Last Tuesday, Jennifer and I were honored to join a powerhouse group of Christian leaders who gathered at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square to listen to Donald Trump talk about issues that would be of interest to Christians. The list of leaders was long and included many of my “heroes of faith.” People like James Dobson, Kelly Shackelford, Rick Scarborough (Who invited us...thank you Rick!), Franklin Graham, George Barna, Eric Metaxis, David Barton, and Tony Perkins to name a few.
So here is how it went:
Donald appeared humble (yes humble), engaged, and genuine. His answers were not scripted, and they contained enough of his brand of “one-liners” for me to feel as though they were authentic and representative of his thought process. He actually stayed much longer than he was supposed to, and at one point said that being in that meeting with us was in his mind “The most important thing I could be doing right now.”
One of the questions asked of him had to do with religious freedom. He said it was “The #1 issue before us as a nation”. He specifically mentioned that is his mind, the average pedestrian on 5th Avenue has more right to free speech than the pastors, priests and other religious leaders in our country thanks to the Johnson Amendment of 1956. He said it would be a priority to repeal that. He also emphasized that the opposite is true of Hillary and the left, that they would seek to take more religious freedom from us. He specifically called attention to the shift of terminology used by the left when they speak of “freedom to worship” rather than “freedom of religion”. I was impressed that he picked up on this subtlety and gets how a change of words reframes the argument. (Like “marriage equality” instead of “homosexual marriage”) With the new wording, the thought is that you can have freedom of religion in your place of worship only...it cannot go to work with you or into the public square. Smart man to see that. He stated that “We are so politically correct we can’t function as a country anymore,” as well as that if he was elected “we will say ‘Merry Christmas’ again” (I admit it felt good to hear that!).
He would later be asked again about the Supreme Court and in general the business of government bullying people of faith with lawsuit and fine in the name of diversity and tolerance. Trump said all of his Supreme Court picks would be “very pro-life” and recommended by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. (Two thumbs up there!) He added that the persecution of religious persons would be won or lost in the courts, and so he implored us to consider the difference between 3-4 Supreme Court picks and at least a hundred or so federal judge appointments that he would make versus Hillary Clinton. (A sobering thought to say the least, and perhaps it was appropriate that the title on the cover of the Newsmax magazine at the table next to us read “It’s the Supreme Court Stupid!” on the cover.)
On the issue of Israel, he was emphatic. “I am 100% with Israel, have been forever,” he said. He also showed a fair amount of contempt and distrust for Iran, saying that Obama's Iran deal was “...one of the worst deals ever!”, and “Obama has given Iraq over to Iran.” My favorite quote of the day came next when he answered his own question as to why there are so many bad policy decisions in the Middle East lately. “We have stupid people leading this country!” He quipped.
What was missing from the conversation was any mention of homosexual marriage, transgender bathrooms, government bullying of religious organizations to provide abortion coverage, and the role of the traditional family in providing social and moral stability for our country. He also swung and missed in my opinion on two golden opportunities; one at the beginning when Huckabee commented on the closeness, love and respect Donald has with his adult children, which Huckabee said he observed “behind the scenes, in a way that it couldn’t be faked.”, during the campaign. Donald said it was because of good schools and a mantra of “No drugs, no drinking, no smoking”. Not exactly the warm and capable Deut 11:19 father figure I was hoping to hear about. The second miss came when he was asked about poverty in the inner city and the loss of the traditional family. His response was “jobs”. No mention of faith or the family.
So my impressions are as follows…
- Donald Trump cares infinitely more about our concerns than Hillary Clinton. He came, he devoted a good portion of his morning to us, and he answered our questions candidly, without script. She was invited for a similar meeting, but has yet to respond. Leaving us in limbo, she has made time to accept the endorsement of Planned Parenthood. I see a clear placement of priorities here.
- Donald Trump understands priority of the religious liberty issue surprisingly well, and has a solution which will certainly work. (Repealing Johnson amendment, appointing solid pro-life, pro-Constitution judges.)
- He is dead-on in his assessment of how much better his judicial nominees will protect our religious freedom than his opponent. This election really is about the future of the Supreme Court, and consequently, the future of the 1st and 2nd amendment.
- He is vastly more pro-Israel than his opponent, and I expect a Trump Presidency will rapidly reverse the damage done by Obama and Hillary to our relationship with Israel.
- From my perspective as a “rank and file” evangelical, Mr. Trump did not seem to me to be “one of us”, but I kind of knew that already. His recollections of his own Christian roots were more societal than personal (I heard no profession of faith). But as Mike Huckabee said, he is not interviewing to be our pastor, but our President. I don’t need him to worship with me, but do I need him to ensure that religious people like me have the right to say what we believe is morally right, without fear of persecution or prosecution. I need him to appoint Supreme Court justices who believe the Constitution guarantees us protection against acts of forced sacrilege. I need him to surround himself with Godly advisors such as Huckabee, Carson, and Franklin Graham (who seem to have his ear.)
All of this may be too much to swallow for some of you. We have been lucky to have so many Presidents who were Christ followers. But we have also had some really bad Presidents who were “born again.” (Jimmy Carter was as Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher.), and one really amazing President who was divorced and remarried and thought to have “Hollywood values” (initials RR in case you aren’t following me). And really, seriously, consider the alternative. We are in an infinitely more difficult place as Christians if Hillary Clinton is our next President.
Ben Carson mentioned that as a nation, we were a ship headed in the wrong direction. To remedy our situation we needed to stop moving in the wrong direction, change course, and then move in the right direction. Three steps. I believe Donald Trump will take care of the first one for us. We will have to help him with the last two.
Overall, I left the meeting very encouraged about Donald Trump as President. I am going to support him with my time and treasure, and I would urge you to do the same. #NeverHillary!