A recent comment on my post, Ironic Partisans pointed me to a well-written article about Donald Trump, authored by Rachel Held Evans. As readers of this blog are aware, I am desperately trying to avoid filling the echo chambers of social media with more fuel – but Rachel quoted something from Mr. Trump which I found even more alarming than his typical comments 1.
“I’ll tell you one thing,” he told a crowd in Sioux Center, Iowa, “I get elected president, we’re going to be saying ‘merry Christmas’ again…And by the way, Christianity will have power…because if I’m there, you’re going to have somebody representing you very, very well.”
I have become leery of unattributed quotations on websites, the antics of the echo chamber have left me prone to extreme skepticism. Because this statement troubled me as deeply as it did, however, I determined to locate the actual source of the quotation 2. This took all of a minute on youtube, and I’ve posted the video below. The quoted section occurs at the 3:19 mark.
For Christians who have been well-versed in “the culture war” mentality, this statement might be taken as something to celebrate. After all, Donald Trump is promising us power. But then consider the context of this speech. What type of power is he offering Christians? Is it the power of the Kingdom, a power which comes from the work of Jesus and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit? Or is it the power of this world, the power of human will and struggle?
I hear only the latter. Mr. Trump is promising the power to control the conversation and the authority to dominate a culture. To frame this promise in the words of our Savior and Lord, Mr. Trump is promising a wide gate and easy path – a path which leads to destruction 3.
Rachel Held Evans rightly ties Mr. Trump’s promise to one of the temptations faced by Jesus in the wilderness.
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Matthew 4:8–9 NRSV
That is the temptation Christians in America are facing. It is, in fact, the same temptations all Christians throughout history have faced. Donald Trump is only the latest iteration of this wrestling match, there have been countless others in the past who have made similar siren calls – from both the “left” and “right” of our poorly-conceived political spectrum.
It is easy to write off those who have fallen into Mr. Trump’s tempting promises of power, but that would be unfair. The temptation to power is very real, and extremely deceitful. Writing off those who have fallen into this version of the temptation opens us up to the dangerous notion of personal immunity to it. We are not immune. After all, Jesus himself was not immune to the temptation of worldly power.
As a pastor, however, it is my obligation to point out the real dangers posed by the ideas voiced in the video above. The power offered is, I have no doubt, real. But it will also be so terribly corrupting the message of the Gospel will be all but lost within it’s decay. Christianity is a faith which thrives in weakness, not in power.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and save us from ourselves.
- If you think that statement gave away my personal sentiments about Mr. Trump’s candidacy, you are correct. ↩
- Really, folks. If you find yourself either fuming at Meme or nodding your head in unthinking agreement, take a breath and do a couple of minutes of leg work. Often you will have your reactions reinforced, but the times in which you come to a more complex understanding are invaluable. ↩
- Matthew 7:13, in case you were wondering. ↩