Dear John Piper: No, Arrogance Is Not As Deadly As Murder

Dear John Piper: No, Arrogance Is Not As Deadly As Murder

Piper says he will oppose both 'death by arrogance' and 'death by abortion.' What he fails to distinguish, however, is that one is a metaphor, and one is literal.
Robert Gagnon
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Theologian John Piper’s article making the case for evangelical Never-Trumpism, titled “Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin: Pondering the Implications of the 2020 Election,” goes something like this:

Evangelical voter: “Candidate A keeps hitting me, my spouse, and my children repeatedly on the head with a hammer. I’m going to vote for Candidate B.”

John Piper: “Yes, but Candidate B is arrogant. That’s just as deadly.”

Evangelical Voter: “Not to me it isn’t. Did you hear me? Candidate A keeps hitting us on the head repeatedly with a hammer. Candidate B is opposed to the hammer hitting.”

Piper, a theologian, pastor, and man I greatly appreciate in many other areas, goes off-course in this recent article when he argues not merely that arrogance is a bad trait in a leader but, more, that the effects of Trump’s arrogance are every bit as “deadly” and “nation-corrupting” as what the Democrats will do to Americans in terms of policy, to say nothing of their own arrogance.

Literal and Figurative Death Are Two Very Different Things

Piper attempts to establish this not by any concrete evidence of pervasive harm, for which he has none, but by appeal to scripture. His “proofs” — in Jeremiah 48:29-31, 42 and Acts 12:20-23 — are not convincing.

Trump has done the opposite of attack the people of God. He has sought to protect the free exercise of religion, welcomed into his administration evangelical Christians such as Vice President Mike Pence, nominated a godly woman to the Supreme Court (in the face of Democratic bigotry), and honored Christ and God in Good Friday and Easter proclamations. He is not the king of Moab or Herod, a parallel Piper implies by including these scripture passages. That description is better reserved for Democratic Party leadership.

“It is baffling to assume that pro-abortion policies kill more people than a culture-saturating, pro-self pride,” Piper writes. “Baffling”? What are the statistics on homicides caused by Trump’s “pride” in the past four years? So far as I know, zero. In that same time period, there have been at least 2.5 million abortions.

Has Piper known a president without pride? Does Piper have a pride meter that registers an increase in arrogance among Republicans? Surely Piper can’t make Trump responsible for Democratic arrogance.

Piper exclaims that he will announce to his “unbelieving neighbor” that he opposes both Trump’s “death by arrogance” and Democrats’ “death by abortion.” What Piper fails to distinguish, however, is that “death by arrogance” is a metaphor; “death by abortion” is literal death. That’s a huge difference.

What’s at Stake in the Current Election?

The following fleshes out my metaphor of being hit on the head with a hammer. The consequences are concrete, not ethereal.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will not only treat Christians as the “dregs of society,” as the moral equivalent of a virulent racist, because of our views on sexual ethics. They will also codify that view into law. They will penalize Americans for not complying with compulsory speech codes regarding transgender pronouns and will “protect” children from those who don’t promote LGBT identities.

They will deprive Christian schools not only of state funding for student loans and research grants but also of accreditation, effectively closing their doors. They will force-feed children radical indoctrination, such as “Drag Queen Story Hour,” that denies their biology, and put men in women’s private spaces: restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, shelters, prisons, and sports.

That’s not all. Democrats will make it nigh impossible for Christians to work in certain professions. They will expose all Christians who dare to express a view consistent with Jesus’ teaching, even if only through a social media post, to being fired from their place of employment. They will force us all into “struggle sessions” at work, requiring us to recant our “bigotry.” They will try to withdraw the church’s tax-exempt status for their opposition to homosexual and transgender immorality.

There’s more: They will put the most hard-left extremists on the Supreme Court to ensure these draconian policies are in place for decades to come, probably for good. They also want to subvert the republic by packing the courts, adding D.C. and Puerto Rico as states to pack the Senate, and promoting unlimited illegal immigration to pack the voter rolls so Republicans never again exert influence on any of the major branches of government. Democratic desire to subvert the republic was amply illustrated in their repeated attempts to impeach Trump after the latter was duly elected.

Have I mentioned they promote the killing of babies in the womb for any reason during all nine months of pregnancy? They also promote a do-nothing approach to riots and racial division in the country at the expense of reasoned discussion, and push mandatory “racial sensitivity” trainings that require people to confess the intrinsic racism that accompanies their white skin. Moreover, the financial corruption and influence-peddling going on between Biden and his son Hunter is of epic proportions.

Biden’s running mate, Harris, is even more extreme than he is, with a record of prosecuting pro-lifers and obstructing faithful Christians from serving in government positions. She’s likely to replace Biden as president.

A refusal to grapple with these consequences is mind-boggling coming from an evangelical leader such as Piper, whose Christian conviction and wisdom I have appreciated a great deal in the past. What further evidence does Piper need for the absurdity of this view of voting? Has he not witnessed abundant examples of the “nation-corrupting” immorality listed above?

What more would it take to convince Piper and other Never Trump evangelical leaders that those policies are far more deadly than one man’s arrogance? Is there no abuse on Democrats’ part so great that it would cause Piper to encourage believers to cast an effective vote against Biden and Harris?

The Immorality Card

What of Trump’s sexual sins? Maybe Piper has some information to which the rest of us aren’t privy, but so far as I know Trump has not engaged in sexually immoral intercourse for more than 12 years. He issued a general apology in 2016, saying, “I’ve said and done things I regret. … I’ve said some foolish things.” Most important for those considering a vote for a politician, Trump hasn’t actively promoted sexual immorality as a policy in the way Democrats have.

It’s curious that Piper spoke at a Conference of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the Gospel Coalition honoring the civil rights legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., even though MLK never repented of his own sexual immorality over more than a decade leading up to the night in which he was assassinated. Piper was a lone voice in noting MLK’s immorality in this regard, but he still honored MLK’s legacy. Apparently, Piper is only a purist on moral perfection about Trump and no other American leader.

Applying Piper’s argument about personal moral imperfections to military leadership would have meant pulling some of our best generals in World War II, such as Douglas MacArthur and George Patton, hardly exemplars of modesty. Comparisons like these just show how bankrupt are their moral equivalences in attempting to excuse Democrats while blaming Trump.

It is time for evangelical Never Trumpers to wake up. The barbarians are at the gate.

Robert A. J. Gagnon, PhD, is the author of "The Bible and Homosexual Practice" (Abingdon) and co-author of "Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views" (Fortress). For 24 years he was a professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He is currently professor of theology at Houston Baptist University and Theological Seminary.

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