In the aftermath of one of the most contentious, disturbing and surprising elections in American history, the nation and the church have arrived at a kairos moment with far-reaching ramifications.
Real estate mogul Donald Trump’s unlikely victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, combined with conservatives maintaining majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, provides the potential for a much-needed reprieve from the relentless hemorrhaging of religious liberties and trampling of Biblical values in recent years.
Trump’s flaws and political inexperience notwithstanding, the president-elect has vowed to vigorously defend religious freedom, to oppose late-term abortions and to nominate conservative Supreme Court justices. If he follows through on those campaign promises, it could significantly relieve the clampdown on Christian expression that has occurred in recent years at the hands of liberal government and cultural forces.
Had Clinton won, that pattern was widely expected to continue and likely accelerate.
“This is a tremendous opportunity that we’ve been given,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “In my view, our prayers have been answered in that we were not given what we deserved, but instead we’ve been given an opportunity as a nation to turn back to God.
“I don’t see Donald Trump as the solution, but I do see him as providing a way for the solution, the space to do what we’re called to do. The church, those who are followers of Jesus Christ, should have the ability to live according to their faith, to share the message that has the ability to transform the hearts and lives of men, women and children. That’s what this election was really about because we were on the cusp of losing the freedom to do those things.”
Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of the First Liberty law firm that seeks to protect religious liberty, has interacted with Trump and said he believes the president-elect is sincere about proactively fighting against attacks on Christian expression.
One of the major ways Trump can do that is through his Supreme Court nominees. One spot is open now, and more could be coming over the next four years. Those nominations could impact the direction of the nation for decades.
“This is a huge election result on the issue of religious liberty,” Shackelford said. “We’ve got cases eventually on the way to the Supreme Court that were probably going to go one way, and now they’re probably going to go the other way because we’ll have good justices who follow the law and the Constitution.
“There are certain things President-elect Trump can do immediately once he gets in office, including with executive orders. Other things will take some time. We’re going to do everything in our power to walk through these doors that God has opened and to make sure [Trump] follows through, too, because this will be great for our country. Religious freedom is what this country was based on.”
Pastor and author David Jeremiah of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., said he believes God is giving the church in America another chance to wake up, turn back to Him and fervently seek Him for revival and a great harvest.
“I have a new sense of hope for my children and grandchildren,” Jeremiah said. “If this election had gone the other way, the prospect for our country ever being like what we’ve been part of could have been lost. The momentum was going away from the values that made America great, but I believe this election has put a stop to that momentum.”
However, this is no time for believers to relax or to assume that advances will happen without a battle, and without repentance.
“This is an epic, potentially world history-changing moment—if we seize it,” Perkins said. “I never thought I would see this opportunity in my lifetime. That’s how significant this is. If we fail to respond to it, I can assure you we won’t have it again in our lifetime, and I’m not sure the country will ever have it again. It’s that significant, and the stakes are that high.
“God has given us a unique expression of His grace for this time. We need to pray for wisdom. We need to have thankful hearts and appeal to Heaven for Him to do what only He can do. But then we have to act and do what He has called us to do.”
Trump faces the challenge of leading a divided country that has been fractured by opposing worldviews and racial strife.
“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division,” Trump said in his Nov. 9 victory speech after winning the election. “It is time for us to come together as one united people.”
Former Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.), now a distinguished senior fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, said believers should be praying for nationwide reconciliation, racial and otherwise.
“We need for there to be a healing,” Wolf said. “I pray that the church will begin to speak out and be very, very bold on these issues.”
Trump is a polarizing figure who has been widely criticized for crude remarks about women and other ethnic groups and a bombastic defensiveness toward those who attack him.
“That concerns me a lot,” said conservative syndicated columnist Cal Thomas. “He’s been called a narcissist, but there’s probably a certain amount of narcissism in any politician.”
Scripture has plenty of examples of God using less-than-exemplary people for His purposes, and Shackelford says that is still happening in our time.
“Whatever you think of Donald Trump as a person, he could be the guy who helps get Roe v. Wade overturned in the next four years,” Shackelford said. “As flawed as all of us are, God can use any of us.”
There is widespread encouragement that Trump has sought out evangelical leaders for counsel and selected former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a devout Christian, as his vice presidential running mate.
Wolf served with Pence in Congress and said he previously has urged Pence to run for the presidency. Wolf said Chuck Colson, the late founder of Prison Fellowship, also admired Pence.
“Mike Pence is one of the most honest, decent, ethical and moral men that I ever served with,” Wolf said. “That raises my comfort level [with Trump becoming president]. That’s a game-changer for me.”
Pence openly professed his faith in Jesus during his vice presidential debate against Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and following the historic victory on Nov. 8 said: “I come to this moment deeply humbled, grateful to God for His amazing grace.”
Perkins said the church must stay in prayer for the new administration and that he expects relentless opposition—both politically and spiritually—against attempts by Trump and conservative legislators to reverse gains made in recent years by secularists.
“I believe there is going to be an intense level of spiritual warfare,” Perkins said. “One thing I’ve found is that the enemy is never passive.”
Cal Thomas added: “The secular progressives are not going to say, ‘We’re just going to throw up our hands now and quit because of the election.’ They’re going to do everything they can to undermine Trump and then win the next election.”
While governments and their leaders can be vessels for righteousness, Thomas said it’s important to remember that the Lord is our only real source of hope.
“What politician is worthy of your faith?” Thomas said. “What politician can do more for you than Jesus and His Kingdom? Governments are broken because people are broken, and we’re talking about people trying to patch up a fallen, disintegrating, dying world.
“The only way to fix [any of it] is through the Gospel of Jesus. He is still the great reconciler and problem fixer. He never disappoints. He never breaks a promise.
Everything He says is trustworthy. Why wouldn’t you put your faith in Him instead of a politician who couldn’t possibly fulfill every promise and certainly can’t fulfill the ultimate promise, which is eternal life?”