Why I’m Meeting With Donald Trump
As you have probably read by now, Donald Trump has invited a number of Evangelical leaders to meet with him in New York shortly after the Southern Baptist Convention. Among the organizers of this conversation are many good friends of mine and some of our very finest people, including Dr. Ronnie Floyd, our SBC President, Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, and Dr. Jim Dobson, who surely needs no introduction.
No one attending this meeting has endorsed Donald Trump; nor have any of us joined the #NeverTrump movement. There are reasons for both of these things, and reasons why we believe this meeting matters.
First, as Ronnie would say, what’s done is done. Barring an act of God, the major party nominees are set, and one of them will become President of the United States. As many of you know, I personally supported only Southern Baptist candidates for President this year. But unfortunately, they lost, and this is where we are.
It would be easy to take our toys and go home. But the church can afford no such luxury. Our interests, indeed our very freedoms, are under daily assault now. Prior to Obergefell, less than even one year ago, the left dismissed as hysterical bigots all who even suggested that what we now face daily was any part of their agenda. Now New York City is seeking to impose $250,000 fines on any who do not affirm transgenderism – perhaps not a jail sentence but certainly a bankruptcy. They are far from alone, and the demands against your church and against all of us as individuals multiply with each passing day.
At the same time, there are immense opportunities. With Scalia’s seat vacant, the Supreme Court could easily be tilted so far against the church and against historical American constitutionalism that we face open persecution overnight. Filling that seat with the right person would continue a trend in recent years of more good rulings than not; filling the likely four additional vacancies over the next eight years with men and women of similar stature would result in the overthrow of all the worst decisions of the last 80 years.
It is not insignificant that Donald Trump has offered us a list, from which he says he “guarantees” he will name those justices, nearly all of whom are clearly better even than those George Washington appointed. It is not unimportant that Trump rejects political correctness, even if he embraces a crassness that is difficult to stomach. It is not meaningless that, perhaps like Putin, he has stated from the beginning of his campaign that “protecting Christians” is one of his top priorities.
I do not know what to make of this. I am not asking you to. I do know that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, a woman I’ve known since childhood, is unalterably opposed to everything we believe. Her judges will jail your pastor, full stop. Except that it’s not really full stop, because she will certainly not stop there.
So among those “not insignificant” things, it is not insignificant that Donald Trump wants to converse with us. He has sought us out. He obviously wants our endorsements – he may get some of them, he will certainly not get others – and that is normal for politicians. But Hillary Clinton is asking for no such meetings, nor will she.
If Donald Trump wishes to hear us, we should let him. We should speak to him in respect, but with the Gospel. We should explain to him our needs, as Esther did. We should make clear to him those things he is doing which we cannot countenance. We should, as the hippies say, “speak truth to power,” knowing that all real power belongs to Christ alone.
But above all, we should have the conversation. There are those among us who reject that, vehemently, I cannot agree. If this is nothing more than a Matthew 18 or Mathew 28 opportunity, the Lord has given us our marching orders. But it might be more indeed. Jesus did not question Nicodemus’ motives in seeking a meeting: He spoke with him, and we continue reaping the benefits even now.
The word says “how will they hear without a preacher?” There will be a lot of preachers – and a lot of preaching – in New York. I do not know whether it will fall on fertile soil. But I don’t have to know. It is God Who brings the harvest.
And so we will go.
This article was originally published as part of my “Beyond the Church Door” series in the Florida Baptist Witness.