We want to support leaders we can trust, and meeting a leader face-to-face often encourages trust. But we evangelicals can be just as gullible as was Neville Chamberlain, who after meeting with Adolf Hitler in 1939, wrote in his diary that Hitler was a man one could “do business with.” I’m not comparing Trump to Hitler, but I am saying that charismatic figures can fool us into trusting them when they are, in fact, not trustworthy in the least.
We are wiser politically to not take a politician’s word or read his “heart,” no matter how sincere he or she seems. Politics in the end is about effective action, which come about through specific policies. We should place our trust not so much in leaders who seem trustworthy as those whose actions prove they are.
Listening to another’s “heart” blinds us not only to policy but also to morality. This is most evident in Falwell’s assessment of Trump:
I do believe Trump is a good father, is generous to those in need, and is an ethical and honest businessman. I have gotten to know him well over the last few years and have come to admire him for those traits.
It’s hard to imagine how Falwell can blithely ignore Trump’s founding of gambling casinos and his bragging about the famous women he has slept with—not to mention his habitual arrogance, the very opposite of the Christian virtue of humility. Whatever attractiveness he might have for some, the plain fact is that Trump is not a paragon of virtue.
Politics is partly about morality and partly about effectiveness. It’s partly about the character of leaders and partly about their ability to lead. That’s what makes politics so aggravating, unpredictable, and just plain fascinating. Wisdom is not isolating one aspect, whether that be moral or pragmatic, and using it as the sole criteria, but holding many things in tension. It also means we cast our ballots while praying, “Lord, have mercy.”
Mark Galli is editor of Christianity Today.