He said his personal motto is “eye for an eye.”
He unrepentantly declared he doesn’t ask for forgiveness.
He said he wants to bomb half of the Middle East until there’s “nothing left.”
He proposed a tracking system to monitor immigrants.
He exploited the poor to build his empire.
He said it was fine to consider his daughter “a piece of ass.”
And bragged about his ability to sexually assault women.
None of that is reconcilable with the Christian faith.
And that was just the campaign.
Yet, none of these deeply anti-Christian things stopped 81% of evangelical Christians voters from casting their ballot for Donald Trump.
In trying to defend their spiritual adultery, they told us – shamed us would probably be more accurate – to give him a chance as if we were just supposed to ignore literally everything he had said and done before the election, as if a vain, temperamental, 70-year old demagogue would magically and radically change who he is, how he behaves, and what he believes the moment he was sworn into office.
We did not owe him a chance, but even if we did, he’s proven after less than a week in office that he didn’t deserve it.
Now that he is in office, he’s putting his egregious promises into action.
In just under a matter of days, he’s made lying a fundamental part of his public policy.
He’s signed orders to build a wall to keep immigrants out.
He’s endorsed torture.
Created a criminal watchlist for immigrants already in our country.
And dehumanized them into nothing more than “removable aliens.”
Once again, he’s exploited lesser mortals to increase his own wealth.
And attacked communities that offer sanctuary to the least of these.
None of that is reconcilable with the Christian faith.
And that’s just been his first week in office.
There’s a fascinating passage in Matthew 6 – although chilling might be the more appropriate adjective – in which Jesus issues a warning which sounds almost as if Matthew recorded the words just yesterday.
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Now, that first half of the passage is often designated as a prohibition against lust. “Look at porn and it will ruin you from the inside out,” that sort of thing. Don’t get me wrong. That’s a totally legitimate reading of what Jesus is saying here. I’m not dismissing it at all.
But that sort of interpretation is just the tip of the iceberg and like an encounter with a real iceberg, misses everything that’s going on underneath.
The key to understanding what Jesus is saying is right there in the first sentence “The eye is the lamp of the body.” That sort of luminous language sound familiar? It should…and not just because of the famous passage from Psalm 119, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
In a world bereft of electricity, lamps were an incredibly important tool in ancient times and really up until the last century or so. They offered light in dark places allowing people to work and read and move about at night when they otherwise would have been groping blindly in the dark. As the psalmist declared, lamps served as guides in the darkness. It’s for this reason Jesus said,
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Light enters the body through our eyes. It’s how we see and that sight is what allows us to be the guides God calls us to be. But if what we take in through our eyes is distorted, it will in turn distort how we live and act in the world and in turn wreck our ability to guide others to the Truth.
The problem with so much of American Christianity is that we have become bad lamps. Over the past several decades, we’ve allowed so much propaganda, dogma, ideology, and, yes, alternative facts to enter our eyes through partisan news and preachers turned politicans that we can’t see where our faith ends and our patriotism begins.
It didn’t happen overnight with the election of Donald Trump. It’s been a long slow process of exchanging Christian teachings with the comforting dogma of nationalism and patriotism in an ever-changing and sometimes scary world. The darkness – that is to say, those things that oppose the life and teachings of Christ – has slowly and subtly sneaked its way inside us, convincing us that with just a bit of flexibility we can serve two masters – God and empire.
But Jesus – to whom as Christians we owe our sole allegiance – is quick to remind us that serving two masters is utterly impossible, no matter how hard we try. And as American Christian history has shown us since the days of the Moral Majority, boy have we tried.
But what’s of particular importance to us now that we live in Donald Trump’s America is the eerily relevant statement Jesus makes at the end of this passage: “You cannot serve God and mammon.”
The Greek word mammon, as you well know, is often translated in our English language Bibles as “wealth” or “money,” but medieval writers had a slightly different interpretation of mammon. For them, mammon was seen as the name of the devil of covetousness – a fitting demonic power for our age if ever there was one. It goes without saying that Donald Trump is a covetous man. He covets power, wealth, prestige, and women – regardless of whether or not either he or they are already married.
Perhaps it was this covetous kinship that allowed so many conservative evangelicals to feel comfortable throwing their support behind this modern incarnation of mammon. For more than anything, conservative American Christians seem to covet their lost power, their lost standing and lost prestige in America that allowed them to impose their worldview on their neighbors whenever they saw fit.
But regardless the reason why 81% of evangelical voters cast their ballot for Donald Trump, Jesus makes one thing clear: trying to have it both ways – that is to say, trying to follow Jesus and support a master who’s shown time and time again that his ways are fundamentally antithetical to the ways of Jesus – is simply impossible.
To put it simply, following Jesus and supporting Donald Trump at the same time is utterly irreconcilable.
Now, there are many would-be peacemakers in the Church, well-intentioned folks who are trying to build bridges between Trump supporters and those who see an emperor without his clothes, as if doing so is some sort of Christian calling.
But this is a tragic mistake.
Yes, we are called to be peacemakers, but we are called to make real peace and real peace is not possible without justice, compassion, and care for the least of these, things Donald Trump has not only shown no interest in, they are things he is actively working against.
Yes, Jesus called us to be peacemakers, but not at the expense of our calling to follow him. In fact, that very act of following Jesus said, would be a divisive, not unifying one.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
Does this mean we should actively seek division amongst ourselves?
As Paul would say, “by no means!”
But it does mean we have a choice to make between following Jesus and following a would-be Caesar who daily embodies everything our Lord stood against.
It’s not a choice between political parties. You can absolutely be a Republican or a Democrat or Libertarian or a member of the Green Party and still follow Jesus faithfully. Donald Trump transcends political boundaries (and norms) by doing and saying things even his own party is forced to denounce due to their utter reprehensibleness.
This isn’t about picking political sides.
It’s about choosing whether to be a light that shines out the gospel to the world or embrace a growing darkness that will eventually, but inevitably consume us all from within.
In the age of Donald Trump, we cannot afford to be Republican Christians or Democratic Christians.
We must simply be Christians; Daniels in Babylon, united as one and standing together, not just for the sake of our religious principles, but on behalf of our neighbors against this new Caesar who seems hell-bent on ostracizing, marginalizing, and oppressing them every chance he gets.
Yes, we can and should still pray for Donald Trump. Praying for him is most certainly reconcilable with our Christian faith, but that is primarily because we are not called to support our leaders, but rather to pray they will come to know the Truth.
But we must do more than utter mere words in the quite corners of our houses.
We must act.
We must be light incarnated in the darkness, shining the way towards the Truth in a world of fear and alternative facts.
We must be a beacon of hope and a port of rescue in a sea of oppression.
We must double down on our commitment to following Christ by seeking justice, defending the orphan, and caring for the least of these as their enemies work to ensnare them on all sides.
We must choose a master: either Christ or Trump.
Because we cannot follow Jesus while also supporting someone who, in the most literal sense of the word, is anti-Christ.