Seriously, I don’t pay a lot of attention to Donald Trump. I got my hair cut a few weeks ago, and the stylist asked me what I thought of him, and I said, “I don’t, basically.” Talk around the salon was all for him, and women were surprised when I said I did not consider him a serious candidate, nor believed that he thought himself one, either; “he’s a showman, and he’s bored, and he’s having fun making mischief”, I said, “but he is not a serious presidential contender.”
I was roundly talked down for that. “He might be all of those things,” I was told by women with chemicals and tinfoil on their heads, “but he’s also saying the right things, things no one else has the guts to.”
“Fine, let him force some necessary discussions, then, but he is still more gadfly and spoiler than statesman.” I answered, getting busy with a book. I tried not to listen to the conversation around me, which was basically, “The government stinks; Obama stinks; Hillary stinks; that old guy stinks; all of the Republicans stink, too, except maybe that guy, you know, whatshisname?”
Yeah, good old whatshisname, he’ll put America to rights, alright, but in the meantime, Donald Trump is saying things; that’s not surprising. He was born to say things, mostly outrageous things, because every era has its huckster-showmen and he is ours.
People love to focus on the daily outrage, — the daily distraction of illusory urgency that will be forgotten next week, unless the media deliberately keeps the matter whipped — and if that’s what it takes to get attention, Trump is happy to feed that machine.
Because that is so, and because it is so obvious, his pronouncements barely register with me. But this remark from Trump raised my head:
People are so shocked when they find … out I am Protestant. I am Presbyterian. And I go to church and I love God and I love my church,” he said.
Moderator Frank Luntz asked Trump whether he has ever asked God for forgiveness for his actions.
“I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”
Trump said that while he hasn’t asked God for forgiveness, he does participate in Holy Communion.
“When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed,” he said. “I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.'”
I’ve been trying to figure out why this statement bothers me so much.
I don’t think it’s the idea that he doesn’t routinely ask God for the forgiveness of his sins. A lot of Americans have lost their sense of what constitutes sinful behavior. Indeed, I would venture to suggest that many have come around to Barack Obama’s definition of sin — that it is more about “being out of alignment with [their] values”, than about actually giving offense to the Creator — so in that sense, Trump thinking in terms of missteps that need re-addressing is actually a slightly more substantial take.
Trump at least suggests that he can make a mistake, and that mistakes must be addressed; that’s at least on the same page as the notions of sin-and-penance, and it’s a vast improvement over “My thoughts and feelings and values are all correct and so as long as I don’t betray them, I’m not sinning,” that old Theology of the Strange God, which resides within the self.
So, what bothered me?
Perhaps it was the use of the word, “little” in the context of Holy Communion.
I know that in the the Presbyterian tradition, communion is a symbol and a remembrance, quite unlike what the Holy Eucharist is for Catholics (Real Flesh, Real Blood, Real Presence), but even as symbology-and-remembrance, it contains power, because it recalls the immensity of a redeeming gift, freely given by the Christ. There is power with the very name.
As such, were I a Presbyterian, I think I’d still feel a little insulted, for the sake of the rite, by the words “…drink my little wine, have my little cracker”; not only does it remind me of the sort of self-satisfied chatter I used to hear among my aunties and their friends, (“I have my little treat, and my little afternoon story, and then I start supper…”) it just sounds rather condescending.
It assigns a quality of daintiness to the communion species that belies the very strength within them that Trump attests to.
He says these species make him feel cleansed. So, even if he is not copping to sin-as-sin, he’s saying he feels its weight; I wouldn’t presume to guess how heavy or lightly it bears on him, but Trump is nevertheless giving witness to something powerful enough to lift that weight; “my little cracker” only seems to make light of it.
Perhaps it is too personal for him to speak of before others, without trying to lighten it. People do that, sometimes; they use a phrase, or a gesture, that signals a minimization, because they’d prefer not to share how much a thing means to them, because it might make them vulnerable. I can give someone the benefit of a doubt.
But I should think Holy Communion within one’s faith tradition, especially when it has the power to make one feel “cleansed”, deserves a better narrative than the one Trump has given it.
Yeah, I guess that was what bothered me, the word “little”; the suggestion of delicacy. It may not be my communion; it may not be what a Catholic would refer to as the Holy Eucharist, but there is still power in the recollection, for people of faith.
Trump recognizes that power, though. That’s interesting. It may signify by only the merest crumb of revelation but it reminds us that there is more to this huckster-showman than we’ve been shown; there is more to everyone than they show.
That’s always a sound reminder, for all of us, especially we who toil on the internet, where humanity is so often lost behind a screen.