This guest post was written by Spencer Klavan.
Among the most perplexing features of Donald Trump’s surge to victory has been the enthusiastic support of evangelical Christians for a man who can barely name any books of the Bible. Now that Trump’s nomination has forced me to consider soberly the real possibility of casting a vote for that man, I’m finding the Christian groundswell behind Trump ever more mystifying. One of my most pressing objections to voting for Trump is that I can’t see a way to do so as a Christian. I’m starting to think Trump’s ideology might represent the actual opposite of Christianity.
Here’s what I don’t mean by that. I don’t mean that Trump is such a meanie and my sweet, precious Jesus would never tolerate all that yelling. Reports of Christ’s niceness have been greatly exaggerated. Flip through the gospels and you’ll find a much rougher, scrappier character than you may have been led to expect–upending tables, talking back to his mother, fiercely vituperating his best friends. The use of the term “Christian” to mean “cuddly” is one of the more distasteful banalizations of that word in American popular culture. “Unchristian” isn’t a synonym for “uncouth.”
No, my problem is that Trump’s worldview is pretty much diametrically opposed to the one inherent in Jesus’ life story. By his own gleeful admission, Trump is all about “winning, winning, winning.” This means that from the bedroom to the electoral college, he defines human value in terms of material and worldly success. Who’s got the hottest wife, the biggest fortune, the most votes? These are the questions that, for Trump, determine which members of our species are worthwhile. The losers–prisoners of war, victims of violence, the disabled–don’t count.
By contrast, perhaps the single most anomalous aspect of Christianity is that it united a global movement behind the biggest loser in history. This is what disgusted Nietzsche about our faith and what inspired the martyrs of the early church to march to their disgraceful deaths singing hymns of triumph and joy. In earthly terms–the terms Trump understands–Jesus was a poor, homeless failure who never managed to cash in on his initially promising popularity campaign. He had charisma, but the bottom line is that he ended up humiliated and killed. Trump, one may surmise, likes religious leaders who don’t get nailed to a cross.
Christianity is loser-worship. That’s what makes it a radical paradigm shift unlike anything before or since. The crucifixion places God firmly on the side of mankind’s write-offs–it counts him chief among their numbers. In so doing it utterly negates the power-driven systems that have governed human society since its inception. Prisoners, women, the mentally ill: we thought these were the rejects. In fact, they are among the first invited into intimate relationship with the most high God. We were sure that those who suffer inexplicable calamity are under the judgment of heaven; it turns out they are in the company of its king.
What Trump stands for amounts to the opposite of this, and that matters. It matters because, paradoxically, Trump’s success represents an uprising of America’s outcasts. His voters are the ones denied admission to the in-crowd. The chattering classes and the political establishment and the professional predictors all failed to foresee the rise of Trump for one simple reason: not one of them has a clue what the unexceptional, everyday folks outside of their refined inner ring are thinking and feeling. Reasonably frightened by the very real threat of Islamic terrorism, unemployed in a limp Obama economy, utterly sick of being lied to by self-righteous cultural ideologues: the people Peggy Noonan called “the unprotected” are making themselves heard.
The wealthy, educated elite who produce and consume the media–among whom I include myself–will be just fine no matter who gets elected. But there are scores of people whose lives depend on this, and we had no idea how badly they were hurting. They are desperate for the security and prosperity Trump claims he can provide.
Only in a fallen world would those people rally behind a man so constitutionally disdainful of them. Granted, their options weren’t great. Hillary Clinton lied to their faces, and Bernie Sanders promised to infantilize them until the country went broke. But Trump expressly mocks their poverty and rejects the whole premise of the one philosophy that exalts them as children of God. Christians are called to serve a king whose kingdom is not of this world, as Trump’s so manifestly is.
The words “President Hillary” nauseate me a little. But how can I vote for Trump and still glorify the loser who saved my soul?
About Spencer Klavan
Spencer Klavan is either a gentleman or a scholar, depending on whom you ask. He studies Ancient Greek literature at Oxford University and writes when the spirit (or a deadline) moves him.