We’ve seen a lot of think pieces over the past year attempting to put a logical spin on evangelical support for Donald Trump. At this point it seems that all their justifications are worn-out clichés and do nothing to redeem their image in the eyes of everyone outside their religious circle.
But conservative commentator Dennis Prager gives it one more try in a piece for Townhall:
Religious Christians and Jews who support Trump understand that the character of a public leader is quite often less important than his policies. This is so obvious that only the naive think otherwise. Character is no predictor of political leadership on behalf of moral causes. I wish it were. Then, in any political contest, we would simply have to determine who the better person is and vote accordingly.
Perhaps Prager believes this, but it’s intellectually dishonest to pretend as if personal character never mattered to his conservative contemporaries when choosing a president. Judging by the way said contemporaries have bent over backwards to excuse every derogatory word out of Trump’s mouth, it’s clear that there’s a major caveat to character being of lesser importance than policies: a president can get away with just about anything, as long as he commits to anti-abortion policies.
Prager goes on to pose a series of questions for critics of evangelicals who support Trump in one of the cleverest cases of “Whataboutism” I’ve ever seen:
If they were to have cancer, would any of the evangelicals’ critics choose an oncologist based on character? If not, why not?
One of the few moral heroes of the Holocaust was the German industrialist and member of the Nazi Party Oskar Schindler. He personally saved more than a thousand Jews’ lives. He was also a serial philanderer. I suspect many leading Nazis never cheated on their wives. Character is a complex issue.
It’s true that character is indeed complex. It’s how Democrats who supported Bill Clinton were able to make a distinction between his affair with Monica Lewinsky and the actual contributions he made as president of the United States. No one is saying that you have to be a model husband, or human being, in order to be a good leader. Martin Luther King Jr. is also reported to have cheated on his wife; that doesn’t mean every contribution he made toward civil rights deserves to be thrown in the garbage.
But it’s worth remembering that when Clinton’s shenanigans with Lewinsky came to light, it was evangelicals who screamed the loudest for impeachment, claiming his personal character made him unfit for office.
Democrats haven’t forgotten this.
The left is criticizing evangelical Trump supporters for continued support of a corrupt human being only because they were the ones who placed so much importance on character in the first place.
It was evangelicals who insisted that good Christians produce good fruit, that a corrupt lifestyle was evidence of empty faith. But they seemed to toss those principles aside when Trump promised to roll back abortion rights and increase the political power of the GOP.
The latter promise can be likened to the biblical story of Satan tempting Jesus with power and glory, if only Jesus would bow down and worship him. The poor, persecuted evangelicals of America leaped on that promise like cats on catnip, not caring if they irreparably tarnished their witness in the process.
Prager’s article would have a lot more merit if only he had the integrity to admit that many of his contemporaries are raging hypocrites.
This post originally appeared on Patheos