Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Just Say 'No' To The 'Book Of Trump'

Sometimes Trump supporters are compared to cultists. In many cases, the comparison is unfair, but sometimes, as an outside observer looking in on the MAGA movement, you have to shake your head in amazement. That was the case last week when Miriam Adelson, wife of billionaire Republican political donor, Sheldon Adelson, called for the addition of the “Book of Trump” to the Bible.

In an op-ed for the Las Vegas Review Journal, Mrs. Adelson celebrated President Trump’s pro-Israel policies. In her piece, which stops short of extolling his godly virtues, she compares Trump to Esther, the Biblical queen who saved the Jews from a genocide at the hands of Haman, an evil advisor to the king of Persia.

Noting that Trump is still not widely supported by American Jews, Adelson writes, “Scholars of the Bible will no doubt note the heroes, sages, and prophets of antiquity who were similarly spurned by the very people they came to raise up.”

“Would it be too much to pray for a day when the Bible gets a ‘Book of Trump,’ much like it has a ‘Book of Esther’ celebrating the deliverance of the Jews from ancient Persia?” she asks. “Until that is decided, let us, at least, sit back and marvel at this time of miracles for Israel, for the United States, and for the whole world.”

The answer to that question is, of course, yes. It would be much too much to amend the Bible so that it sings the praises of Donald Trump. The very fact that the question is asked seems to indicate that something is deeply amiss within the Republican Party. There are many reasons why there will never be a Book of Trump, not least of which is that the Old Testament canon was established hundreds of years before the time of Christ. More than that, making Donald Trump the object of holy devotion seems antithetical to the teachings of the Bible.

The consecration of Donald Trump is not limited to Adelson, who is Jewish, but also occurs in evangelical circles as well. I described several months ago how Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress led his church in a “Make America Great Again” hymn and attacked Christians who were not on the Trump train. Likewise, Franklin Graham has called upon Christians to pray for Trump to triumph over his enemies and said that “God was behind the last election.”

In some cases, Trump supporters go beyond equating Trump with Esther or King David and make him equal to Jesus himself. Just ahead of the 2018 election, a billboard in St. Louis pictured Trump with the caption, “The Word became flesh - John 1:14,” a messianic reference to Jesus Christ. The first chapter of John begins with the statement, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” An ebook on Amazon is titled “Donald 'MESSIAH' Trump: The Man, the Myth, the Messiah?” and asks if the president is the “Last Trump of God.”

The message is also carried forth by many rank and file Trump supporters. If you have ever frequented pro-Trump social media groups, you have probably seen memes like this one depicting Christ guiding President Trump’s hand as he signs documents in the Oval Office or this photo of a Trump supporter wearing a shirt that reads, “Jesus died for you, Trump lives for you.” Some of the social media content is satirical, some is not, and it is often difficult to tell the difference. The tendency of the Trump movement to deify the object of its obsession is so widespread and so transparent that it has inspired articles in GQ and Psychology Today as well as on Christian sites such as Red Letter Christians.

Just last week, a Michigan couple held a MAGA-themed, July 4 wedding in which the groom wore his Marine dress uniform and the bride wore a wedding gown crafted from a “Make America Great Again” flag. Bridesmaids wore red MAGA hats with the exception of the maid of honor, a Democrat who wore a plain red cap instead. While the article does not identify the religious beliefs of the couple, marriages have traditionally been a covenant between man, woman, and God rather than man, woman, and president.

While some on the right have argued that Democrats have become secular and replaced God with quasi-worship of the state or an environmental religion centered on climate change. Now it seems that some Republicans, either because they are either secular themselves and lack a focus for the innate human need to worship God or because they are simply misguided and perhaps Biblically illiterate, have replaced God with Donald Trump.

I am not going to spend time itemizing Donald Trump’s continuing unchristian behavior or rehash the fact that, as recently as the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump was at best a nominal Christian who said he had never prayed for forgiveness and who was simultaneously lying about hush money payments to a porn star with whom he had cheated on his pregnant wife. I am also not going to suggest that every Trump supporter literally worships the president, although some certainly seem to do so.

What I am going to do is point back to the first of the Ten Commandments, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Putting President Trump on par with God and Jesus is literally placing a false god before the real one. Even putting partisan politics ahead of worshipping God is worshipping an idol. Further, Jesus himself warned against false prophets. In his Mount Olivet discourse, Christ said that at the end of the age “false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). That day may have come.

As Bobby Azarian wrote in Psychology Today, “No one is infallible, no one is free from bias, and no one is honest all of the time, no matter how hard they may strive,” a statement that echoes the Christian doctrine of the depravity of man, the idea that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

“When you believe that someone is truly a godsend, you can excuse anything,” Azarian warns. “It all becomes ‘for the greater good.’ And when that happens, it is a slippery slope to gross abuses of power that continuously increase in magnitude.”

If such adoration was aimed at Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, conservatives and Republicans would rightly ridicule it and those who practice it. The response should be no different because the object of affection of these Trump supporters is a Republican president. No American should bend a knee before a leader of either party and Christians should only kneel to worship Christ. Whether Trump-worship is an actual cult or merely a cult of personality, worship of a president does not bode well for either the Republican Party or the American Republic.

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