The 2020 election results should have all faithful American Christians, Catholic and otherwise, asking themselves tough questions about politics. Christians may reasonably disagree, of course, about a multitude of issues, but some issues, such as abortion and marriage, are not up for debate.
And now, as the drama of the election gives way to likely legislative gridlock this is a time for self-examination.
Let us begin with hard questions for supporters of the incoming president. Joe Biden is nominally Catholic, but he has promised to persecute nuns, fund abortion on demand and enforce anti-Christian ideas on marriage, family and sexuality. In this agenda, he follows many other Catholic Democrats who have exchanged the doctrines of their Church for the dogmas of their political party, a party that now has little tolerance left for those for adhere to Christian tradition and church teaching on these issues. Thus, Biden supporters who claim to be faithful believers face the question: what are you going to do about it? What will you do to call the President you voted for back into alignment with Christian teaching? What will you do to challenge your political party’s positions on abortion, religious liberty and human sexuality?
It would be better for the nation if the defense of religious liberty, the right to life and the family were not partisan issues. Unfortunately, as a party the Democrats are committed to the opposite, and the voters and officials who dissent from the party line seem unwilling or unable to change this. Democrats who remain faithful to Christian teaching on marriage, family and the sanctity of life have a hard task before them in reforming their party, or the hard decision to leave it behind.
There are also hard questions awaiting Republicans, including those who, repulsed by Trump, did not cast their usual votes for the Republican candidate standing against abortion and for religious liberty. For this Never Trump remnant, the challenge is not to make a case against Trump, but to make a positive case for themselves and their ideas. Are they willing to rethink things in order to address the concerns of voters? Will they use their positions to fearlessly proclaim Christian truths—for instance, that our abortion regime is evil—or are they too afraid of offending the sensitivities of their liberal colleagues whose favor they wish to win?
Those who came to support President Trump for policy reasons, despite recognizing his many character flaws, also face difficult questions. If we meant it when we said that he was the lesser evil, will we now encourage him to ride off into the sunset and onto a golf course? Can we thank him for his service and then move on—so long, and thanks for all the judges!—or are we stuck with monsters we helped create? In particular, do we now lack the courage or the ability to rein in the conspiracy-mongering the President has indulged in and encouraged?
This is not to deny that there have been positives from Trump’s presidency. The GOP remained friendlier to Church teachings on life, marriage and family than the Democrats. There have also been glimpses of a GOP evolution into a multiracial party of working families, a trend accelerated by Democrats becoming dominated by the well-off. But Trump has still been a poor leader. Though he accelerated the break-up of the calcified consensus of Zombie Reaganism, his personal flaws, all exacerbated by his lack of self-control, made him an unpopular and ineffective president. Thus, though there is no way forward for Republicans that does not include Trump’s supporters, there is likely no way forward that is led by Trump.
Free from the exigencies of supporting an incumbent, Christians in the GOP ought to look for a leader with better character. The President’s conspiracy-mongering after losing to Joe Biden is a case study in why character, though not all that matters, is important. Instead of shoring up his legacy on the way out, Trump is leading his followers into the fever swamps while floating the idea of running again in 2024.
Conservative Christian must recognize that the causes we care about will not be served by the GOP spending the next four years salving the wounded ego of the soon-to-be former-President Trump and his most loyal supporters. Thus, those of us who supported Trump must be willing to move past him, while those who opposed Trump must be willing to make their peace with his supporters. Unfortunately, too many of the former are still clinging to Trump even though it is no longer a choice between him and Democrat, while too many of the latter seem more interested in the approval of those they went to Harvard with than with winning elections by appealing to the working class.
But to succeed, the GOP need political leaders who will temper the excesses of Trump and Trumpism while retaining the voters he brought into the Republican coalition. We need thinkers who will develop policies and compromises that established Republican voters and Trump voters can agree on—and which also bring in Democrats who despair over their party’s positions on abortion, marriage and religious liberty. That this task is easier said than done does not mean that it is not what needs to be done.
Articulating and advancing a Christian political agenda is hard. It is easier to blast your enemies, be they Trump, Biden, the legacy media or the party establishments, than it is to provide better options. But defensive voting may deteriorate into a spiral of increasingly-evil lesser evils. Holding the line politically must be accompanied by efforts to bring our political leaders and parties into alignment with Christian truths, and to build culturally and spiritually.
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