For eight long years, we’ve sat back and watched the media establishment defend Barack Obama’s Christian faith as though each and every reporter had first-hand knowledge of the president’s innermost religious values. If anyone dared to challenge Obama’s faith – if anyone dared to suggest that his Muslim father may have had some influence on his religious beliefs – they would swat these challenges away like flies. They wouldn’t even bother couching it in phrases like, “There’s no evidence to suggest…” They would just come right out and say, “President Obama is a Christian, case closed.”
But strangely enough, they don’t seem willing to give Donald Trump the same benefit of the doubt.
When Obama calls himself a Christian, the media treats it as the only proof needed. When Trump does the same, they spend the next ten inches of newspaper space discussing his infidelities, his divorces, and his statements on the campaign trail that demonstrate a somewhat-limited grasp of basic Christian concepts. To be sure, there is plenty of material there to discuss; it’s just funny how these same writers ignored all of the evidence that suggested that Obama was not exactly the man he claimed to be.
This weekend, in an article about whether or not Trump is a born again Christian, the New York Times wrote:
It is a possibility certain to cause chortles in some corners…
Find a NY Times article about Obama’s faith that contains a line like that. You can search the archives for the next fifty years, and you’ll come up empty.
It’s not that they’re wrong; plenty of Christians are skeptical about Trump’s devotion to God. And even by his own admission, Trump has not lived a life with Christ at the center.
But people change, and the power of Christ’s mercy is unfathomable. Last week, Dr. James Dobson vouched for Trump’s change, telling an interviewer that the billionaire had recently come “to accept a relationship with Christ.”
Now it’s time for the media to give Trump the same benefit of the doubt they extended to Obama over the last eight years.
And at the same time, evangelicals should stop trying to hold the Republican nominee to an impossible standard. He’s not running for America’s Chief Theologian. He’s not running against Franklin Graham. If he’s shaky on the specifics of Christianity, well, that’s natural for anyone who is new to the flock. And if he’s just using Christianity as a political tool, evangelicals have every right to use him in return. He’s promised to stand up for religious liberty, and that is an issue of paramount importance in these troubled times.
As with anyone, we can never truly know what lies in Donald Trump’s heart. We can only trust that he will act as president in accordance with what he’s said on the campaign trail. If he can do that – if he can even come within a thousand miles of that – he will be much better for Christianity and conservatism than Hillary Clinton.