Listen… I get it–You’ve been told for about 30 years that “Christian” and “Republican” are basically synonyms. And it’s hard–when that is your reality–to think about voting for anyone other than the republican nominee for president… Even when it looks like that nominee is going to be this white-toothed dumpster fire.
And though everyone with eyes to see can tell that Donald Trump is woefully inadequate to be the leader of a medium-sized elementary school PTA–let alone the leader of a nation like ours–he continues to win primaries in state after state. He has built a loyal coalition of bigots and angry, ignorant white people who have been feeling more and more economically disenfranchised by the status quo. There is a growing sense in this country right now that the “American Dream” is off limits to many of us, and that fact is making people angry. Many people are directing that anger at a system that allows unlimited amounts of money to influence the political process, while allowing the very rich to write the policies which funnel even more of the wealth into the pockets of the powerful. Trump, however, has tapped into a group of voters whose anger at the current state of things has an entirely different focus: Brown people. The Other. Anyone not “Us.” And the focus of their anger is given legitimacy as they watch an orange-faced goon angrily yell “GET OUT!” from the podium… An action that perfectly summarizes their plan for how we that are going to “Make America Great Again.”
But this coalition of bigots would not be substantial enough to pull him trough the primary process without the help of those folks who have believed the lie that “Christian” and “Republican” are basically the same thing… A group of voters confusedly calling themselves “Evangelicals” (a phenomenon I wrote about in a post titled “If This Is Christianity, Count Me Out”). But as he co-opts these words–both the word “Republican” and the word “Christian”–in his attempt at a power grab, the problem for Trump is that there are significant portions of people in the world who actually care about what those words mean. One cannot simply tack an “R” behind his name and call himself a republican. And so, we have many voices within the republican party who are putting their ideals–ideals which they actually believe in–before their best chance at victory. People who would rather lose an election and still have “Republican” mean something, than win with bastardized ideals that have been torn apart by the tiny hands of a megalomaniac. People like republican David Brooks, who wrote:
“Donald Trump is epically unprepared to be president. He has no realistic policies, no advisers, no capacity to learn. His vast narcissism makes him a closed fortress. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he’s uninterested in finding out. He insults the office Abraham Lincoln once occupied by running for it with less preparation than most of us would undertake to buy a sofa.”
And so, many republicans bewilderingly look at Donald Trump and think, “This is the best republican candidate we can find?!?” But Trump is not a best guess at how to point the country in a more conservative direction… Trump’s true believers understand what he REALLY is: A democratic cyanide pill. But in order for them to have the political power to bite down on that pill, they need to dupe a whole bunch of Christians into voting for a man who embodies the opposite of everything that Jesus stood for. And unfortunately for Team Trump, just like there are many people who actually care about what the word “Republican” means, there are also many people who care about what the word “Christian” means. I am one of those people.
There are many of us who find that the expression of our Christianity often presents itself through passions which skew political left. We care about social justice. We find our hearts aligning with the cares of the poor and the vulnerable. We see systems of oppression–like white supremacy and systemic racism–as offensive to the deepest parts of our humanity, because they deny the image of God in all people. We understand the Love of God–not in terms of who it keeps out–but represented through the radical hospitality and inclusivity of the person of Jesus. And as much as I believe this is the direction the Church is headed, there are still many folks out there whose expression of Christian devotion presents itself political right. People who would very rationally describe themselves as fiscally conservative. People who genuinely believe that less government interaction will make things better for folks who are poor and vulnerable. People whose fears about the perceived dangers presented by immigrants and refugees seem very real to them.
For Trump, the problem comes with those folks who are still able to distinguish their Christian beliefs from their republican beliefs. No honest political ideals can excuse the words and actions Christians see steadily flowing from Donald Trump… Words and actions like the ones we see in the following video:
He stands about 15-20 yards aways with a bird’s eye view, watching as grown men assault a young black woman who is being escorted out of his rally… Lamenting about how “nice” we have to be, and longing for the days when we could be rougher with black women who don’t know their place. Here are his words: “Unbelievable… Unbelievable. Ah well… Get out! You know, in the ‘old days,’ which isn’t so long ago, when we were less politically correct, that kind of stuff wouldn’t have happened. Today we have to be so nice… So nice… We always have to be so nice…” And then he makes the natural transition to criticizing Ted Cruz for his lack of support for torture… There are literally thousands of examples I could use showing how Trump is the antithesis to the person of Jesus, but I think that video sums it up nicely.
And please don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying that Donald Trump is THE anti-christ… I’m just saying that he is “anti” everything that Christ stands for. If you–with your vote–choose Donald Trump, you are empirically and objectively choosing the embodiment of the exact opposite of Jesus. And this fact is not going unnoticed by many Christians who usually lean political right. People on the right still know the stories. They still care about Jesus, and even if their reading of the Bible somehow doesn’t show God to be on the side of the Immigrant, the Outsider, the Outcast, and The Other, there is no legitimate reading of the Bible that can excuse the kind of sick rhetoric–demonizing of “The Other” while longing for a time when cruelty was more commonplace–that we see flowing from Trump’s podium.
We can all see it… Even those who make it a habit to stay out of politics as much as possible. People like “Humans of New York” photographer, Brandon Stanton, who said of Trump, “along with millions of Americans, I’ve come to realize that opposing you is no longer a political decision. It is a moral one.” Even people like comedian Louis CK, who wrote:
“Please stop it with voting for Trump. It was funny for a little while. But the guy is Hitler. And by that I mean that we are being Germany in the 30s. Do you think they saw the shit coming? Hitler was just some hilarious and refreshing dude with a weird comb over who would say anything at all… He’s an insane bigot. He is dangerous… Trump is not your best. He’s the worst of all of us. He’s a symptom to a problem that is very real. But don’t vote for your own cancer. You’re better than that.”
Now most of us are very hesitant to prove Godwin’s law correct and start comparing people to Hitler. Hitler was a really bad guy… But he couldn’t have executed all of the evil things he did without the backing of people who demonized “The Other” while supporting his authoritarian and violent way of dealing with dissenting opinions. Trump has made many comments about trying to expand libel laws (to silence voices that are critical of him), and he openly longs for day when protestors were “carried out on a stretcher.” So sure… Trump might not be planning on throwing whole groups of people into gas chambers. But if you can’t see that there is a real danger of embracing the sort of violence that threatens people who are critical of the Trump regime, you are not looking close enough.
One more quote on Trump from David Brooks: “He pollutes the atmosphere in which our children are raised.” I completely agree. I have two kids in elementary school and one in middle school… And when Trump speaks, the things he says are so disgustingly hateful, my instinct is to cover their ears. Really, no amount of hyperbole is sufficient. I could say that Trump’s words are the auditory and soul-offending equivalent of stepping barefooted into a fresh, warm pile of a diseased dog’s shit, while dragging a fork along a chalkboard, and I would be just scratching the surface of the genuine repulsion I feel at hearing this wannabe despot speak.
As fun as hyperbole can be, it doesn’t necessarily help things. Like most progressive Christians, I am rightly skeptical of comparisons to Hitler and declarations of people saying, “You can’t be a Christian and vote for Donald Trump.” We clearly remember people saying those very same things to us as we made a case eight years ago for why we were thinking about voting for Obama. Many of us come from a place where people have told us, “You can’t be a Christian and think THAT!” A big part of what is means (for me, at least) to be a progressive Christian is this fight against these firm boundaries of orthodoxy that lets everyone know who’s “IN” and who’s “OUT.” And, as is always the case, “WE” are always “IN,” and “THEY” are always “OUT.” This is the mentality that had (and continues to have) such success with telling people that their Christianity requires them to vote republican. But when you reject that sort of tribalism–that sort of black and white thinking–people get very reluctant to say that ANYTHING is outside the bounds of Christianity.
But that is exactly what I am saying: Supporting the rise of a person like Donald Trump places you outside of the bounds of Christianity. A celebration of bigotry has no place in the character of people who claim to follow Jesus. And I get that some honest people have just been deceived… They’ve been duped. But if you are a person who calls yourself a “Christian” and you support Donald Trump, those are the only two choices: You’re either a bigot or a fool. And I understand that a lot of people look at me and say things like “This guy is not a Christian” (A lot of them show up in the comments section of my blog). But if the Jesus you follow allows your conscience to vote for a person like Donald Trump, we follow starkly different versions of Jesus. It’s a whole different religion, and you can’t call it Christianity. It’s not. They are two very distinct and very different religions… Connected only by some common terminology. And maybe that’s what we’ve got here… Maybe we’ve got two very different religions. Two very different systems of beliefs, where everything is getting confusing, because both sides are claiming words like “Christian.” Or “Jesus.” Or “Evangelical.” Or “God.” Maybe it’s like a divorce has happened, and the exes are fighting over who gets to keep the important stuff, while both sides keep the same surname.
And so, the frustrating thing about this situation is that when a big portion of the church decides it’s their “Christian duty” to support Donald Trump, it forces the other part of the church into seeming like they are aligning themselves with a political party. This is not what I’m saying. Christians can be democrats, and Christians can be republicans. There are plenty of good reason for Christians to vote republican… There are NO good reasons for Christians to vote for Donald Trump. And most of us get that–Despite Christians who scour the Bible looking for some sort of example of God using an evil King to bring about his will…
So I guess there are two groups to which I am writing: 1) There are the Trump True Believers, who know what he is about, and still support an angry bigot while bewilderingly trying to hang onto the word Christian. Stop it. That’s not Christianity. You’re hurting the already bruised reputation of the Church, and by doing so, you’re hurting the reputation of Jesus. You’re following someone, but I promise you… It ain’t Jesus. And then 2) There are the the Christians who realize that Trump is a narcissistic charlatan who is using their deeply-held convictions and accepted narrative of “Christian=Republican” in an attempt to grab some more power. And now those folks are being faced with the unthinkable decision: Do I vote as a Christian, or do I vote as a republican? Because in this election, those choices are mutually exclusive. And it comes down to this choice: Do I choose Jesus, or do I choose Trump? Because you can’t choose both…
As a post script: I don’t think that Christianity has a monopoly on the truth. There are people of all faiths that recognize that the sort of anger and hatred and violence and authoritarianism that is embodied and encouraged by Donald Trump is contrary to everything they know about the goodness of God or the best version of humanity. But I’m writing to Christians… Firstly, because that’s my tribe. And secondly, because I don’t think there’s a whole lot of chance of most Muslim or Jewish or Hindu folks voting for Trump… Not many folks in a minority position would be looking forward to a Trump presidency. Christians are who we need to worry about… People whose misplaced concept of Christian obligation would have them vote for a man with the sort of disposition that could send warheads flying over something as simple as someone calling him a pansy on Twitter. Anyway, thank you to Ben Bot for your new Patreon support. If you’d like to help support this blog by being a Patron, HERE’S where you can do that. Or you can GIVE HERE. Otherwise, check me out on Facebook or Twitter.