All leaders need integrity | Rich Elfers

Get ready – I am going to mix religion and politics in this column.

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  • Friday, October 21, 2016 2:52pm
  • Opinion

Get ready – I am going to mix religion and politics in this column.

My argument is with religious leaders Jerry Falwell Jr., Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson and vice-presidential candidate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, all evangelical Christians continuing to stand by their man – Donald Trump – for president.

These men support Trump even after the release of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” video of Trump discussing how being famous gives him a free pass to grope women.

Falwell Jr., president of Christian Liberty University, suggested that establishment Republicans who oppose Trump’s candidacy, possibly including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, were behind the release of the video. Falwell’s comments were, “We’re all sinners.” Trump’s words were merely “dumb comments on a videotape 11 years ago.”

Reed, formerly connected with the Christian Coalition, noted that the video “ranks pretty low on (their) hierarchy of their concerns.”

Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, dismissed Trump’s lewd comments as only someone “who was trying to look macho.”

Trump’s running mate, Pence, a conservative evangelical, argued that Trump had apologized and as he told his listeners at Liberty University, “it’s time to extend the Christian virtue of forgiveness.”

As a follower of Christ myself, I find these comments from my brothers-in-Christ to be downright embarrassing. They are shameful. They emphasize the view that the ends justify the means. Those are not Christian values.

Scripture tells us, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Trump’s words reflect what is in his heart. What I see in his heart are overweening pride and vanity. Over and over again he has demeaned and defamed women, minorities, Islam and even former POWs like Sen. John McCain, and now the Republicans who have supported him despite their misgivings.

Trump’s words do not reflect Christ’s litmus test for one of his followers: “You will know that you are my disciples by your love for one another.”

I agree with Falwell that Trump’s comments were dumb and with Robertson that the comments were only because he was trying to look macho. They are absolutely right. Trump’s comments were thoughtless and reveal someone who is trying to boost his ego by boasting about his sexual prowess. The difficulty I see is the lack of perspective of these Christian leaders. We are talking about a man who is trying to become the president of the United States, the most powerful political position in the world.

Falwell’s comment that we are all sinners is true, but that does not excuse the attitude behind the words. I see no repentance from Trump, only regret that he was caught and an attempt to deflect attention from his peccadilloes to those of Bill Clinton’s adultery while he was president and even to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and his Chappaquiddick scandal.

Pence’s comment that we should forgive Trump because he had apologized ignores a very important contradiction. Hillary Clinton had also apologized for emails and the unsecured server. Is there no forgiveness of her sins and mistakes? Or does forgiveness just extend to Trump?

Under pressure, what matters most in any leader, especially the president of the United States, is integrity – to say and do the right thing at the right time. It means controlling your tongue. Integrity is not something anyone can manufacture. It comes only through facing temptations and trials and doing the right thing, no matter the cost, over and over again.

Integrity is painfully developed and requires a great deal of self-understanding, humility and awareness. Reed’s comments about the tape being pretty low on his hierarchy of concerns reflects a strange value system for someone who claims to be a follower of Christ.

What I see from these religious leaders is a very high level of rationalization, denial and a refusal to face reality.

I feel a deep level of embarrassment for these men because they reflect badly upon the faith that I hold. Their defense of Trump justifies evil and puts Christianity in a bad light in the eyes of the world.

Mixing religion and politics is a dangerous undertaking. My hope for you, dear readers, is not to judge Christianity by the terrible examples portrayed by these four religious leaders. As my atheist friend has frequently expressed, “I like Christ, it’s the actions of his followers that I don’t like.” To that I can only sadly say, “Amen.”

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