banuchi

      Jan Dixon Sykes “Considering she only saved her own family?”

      Saved *only” her own family?

      She saved a whole nation, the nation God had ordained to overcome Jericho, as Rahab’s godly fear rightly discerned; and that, presumably, without any loss of Israelite life!

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Jan Dixon Sykes

      Nelson, I bring up these examples of Rahab and the thief only to push back on all the NeverTrumpers who want to negate any prayer or submission to God that Trump exhibits. For them, whatever he does is not good enough: He didn’t Word it to their liking. It was self-serving. It was lacking in some way. …….. So I’m applying that same logic to Biblical character prayers or actions that did make it to Paradise or to the hall of faith: They must have been self-serving. They must surely fall short of the gospel according to the new legalistic standards of the NeverTrumpers. ………….. To wit: Trump wasn’t contrite enough during communion. Communion is not a “substitute.” Praying at the Western Wall asking for wisdom was self-serving or pandering to the media or whatever. Or praying with prosperity doctrine televangelists is a sell out. It’s always SOMETHING. Like maybe Trump’s newfound religion is one of expediency. If he had been sincere, he’d have become an evangelical years ago. He‘s just playing them. …………. I’ve heard it all. In this forum & others. He can’t win. So I bring up why did Rahab win? Why did the thief on the cross win? Oh, THEY were DIFFERENT: Their fear was SPECIAL. Even though Rahab never said a word about how much she needed to ask forgiveness about selling her body. See? The same accusatory stuff can be applied to anyone if we want to be accusatory. I, for one, DON’T.

    • Reply July 30, 2018

      Nelson Banuchi

      Jan Dixon Sykes First, the comparison is unwarranted. Trump, by his own admission, needs no repentance and is under the impression he is good enough.

      Why did Rahab and the thief on the cross “win”? They admitted their need and sought God. They showed tangible evidence of their faith in God. Trump doesn’t; rather, he himself even denied any need for forgiveness or God. As such, Trump demonstrates he is not a believer, he is not saved.

      Why shouldn’t I take his word for it?

      So, of course, any alleged “prayers” or “submission” to God Trump may make is merely an outward form that denies the reality, or as we read somewhere in the Bible, “the power thereof.”

      It is not an accusation to speak the obvious truth. I’m not going to tell others that a person, who clearly demonstrates they are not saved: “anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.”

      Of course, that does not mean that we do not pray for his salvation. But, it also doesn’t mean we should submit ourselves to his lies and nonsense, either.

      So, comparing Trump to Rahab and the thief is kind of silly and unwarranted.

    • Reply July 31, 2018

      Jan Dixon Sykes

      So, you take half an answer, Nelson, & build a judgment around it. Trump said he didn’t ask for forgiveness at the time he committed a wrong. He corrected his wrong. Later, when he took communion, he repented then. He even liked to do it often because afterward he felt cleansed. ……………. You are doing exactly what I am sick of hearing. His contrition wasn’t ”good enough” for your standards. Wasn’t worded right. I thought Paula White said Trump had gotten saved when he prayed with her. Oh, that’s right. She’s a prosperity preacher, so whatever his prayer with her was must have missed the mark, too. And even if it didn’t, you don’t see the fruit YOU want to see cuz Trump said “son of a bitch” in public or whatever other standard you use to judge a man’s soul. But Rahab can lie. She can tell her own people who are about to slaughtered that the spies had already left. Guess lying as a solution is now tangible evidence of faith.

    • Reply July 31, 2018

      Varnel Watson

      there is #noshame in the truth

    • Reply July 31, 2018

      Jan Dixon Sykes

      There is a way to speak truth with shame and one without. Without shame: “Maybe you didn’t know xyz.“ With shame: “What!? You didn’t know xyz? How could you have missed that? Your ideas are just silly.” …….. It’s in the presentation. One has an innuendo of the person being defective in some way—stupid, lazy, biased, bigoted, spiritually malnourished. The other is absent of that. ………….. Truth is Rev 14 calls Satan “the accuser our brethren.” I don’t want to be in that camp. Christ was full of grace. So therefore we should be gracious when speaking the truth. One of the fruits of the Spirit is gentleness.

    • Reply July 31, 2018

      Nelson Banuchi

      Jan Dixon Sykes Trump said, “I like to be good. I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good.

      The asked if he has ever asked God for forgiveness, Trump answered, “I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so.”

      He further said, “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

      I think you’re either being deliberately misleading in order to justify Trump and make him out to be a Christian (even if a weak one) or you are referencing a different Trump interview. In any case, the question posed to Trump had nothing to do with any specific wrong he may have committed at the time; it was a general question.

      And it is not a matter whether or not his “contrition” was good enough because there was no contrition. He himself said so when he said, *if* (note: not *when*)he does something wrong, he neither asks for forgiveness nor “bring[s] God into that picture.”

      Regarding Rahab, I guess you’ll condemn all those Christians who hid Jews in WW2, lying about where they were or if they were hiding any or whatever other lie was necessary to protect them. The point is, Rahab was righteous before God. Trump is not. The thief on the Cross ask forgiveness as he knew how, Trump neither desires to ask anyone, let alone God, for forgiveness nor does he invite God into the picture of his life. You’re comparing apples to oranges.

      You just may be confusing gentleness for tolerance. And, although your educational credentials are impressive, you’re discernment, spiritual or otherwise, leaves much to be desired.

      We’re done here. ‘nuf said.

    • Reply July 31, 2018

      Jan Dixon Sykes

      Still taking parting pot shots toward me personally, Nelson, instead of just making your case, I see. When you leave the topic and start taking my personal inventory, as to the state of my spiritual discernment, that is called deflection. It is not persuasive. Either your argument can hold up under scrutiny on its own or it can’t. The ocean is wet or not whether a virtuous person says it or an immoral person says it. …………… Once again, I said you use only the first half the quote. The second half talks about his taking communion. “When I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and take my little cracker, I guess that is a form of ASKING FOR FORGIVENESS. And I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed.” …………. I attended a Presbyterian Church for two years. Communion wasn’t just a “here have some crackers & wine—next.” It is a stretched out liturgy with a responsive reading script. Where the participant admits to sin & accepts redemption. Trump is Presbyterian. …………. First you essentially say Trump shows no fruit of being a Christian because, for one, he lies. Then when I mention Rahab lied, you moved the marker & want to parse which lies are justifiable or not. From where I sit, a woman worthy of the hall of faith would have gone to the Jericho mayor and persuaded him to get he town to serve the Israelite God. Everyone spared. Israelites welcomed. But no, God counts Rahab’s deceptive behavior as faith. ………. So I’m counting Trump’s little cracker & little wine as faith. And his lies? He two languages are hyperbole & bumper sticker. Neither are precise. Either way, he is keeping his promises.

    • Reply July 31, 2018

      Nelson Banuchi

      Jan Dixon Sykes “Either way, he is keeping his promises.”

      Perhaps. Except for who’s paying for the border wall…

  • Reply July 29, 2018

    Jan Dixon Sykes

    On Trump’s very first international trip, he went to Israel and prayed at the Western Wall asking for wisdom. Know why that was significant? The Western Wall is in disputed territory. He was the FIRST sitting president to do that. Not even Mr. Born Again Carter went to that wall as president. Obama didn’t even go to Israel at all until his 2nd term, & then, of course not to the Wall. …………… Then TRUMP moved our embassy to Jerusalem, again not even Mr. I‘ve Only Lusted In My Heart Carter. ……….. As frosting, Trump undid the Johnson Act.

    • Reply July 29, 2018

      Daniel J Hesse

      Bill Clinton did go to the wall and offered prayers with a kippah. Economy was blessed too.

    • Reply July 29, 2018

      Jan Dixon Sykes

      Not WHILE he was president, Daniel. Because if they did it WHILE president, they were taking the office with them, and in essence, were admitting that America recognized that the Wall was Israel’s.

    • Reply July 29, 2018

      Jan Dixon Sykes

      Clinton’s economy came with sabatoges that came later. He signed NAFTA, driving factories south. Then he bribed the banks (with promises of a bailout) to give subprime housing loans to people who were bad credit risks. Fortunately banks can only loan ten times the money they have on hand. Except then Clinton undid Glass Steagall, So commercial banks could sell off all those bad loans to investment banks. And turn around & make ten more bad loans. Hillary never planned to redo Glass Steagall. Bernie did.

    • Reply July 29, 2018

      Jan Dixon Sykes

  • Reply July 30, 2018

    Varnel Watson

    Robert Erwine when I first read your question was thinking you wrote about the man on the picture that Daniel J Hesse identified 🙂

  • Reply July 31, 2018

    Jan Dixon Sykes

    The money it saves us from America processing as many illegals (court dates, chasing them down, housing them in prison for any subsequent crimes, etc.) pays for itself. If the illegals are coming across the Mexican border, and one spoke bumper sticker, then I guess the savings would be coming from the Mexicans who can’t cross the border anymore.

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