My challenge as a Christian psychologist: Help evangelicals see Trump for who he really is

Trump-supporting evangelicals are among the most blind Christians to ever engage in politics

Published March 29, 2024 9:00AM (EDT)

Faith leaders pray over President Donald Trump during a 'Evangelicals for Trump' campaign event held at the King Jesus International Ministry on January 03, 2020 in Miami, Florida.  (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Faith leaders pray over President Donald Trump during a 'Evangelicals for Trump' campaign event held at the King Jesus International Ministry on January 03, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In 2015, I was a Republican. However, I became increasingly alarmed by the political rise of Donald Trump and the evangelical support he garnered. It was clear to me at the time that Trump was intellectually, psychologically, and morally unfit for office and that it was delusional for anyone, especially evangelicals, to think otherwise.

My alarm only grew as increasing numbers of evangelicals threw their support behind Trump with his selection of Mike Pence, a devout Christian, as his running mate. It was at that time I began to write opinion pieces criticizing Trump and challenging evangelicals to stop buying into his self-glorifying lies. With very few exceptions, my op-eds fell on deaf ears.

Fast forward to today, and the unfitness of Trump to occupy the Oval Office is only worsening as is the delusional view many evangelicals have of him. MAGA evangelicals, like lambs led to the slaughter, continue to believe the things that come out of Trump’s mouth, something deeply concerning given that he is widely seen as a pathological liar.

Within the body of Christ, there appears to be little willingness to reason anymore, and unbridled emotions seem to be running the show.

Evangelical support of Trump in 2024 falls into the category of “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.” Shame on Trump for conning evangelicals into supporting him in 2016. Shame on evangelicals for being conned back into supporting him in 2024 given his catastrophically bad presidency and noticeable unfitness for office. There are none so blind as those who will not see, and Trump-supporting evangelicals are among the most blind Christians to ever engage in politics.

Before going any further, I want to define delusional as I’m using it in this piece. A person being delusional is “characterized by or holding false beliefs or judgments about external reality that are held despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.” It is my contention that many MAGA evangelicals are delusional in that they continue to see Trump in an extremely positive light even though who he is would suggest seeing him in an extremely negative one. 

Along these lines, Trump-supporting evangelicals appear to be especially good at cherry-picking verses from the Bible to justify their support of Trump, but they seem to have a strong aversion to dealing with sections of Scripture that clearly warn against doing so. I believe there are two primary biblical passages that argue against supporting Trump for president. In focusing on these passages, I have two questions I would like evangelicals who support Trump to answer.

How do you support someone for president who unrepentantly practices the things God hates?

One of the most important passages in the Bible for understanding Trump, one that MAGA evangelicals often ignore, is Proverbs 6:16-19.  It says, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”  From my perspective, this is a word-for-word description of how Trump operates.

Trump has haughty eyes in that he proudly believes he never does anything wrong. Trump once said he had never asked God for forgiveness because he hadn’t done anything bad enough to warrant it. Trump has a lying tongue. During his presidency alone, he told over 30,000 lies, and the frequency of his lying appears to have only increased since he left office.  Trump’s gross mishandling of the COVID crisis qualifies as the shedding of innocent blood. Tens of thousands of people died from COVID who didn’t have to, all because Trump didn’t want the numbers to make him look bad. Trump is quick to rush into evil (affairs, tax evasion, sexual assault, defaming others, scam schools and charities, inciting an insurrection). Trump bears false witness against others in that he frequently attacks people’s character, especially the character of those he feels the most threatened by, in an effort to distract from how little he possesses. Finally, Trump stirs up conflict wherever he goes, disunifying our country every step of the way.

Evangelicals, how do you support someone like this for president? 

How do you support someone for president who God tells you to ignore?

A second passage for understanding Trump that many of his evangelical supporters refuse to acknowledge is 2 Timothy 3:1-5.  It is, from my perspective as a psychologist, a description of a malignant narcissist: “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will become lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people (italics mine).” Again, I would argue that this is a word-for-word description of Trump.

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Trump exhibits malignant narcissism in that everything is about his needs being met and how great he is.  Trump is a lover of money in that he has lived his adult life greedily pursuing wealth and behaving as if he can never have enough.  He is beyond boastful, talking ad nauseum about how he knows more than all the experts in their respective fields.  Trump is abusive, especially when it comes to the verbal and emotional abuse he has inflicted on those around him.  He is unforgiving and has already warned us that if he is elected president for a second time, he is going to go on a revenge tour against his enemies the likes of which our country has never seen.  Trump lacks self-control in many areas of life including food, sex, golf, and controlling his tongue. He clearly isn’t a “lover of the good.”  To the contrary, he seems to have a strong penchant for loving evil and evil dictators in what guides his actions. Finally, Trump portrays himself as a godly man when there is no substance behind it.  Trump recently said he was proud to be a Christian, something no humble Christian would say, and he has been out hawking Bibles lately while portraying himself as someone who loves the Word of God.  Both of these reflect Trump trying to appear to be someone he's not—a God-fearing, Bible-loving man who models his life on the life of Jesus Christ.

Evangelicals, how do you support someone like this for president?

No matter what the cost, Christians must stand up for truth

It is not inherently delusional to hold conservative or liberal values.  Both sides of the political aisle have core values that are admirable and worth fighting for.  What turns holding these values problematic is when a person takes them to radical extremes and weaponizes them for personal gain and glory while not caring how much damage he or she causes the country in the process.  Trump is such a person, and, consequently, I believe it is both foolish and delusional to support him holding the highest office in the land.

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I have great admiration for Nathaniel Manderson’s recent opinion piece, “My calling as a Christian minister:  Stand up against evangelical hypocrisy.”  I admire any Christian who is willing to risk being attacked and vilified when he or she feels other Christians are in error and need to be called out for it.  It was his article that led to writing this one.  

I identify with many of the things Manderson said about the price one pays for speaking out against Trump and the hypocrisy of evangelicals who support him. Personally, it has been painful for me to lose friendships and some degree of professional respect over my criticisms of Trump.  But, as is the case with Pastor Manderson, I’m far better off not having certain people as friends or the regard of certain professional colleagues if they are unwilling to respectfully and rationally engage in truth-based debate about whether or not Trump is fit to lead this country.

Within the body of Christ, there appears to be little willingness to reason anymore, and unbridled emotions seem to be running the show.  We are deeply divided as to whether or not supporting Trump is wise or foolish, biblical or unbiblical.  But this is part and parcel of how Trump operates—sow discord and division among groups of people, even Christian groups he claims to be a part of, and ride that division all the way to the White House for his glory and not for the glory of God.

I think our country is strong enough to withstand another Trump presidency.  But, to be honest, I don’t want to find out.  It’s a risk we can’t afford to take.  I respectfully ask Christians who support Trump to reconsider.  The stakes are incredibly high in every election but are especially high in this one. If you’re conservative like me, please consider voting for someone else in November.  Please vote for someone who, though imperfect like all of us, genuinely cares about truth, doing good, the sanctity of human life, compassion for the downtrodden, and unifying our country, not someone like Trump who gives the appearance of doing so for self-serving gain.

By Chris Thurman

Chris Thurman, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, author and public speaker. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestseller "The Lies We Believe." He co-edited the book "The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelical Christians on Justice, Truth, and Moral Integrity," with Ronald J. Sider and Bandy Lee. His most recent book is "Emotionally Healthy Christianity: Following in the Psychological Footsteps of Christ."

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