William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, once said, "Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them. And as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined also. Therefore governments depend upon men rather than men upon governments." Hundreds of years later, Penn's insight has proven true. Just look at the condition of our country -- America's debt, its broken families, the unborn casualties, our sexual confusion, and radical views of biology and morality. Penn was right: we get out of government what we put into it. And lately, that's nothing to be proud of.
As we approach the opportunity that we have every four years to select our leaders, we're hearing again from some evangelical leaders -- some of them Never Trumpers -- who continue to raise the issue of character and insist that it matters more than any good Donald Trump has done. In their opinion, it's better for Christians to sit this election out than cast a ballot for a man they consider morally compromised.
Let me first say that I agree with them: character does matter. In fact, I don't know a Christian who hasn't struggled with this question at some point in the last five years. Our friend, Dr. Albert Mohler, wrote an extremely thoughtful piece this week explaining that he, too, wrestled with this -- and didn't vote for Donald Trump in 2016 because of it. Now, after watching the president these last four years, he's come to the conclusion that Trump's character is a much more complicated issue. While his past failings and Twitter account are difficult to swallow, the president's actual policy has been principled and practical.
"We are tempted to separate [them]," he writes, but in many "policy is character." In a world where actual human lives are on the line, Mohler argues, "I cannot accept the argument that a calm man who affirms the dismembering of babies in the womb has a superior character to a man who rants like Genghis Khan but acts to preserve that life. In my ideal world, I would vote for a candidate in whom the personal, the principled, and the practical earn my admiration. I do not live in that world. I live in this world, and I must act accordingly."
As someone who's been a part of the conservative movement for 25 years, I do wonder how many of these leaders who are talking about the character of political candidates have actually worked to see men and women of Christian faith elected? Have they given money to their campaigns? Have they lent their influence to help them? Have they used their platforms to give exposure to Christian men and women who've been called to public office? Or are they selectively interjecting now -- only using their voice when it's convenient?
My experience as a candidate and elected official is that very few Christians have been willing to step into the arena where the clash of worldviews takes place. It's much safer to be a commentator of the sidelines. The result of those Christian figures "playing it safe" as spectators, rather than participants in our republic, often means that the options we have in candidates are less than ideal -- in many cases, falling well below the biblical criteria of what we should be looking for in our leaders.
So what are Christian voters supposed to do? Let someone else decide who our president is because we don't like the choices before us? Absolutely not. We should do what the majority of evangelicals did four years ago. They considered the two choices they had -- Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump -- and, realizing both had moral failings, they looked at the candidates' priorities, policies, and personnel. In those areas, it was no contest.
Based on what Donald Trump has done in these last four years, I do not regret my decision to support him. As Dr. Mohler pointed out, "Donald Trump has been the most effective and consequential pro-life president of the modern age... [I]n both executive actions and court appointments, President Trump has gone far beyond what would have been politically necessary to secure his base." Do we agree with everything he says and does? No. But I also realize that a lot of the conflict and division that we see is the result of him and his administration standing up to the forces who would lead this nation down a devastating, reckless, and godless path.
Also, because of the relationship that evangelicals have established with the president, we've been able to communicate our concerns on things like Trump's occasional language and vulgarity. At the end of the day, however, I have a whole lot more to agree on with this president than to disagree.
As William Penn also said, the character of our government will reflect the characters we put in it. In other words, personnel is policy. When Americans elected Donald Trump four years ago, they weren't just casting a vote for him, but for thousands of people at every level of government. One of Trump's cabinet secretaries, a personal friend, once quipped that President Trump may not be a Sunday School teacher, but he sure knows how to hire them. And it's all of those Sunday school teachers throughout the administration, who've been determined to carry out Trump's promises to advance the sanctity of human life, to restore religious freedom, and rein in the run-away activist courts.
There have been other Republican presidents who were really good men, like Ronald Reagan, who apparently didn't know how to hire those Sunday School teachers -- and, as a result, very few of his promised moral reforms actually happened. From the sanctity of human life, to the restoration of religious freedom, to the placement of men and women of constitutional conviction on the courts, there has not been a better president in my lifetime than Donald Trump.
A vote for a third-party candidate is a vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Dr. Wayne Grudem warned on "Washington Watch." "You may think you're doing something morally pure, but you're doing something that is morally questionable, because you're helping the really corrupt and evil policies of the Democrats to take control of the nation. And that's a threat to [all of us]."
DISCLAIMER: Tony Perkins has made an endorsement in his individual and personal capacity only, and it should not be construed or interpreted in any way as the endorsement of FRC, FRC Action, or any affiliated entity.