It is starting to make sense to see Trump as Messiah. Clearly, I’ve had a change of thought about him and his impact.
With a bit of horrified fascination, I have been watching the doubling down of support to return Donald J Trump, the voice and influence behind an armed insurrection against the US, to the Presidency. Even with nearly countless charges against him in Federal and State courts, his followers have not and will not back down.
One group that especially has stayed with him: the good men and women whose religious beliefs tend toward what is generally held as “evangelical,” i.e., those whose bedrock beliefs include the inerrancy of the Bible and the necessity of acknowledging belief in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the Sent One of God, both fully human and fully divine, to find admittance to heaven and escape eternal Divine wrath.
Now, I’ve gone on record as not exactly being a DJT supporter. In fact, his whole candidacy and eventual election to the Presidency troubled me on many levels. I remember all too well his speech at the 2016 RNC, where he declared himself, and himself only, as the one would could “fix” the problems in the US. In other words, the Messianic tones showed up early and scared the life out of me then. . . and that fear has not left me about him and his ambitions.
What if Trump as Messiah is an accurate portrayal?
But, recently, I admit it is starting to make sense to see Trump as Messiah. Clearly, I’ve had a change of thought about him and what his political ascendency has meant not just to the US but to the larger world.
First, let me mention some parallels between him and the one more widely seen as the Messiah, i.e., the very aforementioned Jesus of Nazareth.
- One, both gathered large and devoted followers. Jesus often had to head to the mountains to get a break from them; Trump headed to various golf courses or his private palatial estate.
- Two, both also attracted large numbers of rabid detractors. Jesus’ detractors mostly came from right-wing political and religious figures; Trump’s detractors mostly come from left-wing political and religious figures.
- Three, both challenged local authorities and popularly accepted societal norms. For example, Jesus ate with sinners and elevated women; Trump frolicked with prostitutes, sexually abused and denigrated other women.
- Four, both appealed to the common people, speaking their language and acknowledging their complicated realities.
- Five, both had a unique ability to create memorable phrases that stuck in people’s minds. Jesus: “Turn the other cheek,” Trump, “Lock her up.”
Now, we can also see differences between the two personas. :
- One, Jesus amassed no material wealth at all–at his death, his only possessions were his clothes. Donald has amassed enormous riches and a superb fund-raising machine so efficient that it will likely pay all his enormous legal bills without him having to touch one penny of his hoarded wealth.
- Two, Jesus encouraged the poor, the dispossessed, the most vulnerable of his society to come close to him. In other words, the less they had to give, the more he welcomed them. Donald likes to hang out with the rich, especially the powerful, who can offer him all sorts of favors.
- Three, Jesus refused to let his followers take up any means to defend him and went to his trials unprotected. Donald promises he’ll go after anyone who goes after him and goes to his court appearance (when he does show up) surrounded by layers and layers of protection.
- Four, Jesus was big on speaking the truth. Donald, well . . . perhaps the best way to say it is that he lives in a world of alternate “facts,” all made up on the spur of the moment.
But number Five is the most significant contrast:
- Jesus’ words, life, and actions poured bright light resonating with divine holiness permeating this spiritually rich person into human darkness. Result: a major backlash against him because standing in the light is nearly impossible for us: it reveals too much.
- Donald’s words, life, and actions poured the darkness of his massively untouched and unformed soul out upon us. Result: it revealed us as we are, a remarkably ignorant, incurious, essentially uncouth, deep-down-inside mean and selfish people, wanting what we want and not caring what happens to others in the process.
Jesus exposed us by too much light; Donald exposed us by unrelenting darkness.
Why Trump as Messiah makes sense
Recognizing this, Trump as Messiah starts making sense to me. Both men have made it clear who and what we are. Jesus made it harder to be fully human in the path he called us to take. Donald made it easier to be fully human in the path he calls us to take. And, frankly, the success of the Jesus model has not exactly been stellar. Loving our enemies is way too difficult; hating them, however, is easy and highly doable.
And so, people willingly follow Donald and want to see his success. If he, this, again, incurious, ignorant, self-centered, slobbily dressed, immoral, greedy man can succeed (when success is defined as unlimited money and power), then all his followers can as well.
However, the problem in front of us is that Messiahs and Democracies don’t mix well. Jesus would not have made a good President of the US: he’d be too busy calling out the hypocrites and feeding the poor to handle the complex issues in front of him. Trump made a good President ONLY if one does not care about the fundamental rules of democracy and has no genuine concern about world affairs and the standing of the US as any moral hope.
The toughest part about it? Frankly, if Donald is elected in 2024, that is likely the last Presidental election this nation will ever see. Messiahs with his mindset do not need to be elected. They need to be acknowledged. Power is the highest virtue; democracy is entirely out of the question.
Part of the nearly unquestioning adherence to Donald in the Evangelical world is that democracy is also not held there as a high value. The growing strength of the white Christian Nationalist movement makes this very clear: rule by a specific religious segment is the plan, and there is no place for a popular vote here.
Many of that mindset have elevated Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an authoritarian leader with no genuine respect for democratic processes, to nearly god-like status. This will be the direction of the US if Donald the Messiah is elected again.
Having said this, I want to acknowledge that it is utterly important not to underestimate the historical importance of Donald J. Trump and his impact on society. Should he be convicted of any of the many things he has been formally accused of doing in these indictments, his status as Messiah will only grow more robust and powerful. Just as the world was never the same after Jesus, the world will never be the same after Donald.
But, as one who truly values living in a democracy, for all its craziness and messiness, I hope he is not yet again elected and can enjoy his Messianic status out of public office.