The increasing popularity of Donald Trump has been a surprising development in the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign. In recent weeks, Trump has been the continuing focus of television news programs and radio talk shows. Crowds numbering in the tens of thousands flock to rallies to hear him speak.
I see a number of “take-aways” from this phenomenon. They speak to every church leader as we move forward in these interesting times.
Hungry for leadership
1. The American people are hungry for courageous leadership.
Jesus had compassion on the multitudes because they were like sheep without a shepherd. That describes the American people, who are starving for a strong leader–even one who’s a bit obnoxious.
Most politicians are overly-cautious, so programmed not to offend any portion of the voting public, that they often appear weak and indecisive (there’s a lesson in there for pastors). Donald Trump shoots from the hip and isn’t afraid to say what he’s thinking. Few leaders have the guts to make bold statements.
2. A lot of people are tired of political correctness.
This summer when a reporter asked, “Are you aware that people are offended by the term, ‘anchor baby’?” Trump fired back, “Do you mean that term is not politically correct even though the majority of people use it? Do you have a better term?” When he refuses to cower or be intimidated, it impresses people who are weary of guarding every word lest someone get offended.
3. People are fed up with the Washington Establishment.
The American people have had it with empty promises, back room deals, and politicians beholden to special interests. They are tired of “pro-life” politicians who refuse to vote to defund Planned Parenthood, and other, similarly-empty rhetoric.
That’s why three of the candidates gaining popularity ( Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are the other two) are not Washingtoninsiders. Trump is profiting from this anti-establishment mentality and promotes himself as someone who can make America work again because he’s done it in business.
4. Many people don’t consider humility an important virtue.
Humility is an important virtue to God. Scripture teaches that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Trump is the antithesis of humility. He boasts of wealth, insists he’s smarter than others, and has a condescending spirit toward those who disagree with him. Obviously, humility is not a valued virtue with those Republicans who support Trump in spite of his arrogant spirit (maybe because of it).
5. People are more impressed with externals than the heart.
When the prophet Samuel searched for a king, God informed him not to be enamored with what he saw on the outside. Shallow people are impressed with appearance, affluence, achievement, oratory and titles. God’s people should value character, compassion, integrity, generosity and righteousness.
In spite of Trump using crude language, treating people with contempt, his broken marital vows, and his vacillation on the critical issues of Biblical marriage, the sanctity of life, the support of Israel and tax increases, many conservative Christians are throwing their support to him. That’s puzzling to me. While it’s true we’re not electing a pastor but a president, a man’s heart should matter…a lot.
6. People are incredibly vulnerable to a coming anti-Christ.
Second Thessalonians warns of a coming world ruler, “a man of lawlessness,” who will one day deceive the public with false, grandiose promises. Eight years ago I was dumbfounded that the majority of Americans voted for a presidential candidate they knew almost nothing about. Barak Obama had socialistic leanings and little administrative experience. His meteoric rise to popularity demonstrated how quickly the masses can be swayed by a charismatic leader.
The surprising popularity of supposedly conservative Trump demonstrates that phenomena is not limited to people on the left. Many Republicans are quickly enamored with a charismatic, confident leader who promises hope and dramatic change.
Our ultimate hope
Don’t misunderstand–I don’t think Trump is the anti-Christ. I don’t even think he will be the Republican nominee. Yet, it’s easy to understand how some day, in a time of world chaos, a charismatic leader will come out of nowhere deceiving even the elect by performing great signs and promising world peace. However, Scripture teaches he will actually lead to world dominion and terror.
As the political campaign unfolds believers should evaluate candidates not by charisma but by character. Not by grandiose promises but by past performance. Not by external appearances but by the qualities of the heart.
Presidential elections should remind us that our ultimate hope is in Jesus Christ. He’s the only one who can ultimately bring realistic hope and change and heal our land. He’s the only one worthy of our total allegiance. As the Son of God, He alone can forgive our sins and grant eternal life.