Editorial cartoon

Dear Senator John McCain,

I write to apologize for the shameful remarks I made about you during the presidential campaign and more recently. You truly are an American hero! I myself have never faced death by an enemy’s bullets or been captured and tortured and demonstrated courage like you did in Vietnam as a U.S. Navy fighter-bomber pilot and as a prisoner of war in the “Hanoi Hilton.” My courage has never been tested in a war. Yours has been tested and it is exemplary! Please forgive me for disrespecting you and attacking your reputation. Americans will never forget your service, your heroism and your sacrifice for our country. Melania and I are praying for you and your family.

Sincerely,

Donald J. Trump

It’s too bad President Trump didn’t write and share a letter like this imaginary one with Sen. McCain before the senator died. Once an argument I had with my neighbor in his front yard almost ended in a fistfight. A couple of years later his daughter informed me that her dad was ill with a heart condition. He had moved to another neighborhood, so I wrote him a letter asking him to forgive me. He responded. We renewed our friendship, and I enjoyed being in his company again. I remain grateful to his daughter for informing me about him in time. And when he died from a heart attack, his family asked me to speak at his memorial service.

President Trump has demonstrated a penchant for lashing out and holding grudges against his political “enemies” such as McCain. Trump said he was a “Presbyterian” during the presidential campaign. But his critics point out his behavior and mean-spirited attitude are un-Christian. President Trump’s personal pastor is Paula White, whom Wikipedia describes as a “prosperity gospel minister.” My own younger half-sister belonged to a prosperity gospel church in Dallas decades ago that became mired in scandal. Other pastors have called White a charlatan who seeks to earn millions like some other infamous televangelists.

Authentic Christians know they are supposed to “turn the other cheek” and not return personal insult for insult or retaliate but instead forgive others who have harmed them and not hold grudges. Only God knows for sure if Donald Trump is a true Christian. We’ve read that Mike Pence’s family is praying for President Trump.

Those in the mainstream news media and also in this newspaper have condemned conservative evangelicals for supporting Trump during the election. So why do evangelicals continue to support President Trump? Since I am among those less qualified to defend evangelical Christians, I first had to look up the definition of “evangelical” to see if the definition fit me and my immediate family.

For evangelicals:

  • The Bible is the highest authority for what they believe.
  • It is very important for them to encourage non-Christians to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.
  • Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty for our sins.
  • Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of salvation. (Source: National Association of Evangelicals.)

So, yes, my immediate family fits that definition, which also partly describes authentic Christianity. Authentic Christians believe people sin in thought, word and deed by what they do and by what they leave undone. But they can receive forgiveness and eventual salvation through God’s grace if they are repentant. Christian pro-lifers believe the God-given eternal human soul is engendered at the moment of conception and that embryos develop more like a photographic negative and not like an assembly-line product that is incompletely human till the final piece is attached. Priests and pastors of churches that baptize infants will rush to hospitals to baptize critically ill newborns to ensure their salvation.

The main reason my wife and I joined the “deplorables” and voted for Trump in the 2016 general election is that we are pro-life and Trump campaigned as a pro-lifer. We would have much preferred Mike Huckabee and Carla Fiorina as the Republican nominees for president and vice president respectively. Both are far more attractive, ethical personalities than Trump and represent our values better.

But Donald Trump has not disappointed us with his pro-life agenda. And we think that is reason enough for Christians to support Trump. To ignore the abortion problem is one of those “undone” sins. Democrats running for office are not speaking out against abortion anymore. They know if they did, they wouldn’t win their primary elections. Will history record that Jimmy Carter was the last pro-life Democrat president? We would have dreaded Hillary Clinton’s choice for a Supreme Court nominee had she won. It’s a matter of prioritizing issues for us: pro-lifers believe abortion is the “American Holocaust.”

You’d think all Christians would share the pro-life agenda. But on March 15, 2017, some female clergy representing congregations of the United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Unity Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Episcopal Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Unitarian Universalist Association wrote a letter published in the Des Moines Register stating their support of Planned Parenthood. (Read the Pew Research Center’s online article, “Religious Groups’ Official Positions on Abortion,” to learn how different faiths regard abortion.) Conservative churches work to improve the moral character of folks like me. Liberal churches assuage their congregants’ concerns about salvation even as their people increasingly adopt worldly ways.

During his sermon on Palm Sunday in 2017, First Baptist Church Woodway Pastor and Bible scholar Dr. Paul Sands told us about an online 2003 interview conducted by Marilyn Sewell, retired minister of First Unitarian Church of Portland. She interviewed the late renowned and brilliant atheist Christopher Hitchens. She told Hitchens, “I’m a liberal Christian and I don’t take the stories from the Scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make a distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?” Hitchens replied: “I would say that if you don’t believe Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in a meaningful sense a Christian.”

How sadly ironic Hitchens had to define authentic Christianity for that pastor!

The news media, the Mueller investigation and Trump’s myriad critics are serving to fortify the system of checks and balances afforded by our U.S. Constitution. That’s not a bad thing for our nation. If Trump is guilty as many suspect, he’ll be impeached and removed from office. And when authentic Christian pro-lifers say “President Mike Pence” aloud, it will have a pleasant ring to it.

Mike Miller is a retired teacher and Army veteran who served in Vietnam. He lives in Hewitt.