“That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck. That was the worst debate I have ever seen. It wasn’t even a debate. It was a disgrace.” CNN host Jake Tapper’s sentiments were widely shared by viewers of all political and religious stripes. Roughly an hour into the debate, a staff member used the Hillsong Church account to tweet, “Can’t they just mute Trump’s microphone!! He is coming across as such a bully. No respect for him sorry.” Indeed, for many the first presidential debate of 2020 highlighted a question with which they’ve long struggled: How could anyone support and vote for such a foul-mouthed, mean-spirited, bully who has seemingly single-handedly destroyed civil public discourse in America?
Without question, President Trump’s debate performance was not exceptional. He has a long and consistent track record of aggressive name calling and bullying. Words like “kindness” and “gentleness” equal weakness to this president. Responding in 1990 to President George H. W. Bush’s call for a “kinder, gentler nation,” Donald Trump declared, “I think if this country gets any kinder or gentler, it’s literally going to cease to exist.” Indeed, Melania Trump expressed in 2016 that her husband is not a statesman but a fighter: “As you may know by now, when you attack him he will punch back 10 times harder. No matter who you are, a man or a woman, he treats everyone equal.”
We may not always appreciate his tone, but let’s be honest, those with a conservative bent voted for Trump precisely because he is a fighter. In 2016 he promised to fight for traditional values, religious liberty, and the life of the unborn. He promised to fight for Americans, for Israel, and for the forgotten man. He promised to fight for jobs, law and order, and judges who respect the constitution. Likewise, he promised to fight against Obamacare, illegal immigration, and high taxes. He promised to fight against unnecessary wars, nuclear proliferation, and ISIS. He promised to fight against globalization, socialism, and NAFTA. He promised even to fight against his own political party, if need be, in order to expose corruption in Washington D.C. and to “drain the swamp.”
Incredibly, this president has been more faithful to his campaign promises than any within my lifetime. Moreover, he has been relentless in comparing his agenda for our country to that of his political opponents. Nevertheless, there is a sizeable portion of the population who simply cannot hear his arguments because his expressions are so abrasive. Despite being warned that many of these battles are existential in nature—being a struggle for the very heart and soul of our country—they have concluded that this president simply fights too aggressively for their sensibilities. It could be said that they have chosen to prioritize tone over substance. Put bluntly, words are more attractive than actions, and tone triumphs over content.
Fortunately, this is not how the British evaluated Winston Churchill, or we may today be speaking German. Sometimes the threat is so significant and the substance so crucial that the form pales in comparison. Given the number of moral issues on the ballot in 2020, it seems that this may be one of those moments.
Like it or not, one of two people will be president come January 20, 2021. Our choice is between Donald Trump and Joe Biden; there simply is no viable third option. Yet, as contentious as these two candidates have proven to be with each other, something bigger is at play: Each of these men represent a political party that will be empowered to set our nation’s agenda for the foreseeable future. How we vote—and even whether we choose to abstain from voting—will determine the moral course of our country. Likewise, how we vote down-ballot will determine the level of resistance the White House is likely to receive in enacting that agenda. So, let’s set aside tone for a moment and compare the substance of these two agendas—these two platforms—using the Family Research Council’s “Party Platform Comparison 2020.”
GOD IN GOVERNMENT
Celebrates “the paramount importance of maintaining the separation between church and state”
- Silent on the role of God in government
- Silent on the source of human rights
- Entire platform mentions God one time
“If God-given, natural, inalienable rights come in conflict with government, court, or human-granted rights, God-given, natural, inalienable rights always prevail”
- “We support the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage”
- Entire platform mentions God 15 times
“Religious freedom is a core American value and a core value of the Democratic Party. Democrats will protect the rights of each American for the free exercise of his or her own religion”
- “We will fight to enact the Equality Act”—a bill that would remove religious liberty protections and even force churches to violate the tenets of their faith
- Celebrates “the paramount importance of maintaining the separation between church and state”
- Rejects “broad religious exemptions” for “businesses, medical providers, social service agencies, and others”
“Strongly support[s] the freedom of Americans to act in accordance with their religious beliefs, not only in their houses of worship, but also in their everyday lives”
- “Ongoing attempts to compel individuals, businesses, and institutions of faith to transgress their beliefs are part of a misguided effort to undermine religion and drive it from the public square”
- “We value the right of America’s religious leaders to preach, and Americans to speak freely, ac cording to their faith”
- The government “is constitutionally prohibited from policing or censoring speech based on religious convictions or beliefs”
SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE
“Democrats believe every woman should be able to access… reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortions.”
- Will “oppose and fight to overturn federal and state laws that create barriers to reproductive health and rights”
- Supports “repealing the Hyde Amendment” to allow the government to fund abortion
- Supports “codifying” the right to abortion
- Opposes current FDA safety restrictions on chemical abortion pills
- Supports repealing President Trump’s changes to the Title X program that separate abortion from federal family planning grants
“Proud to be the party that protects human life and offers real solutions for women” and “strongly oppose[s] infanticide,” including specific support for
- The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act
- A human life constitutional amendment
- A ban on abortion at 20 weeks, when unborn babies can feel pain
- A ban on abortion based on sex or disability
- A ban on dismemberment abortion “in which unborn babies are literally torn apart limb from limb”
- Abortion clinic safety regulations
- A ban on human cloning, and creating or experimenting upon human embryos, including three-parent embryos
- A ban on any sale of body parts
- A ban on the “use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood”
“We believe…access to reproductive care and abortion services, are vital to the empowerment of women and girls”
- Supports repealing President Trump’s expanded Mexico City Policy and the Helms Amendment which bar American funding for abortion abroad
Opposes the federal government funding abortion overseas and supports restoring the Mexico City Policy, to prevent federal money from going to Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) which “provide or promote abortion,” or are complicit in China’s one-child policy
Silent on marriage and family being the foundation of society
“The American family… is the foundation of civil society, and the cornerstone of the family is natural marriage, the union of one man and one woman”
- “We condemn the Supreme Court’s ruling in …Obergefell v. Hodges” and “urge its reversal”
“We will fight to enact the Equality Act”—a bill that would alter our entire federal civil rights framework, gut religious liberty, advance abortion, and allow biological men to play in women’s sports if they identify as a transgender women
- Supports insurance coverage of “gender transition,” including “surgery and hormone therapy”
- “We will ensure that all transgender and non-binary people can procure official government identification documents that accurately reflect their gender identity”
- Supports banning practices aimed at assisting patients with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria
- We will work to “guarantee transgender students’ access to facilities based on their gender identity”
- We will protect the rights of transgender students”
Opposes “reshap[ing] our schools — and our entire society — to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions”
- We “embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with dignity and respect”
- “We support measures” barring “government discrimination because of [one’s] views on marriage and family”
- Supports “the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children”
- Opposes Title IX being used “to impose a social and cultural revolution upon the American people by wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories”
- Opposes President Obama’s Title IX transgender bathroom edict, saying it is “illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues”
LGBTQ ISSUES INTERNATIONALLY
“We will restore the United States’ position of leadership on LGBTQ+ issues” and appoint “senior leaders directly responsible for driving…LGBTQ+ issues” within the federal government
Condemns the Obama administration for “impos[ing] on foreign recipients, especially the peoples of Africa, its own radical social agenda while excluding faith-based groups”
SOCIAL EXPERIMENTATION IN THE MILITARY
“We will reverse the Trump Administration’s…ban [DOD policy on Gender Dysphoric individuals serving in the military]”
- Silent on service members’ religious liberty rights
- Calls for VA medical benefits to include abortion and gender “transition” services
“We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept…attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness”
- “Support[s] the religious freedom of all military members, especially chaplains, and will not tolerate attempts to ban Bibles or religious symbols from military facilities”
- Opposes the “Selective Service registration of women for a possible future draft”
“We will appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices and federal judges who…will respect and enforce foundational precedents, including… Roe v. Wade.”
- “Applaud[s]” the decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which redefined the word sex in Title VII to include sexual orientation and gender identity
“We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life”
- Seeks to “enable courts to begin to reverse the long line of activist decisions—including Roe, Obergefell, and the Obamacare cases”
CONSCIENCE RIGHTS IN HEALTHCARE
Condemns the Trump administration’s regulation clarifying the definition of sex discrimination in the Affordable Care Act. This regulation allows doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies to practice medicine and operate in accordance with their conscience
- Supports the HHS contraception mandate against faith-based groups like Little Sisters of the Poor
“America’s healthcare professionals should not be forced to choose between following their faith and practicing their profession. We respect the rights of conscience of healthcare professionals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and organizations, especially the faith-based groups which provide a major portion of care for the nation and the needy”
“Democrats oppose private school vouchers and other policies that divert taxpayer-funded resources away from the public-school system, including the program at issue in the recent Espinoza decision”
- No mention of homeschooling
Recognizes that “parents,” not the government, “are a child’s first and foremost educators”
- Will “fight for school choice” and “local control”
- Supports homeschooling, private schools, vouchers, and tuition tax credits
- Encourages teaching the Bible as an elective in public schools
Supports “LGBTQ+ inclusive” sex education with a full range of “family planning services”
Supports “sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior”
In 27 days we will have the opportunity to help determine which of these two agendas will be empowered in America. The substance of these agendas is morally charged. Several of these issues are matters for which God will either bless or judge America. Heaven forbid that we relinquish our voice on November 3rd in determining the course of our country because we were too pious to hear or focus on the substance of these two party platforms due to the tone in which they were delivered!
1. Izadi, Elahe. “‘Dumpster Fire.’ ‘Train Wreck.’ ‘A Disgrace’: Horrified Pundits React to the Presidential Debate.” Media. Washington Post, September 29, 2020, 11:56 p.m., EDT. https://www.washingtonpost.com/media/2020/09/29/dumpster-fire-cable-news-debate-reactions/.
2. “‘Sh*tshow’: See Tapper and Bash’s Blunt Reaction to Debate.” CNN video 4:17, n.d. Accessed October 6, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2020/09/30/jake-tapper-dana-bash-debate-reaction-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/2020-presidential-debate/.
3. Browning, Matthias. “Hillsong Forced to Apologize over ‘Mute Trump’s Microphone’ Tweet.” Soul Purpose Magazine, September 30, 2020. https://soulpurposemag.com/hillsong-forced-to-apologize-over-shut-trump-up-tweet/.
4. Kruse, Michael. “The 199 Most Donald Trump Things Donald Trump Has Ever Said.” Politico, August 14, 2015. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/08/the-absolute-trumpest-121328_Page2.html.
5. Vitali, Ali. “Melania Stumps for Donald Trump: ‘He Will Punch Back 10 Times Harder.’” Politics. NBC News, April 4, 2016, 10:41 p.m., EDT. Last updated April 4, 2016, 10:42 p.m., EDT. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/melania-stumps-donald-trump-he-will-punch-back-10-times-n550641.
6. FRC Action. “Party Platform Comparison 2020.” Family Research Council, n.d. Accessed October 6, 2020. https://downloads.frcaction.org/EF/EF20I08.pdf.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.