Donald Trump is not the president that conservative Christian America wanted. However, with the defeat of candidates such as Cruz and Rubio, they were left with little choice. Nevertheless, Christian conservatives (like me) can still be thankful that Hillary Clinton was defeated.
Neither candidate was a model of integrity. Trump’s patent misogyny, distortion of facts, and grossly uncharitable statements about Mexicans have disturbed many practising Christians, and people of faith should not be deceived by Trump’s tactical exaggeration of his own Christian convictions. It must be said, though, that on balance the amoral Clinton is far worse: Hillary’s list of lies and corruption would take too long to recount, and Christopher Hitchens, himself of the Left, concluded that there is nothing that the Clintons will not do.
However, it’s Clinton’s ideological stances that should alarm Christians: she is a strong supporter of the HHS mandate which would have required Catholic employers to provide contraception and abortion as a part of health programmes, and she is also a supporter of the Obergefell decision and of judicial activism in the Supreme Court. Clinton is an extremist on abortion “rights”, supporting a liberalisation of the current heinous law, and a staunch backer of Planned Parenthood. For politically conservative Christians her platform had many other flaws, too: increasing taxation and the size of the state, some worrying statements on free speech and freedom of religion, and even a stated ultimate goal of open borders throughout the northern hemisphere.
Granted, some of Trump’s policies are also anathema to convicted conservatives, but I strongly suspect that these will be watered-down in practice. His promised trade tariffs may well be lower than he has proposed, and he has already backtracked on the deeply unconstitutional idea of a religious test for entry to the US. Building a wall would be enormously costly and raises serious moral questions about how we treat foreigners and outsiders. However, will it actually happen?
On the other hand, Trump has many policies that are of vital importance to traditional Republicans and to which Christians ought to be sympathetic. The most important of these is his promise to make conservative and pro-life Supreme Court appointments: this could be an enormous coup in the culture wars and would strike a blow at the socially progressive worldview propagated by elites in the West since the 1960s. The issue could go back to the states and to the democratic will of Americans, as should all moral and conscientious decisions.
Trump is also more likely to respect the First Amendment, even if he doesn’t understand it (the GOP establishment should ensure that). He is less hostile to Christianity than Hillary, who has suggested that traditional forms of religion must change to fit the mores of progressive America. Freedom of speech is under siege in the West due to political correctness and a Clinton administration would have seen this culture of censorship become worse rather than better, and social conservatives would have been on the losing end.
On foreign policy Clinton would have been far from a safe pair of hands: her aggressive and hawkish stance towards Russia would have escalated the new Cold War, while the Clinton Foundation remains uncomfortably close to the regimes of Saudi Arabia and other unsavoury Gulf states. Strangely, a Trump administration might make the world safer; he is certainly less likely to take us into a needless war with Putin.
There is the possibility, of course, that Trump may not actually do anything. This would be perfectly acceptable from a conservative point of view, as presidents who think they can fix the world like Obama are invariably wrong and disappoint the masses who voted for them. Mighty governments and planned societies don’t work according to the conservative worldview, and the state cannot perfect human society, as anyone who has read Augustine knows; perfection cannot exist in the earthly city.
America was founded by conscientious Christians trying to live according to the Gospel free from the interference of the state or other secular powers. Conservative philosopher Roger Scruton argues that intellectuals tend to favour planned societies, based on the assumption that they will be in charge of them. “Intellectuals” have been trying to plan post-Christian societies since Robespierre, and catastrophically from 1917 onwards, to the detriment of the Church’s liberty and influence. If the federal government ends up doing less, isn’t that what conservatives are aiming for anyway?
If a Trump administration turns out to be really intolerable, it must be remembered that there is always the impeachment process. Something genuinely atrocious would have to emerge in order to warrant this procedure, but although the GOP controls the House, I suspect that Trump would still have enough enemies who might turn against him and impeach him if necessary. The US system is well set up to prevent one branch of government from overreaching itself or compromising the Constitution.
Whatever happens over the course of the next presidency, Christians can at least rest easy knowing that the progressive Democrats who are deeply hostile to Christian values and the Gospel of Life are not in the White House, and cannot impinge upon their liberty to believe, teach, preach and practise for now. The defeat of those who really do hate the Church is at least on some level gratifying.