Mined from the notebooks, June 24, 2016. Posted Friday morning, November 11.
This one has been gathering dust in one of my notebooks since June. Can’t tell you why I didn’t finish it at the time. But I’m hauling it out now because Right Wing Evangelicals have been taking credit for Trump’s victory and many liberals of my online acquaintance have expressed their amazement at the hypocrisy of these supposed champions of Family Values getting behind a notorious and gleeful sinner like Trump. But it’s not hypocrisy. The Religious Right has never wanted a good shepherd for president or any elected office. As I wrote in the post, what they want is a nation of chastened and obedient sheep. Trump promised to give them that.
The Testament and Death of Moses, a fresco in the Sistine Chapel, by Luca Signorelli and Bartomello della Gatta . Circa 1482. Via Wikipedia. Images of of Moses in a green cloak and yellow robe are scattered throughout. He’s up there on the rock at the center with an angel giving him glimpse of the Promised Land God won’t let him enter.
In a short series of Tweets reacting to Donald Trump’s recent Come to Jesus moment before a meeting of Evangelical Christian leaders, Business Insider’s Josh Barro seems both amused and a little stunned that so many of God’s ministers have quickly and eagerly welcomed Trump, who up till now has not noticeably lived his life in imitation of Christ’s, into the fold. In fact, Barro, although not a Christian himself, thinks Trump has made a point of not practicing what Christians supposedly preach.
“It's amazing how evangelical leaders have warmed to a candidate whose persona is built on 6 of the 7 deadly sins,” Barro writes.
“It's not that Trump has done some bad things,” he continues, “Pride, envy, gluttony, lust, greed and anger are all *central* to his personality.”
“I'm not a religious person, but I think these are bad personality traits, and my understanding is Christians are supposed to think so, too.”
Several of Barro’s commenters have pointed out that he should have included sloth among Trump’s vices. Barro’s reply is that Trump doesn’t seem especially slothful. But I think he’s thinking of slothful as it’s commonly used, as a synonym for physically lazy. That’s not what it means when listed as one of the deadly sins.
Sloth is a form of spiritual laziness. Sloth is an antonym of diligence, self-control, self-discipline, and self-restraint. It’s the deliberate failure to be virtuous and to rein in the other vices. At least that’s what I learned from the good sisters at St Helen’s when I was in grade school. And Trump is especially slothful in this way. He’s motivated mainly by vanity, ego, appetite, whim, and material self-interest or, to put it another way, Barro’s right in saying the other six deadly sins are central to his personality, but sloth is what allows that to be.
But as another of Barro’s commenters points out, Trump has been physically lazy on the campaign trail.
He hasn’t put the effort or energy into running a disciplined and organized campaign. Can’t be bothered. He prefers to leave the hard work for others to do. And he’s barely done any of the kind of old-fashioned shake every hand, kiss every baby campaigning candidates for public office usually do as a matter of course, relying instead on the media’s willingness to cover his every move, breath, sigh, and burp as NEWS! To make it look as though he’s out there among the people, working hard for each and every vote.
And he’s certainly been mentally lazy. It’s not just that he can’t be bothered to study the issues and think even superficially about matters of policy and principle. He doesn’t think, period. Self-reflection and examination are too much trouble. Wastes of time and energy. Besides, he pays people to handle all that boring stuff. He says (and tweets) whatever crosses his mind and if it resembles a coherent thought, fine. If it doesn’t, who cares?
But to get back to his other vices. If he has been a sinner, that’s not a problem for Christians because he can always repent and God will forgive him. Every one of us is a sinner, after all. And don’t we all want forgiveness?
Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s more radically Right Wing son, excusing...Sorry. Explaining his belief that Evangelical Christians can vote for Trump in good conscience, compared Trump to Moses, David, and Peter the apostle.
Graham pointed out that in lots of stories in the Bible, people messed up. After all, Graham told the crowd of devout Christians, the prophet Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt but disobeyed God; King David committed adultery and murder; and the apostle Peter, who, as one of Jesus' closest followers, really should have had his back, denied three times that he'd ever known Jesus.
"There is none of us that are perfect," Graham said. "There's no perfect person — there's only one, and that's the Lord Jesus Christ, but he's not running for president of the United States."
Graham probably didn’t think he needed to remind this congregation that Moses, David, and Peter expressed deep sorrow for their sins or that Moses and David were severely punished.
After he denied for the third time he was one of Jesus’ followers and he heard the cock crow as Jesus had predicted at the Last Supper, Peter went outside the city and wept in shame. He cried so hard and so long the tears left permanent tracks down his cheeks. That’s what the nuns told us, at any rate.
Meanwhile, God allowed Moses to lead the Israelites to the border of the Promised Land but then denied him entrance. And after David had disposed of Bathsheba’s husband by arranging for him to be killed in battle, God saw to it that the rest of his life was turmoil, strife, and grief.
Two of David’s sons, Absalom and Amnon went to war with each other with Amnon winding up dead. His most celebrated other and youngest son Solomon had his brother Adoni’jah assassinated. Absalom was furious at Amnon for raping their sister Tamar. Solomon feared that Adoni’jah, who was the elder, would try to take the throne from him. Solomon and Adoni’jah were in line to inherit the kingship from David because their eldest brother, that would be Absalom, was dead. He died in a war of rebellion their father.
“The sword will never depart from your house,” God had promised David through the prophet Nathan.
I would like to know if and why Graham thinks Trump is sorry for his sins and if he expects him to be punished. After all, Trump said right there at the conference he isn't sure he's ever asked God to forgive him. Offhand he couldn't think of anything he'd done that made him think he needed to ask to be forgiven for. But that really doesn’t matter to Christians like Graham. What Trump is isn’t as important as what he will do. Is doing. God’s will.
Trump, simply by running as a Republican and running against the pro-abortion, pro-homosexual agenda Hillary Clinton, is doing God’s will. God, at least many Christians see him, is a meddler. He has his hand in everything and uses all of us for his own unfathomable but ultimately beneficent ends.
It’s as C.S. Lewis wrote: “You will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John."
Any good Christian can tell you, God has long been in the habit of using cracked vessels to pour his grace into the world. Sometimes it might even seem he prefers to use sinners to do his work for him. Look at David. And as any good Right Wing Christian will insist on telling you, the most important work God needs doing at the moment is filling the federal benches with conservative judges so Roe v Wade can finally be overturned, the nation can be saved from the scourge of same-sex marriage, and religious liberty can be preserved.
That would be the liberty to force other people to live according to your religious beliefs.
So as far as it goes, it doesn’t matter how poor a Christian Trump has been in his private life. He will, God willing, redeem himself and the nation in his very public life as president. And, keep in mind, despite how much store Evangelical and other born-again Christians put in an individual’s having a personal relationship with Jesus, the Religious Right cares more about the country’s having a communal relationship with Christianity. Their brand of it. Their ultimate goal is to turn the United States back into the Christian nation they believe it once was, before the people they used to call Secular Humanists but I think now they just call the godless stole control.
Trump is sufficiently born again by virtue of promising to let them have what they want. Even though during the primaries he showed not the least bit of interest in fighting the culture war as president, he has now seen the light.
Trump then turned to what evangelical leaders have told him is a top priority – religious freedom. Many conservative Christians say they feel threatened by lawsuits aimed at requiring business owners to provide services for same-sex weddings, restrictions on prayer in public schools, and a growing move to allow transgender people to use the restrooms they choose.
"The next president is going to be very vital ... in freeing up your religion, freeing up your thoughts," Trump said. "You really don't have religious freedom."
Trump promised again to appoint “conservative”---that means Right Wing activist---justices to the Supreme Court. And as with any TRUMP project, only the best will do:
Dobson asked one of several questions about religious freedom, to which Trump reiterated his promise to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices. He said he would soon announce several more potential nominees to the court, to go along with the 11 he's already suggested.
"They will be great intellects, talented men at what they do — and women — but also be pro-life," Trump said.
Like the way he backtracked to get women in there? I’ll bet not a few Christians in that room didn’t.
"As in all the churches of the holy one, women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate even as the law says. If they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church."
“In church”. Maybe women speaking in court isn’t improper.
But it was the speaking anywhere of one particular woman that was on the minds of the men in that room with Trump. I say men like they were the only ones there because I assume they were. I assume their wives were waiting at home to ask them what had occurred at the meeting. Trump gave the men something extra to tell the womenfolk:
Trump had just met with members of the steering committee that helped organize the event — including Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, psychologist and radio host James Dobson, Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader and longtime activist Gary Bauer.
From that room, the Rev. E.W. Jackson tweeted a video of a moment where Trump questioned Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's faith, saying we don't know "anything about Hillary in terms of religion. You know, she's been in the public eye for years and years, and yet there's no, there's nothing out there, there's, like, nothing out there."
Actually, the truth is what’s out there. Hillary Clinton has never been reticent on the subject of her faith---her Christian faith. She’s a devout Methodist.---and how it has informed both her private and public life. It’s a recurring theme in her memoir Living History which I don’t expect Trump has read. He apparently only reads books he wrote (or someone wrote for him). But his saying this is more evidence of his sloth. It’s proof he hasn’t done even the minimum of homework on the person he’ll be running against in the fall after they both lose the adjective presumptive before their names.
It’s another instance of his not bothering to watch his mouth and just saying whatever thought crosses what passes for his mind. More sloth.
He’s saying what he knows his audience wants to hear just to hear them cheer. Vanity and sloth.
That would make him a liar too. Dishonesty isn’t one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but if I recall the Commandments include something about not bearing false witness. You’d think a roomful of supposed Christians would have a problem with that. But people of all faiths and without faith are adept at believing what they want to believe, and Trump’s audience of supposed Christians want to believe Hillary’s one of the godless.
Just as it doesn’t matter how much sinning Trump does in his personal life, it doesn’t matter if she practices everything Christians preach in hers. In her public life she had done nothing but the Devil’s work and she’ll only do more of it if she’s elected President.
Besides, the Commandments are for other people to obey. For Right Wing Christians, just as for Republicans in general, commandments, rules, laws, precepts, codes of conduct, and principles are things you force other people to follow. Like I said, the Religious Right wants to re-make America into a “Christian” nation, by which they mean a nation they rule and in which they have the freedom to tell everybody else what rules and laws to live by.
They don’t want a good shepherd for president. What they want is a nation of chastened and obedient sheep.
In such a nation, a sinner as president isn’t as undesirable as a tyrant is desirable. There’s only one king and that’s Jesus, but the President of the United States is his first minister, and he gets to have the fun of doing the king’s dirty work, punishing the ungodly and putting them back in their proper places, like the closet, the kitchen, jail, the grave.
“He took fifty bullets, and he dipped them in pig’s blood. And he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the fifty people, and they shot forty-nine of those people. And the fiftieth person he said ‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.’ And for twenty-five years there wasn’t a problem, okay?”
I heartily recommend reading Hillary’s Living History if you get the chance, not just to read about how Hillary’s faith has informed her thinking and guided her personal and public behavior. It’s an excellent political bildungsroman, providing necessary insight into the character of the person who may very well be the first woman president of the United States. [Editor's note: Remember, this was written back in June.] But for right now, Peter Beinart’s post at the Atlantic, Hillary Clinton, Longtime Christian, sums it up nicely.