Render Unto Trump

Render Unto Trump March 14, 2019

I was really struck by a number of engaging aspects of a post on the Patheos blog Anxious Bench, responding to Jerry Falwell’s appeal to Jesus’ words “render unto Caesar” in support of Trump:

How might we hear Matthew 22:21 differently if we’re looking at the metallic relief of a long-dead president who held limited power for a relatively short period of time, rather than that of a living emperor with the hubris to believe himself a figure of unimpeachable power?

Perhaps we’d then hear “render unto Caesar” as a reminder that, if American Christians owe limited allegiance to any secular authority, they owe it to no one person, but to the American people, who govern themselves through elected representatives sworn to protect the Constitution. The same Constitution that keeps even presidents from benefiting financially from their position, from obstructing the work of those who investigate lawbreaking, or from inventing fake national emergencies in order to subvert the work of those who make laws.

So render to God what is God’s: your image-bearing self commanded to love other image-bearers. And render to Trump what is Trump’s: your responsibilities as an American citizen to dissent from unwise and unjust uses of American power and to hold American demagogues accountable for their attempts to play Caesar.

Click through to read the rest of Chris Gehrz’s post.

There have been a number of other posts and responses to Trump in relation to faith. The one that has been getting the most attention at present is certainly Pete Buttigieg, who asked whether Mike Pence abandoned scripture when he opted to support Donald Trump. But particularly important (and not only in connection withthe American president) is the New Yorker interview with Serene Jones about not only her new book Call It Grace, but her faith and her theology more generally.

There has also been a lot of discussion about Donald Trump signing Bibles. I really have nothing to add to that, since the act seems so ridiculous as to be incomprehensible. I am certain that Donald Trump does not think he is the Bible’s author. Did he just think that giving an autograph on anything, no matter what it is, is an appropriate and desirable thing for a celebrity to do? I don’t know, and that’s probably the thing that is in fact worth highlighting. With other people, we might get an attempt at justification, or perhaps an apology, that shed light on what they were thinking when they did something that made the news. Not Trump. And that in itself tells us more about him than the act of signing Bibles does.

Here are some other blog posts of interest related to Jesus, Law, ethics, politics, economics, and other such matters (including some that are almost entirely unrelated to the seemingly endless daily stream of blog posts and articles about Trump, that we have to choose from nowadays):

Jesus as Critic of Hypocrisy, Then and Now

Jesus the Jewish religious progressive

Jim Burklo on Jesus’ ethics and putting a fence around Torah

Robert Myles on neoliberal ideology in biblical interpretation

Jesus Was a Socialist

Trump: The Climate Crisis Is Fake News, Fake Science

"The discussion is not about changing weather but about the climate. I wonder how many ..."

Not Liberal, Just Literate
"You believe the sky is falling? Why? The weather has always changed."

Not Liberal, Just Literate
"I pulled out an old book from my dad's bookshelf: "Those Incredible Christians" and its ..."

Peer Reviews, Pseudoscience, and Denialism
"Thanks for the preview James. I'm very excited about the book and the anticipation is ..."

Preview the Mandaean Book of John

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  • John MacDonald

    Maybe Matthew meant: Let Caesar have his taxes if that’s what is important to him, because we give the important things to God. We do not view money as important in the grand scheme of things.”

    • The question about whose image is on the coin, with the implication drawn that the coin belongs to the one whose image is on it, suggests that “that which belongs to God” should perhaps be understood as referring to human beings as made in the image of God, and thus we owe God our very selves.

      • John MacDonald

        I learn so much here!

  • With regards to the Bible-signing, I also think it’s in poor taste and carries some alarming assumptions, but on the other hand, Bibles are cultural artifacts for many families, and they contain things like family trees, important dates (usually religious ones like baptisms and marriages), and bits and bobs of memorabilia taped to the inside of the cover or leafed in among the pages.

    When I was growing up fundamentalist Baptist, it wasn’t uncommon to have your Bible signed by person who was significant to you and/or commemorating a date that was significant to you.

    • John MacDonald

      What made you a fundamentalist as opposed to a liberal/critical Christian?

      I looked it up and it said fundamentalism had something to do with the Niagara Bible Conference and, in 1910, to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, which distilled their position into what became known as The Five Fundamentals:

      1 Biblical inspiration and the infallibility of scripture as a result of this
      2 Virgin birth of Jesus
      3 Belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin
      4 Bodily resurrection of Jesus
      5 Historical reality of the miracles of Jesus

      • It was when I was a child. I was just raised in that denomination.

        • John MacDonald

          I was raised in a secular home, so belief sometimes seems foreign to me. I can’t express how grateful I am to Dr. McGrath and the service he provides here and on twitter explaining religion. I think Jesus is the most important/influential person who ever lived, so it was a real disservice to my educational background with me not knowing anything substantial about him. I didn’t even know about the concept of atonement, let alone things like the Principle of Analogy in historical reasoning, before I learned it from Dr. McGrath.

          I have even gained enough confidence to attempt a few short posts about Jesus on my blog (see: ). I just completed a five part series of posts on the relationship between Jesus and The Impaled, Just man in Plato’s Republic Book Two. I first learned about this connection from the comments by Joseph Ratzinger on the topic.

          I’m agnostic, so I don’t view Jesus through the lens of faith, but I consider him to be one of the greatest men in history, and an ethical genius on the level of Mother Teresa, Socrates, Martin Luther King Junior, and Mahatma Gandhi.