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Can Evangelicals Disagree on Impeachment without Being Divisive?

Photo of Bob RussellBob Russell | Bio

Bob Russell

During his senior year of high school Bob realized a desire in his heart to enter the ministry. Soon thereafter, he enrolled in Cincinnati Bible Seminary where he graduated in 1965. At just twenty-two years of age, Bob became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the three worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches and conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups. An accomplished author, Bob has written over one-dozen books. Bob and his wife Judy of 52 have two married sons and seven grandchildren with whom they enjoy spending their time. Bob also enjoys playing golf and is an avid University of Louisville football and basketball fan. 

*Editor’s Note: We worked with Bob Russell, a Renew.org partner, on the following newsletter/blog regarding the impeachment of Donald Trump.

Last week Mark Galli, retiring editor of Christianity Today, published an editorial calling for President Donald Trump’s removal from office. Galli’s article endorsing impeachment initiated a firestorm of controversy among Christians. Galli claimed the over 80% of evangelicals who support Donald Trump have become morally numb and are invalidating their Christian testimony.

Franklin Graham, whose father, Dr. Billy Graham, started Christianity Today, responded with an article accusing Galli of liberalism and betraying his dad’s legacy. Now other believers are joining the fray, setting the stage for an escalating civil war within the church.

It’s hard to avoid getting sucked into the nastiness.

A recent email accused me of being a hypocrite for not openly condemning Donald Trump’s abuses of power. The next day another email begged me to state the reasons believers should support the President, suggesting my silence was “cowardly.”

Full disclosure: Among all the persons who ran for President in 2016, Donald Trump was about my 12th choice. But when I went to the polls in the general election, I was only given two main options, and his opponent was in favor of abortion right up to the day of a baby’s birth. That’s a pivotal issue for me, so I voted for number 12.

Although I’ve often been disappointed in Donald Trump’s profane behavior and inappropriate tweets, and although I would prefer the leadership of Mike Pence, I’m opposed to impeaching the President. It seems to me his phone call to Ukraine’s President was ill-advised and merited a five-yard penalty (censure?) but not ejection from the game. The fact that the impeachment vote was entirely partisan and has been followed by indecision illustrated to me it was mostly political theater.

Before Christians take up verbal weapons and get sucked into a self-destructive religious civil war, please prayerfully consider the following:

1. Jesus prayed that His followers would be united.

The night before He was crucified, the Lord prayed, “May they be one, Father, as I am in you so the world may believe that you sent me.”

Satan, whose mission is to kill, steal, and destroy, must take a victory lap when he reads the hateful things Christians write against others on social media.

The Russians’ stated purpose for attempting to interfere in U.S. elections was to create chaos and division. So Vladimir Putin must be giggling up his sleeve. Mission accomplished!

Those of us who follow Christ are instructed, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). And, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). We shouldn’t allow Satan to divide us over very complex political issues but instead be one in hope, doctrine, and charity.

2. The Scriptures command us to respect those in authority.

Even though we disapprove of those who lead, we are still called to be respectful of the office and pray for those in authority. (See Romans 13.) I’m saddened by Christians who admittedly hate Donald Trump (or Nancy Pelosi) and measure the spirituality of others by whether or not they share the same degree of animosity. And this is coming from people who claim to love their enemies and pray for those who mistreat them?!

3. We’re to love the truth, but it’s difficult to discern political truth because most of our information is filtered through a very biased news media. 

If you watch CNN or MSNBC you get an entirely different spin than if you watch Fox or One America News. Months ago, a leading news source assured its audience, “Mounting Evidence proves President Trump colluded with Russia in the 2016 election.” Another network countered, “The Russian Collusion Hoax is a partisan witch-hunt and has no basis in fact.”

A two-year investigation by an independent counsel revealed the American people had been lied to. However, the blatant bias from major news sources continues. Unless you are super-perceptive, it seems prudent to allow time for the truth to surface rather than to jump on an anger bandwagon after listening to the latest cable television opinion maker.

Time and objective investigations will reveal the truth. Until then, we need to remain calm and civil because we see through a glass darkly.

4. Donald Trump’s character is indefensible; however, many of his policies are favorable to believers.

While I am, at times, appalled at the boorish and sinful behavior of the President, I find myself in agreement with most of his policies. He has appointed conservative judges, restricted abortions, stood with Israel, made positive reforms in the criminal justice system, protected religious liberty, and appointed many Bible-believers to important cabinet posts. I’m thankful unemployment is at a record low, and the economy is booming.

When facing a serious operation, I’d rather have a proven surgeon with a terrible bedside manner than a compassionate quack. I prefer an imperfect president who initiates the right policies to one who claims to be a Christian but endorses anti-Biblical positions.

5. God is in control, and we’re prudent not to “kick against the goads.”

God is sovereign. Daniel 2:21 reads, “…He deposes kings and raises up others.” God raised up King Cyrus in Daniel’s day and prompted him to release the Jews from Babylonian captivity so they could return to the Promised Land. Cyrus wasn’t a worshipper of God, but God placed him in that vital position to accomplish His will. “In the Lord’s hand, the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him” (Proverbs 21:1).

Donald Trump does not give evidence of being a devoted follower of Christ, but that doesn’t preclude him from being used by God.

Winston Churchill said terrible things about women and was boorish and intemperate at times. (When Bessie Braddock accused him of being drunk, Churchill responded, “Bessie, you are ugly, and tomorrow morning I shall be sober.”) You don’t have to approve of Churchill’s behavior to acknowledge God used him to rally England against the evils of Nazi Germany. Let’s trust that God will somehow determine the next President of the United States.

Carl Trueman in First Things asks a pertinent question of Galli and others who insist support for Trump negates our Christian witness. He asked, “…what is the alternative?” Trueman adds, “When someone calls for Trump to be thrown out of office by impeachment or the ballot box, it is reasonable to ask what the available alternatives are. As Mother Teresa is unavailable for the White House, we are really looking at Biden, Warren, or Sanders. I can’t speak to the personal moral qualities of these people, but would voting for them or their policies give Christians any more credibility? Given the role of abortion and LGBTQ rights in their respective campaigns, this is surely something any Christian has to address.”

We shouldn’t allow Satan to divide us over very complex political issues but instead be one in hope, doctrine, and charity.

We are in a vicious spiritual battle…but not against one another. The harmony of the church is much more important than the issue of impeachment. You may sharply disagree with me, but that doesn’t give either of us a license to be mean, condemning or condescending.

Let’s make every effort to avoid wounding other believers or dividing the church of God.

Though we don’t see eye-to-eye on every issue, let’s take to heart the appeal of the Apostle Paul:

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:2-6).

(For more from Bob, visit bobrussell.org. Used with permission.)