Op-ed: A message for my evangelical friends

  • By Cal Thomas
  • Tuesday, January 30, 2018 11:04am
  • Opinion

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)

That verse, written by Paul the Apostle, is one of the most difficult for modern evangelicals to fully accept. It was written at a time when the Roman authorities were bad dudes. They actively discriminated against the early Christians, murdering some, imprisoning others, including Paul, who was among their most ardent persecutors before his conversion.

Modern Christians sometimes suffer from the notion that God is only active when someone they voted for wins an election and that He must have gone on holiday when the candidate they didn’t vote for prevails.

My personal history with this attitude goes back to the days of Jimmy Carter, who openly proclaimed himself to be “born again,” a phrase taken from the mouth of Jesus which caused many Republican evangelicals to vote for him in 1976 (but not in 1980 when he ran against Ronald Reagan, a divorced man who rarely attended church, but whose policies, like President Trump’s, were lauded by evangelicals).

I attended church with Carter. He was an excellent Bible teacher and still is from what I hear. The problem for evangelicals occurred when it came to policy. Despite his fealty to Scripture, Carter enforced the “Roe v. Wade” Supreme Court ruling and was OK with same-sex marriage. He said Jesus never spoke against homosexuality, as if the rest of Scripture says nothing about it, or any other “social issue.”

Some evangelical friends of mine are dumping on President Trump because of his personal history. Too many others are vigorously defending, even inexplicably excusing, his bad behavior.

Many conservative critics of the president prefer the image of a loving family exhibited by former President Barack Obama. And yet Obama’s policies were antithetical to what many evangelicals believe. So are Hillary Clinton’s, not to mention the “family values” portrait she and husband Bill have shown to the world. Some evangelicals have actually suggested they would have preferred Hillary as president, though Donald Trump is presiding over a roaring economy, naming solid constitutional conservatives to high courts, defeating ISIS, trying to control illegal immigration and putting America and Americans first, all issues with which they agree.

I like to ask Trump’s evangelical critics if they ever pray for him, as Paul also instructed believers to do: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good, and pleases God our Savior (1 Timothy 2:1-3, New Living Translation).

The question could also be asked another way and I have asked it of evangelical friends: “How many of you prayed for President Obama when he was in office?” Not many I have learned, except perhaps in a perfunctory way while we “bless all the missionaries of the world and all those in authority.”

It is a familiar analogy, but one that should be stressed again. If I am about to have surgery, I care less about a person’s religion, sexual orientation or lifestyle than I do about how many of the surgeon’s patients were healed of their afflictions.

It might make some evangelicals feel better to have a president who is one of them while also displaying conservative values, but if one has to choose, I’ll take the issues and listen to my pastor, who speaks of a kingdom not of this world, which is far better than a corrupt kingdom that is passing away.

Thus ends today’s “sermon.” We can now take up the collection.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

More in Opinion

Heidi Drygas, executive director of the 8,000-member Alaska State Employees Association, addresses a rally outside the Alaska State Capitol on Feb. 10, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Let’s stop the ‘Neglect. Panic. Repeat.’ cycle of public service delivery

The payroll section is one of several state agencies in crisis

This photo shows Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jim Cockrell. (Courtesy photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)
Strengthening Alaska through service: Join the Alaska State Troopers

The law enforcement positions within the Department of Public Safety fill a critical need within our community

A tabletop voting booth is seen next to a ballot box at the Kenai city clerk’s office on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, in Kenai, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: Last call to voice your vote!

We will see you at the polls Oct. 3

LaDawn Druce asks Sen. Jesse Bjorkman a question during a town hall event on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Addressing Kenai Peninsula’s education and public safety employee shortage

Many of our best and brightest educators take a hard and close look at the teacher’s retirement system in Alaska early in their careers and are stunned

Deven Mitchell, executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Providing for generations of Alaskans

As a public endowment, the wealth of the Fund is the responsibility of every resident of the state

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney greet each other outside the chamber at the U.S. Capitol on April 5, 2022. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP file photo)
Opinion: Alaska’s senators and Mitt Romney

When newly elected Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, began his term five years… Continue reading

UAA Provost Denise Runge photographed outside the Administration and Humanities Building.
Opinion: UAA offers affordable and convenient pathways that prepare students for the next step

At UAA, we provide numerous academic programs designed to meet specific workforce needs

A line of voters runs out the door of the Diamond Ridge Voting Precinct at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. Chamber Executive Director Brad Anderson said he had never seen the amount of people coming through the polling place. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
How many ways can you vote?

Multiple ballot options available to voters

scales of justice (File photo)
Opinion: The Dubious Dunleavy Deal to use public dollars for personal legal costs

In 2019, these regulation changes were ultimately abandoned without public notice

A 2022 voter information pamphlet rests on a desk in the Peninsula Clarion offices on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Where to find voter pamphlets

Be educated about what you are voting on

Trustees and staff discuss management and investment of the Alaska Permanent Fund. (Courtesy Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation)
Providing Alaska-based opportunities for professional talent

Expanding our in-state presence by opening a satellite office in Anchorage has been part of the fund’s strategic plan for the past four years