Never mind the fact that Donald Trump exhibits approximately zero Christ-like attributes in both his professional and personal life, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, claims that America was given a “spiritual reprieve” during his term in his monthly newsletter.
Unlike other well-known evangelicals, Dobson has always been outspoken about politics, which means there is a long paper trail of all the things he’s said about the importance of faith and character when it comes to governing well.
That’s why it was somewhat surprising when Dobson, in June of 2016, urged evangelicals not to fear Trump in part because of his faith. In fact, Dobson said, Trump “did accept a relationship with Christ. I know the person who led him to Christ.”
Dobson also referred to Trump at the time as a “baby Christian.” (Well, he was half right…)
But now that Dobson’s preferred president has lost the election — despite his own best efforts to stoke fear about Joe Biden — Dobson is celebrating what he had for four years:
He isn’t a perfect man, and his relationship with the Lord is a very private matter. But he attempted during the first four years of his presidency to get acquainted with, to honor, and to learn from Christian leaders. He is very close to Rev. Franklin Graham, Dr. Robert Jeffress, Rev. Paula White, Dr. Jack Graham, former Governor Mike Huckabee, and at least 30 others, including myself. He once said while greeting us at a formal dinner, “This is your house. Welcome to it.” He then led us on a tour upstairs in the private residence.
Yes, I admire Donald Trump. He is sometimes brash and aggressive. But as a New York entrepreneur and as a president under siege, he has had to be tough to deal with his challenges. But there is no doubt that he loves America and its people. Speaking personally, I will miss his presence on the national stage when he is no longer our President.
(Oh, so now his faith is a private matter…)
John Fea, a professor at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, points to a number of other ways Dobson contradicts himself or twists himself into a pretzel to justify his ongoing support for the soon-to-be former president. Here’s just a sampling:
He praises Trump for celebrating the National Day of Prayer at the White House and criticizes Obama and Clinton for not celebrating it at the White House. It is apparently not good enough for Dobson that a president celebrates the National Day of Prayer. The true mark of a Christian president is whether hold the celebration at the White House. He suggests that God let Biden win the election to punish America for its sins. Of course one might also argue the same thing about Trump. Near the end of the letter Dobson asks, “Who can discern the mind of God?” Yet everything in this letter suggests that James Dobson can discern the mind of God, especially as it relates to the Trump presidency.
Evangelical hypocrisy is nothing new at this point. It’s especially not new for Dobson, who said the sky was falling back in 2008 when his group published a fictional “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America” explaining what had happened over the past four years… in order to scare voters.
His predictions didn’t come true. His claims about Trump’s devout faith weren’t accurate. And his fear-mongering about Joe Biden is overblown, too.
And yet plenty of white evangelical leaders either still look to him for advice or imitate his rhetoric.
Dobson opens his newsletter by mentioning that he is grieving the election results. He may want to start grieving for the loss of credibility that he and his organizations have wrought upon themselves for compromising the gospel in favor of political power.