I could not sleep last night. It is not uncommon. I spend half my nights lying awake thinking, praying, worrying, hoping, and planning. I like to think that God wakes me up in the middle of the night when there are no distractions or other things to busy myself with so that I can really listen to the whispering of the Spirit.
But last night all I could think about was Donald Trump.
I have done a pretty decent job of staying above the violent fray of political discord this season. Opinions are too polarized and colored by fear and anger for me to enjoy debate like I used to. But that doesn’t mean I have ignored the political posts of my friends, or the candidate debates, or the campaign media spots. And last night I realized that Donald Trump very well might become the next president of the United States of America.
This whole situation is hard for me to even fathom. I struggle to comprehend how good, generous, kind, educated, Christ-loving people can look at me and argue with genuine conviction that Mr. Trump is intellectually, politically, or personally fit to be the president. I struggle to understand how the evangelical church can listen to a man whose very campaign platform is hate and say that he is the candidate Christ would have us elect.
-A man who has been married three times but argues gay marriage destroys the sanctity of marriage.
-A man who is married to an immigrant but argues immigration is destroying America’s greatness and that we must build a wall to keep people out.
-A man who openly and with great joy, on worldwide television, ridiculed a reporter who has a physical disability.
-A man who made his millions at the expense of the poor but argues he is the best hope for the working class.
-A man who is old enough to remember the horrors of World War II but is insistent on making people register with the government based on religion.
-A man who says he has no need for forgiveness because he has never been wrong.
-He lies, without apology, with gusto.
-He belittles women and people of color.
-He encourages violence as a means of resolving difference.
-He is hungry to engage the war machine.
-He has said many times that he has no interest in diplomacy.
In fact, I have yet to see even one tiny example of decency, compassion, virtuosity, integrity, honesty, or servitude in Donald Trump or his campaign promises. Yet the Republican Party hails him as their best choice for president? It is as if there is a shroud around Mr. Trump that prevents people from recognizing the truth and I am overwhelmingly confused, and saddened, by it.
What bothers me the most is not that this man is running for president. In truth, actually the very fact that Mr. Trump can be and is a candidate for President is one of the things I love best about our country—that anyone can be anything if the right opportunities present themselves (in his case excessive wealth and unearned privilege). Diversity is in my estimation the most beautiful trait of American culture, and I love this country enough to say that part of being free is allowing all to speak, even those who would oppose the very things to which I have dedicated my life. I do not get his appeal, but I do concede that others do not share my opinions or my perspectives.
So no, it is not Donald Trump’s candidacy that disturbs me, nor is it the fact that the Republicans have embraced him. (Honestly, it is just one more reminder of why I am not associated with the Republican Party.) What bothers me is that Mr. Trump is claiming to be a devout, God-loving Christian, and even more incredulous, that the right-aligned church is buying it! That’s what kept me awake last night. That’s what stirs angst and discord in my heart.
See, Christian means by simple linguistic definition “Christ-like.” How on earth can someone possibly see Donald Trump as “like Christ?” Now please understand, I’m not suggesting that I or anyone else gets to determine whether someone’s faith is real. That’s not my job. But I/we do get to determine whether the rhetoric being fed to us by those in power is genuine, real, authentic. And we do have a responsibility to test whether or not what is being attributed to God really is from God (1 John 4:1, for example).
I have three Master’s degrees—13 years of post-high school education. While it doesn’t make me better (or even smarter) that anyone else, my education has taught me how to test what I am hearing to determine whether it is factual and truthful. As far as facts go, Mr. Trump misquotes other people, has a very warped understanding of history—both ancient and recent—and he says things that are intended to incite panic and fear, even though they are not factual. Several independent and nonpartisan studies have proven that you cannot trust what Donald Trump says (though when stacked up next to other political candidates, Mr. Trump is not the only one to lie, twist the truth, or hide things from the public.)
As for truth, at least according to the scripture by which I measure my life, everything that claims to be from God must be held up against the great consistent theme of scripture—God is love. If it is not love, it is not from God. If it is not from God, it cannot be “like Christ.”
I am not writing this to attack my friends who have committed to voting for Trump or to call you names or say that you are wrong.
But I do ask my Christ-follower friends to consider this: based on only the things I’ve heard and not the many posts of my fellow liberals, Trump theology includes belittling, discriminating, and degrading other human beings (based on gender, race, religion, ability, and wealth), joy in the suffering of others (including a promise to bring back torture techniques like waterboarding), a love of money and an insistence that greed is a human characteristic that should be celebrated, deception and flat out lying, and arrogance and a lack of humility.
Does this sound like “Christ-like” theology to you? Would Jesus stamp his approval on any of those things? Does this align with scripture that teaches us to care for the poor, welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, embrace the outcast, and care for women and children? Does Mr. Trump’s theology hold up against Jesus who said to lay our very lives down for others, give everything we have to the poor, love God above all things and love our neighbor as ourselves?
If you cannot answer yes to those questions, then please stop telling me that Donald Trump is the “Christian” candidate. Vote for him if you want. That’s a celebrated right of a free America. But please, DO NOT tie the faith that I cherish and to which I have dedicated my life to a rhetoric that is NOT remotely like the author of that faith, Jesus Christ.
Because it is only accomplishing one thing—proving to those who want nothing to do with Christianity because they see it as a religion of division and hate that they are absolutely right on, and it makes my job—a Christ follower, evangelist, preacher-teacher who believes God is limitless love—impossible.
And here's the thing....if Donald Trump really WAS the quintessential Christian, then I would NOT be a Christian, either.