March 12, 2018
Groundhog Day was over in February -- for everyone, apparently, but evangelicals. Every day, we wake up to the same headlines from people like Michael Gerson, whose incredulity over Christians' support of the president is new every morning. With biting predictability, Gerson and company spill an inordinate amount of ink recycling the same shock that people with social values would stand by a man whose policies protect them. Hardly the stuff of breaking news.
Unfortunately, the subtle indictments of the church have gotten less subtle over time. What was once an earnest question has become an excuse for unwarranted attacks -- on everything from Christians' integrity to their authenticity. Instead of covering a story, they're uncovering their own animus. And Michael Gerson is leading the charge.
In his latest (and most unoriginal) column, Gerson regurgitates his year-old talking points about the president's moral failings, insisting that Christians -- the biggest champions of grace and forgiveness -- ought to somehow refuse both to Trump. "This is not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption. Blinded by political tribalism and hatred for their political opponents, these leaders can't see how they are undermining the causes to which they once dedicated their lives. Little remains of a distinctly Christian public witness." Hoping to add some credibility to his bluster, he tacks on a sentence or two about how "evangelical faith has shaped my life," as if that makes his slander more trustworthy or palatable.
CBS's "Face the Nation," which, like most liberal outlets, is quite content beating this dead horse, invited Gerson on the show yesterday to elaborate, without, I should add, a countering perspective. Like other partisans masquerading as "journalists," he insists evangelicals are hypocrites for not demanding a national recall of the president over 10-year-old allegations of infidelity. The host reminds Gerson that evangelicals' support isn't without cause. After all, the president has spent the year delivering on a long list of promises to his base. No matter, Gerson waves her off. "They are acting like, you know, slimy political operatives, not moral leaders. They are essentially saying, in order to get these benefits... they are willing to wink at Stormy Daniels and wink at misogyny and wink at nativism."
Evangelicals, he goes on, "have not provided that moral judgment that I think leavens our politics or should leaven our politics." I'm curious what kind of "moral judgment" Gerson thinks Christian leaders should be offering. This is, after all, behavior that happened in the past. Does Gerson think that Christians should continue piling on judgment for actions that, to our knowledge, no longer continue? No one is rationalizing or excusing his failings. But Americans -- evangelicals included -- elected Donald Trump with almost full knowledge of Trump's past. As I've explained numerous times, it came down to him or Hillary Clinton, so Americans gave him a chance despite his past. Now that he's earned their support with his actions as president, it's our job to hold Donald Trump accountable for what he does in office. We can't do anything about the past. If any immoral behavior were taking place on the president's part today, Michael Gerson would be writing a very different story about the estrangement of Trump and his evangelical base.
For now, our support for the policies of this president is hardly the great mystery that liberal lackeys like Gerson claim it to be. This isn't blind allegiance on the part of evangelicals or "slimy" opportunism. This is reasoned support for a political leader who has made and kept his campaign promises. If you want to know the real reason Gerson's crowd is unhappy with evangelicals, it's not because we're hypocrites. It's because we stand in the way of the Left's designs, with the same ability to affect government that they've had for almost a decade. Their goal is to try and shame evangelicals into disengaging from the policies and elections that govern our lives and our ability to live according to our Christian faith.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.