The most radical shift from Christian values in my lifetime is manifesting itself through Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee of a major party. Donald Trump rode a toxic horse of ethnocentrism, xenophobia and money-worship to win the GOP nomination. While Paul offers the truth that there are no splits in Jew and gentile, master and slave nor women and men, for all are one in Christ, and while Leviticus offers humane treatment for the sojourner, Donald Trump offers a wall paid for by Mexicans to keep them from our country. Why does this anti-biblical, absurd proposal resonate with voters?
While Christ encourages us to go to all nations, tribes and people, Trump makes a thinly veiled play to create a homogeneous America — turn back incoming Muslims and mark those currently in the country as suspicious peoples or worse, regardless of what the US Constitution or the Bible would have to say on the matter — a double-whammy.
Trump also makes a public show of his avarice and money-worship. Jesus was clear in drawing a line between worship of himself and worship of mammon. The two are mutually exclusive. Yet the first thing out of Donald Trump’s mouth at his rallies has to do with his love of his billions and his pride at making billions. Even if the amount of money he really controls probably doesn’t reach a billion, his regard for his wealth is made clear to his followers.
Basically, if you were to do a casting-call for a character with the opposite characteristics of what a Christian should look like, Donald Trump would be the person for the role. He could just play himself.
Yet many evangelicals, like Jerry Falwell Jr, are not only voting for him, but wholeheartedly rejecting the directives of Jesus, supporting Trump as if he were the second coming. How is it they are being deluded? One could easily try to justify it with an appeal to the conservative-liberal divide, but for almost a half a year, the National Review, one of the stalwarts of conservative movement, has been railing against Trump as unfit for the presidency, his platform being a rejection of the conservatism they champion. It is certain that many conservatives will reluctantly vote for “The Donald” out of fear of Hillary Clinton, with eyes wide open, full of distrust.
So how is that Trump holds whole-hearted endorsements from some Christians?
One could make the claim that these stem from new, topical preaching and ready-made Bible-studies, which shield the reader from (rather than guide them to) uncomfortable parts of the Bible like loving your enemies, creating generations of Biblical ignorance. That may be an answer. Yet even a causal reading of the Bible would lead one to find Trump’s dichotomous winner-loser philosophy in complete conflict with Jesus’ teachings.
The answer may also reside in an examination of how we are seduced by power, money and charm — or the allure of simplicity. Trump offers easy answers, even if they are not practical or realistic; he suggests we deport 11-million people, which would go a long way toward making America into a police state and cost hundreds of billions of dollars that few of his supports would be willing to spend were the price advertised.
Has the state of Christian understanding of the meaning of the Gospel come to such a decline that a clear charlatan like Trump can fool so many Christian? The dilemma for Christian leaders is not Trump, but his followers, who tend to be uninformed Christians. Those who attend church at least weekly are far less likely to be fooled by Trump. They can see through the mask.
How can we best avoid Trumpish mammon-worship and return to Jesus’ path? Increased church attendance? Bible study? We’ve a long road ahead.
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