Evangelical Christians, the Ten Commandments, and 2016 Presidential Election

Introduction:  The results of the recently completed presidential election in the U.S. showed that it was an extremely close election won by Donald Trump over Hilary Clinton.  Trump won the electoral vote by 306 versus 232, but Clinton won the popular vote 48.5% versus 46.4%, or 65,853,516 votes versus 62,984,825.  In the exit polls, there was one statistic that stood out:  The white evangelical Christians voted 81% vs 16% in favor of Trump over Clinton. [1]  Ideally we would like to know the exit polls for various sub-segments of the evangelical Christians, but there were no sub-segment breakdowns.  However,  we do know from pre-election polls that evangelicals of color (about 2 out 5 of all evangelicals) have just the opposite preference, i.e., significantly more in favor of Clinton.

Since Christians should believe in the Bible, including the Ten Commandments, assessing Trump and Clinton as a person (expressed position and behavior) relative to the Ten Commandments should give some guidance on how Christians should vote.  This essay discusses such an assessment and addresses the question whether white evangelical Christians should have voted so overwhelmingly for Trump.

Summary of Assessment of Trump and Clinton With Respect to the Ten CommandmentsTo provide an assessment with respect to each of the Ten Commandments, we take into consideration Trump’s or Clinton’s expressed opinion and his/her behavior (as elaborated in the next section).  For certain Commandments, in particular, for Commandments 1, 2, 3, and 5, there is “not enough information” (NEI) to make a decision on whether Trump or Clinton follows that Commandment more closely.  In those situations, in the table below we designate in the second column (Assessment of Trump) and the third column (Assessment of Clinton) with NEI, and in the fourth column (Who Follows the Commandment More Closely) with ND (no decision).  Our assessment with respect to Trump and Clinton is summarized in the table below.

Commandment Assessment of Trump Assessment of Clinton Who Follows the Commandment More Closely
1.    Shall have no other gods before me NEI NEI ND
2.    Shall not make idols NEI NEI ND
3.    Shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain NEI NEI ND
4.    Remember the Sabbath Less regular church attendance than Clinton More regular church attendance than Trump Clinton
5.    Honor your father and your mother NEI NEI ND
6.    Shall not murder No, in the sense of abortion Yes, in the sense of abortion Trump
7.    Shall not commit adultery Yes, and many more using definition of Matthew 5:28 No Clinton
8.    Shall not steal More (including cheating) Less Clinton
9.    Shall not bear false witness against your neighbor More, in terms of lying Less, in terms of lying Clinton
10. Shall not covet Often Much less often Clinton
LGBTQ Rights For For ND
NEI=Not Enough Information ND=No Decision

 

Besides the Ten Commandments, in the above table we also included the category “LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer) Rights” because it is usually an important issue for Christians and often may be lumped  as part of Commandment 7 “Shall not commit adultery.”

Sometimes, Trump or Clinton’s position might have changed over time.  In that situation, we use their position in the few months before the election from the time of the Republican or Democratic National Convention to just before election day.  In the next section, we provide more details on Trump or Clinton’s expressed position.  When a person says one thing and does another thing, i.e., when there is an inconsistency between what a person says and what a person does over time, we use the person’s behavior over time to be the determining factor, because it is easy for an election candidate to say something just to get the voters’ votes even if he/she doesn’t really believe in it.  In the next section, we also provide more details on Trump or Clinton’s behavior to help us make our assessment.

 

More Detailed AssessmentAs already mentioned, there is not enough information on the expressed opinion and behavior over time of Trump or Clinton on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Commandments, and therefore we conclude that it is “No Decision” on “Who Follows the Commandment More Closely.”  We now discuss each of the other six Commandments.

4th Commandment “Remember the Sabbath”:  Both Trump and Clinton claim that they are Christians, and indeed both of them were brought up in Christian families and attended church on a more-or-less regular basis when they were growing up.  However, as adults and especially in the last few years, relatively speaking, Clinton has observed the Sabbath significantly more than Trump.  In summer 2015, Trump told reporters that he attended services at the Marble Collegiate College Church in Manhattan, a famous church where Dr. Norman Vincent Peals was the pastor from 1932 to 1984 and the author of the best-selling book The Power of Positive Thinking.  Shortly after Trump’s remark, that church released a statement to CNN saying that Trump was not an active member of the church.  Furthermore, also in summer 2015 at an event organized by socially conservative Christian organizations, Trump said that he had never asked God for forgiveness.  Later he also said that “he does not have much to apologize for, …, I like to be good.  I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness.  And I am good.  I don’t do a lot of things that are bad.  I try to do nothing that is bad.”  Therefore, for the 4th Commandment, we put down Clinton in the column “Who Follows the Commandment More Closely.”

6th Commandment “Shall not murder”:  Neither Trump or Clinton has actually murdered anyone.  But on the issue of abortion, they do express different opinions, with Trump saying no, and Clinton saying yes.  Trump, however, in 1999 told NBC that he was “very pro-choice.”  He might have held this position to as late as 2011, when he announced that he was “pro-life.”  Furthermore, as in many other issues, it is often not clear that Trump really knew what his position was and would offer conflicting positions within days of each other.  This happened on the abortion issue and he/his team expressed five positions, often inconsistent with each other, within the three days between March 30, 2016 and April 1, 2016.

  • March 30, 2016, 2:30 PM:  Trump said in an interview with MSNBC that women who receive abortions once the procedure is illegal will face punishment.  The men who are involved will not.
  • March 30, 2016, 3:30 PM:  Before the interview was aired by MSNBC, a spokesperson for Trump released a statement changing what Trump had told the interviewer.
  • March 30, 2016, 5 PM:   Trump’s campaign released the following statement “If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal court upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”  Note:  This position is in line with the pro-life movement.
  • April 1, 2016, 6:30 PM:  CBS released an excerpt from an interview with Trump when he said “The laws are set now on abortion and that’s the way they’re going to remain until they’re changed.  I would’ve preferred states’ rights.  I think it would’ve been better if it were up to the states.  But right now, the laws are set … At this moment, the laws are set.  And I think we have to leave it that way.”  Note:  This statement is not in line with the pro-life movement.  As a matter of fact, The pro-life group’s Susan B. Anthony List replied that “Trump had ‘disqualified himself as the GOP nominee’ if this were his position.”
  • April 1, 2016, 9 PM:  Before the program was aired by CBS, the Trump campaign re-frames what Trump said “Mr. Trump gave an accurate account of the law as it is today and made clear it must stay that way now – until he is president.  Then he will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn.  There is nothing new or different here.”

Since once conception has occurred, a life has been created even if that life cannot sustain himself/herself outside of the mother’s womb, abortion can be considered as murdering that life.  Ignoring Trump’s position switch before 2011 and his often contradictory remarks on abortion and whether he really knows what his position is, we give Trump the decision on this Commandment.

7th Commandment “Shall not commit adultery”:  There is no indication of adultery committed by Hillary Clinton.  On the other hand, Trump carried on a very public affair with Marla Maples, his eventual second wife, while still married to his first wife Ivana Trump.   Furthermore, if we reference Matthew 5:28:  “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” then Trump has committed adultery numerous times.  Just look at the recorded remarks he made in 2005 in an interview with Billy Bush of Access Hollywood.  Only the cleaner excerpt is included here “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”  The tape was recorded several months after he married his third wife, Melania.”  On the other hand, there is no evidence of anything anywhere close to this involving Hillary Clinton.  So on this Commandment, the decision clearly goes to Clinton.

8th Commandment “Shall not steal”:  Although there might not be clear-cut proof that Trump stole from someone, there are a lot of cases that indicate that Trump cheated on many people.   When you cheat people out of money, that is essentially stealing money from these people.  We will mention only a few examples.  The first one is that Trump refused to pay many of his workers and contractors.  Trump would often respond that they did shoddy work, and so he didn’t have to pay these people.  However, when there are hundreds of such cases, it is extremely unlikely that all of these allegations were false.  In some cases, even the lawyers Trump hired to defend him have sued him for failing to pay their fees.  Another example is the Trump University where many of the students have filed lawsuits that Trump University was a scam and that they were not taught the skills that were advertised, and in November 2016, Trump agreed to settle a series of such lawsuits for $25 million payment. Another example is that Trump’s companies have declared bankruptcy four times in his career. [2]  However, it seems that in each case, he was able to arrange to sell off his share to the company or its investors, so that it is these other people who bore more or most of the financial loss so that he never had to declare personal bankruptcy.  Many other examples of Trump’s cheating can be found here.

What about Clinton?  Since retiring as Secretary of State in 2013, Clinton has made millions giving speeches, usually at around $200,000 per speech, with many speeches giving to financial companies.  There doesn’t seem to be copies of these speeches making them widely available, an indication that perhaps the speeches were not that valuable to a larger audience.  So it seems that the reason that these companies are willing to pay so much is to buy influence with Clinton.  In a sense then, this is like stealing money from these companies, and ultimately essentially from the public.

Therefore, both Trump and Clinton are assessed as violating this Commandment.  Because Trump’s violations are in so many fronts and more frequent, we give Clinton the decision on this Commandment.

9th Commandment “Shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”:  This is equivalent to who tells the most lies.  Actually, many of the examples we discussed for the previous Commandment “Shall not steal” are also examples of lying.

In addition to the ones already discussed for the previous Commandment, here we give two more examples involving Trump.  One example is when the Trump Foundation donates money to some one or organization, there have been instances that the money actually came from someone else or some other organization, and Trump has also used some of the Trump Foundation money to settle his own legal disputes.   Another example is that Trump is lying when he says that the reason he cannot release his income tax returns is because they are under audit.  This is completely false, because an income tax return that is under audit is also allowed to be released.  Furthermore, tax returns that are older than seven years can no longer be audited, but Trump hasn’t released his tax returns for many years.

What about Clinton?  Clinton has also lied with respect to her private email server.  In particular, there were some classified information contained in some of her emails via her private email server.  Although the government’s investigation of this issue is probably not completely over yet, the FBI on November 6, 2016, two days before the election, concluded that Clinton shouldn’t be charged.

Therefore, with respect to this Commandment about lying, because of the frequency and range of occurrence with respect to Trump, we also give Clinton the decision on this Commandment.

10th Commandment “Shall Not Covet”:  The word “covet” means the desire to possess or have something, such as someone’s money or someone’s wife or husband.  As previously discussed with respect to the 7th Commandment “Shall not commit adultery,” especially following the definition of Matthew 5:28, Trump has on so many occasions coveted other people’s wives or girlfriends.  So the decision on this Commandment clearly goes to Clinton.

As mentioned previously, we also added an additional item “LGBTQ” rights, because it is an important issue for Christians and sometimes is lumped together with the 7th Commandment on adultery.  On this issue of LGBTQ rights, unlike the evangelical Christian establishment, both Trump and Clinton are for it.  Therefore, on this issue we decided that there is no decision.

ConclusionOf the Ten Commandments, there is no decision on four of them.  On five of the Commandments, the decision goes to Clinton, while on only one Commandment, the decision goes to Trump.  It is clear then that based on the Ten Commandments, evangelical Christian voters should vote clearly for Clinton.  This was obviously not the case for white evangelical Christians who voted five-to-one in favor of Trump.

White evangelical Christians (like other voters) took into consideration other issues, e.g., affirmative action, amount of government regulation, global warming/climate change, gun control, healthcare, homeland security, immigration, war on terrorism, welfare, etc.  For an easy to understand classification of the views of conservatives and liberals relative to 20 issues, see the article “Conservative vs. Liberal Beliefs.”  The views of white evangelical Christians usually are more aligned with the views of conservatives rather than the views of liberals, i.e., conservatives support Trump much more significantly than liberals.

Evangelical Christians, however, are supposed to be Christians.  They should place a lot of importance on the views of the presidential candidate on the Bible’s Ten Commandments.  In other words, they should place more weight on issues related to the Ten Commandments than on other issues.  Therefore, from that perspective, when white evangelical Christians voted at the 2016 presidential election. did they really behave like Christians?

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[1] Catholics are not included as part of evangelical Christians.  The exit polls showed that white Catholics voted 60% to 37% in favor of Trump over Clinton, as compared to white evangelical Christians voted 81% to 16% in favor of Trump over Clinton.

[2] Note that National Review is a conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley.

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One Response to “Evangelical Christians, the Ten Commandments, and 2016 Presidential Election”

  1. Pamela Blunt says:

    I so enyoy your finely tuned analytical mind, Mr. Tow. It is my observation
    that people generally bend their religious beliefs to fit their biases and
    preconceptions. .
    For centuries, for example, southern whites held slaves
    and defined African American people as less than human. This
    belief allowed them to resolve the cognitive dissonance
    between their supposed Christian beliefs and their reprehensible actions.
    The genocide of native peoples across many continents is
    another example. The selective focus on the words in Leviticus
    concerning homosexuality, while ignoring the other guidelines about
    smiting our neighbor or stoning women to death is another example.

    Your article is so clear and logical. Unfortunately, many of us humans are not!

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