Haters

 In Character, Culture, Fred's Blog, Justice, Leadership, People, Politics, Teaching, Theology, Uncategorized

Listen to “Haters” By Fred Smith

 

Facebook is not the place for subtlety and we all know that.  Yet, this week I posted a spoof from the Babylon Bee and several good friends took it seriously. I know I should file disclaimers, but I don’t. It was the one telling us that scores of Trump supporters were abandoning him because he preferred McDonald’s over Chick-fil-A. I thought it was funny and said more about the fickleness of supporters than the animus of his detractors.

However, one of my friends made a comment about evangelicals who are “Trump haters” and ignore the fact that God has used imperfect leaders and kings many times in the past to accomplish His purposes. Having just taught a series of lessons on Jacob and his conniving, deceit, and other imperfections it would be hard for me to disagree. After all, God clearly overlooked the “crooked timber” of his life when making him a carrier of the promise and the one named Israel – the father of the nation. Jacob was no George Washington!

Still, their response caused me to think about our current situation with all the controversy swirling around this President and the investigations into whether he knowingly broke the law. First, hating is wrong – especially evangelical hating – whether it is directed to Trump, Obama, the Clintons, or Nixon. If it is Gentiles hating Jews as we have seen in recent weeks or Jews despising Gentiles so prevalent in the Old and New Testaments, it is not permitted. All hatred is self-destructive for an individual, church or nation.

But there are also important differences between Old Testament leaders and Presidents.

First, kings were not elected. Instead, they were a dynasty and often were a law unto themselves for much of the history of Israel. Yes, there were a few, like Josiah, who held the Law in high esteem but there were many (if not most) who did what seemed right to them for their own purposes. Prophets may have called them on it but history shows prophets, while speaking for God, were likely ignored or punished by the king. After all, might makes right. Clearly, having kings at all was not God’s first choice. Samuel warned the people what would happen if they insisted on having a king. But they wanted so badly to be like other nations and have someone who would fight for them. That was worth giving up personal responsibility and many freedoms as well.

Second, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is none righteous, no not one. We are all imperfect and holding anyone up to a standard of perfection is futile and doomed to create disillusionment. It’s often a matter of our going after people with sins different from ours that is so appealing. Other times, we attack those whose sins we share but keep in the shadows. We cannot hope to ever have perfect leaders – or followers.

Third – and last – the issue for me concerning President Trump as it was with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Warren G. Harding or any other President is whether they have broken what we all accept as the Rule of Law. Presidents are not kings. That is what protects us from the divine right of kings and  “arbitrary decrees” as John Locke described. They, like us, are subject to the Rule of Law and if they break one or several established laws they should be held accountable – not hated or treated more harshly than any other citizen. I don’t look to any President as setting the moral standard for the nation. Some will be better examples of integrity and competence than others. Some will better represent the dignity of the office. However, it does not matter to me if the President (or any elected official) is a Christian.  There is no magic in that as we have discovered time after time in the failures of both religious, business and civic leaders who have used the cover of being Christian to their advantage despite their duplicity or incompetence. I don’t consider America as the new Israel and the carrier of the Abrahamic blessing to all the nations. We are exceptional in many ways but we are not anointed. We are all subject to the Rule of Law and that is one of the several things that makes us unique and admirable. If we are going to be exceptional then let it be in this.

So, my friends are right that evangelical haters of President Trump are wrong. It is not only offensive for us as Christians but is a terrible example to other believers and those outside the faith. It is easy to allow our faith to be distorted and defined by our political alignment. For too many, politics has become their religion and those who do not share their beliefs – Left and Right – are heretics, apostates or worse.  But, that should not be us.

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Fred Smith
Fred Smith is a graduate of Denver University and Harvard Divinity School. He spent several years as teacher and administrator at Charlotte Christian School and The Stony Brook School before co-founding Leadership Network with Bob Buford and serving as President for 12 years. Fred is the Founder of The Gathering, an international association of individuals, families and private foundations giving to Christian ministries. Fred will tell you his true vocation is that of a Sunday School teacher and it is this role for which he would most like to be remembered. Fred and his wife, Carol, have two grown daughters and a son-in-law. They also have three well-loved grandchildren.
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Showing 14 comments
  • Doug Stepelton
    Reply

    Very good Fred! Well said! Doug

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Doug. I do appreciate your reading and commenting. I never know how these things come across until I’ve already published them!

  • Dawn Franks
    Reply

    You are right on target. This piece couldn’t be more timely. Dawn

  • Joe Wu
    Reply

    “Hate” is a word that I have tried to block from my vocabulary for years now. I constantly remind my family that “hate” is a strong word and when they choose to use it, it must be intentional and meaningful. So at home we don’t hear phrases like “I hate Mondays” or “I hate broccoli.” I also do not use this word to describe our current President. I only wish (and pray) that President Trump can do better – and, if not, step aside. Certainly Trump (as with all of us) must operate consistent with the Rule of Law, and be held to account. But much more than that, I yearn to see Trump pushing for policies that benefit all Americans, policies that show Christ’s compassion and engage in acts that inspire more of us onto greater things. While the Constitution does not mandate the President to serve as America’s moral leader, it also does not mean that we can’t yearn for our President to step up to that role for the good of the country. Yes, I do not hate Trump, but I sure hope he will use the remaining years of his term to pursue policies that unite us instead of pursuing goals to suit his own purposes.

  • Ron McSwain
    Reply

    Fred,

    After reading this I immediately thought of my youngest son’s wedding in a beautiful park in Lake Tahoe. His best man told the story of how at the long ago age of 12 he had remarked he hated another person. Jon quickly corrected him stating his older teen age brother had said if you hate someone you will go to Hell. The best man said hate has never left his mouth since then. Pretty sound advice and shows the impact good friends can have on each other.

    Keep writing Fred, we all benefit from it.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Ron. That’s quite a story. I appreciate the encouragement. It’s been almost eight years now that I’ve been writing the blog. Hard to believe.

  • Chris Horst
    Reply

    Appreciate this post, Fred. Grateful for you!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Chris. We are all looking forward to you and Peter being in Tyler in February.

  • Scott Hillstrom
    Reply

    Fred–I must confess to my contempt for Trump. Not so much for his character failings, but for his utter contempt for the public interest. He’s practiced frauds and deceits on the public throughout his career and lies impulsively every day. I’m among those like lifelong conservative Republican George Will who regard Trump as a dire threat to our democracy. And the idea that people like Falwell and Graham, who are known only for their fathers’ names, defend not only Trump’s policies but also the man himself strikes me as wrong. (“Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, . . .” Ps 12:22). It is in conceivable that their fathers would lend their names to Trump. In time, maybe soon, the actual legal evidence will be in the public domain and the truth will speak for itself.

    That said, your message reminds me of what my wife and Jesus have been telling me: that I must repent of my contempt for Trump. My wife and Jesus say, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Mt 5:22. All human beings are created by the same God; we are all brothers of one another. We must all love one another unconditionally as God loves each of us. But it’s also true that no one loved his enemies better than Jesus loved his. And no one ever spoke the Truth to his enemies more clearly and forcefully than did Jesus (e.g. “evil proof of vipers”). True words are not hate when spoken of a beloved enemy.

    Many Blessings,

    Scott Hillstrom

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Scott – We have the same struggle. I have read so much about how we evangelicals have not only been seduced by partisan politics but have encouraged the corruption of politicians by our promises of support and loyalty. It’s insidious and self-destructive. That said, stepping over the line from legitimate anger to a consuming hatred is fatal. I appreciate your taking the time to write.

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