I have had to break a vow. Several months ago I made a commitment to not be partisan. I said I would talk about political issues without naming political candidates. I would focus on policy, not people. This was before Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president. Now, I am committed to do everything within my power (as small and limited as that may be) to keep Trump out of the White House.
I agree with Adam Gopnik writing in the New Yorker,
If Trump came to power, there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over. This is not a hyperbolic prediction; it is not a hysterical prediction; it is simply a candid reading of what history tells us happens in countries with leaders like Trump. Countries don’t really recover from being taken over by unstable authoritarian nationalists of any political bent, left or right–not by Peróns or Castros or Putins or Francos or Lenins or fill in the blanks. The nation may survive, but the wound to hope and order will never fully heal. Ask Argentinians or Chileans or Venezuelans or Russians or Italians–or Germans. The national psyche never gets over learning that its institutions are that fragile and their ability to resist a dictator that weak. If he can rout the Republican Party in a week by having effectively secured the nomination, ask yourself what Trump could do with the American government if he had a mandate.
I don’t for one minute believe the above assessment is sensationalism. I have been listening to Trump fairly closely and I am convinced of several things:
- Trump is a textbook case narcissist (so say my psychologist friends and I believe them).
- Trump is a pathological liar (he may actually believe his lies).
- Trump cares nothing about the country (he only cares about his own interests, power, and glory, and will say and do anything for his own advancement).
- Trump would not hesitate to order a nuclear strike (he asks questions like, “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?” and he is serious).
- Trump manifests Hitlarian characteristics (it happened in “Christian” Germany; it can happen in “Christian” America).
Therefore, we must keep Trump out of the White House, for the sake of our children, grandchildren, you, me, and all God’s creation.
In a recent conversation with a conservative Christian friend who is a Trump supporter, he accused me of playing the Jesus card, as if that were completely out-of-bounds for a minister or even Christian to do. His concluding words were,
Do have a blessed day and for goodness sake stop playing the Jesus card as he might not appreciate being used to further a personal political agenda.
I won’t stop playing the “Jesus card” unfortunately. It’s what I do as a disciple of Jesus. I’m certainly not a perfect one, maybe not even a very good one, but that’s where I get my marching orders. I would love to have an intelligent conversation on how anyone can support Jesus’s agenda in the Gospels and vote for Trump, who represents almost everything Jesus is not and was against. I suppose it means redefining Jesus, which is what many Christians today do. The Gospel portrait of Jesus, while certainly not infallible, is nevertheless, reliable. What do you think the historical Jesus of the Gospels would say to a disciple of his who supports someone like Trump? Surely you have read the Gospels enough to know what is in there. Heck, I preach from them just about every Sunday (my friend is a member of my church).
Do you not think that when Jesus said in Luke 4 in the synagogue in Nazareth (referencing Isaiah 61) that his mission involved bringing good news to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom for captives, liberation for the oppressed, and announcing the acceptable year of the Lord (probably a reference to the year of Jubilee) — do you not think that was political in some sense? When Jesus challenged the powers that be by breaking Sabbath laws intentionally, staging a peace walk to Jerusalem on a donkey, protesting in the temple by overturning the tables — Do you not think Jesus was being political? All of life is political — our politics is just one phase of it.
The question Christians should ask, (though many don’t because they have redefined what Christianity is): Do my politics square with the life and teaching of Jesus, who I claim as my Lord? Or would you prefer, as so many Christians today, to leave Jesus out of it? I would love to know how support for a candidate like Trump relates to your discipleship to Jesus. I can give you a list of things — policy related stuff that Clinton supports — that relates to my commitment to Jesus’s agenda in the Gospels. And I can list a bunch of stuff that Trump has said that runs counter to the peace, compassion, and restorative justice I believe Jesus incarnated. I would gladly have that conversation. I can see why you don’t want me to play the “Jesus card.” It’s a lot easier to support a sociopath like Trump when you leave Jesus out of it. If Christians today just took Jesus seriously, there are enough of us to keep Trump out of the White House. But unfortunately, for many Christians, conservative Christians especially, being a Christian doesn’t actually mean “following Jesus” or even taking Jesus seriously. It’s more about “God and country.” It’s mostly civil religion.
Just curious — you surely know by now what I believe being a Christian means. What do you think it means?
I am still waiting for a response. If you are the kind of Christian who takes your faith a lot more seriously than the “God and country” civil religion types, and if you actually believe that to be a Christian means that we do our best to follow the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels and participate in his compassion and commitment to the poor and oppressed (even though we fail often), then it’s time to play the Jesus card and invite all your Trump supporting Christian friends to offer one positive connection between Trump and Jesus.
Maybe one or two souls can be jarred awake from their spiritual slumber. Then again, maybe not. But the stakes are too high not to try.
Image by Dan Wilkinson, using the following source material: playing cards via Pixabay (public domain), Donald Trump (cropped/skewed/colored) by Gage Skidmore (CC-BY-SA-2.0), The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes by Giovanni Lanfranco via the National Gallery of Ireland (public domain).
Chuck Queen is a Baptist minister and the author of several books on progressive Christian faith, including his most recent, Being a Progressive Christian (is not) for Dummies (nor for know-it-alls): An Evolution of Faith. Chuck blogs at A Fresh Perspective, has contributed to the blog Faith Forward and is a monthly columnist for Baptist News Global.