Anyone who knows me for any length of time knows that I think very highly of Pastor John Piper and have been a student of his writings and teachings. I’m not prone to “Pastor Worship” so I won’t say I hold him up as some kind of idol but when I have a theological question Piper is one of the men whose writings and thoughts I will read and consider in prayer.
That’s why I’m writing this post. His actions have concerned me, confused me and for the first really really have be questioning a decision he’s made in regards to addressing an issue in public.
And I will add that this has been boiling for a while within me as I’ve read postings on social media, blogs, websites, etc. from pastors I greatly respect and whose writings have helped me in many ways. They act like they’re running the moneylenders out of the temple when they’ve really been watching the moneylenders for years.
It’s just that Pastor Piper’s writing today finally put things into a place where I can put into words what I have been feeling for months.
Pastor Piper published a work on Desiring God called “How to Live Under an Unqualified President.” In the piece, he writes about how he feels Donald Trump is “morally unqualified” to be President and lists his reasoning for feeling that way. After laying out the various sins which he sees in Trump, he lists five items that he says are necessary in the role of a leader in high office. I am going to quote the entire passage below so that when I address it, you can see the text for which I base my comments.
1. A leader should lead. That is, he should set the pace, define the path, embody the vision, and inspire emulation. He himself should be what he is calling others to be. That is what it means to lead. Donald Trump is not such an embodiment of what we want the citizens of America to be. In important ways, he is the opposite.
2. A leader should be dependable, trustworthy, reliable. To invest someone with leadership is a trust. But Donald Trump treats language — the medium of truth — as a wax nose to be bent and molded to create a desired outcome, whether it corresponds to the truth or not. But where truth is treated with such indifference or contempt, the foundations of justice are crumbling. There is no recourse for the poor, if the powerful say that truth is what they say it is.
3. A leader should be a good example for our young people in matters of character and moral uprightness and civility. Few parents would say to their young people: strive to be like Donald Trump. That is a great sadness.
4. A leader should not model the success of immoral behavior, and thus further destigmatize and normalize evils which, if spread, will bring discredit and ruin to our nation. To reward Donald Trump’s immoral behavior with the presidency does just that — it says to our children, and to the world, that these evils are not that bad, and can be embraced with no great negative consequences.
5. A leader should be known for the virtues that make a republican form of government possible. Virtually all the founding fathers agreed that without a virtuous people, the rule of law and of representative self-government will not survive. Donald Trump’s character is not what they had in mind by “virtue.” It is, in significant ways, the opposite, and therefore his example contributes to the undermining of the republic.
Now, I do not necessarily disagree with the comments Pastor Piper shared in that section of his text in terms of what to look for in a President. I want to see a President of good moral character. I want to see a President that doesn’t promote immoral or harmful behavior. I don’t want a President that turns a blind eye to criminal activity just for personal or political benefit. The President SHOULD be someone that we can look at and say our children should aspire to be more like that person.
If Pastor Piper feels Donald Trump doesn’t meet that standard, that’s perfectly fine with me. He has the right to that view. He’s certainly not the only person out there who feels that way.
But therein lies the question: Does Pastor Piper feel President Obama was qualified to be President under those same standards? And if he did not, did Pastor Piper condemn President Obama in those strong terms? And if he did not, why not?
Let’s look at Pastor Piper’s 5 points of leadership with President Obama in mind.
1. Did President Obama fit this section? To some people they will say that he did. However, if you look at the positions he held and tried to push America into, were they really “an embodiment of what we want the citizens of America to be”? Was his turn against Israel at the end of his administration something that is the opposite of what we want Americans to be? Did the President’s backing off the “red line” in Syria with regard to chemical weapons…resulting in the horrific deaths of thousands at the hands of the Syrian government…rise to a level we want in America culture?
2. Can you really say that President Obama and his administration did not play fast and loose with the truth? You can go find fact check websites that lay out the lies told by the President. The most oft-mentioned is the “if you like your health care plan you can keep it” that proved to be completely false and was even called the Lie of the Year by Politifact.
3. There are some who would say to their children to be like President Obama. There are many others who would look at him and see someone who lied to the American people to get what he wanted, who routinely found ways to avoid blame for things that went wrong and who often mocked Republicans and conservatives. He continually distorted the positions of people who did not back his views on issues like gay marriage and promoted the lie that disagreement with that liberal political agenda made you a bigot. Is that a good example of character?
4. President Obama worked hard to destigmatize and normalize things that Pastor Piper would say are evils…sins…according to God’s word. Promotion of abortion and gay marriage are the obvious ones. However, it goes deeper into his openly lying about issues like the healthcare bills. President Obama in his actions promoted that lying to the entire country to get done what you want done is not only fine but something that is standard operating procedure.
5. This one of Pastor Piper’s five points is really heavily subjective in nature and really encapsulates the previous four items.
So if you look at all those items, did President Obama measure up to Pastor Piper’s standards?
No. No he did not.
So why is Pastor Piper NOW publishing a piece about a man being unqualified to hold the office of President?
I went back to look through Pastor Piper’s old writings regarding President Obama to see if he took as bold a stand against President Obama as he did in his posting about Donald Trump. I was not looking just to see if he was critical of actions taken by President Obama because I know that Pastor Piper has been critical of actions that President Obama has taken. My concern was did Pastor Piper at any point say that President Obama was “morally unqualified” (or a general equivalent) as he has done with President-Elect Trump?
I found an article dated January 17, 2009 entitled “How Barack Obama Will Make Christ a Minister of Condemnation.” In the piece, Pastor Piper writes about how President-Elect Obama will have Gene Robinson, an open, non-celebate gay man, lead the prayer for his inaugural events. In this column, Pastor Piper writes:
This is tragic not mainly because Obama is willing to hold up the legitimacy of homosexual intercourse, but because he is willing to get behind the church endorsement of sexual intercourse between men.
It is one thing to say: Two men may legally have sex. It is another to say: The Christian church acted acceptably in blessing Robinson’s sex with men.
The implications of this are serious.
It means that Barack Obama is willing, not just to tolerate, but to feature a person and a viewpoint that makes the church a minister of damnation. Again, the tragedy here is not that many people in public life hold views (like atheism) that lead to damnation, but that Obama is making the church the minister of damnation.
So this naturally this raises the question: How can a man who is making the church a “minister of damnation” NOT be someone who is “morally unqualified” for the office of President? Is not making the church as Pastor Piper described not immoral in itself? Would Pastor Piper have pointed to then President-Elect Obama and tell his children to be like them?
It’s inconceivable to me that Pastor Piper could say President Obama’s actions made “Christ is made a minister of condemnation” and still say that somehow he is “morally qualified” for the Presidency. If Pastor Piper truly believes that homosexuality is a sin as he writes, then there’s no way to not see the actions of President-Elect Obama as being akin to Donald Trump’s actions or statements when it comes to the representation of the Kingdom of God and the truth of the Word of God.
So the tone in Pastor Piper’s piece just leaves me confused in that we had a man in the White House the last 8 years who didn’t fit the same things that Donald Trump’s not fitting is worthy of a written work of condemnation. I could go into Pastor Piper’s writings on abortion and how they went against the agenda laid out by President Obama but I think I’ve made my point here. Condemn Trump if you must; but your lack of emphatic condemnation for the man before him who was morally bankrupt by your standards raises the question “why now”?
Is it because it’s not just the “liberal Christians” or “liberal denominations” that are the ones promoting the leader of immoral character but rather the “conservative Christians” who voted Trump? If that’s the case (as I’ve had someone suggest to me) I would respond that isn’t the actions of those within the church to weaken the church from within by misinterpreting and twisting doctrine worthy of condemnation and straight-forward confrontation? Shouldn’t the response of those who are now upset that “conservative Christians” voted for Trump where they’re openly calling out the Trump voters had the same passion to call out the Christians who say abortion is just fine and should keep right on rolling in America?
Waking up to moral decline in America is a fine thing but I know Pastor Piper has not been sleeping. I also know, Pastor Piper, that you have been a strong voice against abortion and other moral issues in America. I just don’t understand why the evils/sins that have taken place by Presidential action prior to Donald Trump didn’t rise to the level of the hefty condemnation you’ve given toward Mr. Trump. It would seem to me disqualification of a President came long before today and it begs the question, why now, Pastor Piper?