Sunday, April 21 2019
I don’t know her personally, but I have always liked the public character of Michele Bachmann. I remember defending her when she came under the heavy scrutiny, and unfair disparagement of the mainstream media during the era of the TEA Party and 2012 election cycle. And when ABC’s Diane Sawyer and Brian Ross tag-teamed on Bachmann to discredit her husband’s Christian counseling as anti-gay, I spoke up on their behalf.
That said, in recent days Ms. Bachmann has ventured into territory that I have no interest in defending or attempting to justify. Specifically, these made recently on a podcast hosted by Jan Markell, are at once indefensible and extremely unproductive:
It is disappointing enough to see so many conservatives who, for the sake of expediency, have willfully allowed Trumpism to become the modern definition of conservatism. But allowing the cross and the cause of Christ to become sullied by President Trump’s political conduct is a bridge entirely too far, and Bachmann should recant or restate these remarks immediately.
Christians who support the President should understand they have but one logical defense at their disposal: pragmatism. That is, a Christian can support Trump for his political alliance with them that has benefitted their agenda. I have no qualms with Bachmann, or anyone for that matter, making the case that Christians have seen more of their preferred policy goals achieved in Trump’s administration than any in recent memory. Even if I came to another conclusion about that, it’s a morally defensible position.
It’s what folks here in my home state of Indiana called the Bob Knight principle. Self-respecting IU fans knew that the chair throwing, player choking, and profanity spouting was wrong and an embarrassing stain on the university. They also knew Knight won games. So they made the pragmatic decision to offer support to a coach they wouldn’t write a character reference for in order to achieve athletic ends.
You could still argue, and many did, that such a calculation was moral compromise and those who made it lacked character to stand up for what was right. But it was a compromise that undoubtedly resulted in beneficial and noteworthy accomplishments for the school.
Politically, that’s precisely what Christians like Bachmann should be willing to admit they’ve done with Trump. They have chosen to support a profane, adulterous, and unrepentant egotist for the sake of achieving political ends. Others will argue that such moral compromise is unbecoming of believers, but the laundry list of Christian political objectives Bachmann cited in the podcast can be rattled off as pragmatic justification.
But intentionally confusing the petulant character of Donald Trump with that of a godly, biblical man is immensely damaging to the public witness of Christianity in our culture. That has to be our highest concern, far above any struggle for worldly power.