Michael G. Coleman
Are believers at liberty to support any political leader regardless of ethical conduct? Part 1
Updated: Dec 22, 2019
Recently, I commented on a post I had read on Facebook concerning how some black slaves were thrown into boiling sugarcane juice as punishment by their white slave masters in the Caribbean during the centuries of slavery on sugar plantations. My comments were as follows: “Sobering! The love of money is indeed the root of all evils. Greed gave birth to white superiority and racism! President Trump epitomizes the confluence of these dynamics today! May God grant us wisdom, courage, and tenacity to confront the present-day manifestations and consequences of these evils.” In reply to my comments, a brother in Christ and fellow Seventh-day Adventist posted the following: “The misalignment of Trump in this way is totally irresponsible and unfounded. Trump 20-20!!!”
With a desire to provide more evidence for my comments and, more importantly, to elevate the conversation beyond the level of the personal to a broad discussion on the interface of faith, greed, ethics, politics, and racism, I have chosen to reply with this present blog.
It seems to me that the most significant and pivotal questions in this discussion are the following: Are people of faith at liberty to support any political candidate or leader they choose regardless of that person’s ethical conduct? Will God be honored when His people actively support political leaders or governments that are blatantly unethical, greedy, racist, and obscene? To what extent should people of faith rely on political means to bring about change in society?
The first two questions are not very difficult? The answer to both of them is an unequivocal no! However, the answer to the last question requires a degree of nuance, for which my explanation of the first two questions will prepare the way. While I address the first two questions in this present post, the last question will be answered in another blog post, “Part 2” of this title. All Bible passages quoted in both blog posts under this title is taken from the New King James Version (NKJV).
The Bible shows that our loving God has given humanity both freedom and restrictions. To Adam and Eve, God said: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat” (Genesis 2:16). That’s freedom! However, the Lord also said, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (Genesis 2:17). That’s restriction! Likewise, there is plenty of freedom with respect to supporting the political candidate or government of our choice when these entities or not engaged in activities that are ethically reprehensible and destructive to human dignity.
The New Testament encourages us to submit to the government (especially in its role of maintaining justice and peace) and pay taxes (Mark 12:17; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-16). However, the Scriptures show us that God is against leaders and policies that oppress the poor and the stranger and that God expect us to actively defend those who are powerless to defend themselves due to economic and political barriers. For example, in reference to ancient Jerusalem, God said in Ezekiel 22:29 “The people of the land have used oppression, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger.” In this appalling climate of oppression and injustice among God’s ancient people in Jerusalem, God sought for someone who would defend the victims of such cruel and unethical practices but He was disappointed by the lack of courage and conscience among His people: “So I sought for a man who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30). Consequently, God brought punishment on the active perpetrators of the injustices and, by implication, the passive citizens in Jerusalem who neglected to defend the oppressed: “Therefore I have poured out my indignation; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,’ says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 22:31).
Psalm 82:2-4 states, “How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked.” Again, God expects His people to actively deliver and defend the poor and needy. Therefore, when people of faith support political leaders who are engaged in the oppression of the less-fortunate they are showing partiality to the “wicked” and are thus in conflict with the principles of God’s kingdom. In fact, Jesus’s own words—"Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17)—indicate that we should submit to the government as much as possible but conscientiously render to God what He requires whenever the government’s actions and policies come in conflict with God’s law.
Within the past 90 years the world has seen some powerful examples of civil disobedience from leaders who confronted oppressive and inhumane government policies. Mahatma Gandhi, Detrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and countless other lesser-known leaders have provided exemplary lessons of civil disobedience in the face of economic and racial oppression.
Many people of faith act wisely in not endorsing political candidates or a particular political party, though they actively exercise their right to vote. However, there are also many people of faith who vote for political candidates and support political platforms that clearly oppress the poor and the stranger. Such political support is not in keeping with biblical principles. We will certainly have to answer to God in the Judgment if we have neglected to exercise our right to vote in ways that defend the poor and the stranger. Furthermore, we will also be held accountable by God if our efforts to defend the oppressed and less-fortunate is solely motived by a desire to get them to support our ideological/political agenda. Relieving the oppressed, defending the poor and the stranger, and upholding fundamental human dignity should come with no strings attached. Whether we are conservative, progressive, or moderate the Lord requires of us “to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
In 1Timothy 6:10, the Bible highlights the power of greed with the following words: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” It is the love of money that gave rise to the largescale transatlantic enslavement of Africans from the 17th to the 19th century in Europe, the Americas, and the Caribbean. Moreover, after slavery was officially abolished in these areas of the world, the entrenched culture of cupidity and racial superiority engendered “all kinds of evil.” Jim Crow discrimination/oppression, apartheid, disenfranchisement, voter suppression, lynching, taxing the poor to support the lifestyle of the rich, the subversion of democracy in developing nations, fascism, and genocide are some of the conspicuously evil off-springs that have been spawned by the culture of greed and racial superiority in the decades following the end of the transatlantic slavery.
It is clear to me that President Trump has been shaped by the abovementioned culture of cupidity and racial superiority. His unethical words and actions seem to shout his iniquities in our faces as he dares the other co-equal branches of government to hold him accountable. Let us therefore review a list of some of President Donald Trump’s blatantly unethical actions from information that is already in the public domain. This list is by no means comprehensive for neither time nor space allows me to provide such an inventory. I attempt to categorize these unethical behaviors below; however, I do this with some reservations because I take no pleasure in drawing attention to anyone’s sins and weaknesses, nor do I desire to be a target of those with malicious intentions. Nevertheless, due to the fact that Trump has brazenly showcased these unethical behaviors with a dismissive and frequently unrepentant attitude, I feel propelled, for the greater good, to itemize the evidence for the charges I have made in the court of public opinion concerning President Trump.
Disgracefully Insensitive Conduct and Racially Disparaging Remarks
Trump winked at the behavior of white supremacists in the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August of 2018. The participants in the rally included members of the alt-right, neo-fascists, neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, white nationalists, Klansmen, Blue Lives Matter, and a variety of right-wing militias. Members of these groups chanted racists remarks, waved various racists and anti-Semitic symbols, and even marched with semi-automatic rifles. Counter protesters were also present in the area to contest the radical ideology of the white supremacists. After some hostile and violent clashes between protesters and counter protesters, the governor of Virginia and the State Police declared that public safety was jeopardized and therefore the rally must end. The rally had ended on the morning of August 12 but around 1:45 pm that afternoon, a white supremacist man, James Alex Fields Jr., brutally drove his car into a group of counter protesters (who were away from the site of the rally) with such force that it knocked people up into the air, killed Heather Heyer, and injured 19 others. Among the things President Trump said in one of his rationalizing responses to this tragic scenario was that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
At the commencement of his campaign for the presidency in June 2015, Trump made disparaging statements about Mexican immigrants that were contrary to actual immigration statistics. He declared that Mexico was sending the worst kinds of immigrant into the United States. According to Trump, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume are good people.” He also promised to build a wall to block Mexican illegal immigrants and to have Mexico pay for it. In fact, there is no evidence that immigrants commit more crimes than native US citizens. The crime rate among first-generation immigrants tend be lower than those among native-born Americans. Furthermore, since the 1990s, crime has decreased in the USA while immigration has increased. However, Trump made those disparaging statements knowing full-well that this kind of demagoguery would fire-up the extreme elements in his electoral base, especially white supremacists.
At an evening rally in Huntsville, Alabama on September 22, 2017, President Trump brazenly used profanities to refer to mainly black football players who knelt down during the national anthem to protest racial injustice against African Americans. The content of his vulgar racial language is now common knowledge. He also sought to pressure the NFL owners to force protesting athletes to stand for the national anthem at football games. In addition, his public statements and his threat of “nasty tweets” placed pressure on these owners to bar the re-employment of former San Francisco Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, the black pioneer of the protests.
Trump also made disparaging prejudicial statements concerning the following four Muslim American congresswomen: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar. He said that they should go back to where they are from. Moreover, he initially leaned on his friend, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to not provide safe passage for two of the Muslim American congresswomen who were planning to travel to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. The Israeli government later rescinded their initial travel ban.
During his campaign for the US presidency, Trump publicly and disgracefully made fun of a physically disabled man. He has also publicly ridiculed women concerning physical appearance and biological attributes.
Economic Policies that Favor the Rich and Oppress the Poor
Under the Trump administration, immigrant children have been regularly separated from their parents and housed in abysmally substandard detention facilities. Yet, ironically or hypocritically, Trump has benefited from the use of cheap immigrant labor—some of these immigrants were “illegal”—in some of his numerous hotels and facilities.
With heavy support from his Republican allies in congress, President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on December 22, 2017. What has been the practical impact of this tax law? On one hand, working class families have painfully felt the dramatic economic reduction in income as their personal exemptions have been eliminated. On the other hand, wealthy investors have gleefully enjoyed the benefits of a major drop in the corporate tax rate. College students and many working adults are struggling under the burden of large student loan debt yet they have received no relief; however, the millionaires and billionaires—some of whom have publicly stated that they are not paying their fair share of taxes and that they believe it is proper for them to pay more—have been given a huge tax break.
The Trump administration and most of the Republicans in congress have attempted to gut Obamacare with little regard for the millions of Americans who depend on the benefits that this healthcare insurance act has provided. Yet neither Trump nor his Republican collaborators in congress have offered a reasonable healthcare insurance plan that can meet the needs of millions of Americans.
Obscenities and Sexual Predatory Practices Toward Women
A 2005 Access Hollywood video tape, made public on October 7, 2016, showed Trump bragging to Billy Bush about groping women in their private parts, seducing married women, and claiming that when you are rich and famous you can get away with this kind of conduct. Trump’s behavior was not merely locker-room talk; it was verily the behavior of a sexual predator.
Trump’s financial disclosure documents show that he paid Michael Cohen, his former fixer, $100,000 in 2017 as reimbursement. Michael Cohen acknowledged under oath before congress (and also before the Southern District of New York) that this reimbursement was for the $130,000 that he paid to porn star Stormy Daniels as hush money to keep her from talking about Trump’s sexual transactions with her. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, also acknowledged that these funds were paid for such purposes by Trump and Cohen.
More than twenty women have officially accused Trump of sexual misconduct and obscenities. However, Trump seems to be using his position as president to shield himself from criminal charges.
Attempts to Intimidate and Muzzle the Press
I will never forget watching President Trump’s first press conference on January 11, 2017. Notwithstanding Trump’s comical improprieties, there had to be a chilling feeling of intimidation in the room as the president overbearingly berated the press, verbally attacked CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, and told an Orthodox Jewish reporter that he asked “a very insulting question” and “sit down!” when the reporter asked him about the surge of anti-Semitic incidents in the USA since Trump became president. I could almost feel the unfamiliar tension and fear in the room, emanating from reporters who were not accustomed to being bullied and controlled by their president.
Trump continues to attack the press with outbursts of “fake news” and “stupid question” when the report or question is not in his favor and “great reporting” when the story favors him. He has publicly targeted news outlets that criticize him by stating on different occasions that these agencies need to be investigated, controlled, and stopped.
Even recently, at a press conference on October 2, 2019, Trump tried to bully a Reuters correspondent, Jeff Mason, when the reporter asked him some direct questions concerning what he wanted the president of Ukraine to do in the phone call in which Trump pressured President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden’s son. Annoyed with Mason, Trump told him to not ask Trump any more questions; Trump also commanded him to ask the president of Finland a question. In addition, President Trump made disparaging remarks concerning Mason.
A Pathological Liar
According to the Fact Checker’s database and the Washington Post, as of August 5, 2019, President Trump has made 12,019 false or misleading statements. For example, Trump has said 186 times that the current US economy is the best in history. He also said 190 times that he has built the promised border wall between the US and Mexico.
In early 2018, Trump lied to reporters on Air Force One that he had not known about Michael Cohen’s payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels. However, as indicated above, Trump was fully aware of this transaction.
When confronted with public disapproval at his disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants, Trump said in an interview on Fox News on July 5, 2015, “I’m not a racist. I don’t have a racist bone in my body.” Based on his clear racially prejudicial action cited above, Trump is a liar and is also blind to his weaknesses.
At a speech at the United Nation in 2018, Trump declared that his administration has done more than any other administration in the history of the United States, at which point he was spontaneously confronted with a roar of sarcastic/satirical laughter because his statement was absurdly untrue! Concerning this incident, Trump later stated “they were laughing with me.” Trump continues to repeat falsehoods about his achievement on a regular basis. Most recently, on October 2, 2019 he again said that his administration has done more than any other administration in the history of the United States.
Trump has been falsely accusing Schiff of numerous crimes of which Trump has no factual evidence almost every day since Adam Schiff began his congressional inquiry concerning the whistleblower’s complaint. Most recently, he accused Schiff of shaping the whistleblower’s complaint.
At a news conference on October 2, 2019, Trump stated “there are those who think that I am a very stable genius.” Though Trump has called himself a genius on more than one occasion even little children can see that he is not a genius.
Abuse of Power
Evidence from a whistleblower’s complaint and an official partial transcript from the White House concerning the phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine, released on September 25, 2019, reveal the following: with $250 to 400 million dollars of aide to Ukraine at stake, Trump asked the Ukrainian President for a “favor” to investigate the son of Trump’s political rival, former vise-president of the USA, Joe Biden. Trump also told the President of Ukraine that his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and the Attorney General, William Barr, will personally work with the Ukrainian government to handle the negotiations surrounding this “favor.” Trump acknowledged that he temporarily froze aide to Ukraine just days before the phone call with the Ukrainian president. In the partial transcript of the phone call, the Ukrainian president makes ingratiating remarks to Trump, evidently with the hopes of receiving USA aide. Right after a discussion concerning aide to buy defense missiles for Ukraine—a country vulnerable to the aggression of Russia—Trump mentions that he needs this “favor.” Furthermore, it has been revealed that Trump’s lawyers improperly placed the transcript of his phone call with Zelensky on a special secret server (designed for classified materials such as sensitive military intelligence) in order to cover up the contents of their conversation. Trump’s actions have precipitated an official impeachment inquiry in congress. On October 6, 2019, ABC News reported that a second whistleblower with firsthand knowledge of the Ukraine Affair has come forward after speaking with the inspector general. This second whistleblower is being represented by Mark Zaid, the same attorney who is representing the first whistleblower.
Trump has publicly made threatening statements concerning the first whistleblower. On Thursday, September 26, 2019, Trump said that the whistleblower might have obtained his information from a spy and that we should treat the spy (and by implication, the whistleblower) the way we used to deal with traitors. He continues to make threats and demands about revealing the identity of the whistleblower even to the present. Trump’s threatening statements are not only designed to intimidate whistleblowers but also any government official who choose to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.
Troubled by the fact that congressman Adam Schiff has begun to hold hearings on Trump’s alleged violation of the law in the Ukrainian Affair, Trump said on Twitter on September 30, 2019, that Schiff should be investigated for fraud and “treason.” In another tweet on the same day, Trump cited the comments of one of his supporters who happens to be a pastor; the pastor stated that the nation would break into a “civil war” should Trump be impeached. With this false threat of a civil war Trump seeks to frighten congress into halting the impeachment inquiry.
Trump and William Barr sought to get the prime minister of Australia as well as leaders of other nations to collaborate with them in doing an investigation designed to undermine Special Prosecutor Robert Muller’s report.
Trump has a track record of attempting to intimidate witnesses as well as the chairpersons of official investigatory bodies. For example, on October 2, 2019, Trump again accused Adam Schiff of treasonous behavior and also said that he was a “low-life.”
President Trump is now publicly calling on foreign leaders to investigate his political rivals. On October 3, 2019, President Trump called on both China and Ukraine to do an investigation of Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. He said that the Bidens were scamming many countries.
As of October 4, 2019, text messages between US diplomats have surfaced, indicating that there was a quid pro quo in Trump’s exchanges with the President of Ukraine concerning the investigation of Joe Biden’s son.