Trump And Jesus: What Reading The Wall Street Journal Has Taught Me

Trump And Jesus: What Reading The Wall Street Journal Has Taught Me June 27, 2018

He does not equate Trump and Jesus and is also able to separate Trump’s questionable morality from his political leadership, something I have not been able to do.

Trump and Jesus: Both seen as saviors
Trump and Jesus: Both seen as saviors

An editorial printed in the Saturday, June 23, 2018 edition of the Wall Street Journal, a soundly Republican newspaper, totally fascinated me.

Titled, “Did an Ancient Greek Anticipate Trump” I found it helpful as I seek to make sense of the current world: recognize that is it not coherent and quit trying to find some order in it. This one paragraph offered enlightenment:

Any tendency toward order is contradicted by big-bang disruptions, anarchic social media and Donald Trump, whose life is a masterpiece of spots and jumps. Each day of his presidency seems to arrive de novo, disconnected historically from the day before. History unfolds in a circus of tweets and surprises, with Mr. Trump playing all the roles: roaring lion and trapeze artist, clown and calliope. He is only one man, of course, but for the moment Mr. Trump seems to be the representative man: the star of our incoherence.

Later he writes:

Forget about Mr. Trump’s bad manners and vulgarian style. His idea of truth or falsehood is utilitarian: Absolutely everything that he does or thinks is a negotiation with the possibilities as he sees them at a given moment; the implication of amorality is implicit. Mr. Trump’s way may be called either leadership or Caesarism, depending on your point of view. The river that he swims is often the Rubicon.

And then this:

The dog and the angel are twins of human nature—another pair of Heraclitean opposites. Mr. Trump is a charlatan and a grifter, or at best a sketchy Prospero. His enemies, in the millions, have him down as a monster. Or perhaps—despite all—he is a leader of consequence and maybe (who knows?) a genius of history. Maybe he is all of those things, acting in tumultuous concert. We do not yet know the outcome.

And so I think, “I’ve finally read something that helps me make sense of something that has appeared senseless and exhausting.”

And then I read the comments. Most commenters, I’d guess 95%, dismissed the editorial as a bunch of hogwash. Most also said something along these lines, “I voted for Trump because he promised to shake things up–and they needed shaking up.” Others noted that the cult of Obama also had him elevated to the status of the nation’s Savior, just as many today seem to equate Trump with Jesus.

I, myself, have noted that The United Methodist Church needs its Trump moment. We need someone to come in and question everything we are doing and knock down the idols we have built that seem, at this point, untouchable. Such a process would help us discover what is really important and what is just window-dressing that makes life-changing ministry nearly impossible.

As many of my readers know, I am married to a person who voted for Trump. He continues to support most of his policies, very much excluding the horrors that have been taking place along our southern borders.

He does not equate Trump and Jesus and is also able to separate Trump’s questionable morality from his political leadership, something I have not been able to do.

I have been thinking some about the presidency of Bill Clinton, one of the more successful presidencies ever. He was and still is utterly despicable as a human being. Jimmy Carter, one of the most decent men ever to walk on earth, was a horrifically bad president. So was George Bush, likable as he is on a personal level.

As for President Obama: as much as I respect him as a human being, he made major, major mistakes while in office. Just as with Trump, Obama’s lack of experience evidenced itself quickly. Yet, as noted above, many saw Obama as the Savior. Now an opposite crew sees Trump that way.

Ultimately, these political cults point to a part of human nature: most of us want someone else to fix our problems for us. When we find what we think is that person, we want no criticism leveled. Otherwise, we fear that we will never be free from the problems that beset us.

In my many years of exploration of different types of Christian expression, I’ve observed the draw of various charismatic movements and their promises. The casting out of demons for instant relief, the ability to speak in tongues and spent time in ecstatic prayer, the hope of miraculous healing from various ailments: we want these things to be possible.

The Roman Catholic church elevates to the status of saints those who have verified stories of miraculous healings attached to them. In the Protestant world, we tend to elevate to saint-status those who have quick answers and even quicker relief for the unending complexities of our humanness.

Who among us doesn’t want instant “OK-ness?” We pray for healings for end-stage diseases and are disappointed when people die anyway. We give money to prosperity gospel preachers and trust their promises that by enriching them, we will stumble upon riches ourselves. We buy lottery tickets, happily fantasizing about how we would spend those untold riches.

We throw Bible verses at one another, somehow or another thinking that repeating some verse will magically ward off any evil. And then, again, are shocked when evil shows up anyway.

I refuse to buy lottery tickets because I’d be horrified to have that much money at my fingertips. BUT . . . I have enough for a very comfortable living. A lot of people do not–and the idea of a magical fix magnetizes us.

Truth: most of us don’t outgrow magical thinking, even well into adulthood. And Trump and Jesus, as often presented, both encourage magical thinking.

Trump is the only one who can fix our nation’s woes, so goes the mantra.

Believe in Jesus, and you will find healing and riches, so goes that mantra.

Reality: Life is just tough, messy, full of heartbreak and sorrow and always ends in death. Before so much mass media, with its perfect people, always slim and always with blindingly-white teeth, solving all problems within 30-60 minutes, I think we understood this better. But we exchanged reality for pure fantasy packaged as an attainable goal.

For the most part, brutality, dirt, and poverty dogged the lives, generally short, of the vast majority of people. Religion gave comfort of some relief, if not now, then certainly in an afterlife. It also provided important community connections.

For most of us, things are measurably improved now. Yet . . . it seems that discontent never disappears. Trump has promised that he’ll make it better for those who have felt left out. Elect him; support him, and all will be well. Many religions promise the same thing: join us and we’ll help you feel better. Accept Jesus and make him your best friend and all will be well.

Easy to conflate the two.

The problem is not so much with Trump as with the perception of Jesus as the great problem-solver-in-the-sky. A call to follow Jesus ends in one place: a willingness to lay down our lives for the sake of others, including our enemies. It’s a call to offer forgiveness to those who don’t deserve it. It’s a call to the radical hospitality of welcoming the “other” into our lives and communities, no matter how uncomfortable that makes us.

It’s a call that is just way too hard for most people. So we re-make Jesus into the Celestial Butler or the Heavenly Santa, there to serve our needs, get us whatever we want whenever we want it.

That’s what every presumptive President of the US tries to offer those who have the votes to elect–or not elect. Vote for me and I’ll give you what you want.

It is time to separate the Presidency from the hope of Paradise. No President can be the savior of the nation. All will be in hock to someone or something. All will be corrupt in one way or another. Some will certainly care more for the poor and outcast–but without a robust economy to generate funds, the caring won’t last long. These are political/economic realities of our messy society.

But most importantly, no putative Savior of the US will call us to be really like Jesus–it is not a vote-getter.

Photo Credits:

Donald Trump Hollywood Star photo: By Neelix: I am the originator of this photo. I hold the copyright. I release it to the public domain. – transferred from the English Wikipedia: en:File:Trump.jpg, Public Domain, Link

Christus Pantocrator in the apsis of the cathedral of Cefalù, c. 1130. from Wikipedia: By Andreas Wahra – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Combination: by Christy Thomas

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Reese

    Poor, poor Ms. Christy. Like so many liberals, the shock of Hillary’s losing – especially to Donald Trump – is still such salt in a wound that the pain hides the reality from you and you are forever in frustration. Here is some reality in short, easily verifiable, points:
    • You care about Black Americans? Their unemployment rate is at a record low.
    • You care about Hispanic Americans? Dittos! Record low unemployment.
    • You care about women? Then you must be euphoric at their current record unemployment!
    • “Consumer Confidence” is a measure of how we who consume feel about the future; We feel really good, according to the gov’ment! We be spending big!
    • New home sales? More families buying homes and living nice, not like ants in a hill.
    • Companies both returning and re-investing because the nooses of heavy taxation and over-regulation, often based on convoluted concepts within liberal logic, are being whacked.

    Don’t want to ruin your day with too much good news, but the news is good! Only liberals be miserables, the rest of are spending and laughing and living large and expecting America to really be Great Again. Current quarter GDP might hit 4.5%!!! That means GROWTH, JOBS, PROFIT (I know liberals hate that word, but we are capitalists and we live better than socialists.) Never hit 3% under whats-his-name.

    To try to compare the style of a president, or any of us, to Jesus in unfair and irrelevant. None of us come close. We all do bad things. But, let us be known by the GOOD works we do. Increasing JOBS and reducing government are good things to most of us – it also pays dividends in self-respect. Liberals, on the other hand, prefer to introduce as many as possible to the government nipple and an invitation to always be beholdin’ to mother gov… Which pays no dividends in self-respect.

    • The Mouse Avenger

      (simply shakes her head in disbelief)

      • Reese

        Reality can be shocking. I suggest that you google any of the points to find confirmation. And, if you will google “women’s accusations against Bill Clinton”, you will likely find many more reports/complaints than “one extra-marital affair”…

    • Steve in UT again

      I’ll try. It won’t have any effect, but I’ll try.

      From January to December 2017, the unemployment rate among black Americans fell 1 percentage point. During the same period in 2016, it fell the same amount. In 2015, it fell 1.9 points. The previous year, it fell 1.5 points. The year before that, it fell 1.8 points. (Washington Post)

      In other words, the falling unemployment rate of recent years has absolutely nothing to do with the Trump Administration. Nor really with the Obama Administration. It has to do with shifts in business operations that have absolutely nothing to do with the political climate.

      • Reese

        My reads tell me that the improvement in the numbers are due to the reduction of unfair and/or un-needed restrictions on business. If you are at “UT” that says the University of Texas at Austin to me. I got a degree from that business school and have had success in life in spite of it. Good luck. But, a look at the numbers I mentioned, plus things that mean much to me like the improvement in treatment of veterans, of which I am one, or the encouragement for POWER thru coal and oil mean INDEPENDENCE for USA from foreign interests. AMERICA FIRST continues to bring us forward. I am sorry that I am now 70, retired and not in position to take part. But, I console myself whether at home in my pool or on the road in my motor-home. Capitalism is so wonderful. (And, I do give above average to charities, if you are asking. Capitalism and profits made that possible.)

        • Not only that, but look at GDP growth. Golden Boy went 8 straight years without breaking 3% (only president not to break 3% in at least one year). Now we’re busting 4%, possibly 5%, despite the cries of “IMPOSSIBLE” from the congenitally life-challenged people on the left.

        • (sorry, overlooked your middle paragraph)

        • TinnyWhistler

          ” improvement in treatment of veterans”
          Let’s start by improving systems of healthcare. Mental illness and suicide as well as physical health are huge concerns for veterans. I think it’s much more important to meet peoples’ needs than it is to pat them on the head and tell them they’re appreciated. Pats on the head don’t pay for medical bills.

          “Encouragement for POWER thru coal and oil mean INDEPENDENCE for USA from foreign interests.”
          Maybe for coal, but certainly not for oil. Oil isn’t even a major source of power for the US, other than for cars. Most of our power comes from electricity generation. Electricity generation is primarily burning coal and natural gas, which are domestic. Things like electric cars and reducing the use of plastics will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. To offset that, we should increase our electricity production, including through renewable means like offshore wind and solar.

    • Vince Juarez

      You guys always bring up this we can’t get over Hillary losing .The only one’s that bring it up are you guys because you have nothing else to fall back on. We have moved on and ready to get the country back into shape. One thing, when a Democrat becomes president he has a BIG mess to clean up from a Republican president and then comes a Republican president to mess it up again .It’s been happening for awhile now

    • Vince Juarez

      Everything you are saying is not from Trumps doing. It was from Obamas doing. And thats one President you guys love to hate but can’t come close to his achievements

  • The Mouse Avenger

    He was and still is utterly despicable as a human being.

    What?! O_O You truly think that Bill Clinton is a despicable person?! 🙁 I cannot hold back from saying I disagree with you highly on that matter. I mean, of course, there was the whole infidelity thing, but one extramarital affair does not a despicable person make. Other than that, I find him to be a very, very good person–certainly much better than Trump, at any rate!

    Also, do forgive me, but I personally wouldn’t go so far as to say that Obama made many, many mistakes. Any mistakes he may have made, I feel, are far fewer than his accomplishments & achievements. ^_^

    • What about giving a DNA facial to a 21 year old intern? Was that not despicable?

      • Reese

        And, how do you prepare your cigars for smoking?