The Bible as Mirror: Adam, Eve, and The Donald

In our last installment of this series on the ways the Bible mirrors the outrageous behaviors of the 45th president of the USA, Donald Trump, I focused on the constant attempts that Trump makes to deflect attention away from his own questionable actions (e.g. shady connections with Putin and the Russians) toward various sideshows that he either completely fabricates out of thin air (e.g. last week’s absurd claim that President Obama wiretapped his phones both prior to and after his election, of which there remains no evidence whatever), or continues to harp on “alternative facts” ad naseum (e.g. the size of his inaugural crowds). After now some two months of this mess, many of us long for the coming of the 2020 election which we hope will bring the country a return to something like sanity. One of my simple goals in life as I age is now to survive long enough to witness the end of this so-called presidency. It cannot end soon enough!

Cole_Thomas_The_Garden_of_Eden_1828Today I return to the Garden of Eden, which last week offered the mirror of the snake for our delectation, but today provides still another mirror in the persons of the first couple, that hilarious duo who shatter the peace and harmony of YHWH’s gift with their slapstick idiocy, capped by their sewing of fig-leaf clothes to cover their nakedness, using materials that will make their lives truly miserable; fig-leaves, after all, are sandpaper, rather than a soft and comfortable fabric! But as foolish and ridiculous as the scratchy leaves of their garments are, the more dangerous problem arises when YHWH shows up in the garden after the two-person sewing circle has hastily disbanded and rushed back  to the trees to hide from their creator. And now the fun begins!

“They heard the sound of YHWH God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his woman hid themselves from the face of YHWH God among the trees of the garden” (Gen.3:8). A usually delightful scene of YHWH chatting amiably with the couple over a comfortable cup of tea, cooled by the late afternoon breeze, now turns into a mad dash for supposed safety of the trees, that forest that contains the offending tree of the knowledge of everything, that tree strictly denied to them by YHWH, but that tree from which both of them have in fact just eaten. Surprised by the800px-1918_Müller_Adam_und_Eva_anagoriair absence from the appointed place of their usual tete-a-tete, YHWH cries out a very simple and obvious question to the man only, “Where are you?” What YHWH appears to want for this question is a very simple answer, namely something like, “Over here!” But the man’s answer is complex and fraught with implications perhaps completely unintended. “I heard the sound of you in the garden (OK), and I was afraid (afraid of me, thinks YHWH; why?), because I was naked (really, and why is that now a problem since that is how you were made?), so I hid myself” (Gen 3:10). All of these are in fact true statements on the part of the man, but they are cumulatively a very long and convoluted answer to the question of one’s location!

And YHWH has some more questions now, engendered by that surprising answer. “Who told you were naked?” asks YHWH, honing in on the issue that appears to be driving the man’s lengthy reply. YHWH’s next probing question is twisted Hebrew, becoming something more like German, as the central claim is found in the verb placed at the end: “Have you from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat of it eaten?”

Note that this is a “yes or no” sort of question; have you eaten or have you not? The man, to the contrary, finds another sort of answer. “The woman,” he whines, “whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate” (Gen.3:12)! It is plainly not my fault, he says, it is hers, and in the long run, it is yours, YHWH, since you gave her to me in the first place! The man distances himself both from the woman and from YHWH in a classic example of buck-passing. I have my hands in the cookie jar, I shout, because I was severely toilet trained. You need not blame me for cookie munching; my Mommy made me as I am. To seal the point YHWH asks the woman for her explanation of this mess, and she quickly adds, “The snake made me do it” (Gen 3:13)! And the harmony of creation is shattered, and it took but 13 verses to do so, a very quick and ignominious trip.

And speaking of ignominious, we come again to Donald Trump. He is ever ready to blame somebody else for the mess he finds himself in. As he has tried to repeal and change the Affordable Care Act, passed by his predecessor, continually claiming that it has been “a disaster,” he now has discovered that such change is not quite so easy. The Donald was quoted as saying, “Who knew that health care was so complicated?” If that sentence were not so pathetic and naïve, it would be funny. But, he went on to opine, “Well, we inherited a mess, so it may take time to clean it all up.” It is not our fault; it is Obama’s. When his short-lived national security advisor, General Michael Flynn, was fired (resigned?) for lying to Congress and his own Vice President about his contacts with the Russians, and now, we have learned, his work for Turkey at the apparent behest of those same Russians, Trump’s response is to support General Flynn as “a very good man,” who was “treated very badly,” especially by the press, many of whom, says Trump, are the real “enemy of the American people.” Besides, Hillary did “far worse,” and never paid for her “many crimes.”

“ Do you think I have treated women badly? What about Hillary who has savaged many women for their lack of support of her? What about her husband, Bill, and his affair while president with an intern on his staff?” And this week (March 13), we hear that last month 230,000 jobs were created in the US, continuing a very long series of months of sustainable job growth. During the campaign Trump over and over derided the claims of job growth as untrue, claiming the real figure of unemployment was something more like “40%” in real terms, rather than the 5-6% announced by President Obama. But now those 230,000 jobs are real jobs, and they were created by the new president; unemployment is now finally, says Trump, on the way down, thanks to his genius and toughness with trade laws and immigration. The fact that job growth figures always lag behind the date of their announcement by a significant period of time, thus having no connection to any Trump policies at all, do not deter the master showman from taking full credit. He passes the buck when things are bad, and grabs all the glory when things are good.

In short, the Donald is the spitting image of Adam and Eve, when caught in serious lies, blaming others for their shortcomings and then grabbing the limelight when all is fine. One can only hope, in the face of this ongoing circus, that God will offer some smooth skins to replace those ridiculous fig leaves that we all tend to sew and wear. For there is little doubt that Donald Trump is sewing vast swaths of fig leaf aprons in the vain attempt to cover his gaping inadequacies while blaming all and sundry for those inadequacies, coupled with a continual unwillingness to open himself to advice and correction from anyone save himself and those who think in like fashion.

Donald_Trump's_hair_from_behind,_2007  God, we ask for your mercy on us and our country as this weak and inadequate man occupies the place of power in our land.

(Images from Wikimedia Commons)

About John C Holbert

John C Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor of Homiletics Emeritus, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX.