Donald Trump Divides God’s Voters?
An opinion piece in the NY Times had this catchy title.[i] I had a visceral reaction of disgust to this piece as I did the night before watching the GOP political debate (notably absent Trump). I felt as if I was waking up to a news story of a church sacristy being robbed of its vestments and sacred vessels and being worn by imposters on the world political stage. Hopefully voters will reward the politicians that stand on that stage in their true garments of genuine belief and chosen calling (politics as opposed to religious orders). When I need religious instruction I turn to the bible, prayer, theologians, and leaders in my chosen faith. I have never turned to a politician. Have you?
The article mainly addresses the fight for the evangelical vote. Disingenuously the title implies this represents “God’s Voters.” The evangelical vote has no distinct claim to God’s way though I do not disparage their beliefs and journey pursuing a holy life.
I do disparage politicians claiming to represent the holy way and believers that fall for such rhetoric. Andrew Sandlin in Jesus and Politics says “it would be totally in error to hold that Jesus’ life and teaching had nothing to do with politics. All to the contrary, a politics that does not issue from a proper understanding of Jesus’ teaching will be a seriously misguided — and ultimately dangerous — politics.”[ii] The contemporary political theatre has several presidential politicians that are either seriously misguided or represent dangerous antisocial traits by knowingly claiming to be what they are not. Neither the misguided nor the imposter should get your vote regardless of your spiritual affiliation or lack thereof.
The article does beg the question of where does the division lay if at all between religious beliefs and political activism. Andrew Goddard, in an article entitled “Thinking Christianly About Politics”[iii] gives an excellent review of theology, biblical references, and Jesus Christ in politics.
I take Goddard’s view that Jesus “chose humility, powerlessness and execution as his path” and “although politics has a role, this is always secondary and limited to the fallen world’s preservation.” What a powerful statement. Politics is for the fallen world’s preservation. And finally Goddard say “Third, any politics which effectively claims a redemptive role and demands religious devotion (which is quite possible even in a secular liberal democracy) thereby opposes God’s redemptive work in Christ and, at its extreme, could be said to represent the biblical Antichrist.” Is Trump the Antichrist? Or Ted Cruz? I don’t give them that much power. Taken to the extreme however, how do we separate out the difference between fundamentalist Christians (bombing abortion clinics) and fundamental Muslim extremist (ISIS terrorist)? Or are they no different? Certainly if you are of a different sexual orientation you are very afraid of religion driving politics to extremes and appropriately so. The same maybe said if you have a different faith or even not the same denomination of the faith that is in power.
Jesus is often portrayed as a revolutionary. “Yet, Goddard says, Jesus is not presented as a political opponent seeking to wrest political control from those currently holding power. Indeed, for most of his public ministry he remains detached both geographically (in Galilee not Jerusalem) and ideologically from the centre of Israel’s political life.” His views however threatened political life and economic disparity much as Pope Francis’s views do today.
No candidate up on the political stage today (or ever) has the authority to assert to being God’s messenger. Nor does any party have that claim. Nor does any religious sect have the claim to representing God’s vote. Go to the source of biblical references and reclaim your religion from the politicians and the media.[iv]
Politicians need to retreat from the pulpit and charge into being what they are, masters of the study of rhetoric. I do not mean that in a negative fashion. They are elected on their ability to effectively communicate and build strategies and consensus to address the worldly problems we have today. If they want to lead theologically, they can do as St. Augustine did and abandon political work and rhetoric for the calling to wearing genuine vestments.
- [i] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/28/opinion/campaign-stops/donald-trump-divides-gods-voters.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=Moth-Visible&moduleDetail=inside-nyt-region-3&module=inside-nyt-region®ion=inside-nyt-region&WT.nav=inside-nyt-region
- [iii] http://www.theologynetwork.org/theology-of-everything/starting-out/thinking-christianly-about-politics.htm