The bad jokes about Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump have started: “There’s a storm a-brewin’.” Evangelicals, who voted for Trump at around 80 percent, face their own storm and continue to stand by their candidate despite the recent growing allegations that Trump had an extramarital relationship with the pornographic film star. Trump has largely been silent on the issue despite proclaiming his innocence in the Russian election meddling investigation on Twitter. To add fuel to the fire, Daniels (her real name is Stephanie Clifford) passed a lie detector test regarding her sexual relationship with Trump. A recent poll revealed that 40 percent of Evangelicals believe the stories about Trump’s infidelities. The share of Evangelicals who believe Trump’s claim is fake news? Only slightly less: 36 percent.
This Trump saga has proved to be embarrassing among Evangelicals. Evangelicals, who once were the “Moral Majority,” proclaimed themselves to be the ethical and moral conscience of America, citing their advocacy of sexual purity, anti-abortion, and traditional views of marriage. These values and more have not been values that their presidential candidate has displayed or supported in his past. Rather than calling out Trump on his behavior, religious conservatives like Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, have doubled down on their support for Trump. Perkins stated that he gives Trump “a mulligan” for his sexual misdeeds. This is a damning admission because it reveals that this leader of the powerful Evangelical group considers the allegations regarding Trump’s relationship with Daniels to be true. Other Evangelical leaders, like Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., once said that in Trump Evangelicals “found their dream president.”
Emerging out Trump’s sex scandal is a defense that Evangelicals have used, which I call, “The King David Defense.” Conservative commentator Sean Hannity made this defense famous when he defended Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign when the Access Hollywood tape revealed that Trump talked about grabbing women by their genitals. Hannity boldly stated in reference to Trump and his tendency towards lewd behavior, “King David had 500 concubines, for crying out loud.” (David had seven wives but the number of concubines is not recorded in the Bible.)
Hannity was not alone in his defense. Dennis Prager, a conservative writer for the National Review, wrote, “If God shouldn’t be ashamed for supporting King David, Christians shouldn’t be ashamed for supporting Donald Trump.” Paul McGuire, conservative commentator and author of Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon, said earlier in 2018, “David is a man like Trump in many respects. … He’s vulgar, he’s crude, but when it comes to the important issues, he is right on target.”
This type of biblical reasoning makes me embarrassed I once called myself Evangelical. I cannot call myself Evangelical if this is what being an Evangelical means.
This misguided rationalization of Trump’s sexual exploits with King David is horrible justification and awful biblical exegesis. The key rule of exegesis (the explanation or interpretation of scripture) is that readers cannot take the descriptive as prescriptive in the Bible. David and Solomon had multiple wives and concubines, but that does not mean God ordained it. The Bible is silent with any kind of admonishment to this ancient practice. However, King David was rebuked because of his affair and coverup. It was specifically seen as a moral failure by Nathan. If Evangelicals wanted to provide a biblical example in response to Trump’s extramarital affairs, a Nathan would emerge to rebuke Trump. Where is Evangelicals’ Nathan? Instead of a Nathan emerging, Evangelicals claim a biblical fact as a theological reasoning for Trump’s wrongdoing.
It’s no wonder that almost 40 percent Millennials are religious “nones.” Who wants to believe in Christianity or Evangelicalism if religious leaders excuse the behavior of an American president with awful biblical interpretation?
The King David Defense does not hold up to the comparisons of Trump and David of the Old Testament. If anything, a biblical comparison of Trump with David should end in how David approached his sin and wronging: with confession and a plea for forgiveness. Psalm 32, which is attributed to David, reads: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’” Unfortunately, Trump does not believe in forgiveness. When asked if he ever asked God for forgiveness, Trump said, “I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. … I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture.”
Bible characters are not there for Christians to compare and excuse the immoral behavior but are there for us to hear God’s story of how humanity messes up constantly. The Bible is a story of God’s people struggling with living rightly. It’s a story of sin, forgiveness, redemption and grace.
If you want to compare Trump to King David then read David’s entire story. It is not a story about a thrice-married businessman becoming president, but a story of a leader who was “after God’s own heart.” If you are after God’s own heart then you take up Micah 6:8: “Love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly with God.” I do not think Donald Trump is in the business of humility.