Peter Wehner is a rare Republican willing to call discredited president Donald Trump what he is: A deeply corrupt, unethical, unscrupulous and morally dissolute con man who is destroying the American way of life.
“We are facing an existential moral crisis,” says Whelen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who served three previous GOP presidents.
Wehner says Christians who express public support of Trump privately “admit he is deeply corrupt, but the justification for their support of him goes something like this: Mr. Trump may be unethical, unscrupulous and morally dissolute, but he is by far the issue of two evils.
“After all, they insist, Mr. Trump may be personally immoral, but he is also a viciously effective street fighter for their cause. He is also the only person preventing a takeover of America by the Democratic Party and progressives — and that, they insist, would produce a moral calamity nearly unmatched in American history.”
This apocalyptic moral mindset has led to an alliance with a shockingly unethical figure, who embodies a mobster’s mentality and an anti-Christian ethic. Mr. Trump, a skilled demagogue, has taken full advantage of this. There appears to be almost nothing he can say or do to break the bond that has developed and virtually nothing that many of his Christian supporters will not excuse.
“There has never been anyone who has defended us and fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump,” declares right-wing evangelical leader Ralph Reed. “No one!”
Wehner says Christian conservatives are suffering an unneeded “moral panic.”
“Many Christians have become invested in a dark narrative,” he says, quoting a friend who says “they seem to have some kind psychological craving for apocalyptic fear.”
“To hell with liberal order,” says New York Post Op-Ed editor Sohrab Ahmari, a convert to Catholicism. “Sometimes reactionary politics are the only salutary path.”
The view that Mr. Trump is all that stands between America and a moral cataclysm was encapsulated by Eric Metaxas, an influential evangelical author and radio talk-show host, who said in 2016, “The only time we faced an existential struggle like this was in the Civil War and in the Revolution when the nation began.” He added, “We are on the verge of losing it as we could have lost it in the Civil War.”
This wasn’t just election-year rhetoric. Last year, Mr. Metaxas told the journalist Jon Ward that while he did not mean to compare Hillary Clinton to Adolf Hitler, “Christians who think the Church in America might have survived a Hillary Clinton presidency are something like the devout Christian Germans who seriously and prayerfully thought it un-Christian to be involved in opposing Hitler because to do so would have dirtied their hands with politics.”
For many evangelical and Catholic Christians, these developments pose serious challenges to certain of their core beliefs. Yet these challenges hardly qualify as existential threats. Every society has problems and failures, areas of brokenness, even areas of ruin. Some things are almost always getting better while some things are almost always getting worse. A nation can have low out-of-wedlock birthrates and no drag queens while also allowing for slavery and segregation and exploiting young children by having them work in horrible conditions.
To my fellow Christians, then, a friendly reminder from a conservative who shares many of your concerns: We are not living in Nero’s Rome. In world history, there are very few nations that have been as accommodating to Christianity as the United States is today; and America is hardly on the edge of a moral abyss.
Jesus didn’t view the world primarily as a battle zone. Neither should we.
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