Donald Trump

Should Integrity Matter More Than Family? What I’ve Learned Being the Anti-Trump Black Sheep

My Conservative Christian family & friends think I’ve lost my way. I’m not the one that changed.

I come from a very traditional family. I don’t know much about my family on my dad’s side; he was adopted. But my mom has a huge family that keeps growing all the time. And we love our traditions. We get together for Christmas for a big family potluck feast. We usually do the same at Easter.

We hug. Someone different is asked to pray over the meal each year (I’ve had my turn). When we finally eat, the kids go first in line; they have zero patience. We sit by an roaring fireplace. We tell stories. We laugh hysterically. (You can’t have a family this big without several people who constantly find themselves in hilarious situations — and happen to be good at telling their stories.)

We occasionally Christmas carols. Sometimes the kids exchange presents, and somebody gets roped into dressing up as Santa Claus. The elder siblings usually tell funny family stories from when they grew up. We cry for those no longer with us, or too sick or frail to join us. When it’s time to go, leftovers are divvied up for those who want them. There’s lots more hugging, and a few last minute stories or bits of news exchanged that make it hard for tired husbands to get their wives out the door.

Our family loves our traditions, and we love each other. Very much.

I’ve always been thankful to be part of a big family. I know so many people who don’t have that, and I’ve never taken it for granted. There’s just something special in the air when we all get together. (I’m going to miss that bitterly this year, thanks to COVID-19.)

So you can imagine the scandalous ripple of shock that was caused when four years ago, my political beliefs began to change. Our entire family sit in firm Republican territory, through and through. If you’re part of this family, it’s assumed you’re a Conservative. No need to ask.

So… What Happened?

Nothing happened to me. It’s the world around me that changed.

My beliefs never faltered. My values and ethics have remained steadfast. I’m still the same Christian I’ve always been. It was the Republican party that took a drastic slide about a million miles to the far right.

My political affiliation changed when Donald Trump became head of the Republican party, and more importantly, the Conservative masses embraced him — no, it was much more than that — they idolized him as if groveling over politicians was “situation normal.”

To put it simply: the Republican party and the Evangelical church jumped the rails.

Christian Conservatives who very recently had been repulsed by this guy’s immaturity, his bullying, his belittling behavior toward fellow Republican candidates like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Carly Fiorina, were suddenly ready to revel in Trump’s greatness, his brilliant business acumen, his humble willingness to condescend from his golden penthouse and fight for the little guy. They loved that he wasn’t a typical politician; he lacked decorum and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. He never held back about what he really thought. He promised to “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington D.C. (A laughable thought now, given the quagmire of corruption he’s been the source of on a daily basis.)

Clearly, he wasn’t a saint. And it took some Conservatives longer to come around to the idea of this guy as their standard bearer. But the more time passed, and the higher his star rose, more and more Conservatives and Christians flocked to him.

Even when his beliefs were laid bare — he’d never prayed the Sinner’s Prayer, to this day believes he’s never done anything wrong and therefore has never seen the need to asked God for forgiveness — it was clear that he was no more a Believer than Richard Dawkins. His behavior during the campaign and the four years that followed only reinforced this.

One scandal after another followed. He paid off a hooker to keep silent about the affair he’d had shortly after the birth of his youngest son. An examination of his business records showed a man who’d regularly exaggerated his personal fortune, the equity of his hotels and businesses, and the overall value of his brand. He was in more than $1 billion of debt. The Access Hollywood tape was the pinnacle of his mound of corruption. To this day, he lies and fabricates his own reality; any accusation against him, he somehow turns around and accuses them of that same thing.

Support from his flock never wavered.

Instead, the argument shifted to some variation of: He’s not perfect, nobody is, and we’re not electing a pastor-in-chief. What matters is that he’ll keep his promises and implement the laws and policies we believe in.

This is where the divide occurred, between me and the majority of people I know.

The Other 98% | Facebook

The Thin, Sad Line

Almost everyone among my family and friends think I’ve taken a big ol’ leap off the deep end. According to them, I’ve turned my back on everything I was raised to believe. My dad must be exhausted, having spent the last four years rolling over in his grave. I’ve turned my back on my Christian beliefs, because only Republicans can be Christians! Someone or something has brainwashed me, and I have transformed into a liberal snowflake!

I know in my heart that none of these things are true. Being a writer, speaking out in written form is my way of trying, with a desperate hope, to open others’ eyes to the truth. And that truth is that Donald Trump has corrupted the party they love to the point that it’s unrecognizable. More importantly and personally to me, he’s corrupted the church. Followers of Christ are sacrificing everything they believe to bet the farm, all in, on the most cheating, self-serving, narcissistic, vengeful president we’ve ever had.

Whenever he’s out of office, I worry that it will be years before the world takes Christianity seriously again, because its faithful have spent years exhaustively standing up for all of the things they stand against.

Know this: I take no pleasure in stirring up trouble. I have no desire to be a provocateur. I’m not here to antagonize or condemn or cause unbearable guilt.

I don’t want to be a black sheep. I know I’m close to becoming one.

Well why else would you write about politics, the church, and Donald Trump? The only result is going to be to rile people up!

I don’t want to write about this stuff. I really don’t. There are countless other things I’d rather be writing about.

And really, a more accomplished writer, an eloquent pastor, or a distinguished theologian or apologist could have done far better with this. Someone with a head for politics who understands the subculture and how it works would have been brilliant.

Yet here I am, convictions in hand, unable to ignore them.

This is Why

I do this because I care. I care about all of you, my fellow Believers. I worry about what you’re giving up to get what you want. And most of all, I’m deeply concerned that you’re blind to it. You either don’t see it, or you do and simply don’t care.

I was raised in a Conservative home. We were extremely patriotic, and proud to be card-carrying Republicans. When I became old enough to vote, I registered Republican. There was no pressure to do it. It was simply what we did.

As time went by and the world changed, I watched both political parties in America begin pushing further apart, becoming more extreme versions of what they’d always been. The divide between them might once have been a crack in dried mud, today it’s the Grand Canyon. I can’t be the only one to see it. This separation had already begun by the time I registered as a voter.

You see, a very long time ago, political parties disagreed with one another and never gave up ground about what they believed — but they still saw each other as fellow Americans who all wanted the same thing: whatever was best for the United States.

No more. Those days are gone.

Today, Republicans and Democrats are bitter enemies in a political civil war. Whichever side you’re on is the one that’s always right, always on the side of the angels. You can guess what that makes the opposition.

Republicans have long claimed sole ownership of Christianity. And as the political divide grew, the Conservative moral high ground grew higher.

Regardless, politics has become a cold war of ideologies. Us vs. Them. We are the good guys. They are the mustache-twirling, black hat-wearing villains.

There’s no such thing as compromise. Congress barely even recognizes the word anymore. And everyday citizens in both parties scoff at the notion. Why on earth would We try to compromise with Them? They can’t be trusted! They want to wipe us out and undermine everything we believe in!

Strangely, from what I hear, God doesn’t care about our party affiliation.

To What End?

Thus, we reach the inevitable elephant in the room. Political differences here and now are looking more and more like opposing nations at war. We are good, They are bad, and They must be destroyed. At all costs.

To that end, We will scour Their records, look for any past misbehavior, be it truth or lie, and wrap ourselves in a warm blanket of rumors and conspiracy theories that back up what We know to be true: They are evil incarnate.

When does this stop? When both sides reach the most extreme versions of their ideologies — and don’t kid yourself, they will — what happens next? Where does it end? What will any of this accomplish?

A coup d’état against whoever sits in the Oval Office? Anarchy and violence on the streets? Open civil war?

Valentin Salja | Unsplash

Keep this up, and eventually we’ll be nothing but tribes. Loyalists that oppose each other for reasons not one among us can remember.

This sounds insane. Pure nonsense.

Right?

The Heart of the Matter

I’m deeply, deeply concerned about the church’s role in all this. History will unfold as it will, but our place in it is still something God has given us the freedom to choose. Continue blindly supporting a reprobate leader, and that makes you — and the church where you worship — complicit in Donald Trump’s many, many crimes. And history will not forget.

But, but… we don’t vote for a person. We vote for policies. We vote for someone who will do what we believe is right. We vote for the safety and sanctity of our children and their children.

Allow me, if I may, to invoke one of my favorite writers, Philip Yancey:

“I am staggered that so many conservative or Evangelical Christians would see a man who is a bully, who made his money by casinos, who has had several wives and several affairs… That they would somehow paint him as a hero, as someone that we could stand behind.”

You see, the heart of the matter is not if you vote for Donald Trump. I believe you’re making an egregious error if you do, but that’s not the issue.

The breaking point comes from celebrating him. Cheering him. Blinding yourself to a demagogue’s blatant abuse of his office. Or always finding ways to excuse his bullying, his mob boss you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours way of governing (and, inversely, how he seeks instant, jugular revenge on anyone who doesn’t tow his line). His inability to reign in his tongue. His cruelty. His lack of anything resembling a moral compass.

The fact that, to be blunt, he can do absolutely anything that’s as vulgar and depraved as you can imagine, and Republicans, including Conservative Christians, will find a way to justify it.

Christians don’t just support him, they love him. They adore his every action. They buy into the tainted narratives and flat-out lies manufactured by Fox, OAN, and the rest of the far-right news media. Those “journalists” are experts at making Mr. Trump look spotless, a persecuted angel sent from Heaven. A victim of the wicked “fake news” (aka “real”) media, who never, ever report on the good things that he does.

(Pretty sure they can’t find any.)

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I write about this stuff because I care about our witness. I care that “patriotic” has become the same as “scriptural.”

I care that I can no longer tell where Christianity ends and America begins.

In the words of author Patrick Kahnke, “Conservative Christians must realize that we lost the only battle that matters, the battle for the integrity of our message, when we made Donald Trump our standard bearer.” [Emphasis mine.]

In Closing

I don’t enjoy writing about Donald Trump.

I don’t like being seen as the bad guy. The antagonist that just can’t keep his mouth shut. That guy who won’t stop complaining about my President. The dude who can’t get past an imperfect leader in order to ensure what really matters: that the American government operates on Christian ideals.

Every one of those accusations stings — and I’ve heard them all. I have issues with them, but at the end of the day, they’re all insults. Wildly misguided insults, but insults none the same.

If I’m willing to subject myself to this treatment by people I love with all my heart and have the deepest for respect, if I’m willing to let myself be seen as the black sheep, the hostile wackjob who’s gone off the reservation… Doesn’t that tell you something about how strong my convictions are about this? Despite all the judgment and criticism…

Why do I persist in writing about this, even knowing I’ll probably never change anyone’s mind?

I write because I’m confused.

I write because I’m grieved.

I write because the Evangelical church I was raised in is something I no longer recognize.

I write what I know to be true.

I write because the beliefs we have stood for, for 2,000 years, have been thrown away shamefully easily and quickly. And for what? In the words of Beth Moore, it’s all been “for a seat at the table with the powerful.”

We’ve forgotten the Great I AM — He who is truly powerful. We’ve expended too much energy trying to shoehorn our earthly government into something divine. Or as John Piper put it:

“Followers of Christ are not Americans first. Our first allegiance is to Jesus, and then to the God-inspired word of Scripture, the Bible. This is our charter, not the U.S. Constitution.”

Christians love to say that we are “in but not of” this world. But we’ve denigrated ourselves to heap unprecedented levels of undying support onto Donald Trump. Why? To make our country more closely resemble God’s great country that is yet to come… We’ve unbalanced the “in, not of” equation.

Hebrews 13:14 tells us, “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”

John 15:19a says, “The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world.”

John 17:16: “They {my followers} do not belong to this world any more than I do.”

When God called us to “make disciples of all nations” in Matthew 28, he wasn’t referring to governments. This is why I write about politics, despite the personal cost.

And why I won’t stop.

*All scripture references are taken from the New Living Translation.

Hi. I’m Robin Parrish, and I’m the one to blame for the unconventional collection of words you just read. Read more of my hair-brained stuff right here.

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I’m also a novelist.

Unlikely warrior fighting invisible illnesses and visible human stupidity. Storyteller by trade, ninja by imagination. Sports above-average beard.

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