The Gospel According to Trump

The keynote speaker at the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday was former American Enterprise Association president and conservative columnist Arthur Brooks, who reiterated the theme of his 2019 book “Love Your Enemies.” Next up was President Donald Trump, who started his remarks by saying “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you.”
Trump fans will say that of course he was only kidding, and that critics simply fail to appreciate his sense of humor, but the rest of  the speech made quite clear Trump truly believes that the idea of loving one’s enemies is superstitious bunk. He might or might not know that he’s also disagreeing with Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ said a lot of things that Trump clearly believes are bunk.
The line about loving one’s enemies comes from the fifth through seventh chapters of the Gospel According to Matthew, an account of the Sermon the Mount, which is pretty much the antithesis of everything Trump says and does.
When Trump was asked on the campaign trail to cite a favorite Bible verse he said “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” which comes from the Old Testament book of Exodus, which Jewish tradition regards as an admonition that duly appointed governments should punish the guilty with penalties commensurate with the crime. Trump seems to regard it as permission for his hobby of exacting revenge on anyone he finds guilty of some slight, despite Romans 12:19 saying “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.”
.The phrase comes up again in in Matthew 5:3, when Jesus told his followers “You have heard it was said, ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also.” Trump often tells his followers to “always punch back 10 times harder,” and although most of the followers are self-described Christians the line always gets big cheers and applause at the rallies.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” Jesus said in Matthew 5:5, but Trump once said in an interview with Playboy Magazine that “Every successful person has a large ego,” and when asked if that included Mother Theresa and Jesus Christ he replied “Far greater than you’ll ever understand.” Jesus also told his followers on the mount “Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth” and “You cannot serve both God and money,” but Trump prefers the “prosperity gospel” of televangelist and White House advisor and “personal pastor” Paula White, which teaches that wealth is a sign that you’re good with God. In Matthew 7:1 Jesus tells his followers “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” but Trump took the opportunity of the National Prayer Breakfast to disparage the religiosity of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and the basic human decency of anyone who dares criticize his presidency.
The Sermon on the Mount also includes stuff about divorce and adultery and giving to the needy that Trump seems to regard as the rantings of a religious lunatic. He went from the National Prayer Breakfast to the East Room of the White House, where he once again cussed in front of the kids and lashed out at his enemies and told several provable lies during an unscripted stream-of-consciousness tirade that lasted more than an hour and sounded to us like the rantings of a very irreligious lunatic.
We don’t claim to have led such blameless lives that we won’t be relying on God’s mercy when the time comes, as Trump has claimed to have done, so we’ll happily leave it to God to ultimately judge Trump’s soul. Down here on earth we have a civic obligation to judge his fitness for the highest office in the land, though, and thanks to the American democracy God blessed us with we all get a say in that. Most of our fellow evangelical brothers and sisters regard Trump as their champion, and some even liken him to King David, who was beloved by God and given great power despite his extraordinary sins, but we’d note that David risked his life for God’s chosen people by challenging Goliath in single combat and only gained power after fully repenting and asking God’s forgiveness, whereas Trump had bone spurs and claims that he only asks forgiveness from God when “I drink my little wine and eat my little cracker,” which is how he described the rite of Holy Communion that Jesus consecrated before humbling Himself on the cross.
Our evangelical Christian brothers and sisters are entitled to their political opinions and their votes, and we’ll not judge them for it, but we will remind them of another line from the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7:15: “Watch out for false prophets.”

— Bud Norman

Trump Trumps Easter

There’s a longstanding tradition in America that politicians refrain from making news on Easter Sunday, but President Donald Trump doesn’t care much about longstanding traditions. He “tweeted” an all-caps but otherwise fairly traditional happy Easter greeting to the country, but while his many evangelical Christian supporters were celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus, Trump was “tweeting” disparaging remarks about Democrats and threatening to deport all the so-called “dreamers” and tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement.
By now it’s well known that Trump does not like being upstaged, and has a tendency to fire subordinates who wind up on magazine covers, which does not bode well for current Time Magazine cover boy Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but trying to steal the spotlight from The Savior on Easter Sunday strikes us as especially Trumpian. The blasphemy aside, it seems another case of Trump wading into a fight chin first.
Those so-called “dreamers” are so called because of the acronym of the failed legislation that President Barack Obama pretty much enacted by executive fiat with his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which deferred any deportation actions for any illegal immigrants who had arrived here through no fault of their own as children, and it’s one of those very thorny and hot-button issues best left to the Monday after Easter Sunday. Trump got a head start on the conversation by “tweeting” about the “ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws” impeding border enforcement, and ominously warning the situation was “getting worse. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!”
The bad timing aside, Trump is making some losing arguments. Despite a recent uptick in his approval ratings Trump still polls worse than those telegenic “dreamers,” many of whom are undeniably sympathetic and stellar semi-citizens, and tear-jerking footage of their forcible removal from the only land they’ve ever known will be hard to “tweet” away. Trump is convinced he can successfully convince enough voters it was the Democrats’ fault, as it wouldn’t have happened if they’d only given him enough money to build a wall along the entire Mexican border, which he’d repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for, but it’s going to be a hard sell in Latino-heavy districts and elsewhere.
Those darned Democrats do indeed have some damned dumb ideas about border enforcement, but it’s hard to explain that in “tweet”-sized characters, no matter how many capitalizations and exclamation marks you use. It’s an argument best made calmly, without racial animus, and in parseable sentences, but that’s another thing Trump doesn’t do. The report of “caravans” of illegal immigrants heading to our southern border apparently came shortly after the Fox News network reported, and although it might prove true we’d prefer the president was checking with his own intelligence agencies.
That disquieting Easter “tweet” about the Nuclear Option is another idea that might not work out for Trump. The Senate’s longstanding tradition of requiring a 60-vote supermajority for certain legislation has historically come in quite handy for both parties over the years they’ve been in the minority, and given the Republicans’ already razor-thin 51-to-49 advantage it’s well within the realm of possibility they’ll once again be needing that filibuster power within a year.
Holy Week is now officially over, and we’re back in the secular world, where Trump hogs the spotlight. We don’t envy him the role.

— Bud Norman

Merry Christmas, 2017

Today is Christmas Day, and the only news worth mentioning is more than two millennia old. It was first noted in print in the Gospel according to Luke a few decades after the fact, but hasn’t been improved on since an angel of God first spoke  it to some lowly shepherds who were shivering in the cold outside a small town called Bethlehem.
“And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the peoples. For today in the city of David there has been born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'”
Except to wish you and all those you love a Merry Christmas, we’ll leave it at that.

— Bud Norman

Black Friday, White Christmas

Thanksgiving is over, even if the leftovers are likely to last another week or so, and the Christmas season has now officially begun. We take a back seat to no one in our gratitude for the birth of Jesus Christ, but this strikes us as a bit too much Christmastime.
The celebration of our Savior’s birth begins ominously enough with something called Black Friday. This now-familiar phrase is meant to have a positive connotation, as it refers to the black ink that retailers are hoping to use to write down the profits made from the first day of the Christmas shopping season, but it has an undeniably sinister sound about it that that more accurately conveys what the event has become. By now it is an annual tradition for the Drudge Report to scream out headlines about the mayhem in America’s shopping malls, with harrowing tales of maniacal shoppers assaulting one another in the store aisles and riots breaking out over the bargains being offered, and it seems a most inapt way to honor the arrival of the Prince of Peace. It’s far more frightening than anything that occurs on Halloween, which is about the time when the big retail chains start running television commercials with a Christmas theme to promote their Black Friday sales, and it winds up causing a full two months of holiday cheer that is simply too much to bear.
We wish all those stores plenty of black ink today, and dread the drop in the stock market that will surely occur if the figures prove bleak, even if the Federal Reserve announces that the quantitative easing will continue into the next millennium, but we’d rather that people approached Christmas with a more relaxed and reverential attitude. For at least the next two weeks or so we intend to go about our business as usual, and remained focus on such seculars matters as the great lump of coal in the national stocking that is Obamacare, and only then turn our attention to the spiritual issues that are supposed to inform the season. Any more than that would test the faith of even the most pious Christian, especially if he spends the time punching out other shoppers in pursuit of the latest gizmos at some green-and-red-bedecked shopping center.
Our week of Thanksgiving has been spent far from our prairie home in the Philadelphia area, where our parents remain endearingly Okie even after a couple of decades in the big bad city, and except for an opulent evening at the astonishingly fancy-schmantzy Green Room of the Hotel DuPont in nearby Wilmington, Delaware, it’s been a happily low-key week of reminiscing and family togetherness and genuine thankfulness. We highly recommend it to anyone as a good way to spend a holiday, especially a holiday that celebrates the impoverished birth of a man who once chased the money-changers from His father’s temple.

— Bud Norman