Sunday, January 31, 2016

The American Gospel Of Trump

"Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than enough 
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud."
- Psalms 123:3-4

I had not planned to write about Donald Trump. Ever. There are many, many reasons why I had never intended to write about this man and part of that was that this blog started out of the desire to share the realities of my family's life as we adopted internationally. As the shift in focus of this blog has necessitated a change (Cava deserves his privacy and for his story to be his story), I seriously considered to stop blogging altogether. What I've realized is that the focus, from the beginning, was not just about our adoption: it was about our faith and, at the roots of this blog's genesis, is the strong undercurrent of social justice. Now I know that last part concerns a lot of Conservatives because they hear that term "social justice" and immediately jump to the conclusion that it's part of the liberal agenda. Yet social justice is not a political idea, but a biblical one.

From the beginning of the scriptures all the way to the end, God is presented as a God who has a heart for the least of these (orphans, widows, immigrants, sojourners, refugees, the oppressed) and has used his prophets to be a voice for the voiceless when those in power no longer concern themselves with taking care of the poor and downcast. Social justice springs forth from repentance. First, personal repentance from sin and then a national repentance from those injustices they have committed against those who were at the bottom of the ladder. As Proverbs 14:31 starts, "Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker." When we neglect the poor, when we are a part of the problem whereby we want cheap goods at the expense of those in third world countries, then we are literally mocking God.

Therefore, I have had a very difficult time watching as Donald Trump continues to rise in the polls, especially among those who identify themselves as "Christian." This is a man who makes half-hearted references to the Bible in a cheap attempt to court the Christian, particularly the Evangelical, vote. And despite the fact that it is obvious that he is a man who does not believe, there are Christians who support him. Why do they support him?

Certainly not because the fruits of the spirit are shown in his life. Jesus said that we would know his followers by their love, but this is a man who intentionally stirs up hate and racism as he demeans blacks, immigrants, Muslims, and Syrian refugees. This last part is especially troubling since there are now reports that there are 10,000 missing refugee children in Europe and that many of them may have been kidnapped or forced into human and sexual trafficking ( As Christians, our hearts should go out to people who find themselves persecuted within their own country and find themselves unwanted by so many others. Trump prays on people's fears that these refugees are nothing more than terrorists waiting to get us. Now I know and have heard from many that they agree with him on this point, but what did Christ say?  From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus went into the synagogue and proclaimed the promises of Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the the year of the Lord's favor."

Those who are oppressed, those who are poor, those who are enslaved (and there are more people who are in slavery now than in all of history), the widows, the orphans, the marginalized, the ostracized, the ignored, the refugee, the immigrant, the lowly. He promised us that we could always find him there, but do we find ourselves there? I can't help but look at the current Pope and see a man who shuns power and spends much of his time among the poor, even when he is touring other countries. Can you imagine one of our candidates stooping to wash the feet of a poor man?

The Messiah of the world came to this Earth as a servant. He rejected power and glory when Satan tempted him with both. He washed the feet of his disciples, even the one he knew would betray him. The King of Glory lowered himself to be amongst the lowest, while too many of our politicians appear to be using Jesus simply as a way to raise themselves up among Evangelical voters. They are using Jesus and the Bible simply as a means of trying to gain the very power that Jesus rejected. They want to make America "Great" again. Why aren't they working to make America compassionate? We live in a world that can no longer afford the American dream. 

It's not enough to quote the Bible, one has to live it out in their lives. Yet Trump has said to Anderson Cooper of CNN, "Why do I have to repent or ask forgiveness when I am not making mistakes? I work hard. I'm an honorable person." This is a smug answer full of pride and arrogance. It goes against everything that Christ taught or lived out. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All are called to repent of their sins because all have sinned against a holy God. The Gospel is this very fact that "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever should believe on him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). God stooped low to love us. Jesus gave up power to become one of us, to love us back to his Father. He is not concerned with popularity or power. Because of this, many were disillusioned with Christ and turned away from him (one of those was Judas who thought Jesus would be the Messiah to deliver Israel from Rome, not from their sins).

Does Donald Trump then reflect the modern Church in America?

Is he a reflection of our desire for celebrity, money, success, power and the American dream?

I think so. 

I think the modern Church is far too happy with the moneylenders in the temple because those are the ones running so many of these mega-churches who preach not the gospel but the American dream. Their Jesus is not the servant, their God is not one who offers his only Son for the sins of the world. They want a God who serves them and "blesses" them with prosperity (health and wealth). They ignore the very fact that Jesus came to give comfort to the afflicted. The Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head, he did not have a mansion, a private jet, or great wealth that he had stored up in banks (even if any of those things had existed during his time). Too many of us identify with the rich young ruler than we do with the Savior we claim to follow.

He rejected popularity because he saw that people were praising him and seeking after him for all the wrong reasons. The same ones who shouted "Hosanna" to him one day were shouting "Crucify" him the next. Why? Because he doesn't allow us to be comfortable. He cannot be bought and sold. He is not a commodity. Jesus challenges us and confronts us. The Bible is not a tool to promote ourselves, but a two-edged sword that cuts deeply into the root of our heart and causes us either to accept its truth and change or reject it for those things the world has to offer. Jesus wants disciples not followers. His kingdom is neither conservative or liberal. He is interested in his kingdom and not countries. And his kingdom is based on compassion, mercy, grace, and love. 

Too many of our churches are places to avoid God rather than to encounter and be confronted by Him. We have allowed our churches to be places of entertainment or worship-tainment instead of places where we go with a holy fear and trembling to worship a righteous God. The Church is too full of fashionable faith and trendy worship that is based on getting goosebumps or good feelings. They are places of performances and celebrities, which is its own form of idol worship.

So is it any wonder then that there are those who call themselves "Christian" who would seek a candidate who is a celebrity, who promises them power again, wealth, and greatness? But we have to see that this is what Satan and not Jesus offered. 

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