It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. Since the midterm elections, several conservative writers have gone public suggesting that it’s time for the GOP to move on and nominate someone other than Donald Trump for the presidency in 2024. I have been among those writers, and as such, I’ve been both praised and vilified.
Some have called me a traitor and a “uni-party moron.” Others offered expletives that I won’t repeat here. Still, more have said: “Thank you! It needed to be said.”
But in the flurry of all the positive and negative remarks, I enjoyed one exchange more than the others. It came from a Facebook friend with whom I agree more often than not, someone who shares my basic worldview. Let’s call him Mike.
You see, Mike agreed with me concerning Mr. Trump’s political liabilities. He concurred that it is time for Republicans to choose a different standard-bearer and move on. Mike understood that our failure to do so would likely result in our failure at the polls in any subsequent elections.
But that’s not why Mike reached out to me. His primary message was not to say “good for you,” but “shame on you.” Mike wasn’t writing to dish out praise. Instead, he wanted me to admit that I should never have “bowed to the devil” in the first place.
The following is Mike‘s challenge and my subsequent response. You can read, and you can decide who’s right and who’s wrong.
“Dear Dr. Piper, I see your comments concerning Donald Trump. Good. However, how did you miss the message when you read your Bible and the story of Satan taking Jesus on the mountain and promising him power over nations if he would only bow down? You, the church, and other [Christian conservatives] did the exact same with Trump. You bowed down and kissed the ring. You were warned. Jesus himself warned you … It’s time to find someone else. You know it. Now, what is more important? To have power over the nation or to serve God? Choose. Like Jesus did.”
“Dear Mike, I disagree. Your analogy is simply wrong. No one in my camp bowed to anyone but Christ. No one kissed any ring. No one celebrated any king. I never hesitated to criticize President Trump when he was wrong or to thank him when he was right. I have said over and over again that conservatives are people of principles, not personalities. I’ve repeatedly said Americans should vote for a constitution, not a king. I’ve instructed a dozen times over that Republicans are covenantal and not hierarchical, whereas Democrats, by definition, are the opposite.
“Voting for Donald Trump because he was far less evil than the alternative was not emperor worship in the least. In fact, many of us that you now criticize have repeatedly said that while we were grateful for Mr. Trump’s policies, this emperor was coming dangerously close - at least at times - to having very few clothes. Hardly the stuff of worshipping Caesar, in my view. No, sir, this tiger has not changed his stripes. My argument is as it has always been. Biblical Christians must vote for the greatest measure of human freedom that we can get in any election. Or as Tom Ascol recently wrote in his Requiem for My Nation, ‘The longer I have lived as a Christian, the more clearly I have come to see that the second great commandment requires at least a modicum of patriotism. How can I love my neighbor as myself if I do not want my neighbor to enjoy the blessings and freedoms that I desire? And if I see those blessings and freedoms being destroyed by frontal assaults as well as by espionage and betrayal, is it loving to do nothing and stay silent?’”
I’m not offended by Mike‘s comments, and I trust he’s not offended by my response. This kind of give-and-take is something conservatives should welcome. We discuss. We don’t demean. Canceling and shunning those with whom we disagree is not what we do. The tension that comes from the “push and shove” of a good debate is how we learn. This is how we make corrections. This is how we grow. This is how we decide how to vote.
If dinner conversation turns to politics this Thanksgiving weekend, don’t despair! It’s OK. Bring on the disagreement. King Solomon once said, “as iron sharpens iron, let one man sharpen another.” If my argument is weak, I want it strengthened. If yours is “dull,” you should welcome the grinder of dissent. Let the sparks fly. Let the sharpening begin.
• Everett Piper (dreverettpiper.com, @dreverettpiper), a columnist for The Washington Times, is a former university president and radio host.