Each week adds fresh fuel to the conflict raging within the conservative conscience: Do we support President Trump, or do we confront him?

Surveys and analyses like “Why Evangelicals Voted Trump: Debunking the 81 percent” offer solace to those of us who are squeamish about our Republican president, if only by reassuring us that the decision-making process of evangelical conservatives in the 2016 presidential election was, well … complicated and far from easy. For many conservative voters, it came down to casting the vote we believed would do the most good and cause the least harm to America’s future.

But how do we respond to President Trump now that he is ensconced in the Oval Office, speaking to the world from a lectern placarded with the seal of the President of the United States – a seal which signifies that when he does speak, he speaks for us?

It’s only fair to acknowledge the many achievements of the Trump administration: championing religious freedom; taking steps to protect unborn babies around the globe; working to trim an overzealous, unaccountable bureaucracy and stem the tide of overreaching federal regulations; seeking to protect America’s borders while leaving Congress to address the legal framework of immigration; and appointing judges committed to supporting and defending the Constitution as written . This is only a partial list of significant accomplishments that should not, by any means, be overlooked.

However, as important as it is for conservatives to appreciate our president’s success stories, it is every bit as important for us to acknowledge the ways in which “Trumpism” conflicts with our principles and worldview.

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When President Trump makes light of – some would even say praises – Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte for “body-slamming” a reporter, Christians who care about their witness and conservatives who care about the future of conservatism cannot be silent. When he dismisses all people from certain poorer nations as unworthy of ever becoming American citizens, we must speak out. When he resorts to name-calling and personal attacks on political opponents, we must set the record straight: This behavior is squarely at odds with our values.

If we fail to do so, we not only manifest a lack of integrity (holding the other party’s candidates to standards we dismiss for our own political leaders), but we also perpetuate the pernicious idea that the president’s behavior is a faithful representation of conservatism. It isn’t. So it falls to those of us who are conservatives in the classical sense – who seek to conserve the good in both our culture and government – to be clear and vocal about why, and to set a higher standard of public discourse for those who aspire to lead our cities, states and nation.

In fact, it’s time for us to raise our standards across the board, politically and culturally. It’s time to insist that government conform to the rule of law; to push past the tyranny of sentimentalism in pursuit of Truth; to advocate doing what is right instead of “following our hearts”; to hold out for entertainment that features actual talent and inspires more than just a sexual appetite.

Our society is desperate for higher standards. Conservatives must not forfeit America’s culture or government to those who would drag them yet lower. And for this reason, I implore my fellow conservatives to raise the standard for the worldview, wisdom and personal character of those who seek to be our leaders. Of course we cannot expect moral perfection of anyone, but we can expect our leaders to at least be striving toward it.

We should support candidates who treat all people with dignity, who don’t stoop to name-calling and insulting their opponents. We should seek out those who loathe violence, who take the high ground amidst provocation. We should elect officials who can engage their opponents in a thoughtful, respectful discussion of issues and winsomely articulate the conservative position after acknowledging whatever good can be found in the alternative.

In today’s political climate, such high-standard candidates are often difficult to find. Sometimes we are forced to make a choice in their absence. But if we begin now to raise our standards, both in politics and in the culture that produces the next slate of politicians, we seed the ground for future elections when we may just get to choose between “better” and “best.”

For now, faithful conservatives must support President Trump when he does good, oppose him when he is petty, disparaging, or mean – and always, always we must pray for him.

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