Trump created quite a stir when he declared that John McCain is not a war hero.
His immediate retraction was–as Jon Stewart recounted in his masterful Jon Stewart way last night–a sarcastic retraction: “He’s a war hero because he got captured.” Trump prefers the ones who don’t get captured. You know, the “winners.” The one’s who don’t get fired. The ones who get captured, fired, who lose–they don’t deserve Trump’s respect. Trump is a one-per center. A “winner.”
Jill Lawrence published a piece this morning suggesting that Trump’s antics will ultimately lead him nowhere and he will eventually find himself on the outside looking in (ironically, as a “loser”). The groans and verbal protests that came from the audience in Iowa–and that have come from others across the nation–reflect a deep dissonance good-hearted people sense with Trump’s “winners only” mentality. Most people don’t look to their heroes to emerge unscathed or unaffected by tragedy, loss, or death. Real heroes aren’t Marvel characters. The human experience is deeply tragic, filled with evil, suffering, and no one is immune from the effects of real history–even our heroes and saviors. Especially our heroes and saviors.
Lawrence quoted liberal tweeter Jason Sattler, whose brilliant satire takes Trump’s winners-only mantra to task:
Trump: I prefer saviors who didn’t get crucified,” [Sattler] tweeted. To which one of his followers responded, equally darkly, “Trump: I prefer Jews who weren’t in concentration camps.
It’s beyond improbable to imaging that Trump can retain any sort of following of “everyday” folks, who struggle daily with the onslaught of life’s tragedies. Perhaps for a time Trump’s triumphalism might be appealing–because he might come off as a “winner” who can lift them out of their own troubles. Or perhaps, in a darker way, Trump connects with a temptation to rise above the fray and to “win” at the expense of the “losers.” But surely people will escape their momentary captivation to this temptation and recognize that what is truly good for any of us, must at some level be good for all of us.
Christianity, rightly understood, makes no room for segregating “winners” from “losers.” Christianity is not about escaping suffering, trouble, or the effects of evil in the world. Far from it. If we interpret Christianity through the lens of Jesus Christ (always a good idea), it is about diving deep into the darkness of life, and being willing to take on suffering, trouble, and the effects of evil–on behalf of others. Now, we can have a vigorous debate about whether willing participation in military violence counts as a Christian engagement with evil. There are compelling biblical and theological reasons to raise that question. But those questions have nothing to do with Trump’s objection to McCain’s “war hero” status.
Trump is not anti-war. He is anti-suffering. He is anti-“losing.”
During the ebola breakout in west Africa, a doctor who treated Ebola patients in Guinea, contracted the disease. Trump famously tweeted this in response to the news:
If this doctor, who so recklessly flew into New York from West Africa,has Ebola,then Obama should apologize to the American people & resign!
And he also tweeted this:
The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!
Sure, these “do-gooders,” these “people that go to far away places to help” are “great” (any sarcasm there?), but you see–they are ultimately losers, if they contract the disease. These “reckless” humanitarians cannot be let back in to our borders, because they will make us vulnerable, too.
Trump’s world is divided up neatly, between winners and losers, those who get caught and those who don’t, those who fall victim to disease and those who don’t, those who have the good sense to protect themselves from suffering, disease, and evil, and those who don’t.
But such an approach to life has nothing to do with Christianity–the professed religion of the vast majority of Trump’s political base. If Trump can continue to lead his party, it might tell us something significant about the variation of Christianity that is professed and practiced by those supporters. Policy questions aside, it’s easy to see that Trump’s “winners only” mentality does not not reflect the Christianity of the New Testament.
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