Question for Conservative Christians: Jesus or Trump?

Jesus Weeping - Conservative ChristiansIt’s fascinating to see the huge numbers of conservative Christians who are supporting Donald Trump. But as I’ve noted before, there isn’t much left of American Christianity other other than being anti-choice, anti-LGBT rights, and having a “special feeling” that God is their personal friend. This last one really bugs me because it is a heretical view that would have got then burned at the stake in centuries past. They’ve turned Jesus into little more than a child’s imaginary friend.

But not all conservative Christians are supporting Donald Trump. It’s just the vast majority of them. Last Friday, the National Religious Broadcasters held a debate between pro- and anti-Trump conservative Christians. Peter Montgomery reported on it for Right Wing Watch, Conservative Evangelicals Debate Whether Christians Should Support Trump. It’s a fascinating read.

Erick Erickson Makes Sense

Most interesting was seeing Erick Erickson making some sense on the issue of Trump and sounding like what conservative Christians always claim to be. He said that Trump didn’t share conservative Christian values. He noted that Trump “bragged in his books about multiple affairs, including with married women, has cheated widows and single moms and the elderly out of money through Trump University, has stiffed the low-income worker on his buildings, telling them if they want to collect everything they’re owed they need to sue.”

In response, Janet Parshall quoted polling data. In other words: conservative Christians should support Donald Trump because conservative Christians support Donald Trump. I think this all comes down to the Christian persecution complex. They know that in an ever diversifying nation, democracy isn’t going to get them the One True Religion™ designation that they so want. So they turn to an authoritarian. And it doesn’t really matter what he believes as long as he will give them that seal of approval.

God’s Not Dead?

Yesterday, I read a review of the film God’s Not Dead 2. It was written by a Christian, Mary Pezzulo. She noted that the film is an advertisement, which is fine. But it isn’t an advertisement for Jesus or Christianity. It is an advertisement for America. And not just any America, but the America on display when football fans refuse to watch the 49ers because Colin Kaepernick places American ideals above American symbols.

God’s Not Dead 2 seems to be very much in line with the conservative Christians who support Trump. They aren’t interested in what one normally thinks of as Christianity. Their interest is in pushing a particular idea of America. So it isn’t surprising that these people would support Trump. It’s really just about the politics. And that’s fine in a general sense, because Jesus was interested in politics. But he didn’t seem to be interested in the politics that would make one support Donald Trump.

My Question for Conservative Christians

So here’s my question for Donald Trump Christians: how do they know they follow Jesus and not Satan? Because they “feel” Jesus’ love? Couldn’t that be Satan making them feel that way? Trump preaches exactly the opposite of the Sermon on the Mount. Here is how Matthew 5 starts:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God…

Or as Donald Trump would put it, “Blessed are the losers.”

I want to know if conservative Christians see Matthew 5-7 as nothing more than some beautiful poetry to be shoved aside when an authoritarian comes to town and claims he’ll make good on all your prejudices?

I’m not a Christian, so I don’t believe in Jesus or Satan or any of that. But in the context of Christianity, it seems to me that these Trump supporting Christians have picked the wrong side. As Jesus said later in the Sermon, “You will know them by their fruits.”

22 thoughts on “Question for Conservative Christians: Jesus or Trump?

  1. I am a terrible Christian but I accept that I am. I also know that when I look at the two different candidates and what they say they want to do along with their personal histories…Clinton believes and acts as a Christian should. Trump does not. And so it is no choice for me in who to support going strictly with faith.

    • That’s actually what Erickson said about Clinton at a different part in that article. Even by what I consider the bankrupt standards of American Christianity, Trump fails. He doesn’t know the basic vocabulary to communicate his Christianity. The fact that this doesn’t matter to these Christians says quite a lot about their “faith.”

  2. @ Elizabeth: since the essence of Christianity is mercy, and you are a merciful jurist, I doubt you’re a terrible Christian. Maybe you lose your temper on occasion. So did Christ. That’s the whole point of the theology, that Jesus was both divine and utterly human, vulnerable to human flaws.

    @ Frank: since you mention Kaepernick, here’s a short article you might enjoy. It’s about a Baltimore baseball player who is catching hell for supporting Kaepernick’s stance.

    http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2016/9/13/12891278/adam-jones-orioles-colin-kaepernick-national-anthem

    If nothing else, you’d love the ending:

    “As long as one of us doesn’t start acting like an ass*, this conversation might get us somewhere one day.

    * you”

    What Internet writer hasn’t wanted to say that!

    • I see that the first comment is about how annoyed they are that this is a big deal on either side. Yeah, there’s systemic murdering of whole classes in society. What’s the big deal?!

      There’s much to like in the article. Right at the beginning, “The worst anti-American opinions expressed over the last two weeks were the ones insinuating that America is a weak, fragile, overly sensitive baby of a country, and that anything other than scripted, rote obedience has the potential to damage it.” Exactly!

    • James-I am not a jurist anymore. I quit and went to make filthy lucre in the private sector. I needed steady work and to have public opinions again.

  3. It’s funny you mention the Sermon on the Mount. I am not Christian but I do read the Sermon periodically. I have Christian friends and when we get into discussions on politics or religion I invariably bring up the Sermon as representing what Jesus stood for. My Christian friend’s eyes always glaze over and I realize that they are not even familiar with it. It just astounds me. I find that the Christians I know love the dogma but actually know very little about their religion. It is like talking in depth to Republicans about any issue. They have talking points and that is it.

    • It’s always what I return to. I like it as literature. Or, if you prefer: it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it. One problem with treating the Bible as God’s word is that people miss the beauty of the language. I’d be curious to hear it in Greek. (I’ll bet if I look it’s on YouTube.)

      Religion is, for most people, a cultural thing. And that’s fine. I just wish they would be upfront about that. But mostly, I’m afraid they don’t know. I do, however, know Christians who know the Bible really well. I used to do a lot of IT work for a local Baptist church. And some of them approached the Bible much as I approach Don Quixote. Of course, I don’t think it is necessarily good for people to read the Bible. As the basis for a religion, it is chaotic. For example, what exactly is a Christian supposed to get from the Book of Judith? I think it’s a hell of a story. But a religion in which Judith is a hero strikes me as Satanic (in the traditional sense).

        • Thank you! No flattery, please! :-) But otherwise, we do seem to come at this issues from a similar standpoint.

  4. Systematic theology has neutered the sermon on the mount. Everything in the Bible is true, “yes, but”, in the mind of conservative Christians.

    Yes, the sermon on the mount says to be gentle, but sinners go to hell and Jesus is a warrior whose robe is dipped in blood in Revelation.
    Yes, the sermon on the mount says to be merciful, but Paul said if you don’t work you don’t eat.
    Yes, the sermon on the mount says to be a peacemaker, but Jesus told his disciples to carry a sword and Paul said the government has power for a reason.

    So forth, and so on. In other words, a conservative christian who has some theological training will systematically justify support for trump in a “yes, but” fashion that neuters the principles Jesus talked about.

    Ironically, the result of this is that the only group of christians who take Jesus’ words seriously and at face-value are those that don’t consider the bible to be inerrant.

    • I understand this. And it isn’t my intention to get into a Bible quoting contest with such people. But I’ve been amazed for a long time that for conservative Christians (not just politically conservative), the Gospels don’t come up much. If you read Watchtower or Awake, you will see this. Yes, Jesus said to bring a sword, but that’s one passage and it is hardly indicative of the Gospels overall. My broader point, which I’ve made before more bluntly, is that you have to own your faith. It seems that Jesus and Satan are just names to many Christians. Jesus is good because they follow him and Satan is bad because they don’t. William Lane Craig is explicit in this. He simply defines whatever God does as good. It’s the most facile theodicy I’ve ever heard and one that could only appeal to people who are spiritually bankrupt. If “God” is always good by definition, why not choose Satan — or me, for that matter? How do they know they choose right? All believers have to go on is the book. And frankly, it ain’t a great advertisement for God, even though it is biased in his favor.

      This article came out of my annoyance at my conservative Christian aunt. On Facebook, she posts all kinds of “Jesus Is My Best Friend” nonsense. But it goes along with laudatory articles about Trump and some of the most vile anti-abortion propaganda that I’ve seen. So the question was really to her. She’s a very nice lady, but I’m afraid her priorities are screwed up. She cares about unborn children but doesn’t seem to care about all of children who live in poverty. On the plus side, I learned how to remove her from my feed. I’m sure that will make both of our lives better!

      • William Lane Craig. Oy vey. I’ve read/heard some extremely vile things that man has said (e.g. that killing children in the OT during genocide was merciful because they went straight to heaven. Curiously, somehow that same logic doesn’t apply to abortion).

        TBH, a few years ago I ended up thinking a lot like WLC. In my opinion, he consistently comes to reasonable conclusions if you begin with the idea that the bible is “god-breathed” (i.e. infallible, perfect, without error, etc).

        That was the beginning of the end of my membership in evangelicalism. Once I realized there was no way around the god of the inerrant bible being a moral monster, I had to either go along with WLC (whatever god does/says is good, even if it doesn’t seem like it), or throw out the idea of an inerrant bible. I chose the latter.

        • That’s a different journey for everyone who goes through it. I’ve found a great deal of comfort in going through a similar path. I’m no longer religious, myself, but I think the religion of my youth gives me an insight both into the good and bad side of faith. Good luck to you.

          • I’m glad you pointed that out. I get a ton of atheist stuff on Facebook that says that religion is all bad. This is not stuff that says, “On balance, religion is bad”; it says it is all bad. That’s provably untrue. Having a balanced view is key. But balanced views don’t fit well on memes.

        • Are you saying that Craig is responsible for your religious evolution?! That’s amazing!

          But you are right: Craig is brilliant. That’s one of the things that bothers me so much: he seems to be wasting his life. I wrote about this before: Sudoku Meaning. He’s spending his life solving puzzles. Imagine if he put that brain to a more edifying use. But that’s on him. I don’t see the big deal about inerrancy. One could claim that the Bible was inerrant and not be a literalist. One would just need to understand its inerrancy at a higher level of conception. Is the story of Jonah meant to teach the literal story of a man living in a fish or that one should do what God requests and not run away? This seems obvious to anyone reading it. I think literalism is a kind of virus that spreads. If you left an adult alone to make of the Bible what they will, they would not come to the conclusion that the story of Jonah was a primer about surviving at sea.

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