[Note: This article is based on an actual letter. The recipient’s name and some minor details have been changed.]
Aug. 5, 2020
Thank you for your thoughtful, honest email explaining why you felt frustration and anger about my public support of Donald Trump. I'm glad that you wrote as you did rather than leaving the matter unspoken.
Thank you also for writing, as a long-time friend, to express your concerns that my support of Trump might jeopardize the reputation that I have built as a trusted professor of theology and ethics for the last 43 years, and that my pro-Trump stance undermines the credibility of the label “evangelical,” and even of the Christian gospel itself.
I take these objections seriously. I have pondered them for several days. Please consider the following twelve points of response:
1. No consideration of policies
At the beginning of your email, you write, “This email does not concern policy.” The rest of the email concerns what you see as President Trump’s character flaws.
But that means that your email fails to address the entire reason for my support of Trump. In every column that I’ve published in support of Trump, I have explicitly registered my disapproval of his character flaws and previous immoral behavior. I support him because of the policies he has enacted and will enact, and in spite of his character flaws (which I don’t think rise to a level that would disqualify him from being president; more on this below).
This means that, as I read and re-read your eloquent email, I did not find it to be persuasive. It does not even acknowledge, much less argue against, the reasons why I continue to support President Trump.
A few months ago, while the impeachment trial was going on, a younger faculty colleague asked me at lunch, “What would Trump have to do to make you stop supporting him?” My response was something like this: “I would stop supporting him if he began to favor higher taxes, more government regulation, a weaker military, open borders, judges who believed in a “living Constitution,” extended abortion rights, restrictions on freedom of religion, hostility toward Israel…” I didn’t finish the list because he said, “Okay, the question for you is policies. I get it.” But your email did not discuss policies.
2. My last 56 years
My conservative political views are not new. My convictions about the best political policies for a nation began long before I ever heard of Donald Trump. In 1964, as a high school junior, I read the book A Choice, Not an Echo by Phyllis Schlafly (a Harvard Law grad) and I became convinced of conservative political policies (low taxes, smaller government, strong defense). I became president of the Young Republicans club at Memorial High School in Eau Claire Wisconsin, and helped campaign for ...