Matthew Arbo on the Immorality of Trump’s Tweets and Actions

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump attends the NATO leaders summit in Watford, Britain December 4, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Matthew Arbo is an assistant professor of theology and director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Oklahoma Baptist University. The views in this essay are his personal views. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of BCNN1.

Until recently, I’d never heard anyone defend President Donald Trump’s tweets on moral grounds.

Then I read a piece from theologian Wayne Grudem, which did just that.

Grudem had come to the defense of the president after Mark Galli, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, called for Trump’s removal from office because of his “grossly immoral character.”

In response, Grudem read six days’ worth of the president’s tweets and found him innocent of all charges.

Having read a wider sample myself, I feel confident in concluding that Grudem’s judgment on this selective sample is absolute nonsense. Insidious, even vile tweets are easily discoverable. It is why in my case I blocked the president’s account altogether: I didn’t wish to experience a United States president embarrassing the office on a near-daily basis.

Also odd, but not quite as odd, is Grudem’s appeal to the New Testament’s “tree and fruit” principle in defense of Trump. Good trees bear good fruit, not bad, and likewise bad trees bear bad fruit, not good, according to the New Testament.

This statement is morally true and when properly applied is profoundly instructive. Properly is the key term.

In looking to the president’s moral conduct, then, we look not only to the policies he pursued, but also to how they have been pursued, and indeed to the president’s whole manner of conduct.

Grudem argues that Trump has been an effective president and has promoted good policies and so — because he has been successful, Trump could not possibly be immoral.

Good fruits can only come from good trees, after all, he says.

But of course this isn’t quite what Jesus taught.

None of us would deny that a horrible person could achieve something significant. I mean, have only morally pure artists produced great works of art? Achievements, even political achievements, are accomplished by folks from all over the moral spectrum.

But in the New Testament, Jesus says that our actions disclose our character.

Grudem lists 20 of the achievements that he believes reflect well on the president’s character. It is possible to see in a few of these achievements something akin to “character.” But it is also possible to see corruption.

I’d like to suggest that we phrase the question about the president’s morality differently, by asking if the president has conducted himself virtuously and not simply whether certain of his policy achievements have merit.

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Source: Religion News Service