I can’t believe I’m actually comparing Donald Trump to Jesus. Believe me, I’m already uncomfortable with this. Somehow I don’t think Donald Trump would have much of a problem comparing himself to Jesus, which is why I’m so uncomfortable with it. But I’ve asked myself the question over and over these past few weeks: what makes Donald Trump so popular?
It’s not the hair, as much as he might display it. It’s not his wealth; we’ve had wealthy candidates before. It’s not merely his views. He has a mixture of views that doesn’t fit squarely inside any political platform. And it’s not because America is stupid and people view the presidential election as another reality television show. The pundits who write off Trump’s popularity as merely a symptom of the uneducated underbelly of American life are failing to tap into the true reason for Trump’s current popularity: anger and frustration at the political elite.
People are angry. They see jobs being shipped overseas, taxes increasing, health premiums going through the roof, all the while it seems like the Washington power brokers and the Wall Street executives maintain a symbiotic relationship that keeps the rest of us in the “have not” category. Whether that anger is justified or not, that anger is real. And people are frustrated. Politicians have talked a big game since the beginning. Our current president was elected on ‘hope and change.’ And yet it seems like the cycle of politicians in all branches of government maintain the status quo of government dysfunction.
Now, stay with me for a moment. Many of these same elements help explain the popularity of Jesus when he arrived on the scene in the first century. Jesus was born into a religious and economic system designed to keep the ruling class in power and the rest of society shut out. People were sick of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the outright theft of the Sadducees and the temple racket. But they had no voice, until Jesus came along. He gave the people a voice. He channeled their frustration. He called out the religious elite, calling them snakes, hypocrites, whitewashed tombs. He didn’t just talk a big game; he backed it up with miracle upon miracle.
Jesus was a breath of fresh air to a society that had become oppressively stagnant. The religious elite couldn’t understand his hold on the masses and wrote him off. “A prophet does not come out of Galilee” (John 7:52). Jesus was the ultimate change agent. The religious leaders killed him because he was such a threat to the system, the system he ultimately broke.
Now please here me, this comparison breaks down quickly. Trump’s character is a shadow of Jesus’ and their missions are completely different. Jesus came to save the world. Donald Trump has come to either save America or build his brand. At this point, I don’t plan on voting for Donald Trump. Way too many character issues that could trump (pun intended) any policy changes he’s advocating.
But when I see the appeal of Donald Trump in the Republican primary, I’m reminded of another firebrand that walked this earth so many years ago.
QUESTION: Am I crazy, or does anyone else see any similarities in their appeal to the masses?