I try to stay away from politics, I really do. I hate everything about politics.
But I feel compelled to speak out tonight.
Donald Trump – real estate mogul, casino operator, “greed is good” guy – is now claiming to be a Christian. More often, those around him are claiming it for him. When he is asked directly about it he fumbles around, saying that he is “religious” and then justifying that statement by saying “Hey, I won the evangelicals!” Really, he said that. You can watch it here.
As a Christian, I find his claim to be a Christian to be offensive, demeaning, and heretical. It is not my place to judge his heart, of course. But it seems to me that he makes whatever statements about himself that others are going to like. He talks about himself A LOT, usually telling us how awesome and incredible he is at one thing or another, and talking in circles but never getting anywhere. But he always has an agenda when he opens his mouth. He is focused on what others want to hear, on what words will win him favor.
I know, this is a common thing for politicians. The problem is that he has been a public figure for a long time, and his words about his own religiosity are simply not in keeping with everything else we know about him, with what he’s told us about himself, or with the image he has portrayed for years. Put more bluntly, he is lying about being religious. He’s not religious in any sense. He’s never spoken about his faith one time in all the hours he’s been on TV, or during interviews, or in his books – not once… until now, when he is running for President and needs voters to think he’s not a greedy, egomaniacal, self-centered braggart.
But, alas, that’s what he is. And even if he has masterfully hidden his fervent religiosity all this time, being a follower of Jesus is not about being religious anyway. It’s about following a risen Savior and having a real, life-giving relationship with him that shapes us into who God created us to be. It’s about being filled with God’s Spirit so that our lives overflow with the fruit of that Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control.
Being a Christian is not about checking off a box. And it’s CERTAINLY not about looking good. When we follow Jesus we realize again and again how flawed we are, and how in need of his love and forgiveness we are. Followers of Jesus are not those who have it all figured out; we are those who have realized we are broken and hopeless without Him.
Jesus himself had some harsh words for those who tried to use their religiosity to look good for those watching. He said to the Pharisees, who in his day often claimed the utmost religiosity but at the same time were not truly living for God:
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and self-indulgence.26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. (Matthew 23:25-26)
I get it, politics is just not a Christian game. It’s all about looking good for the watching masses. But this has now gone beyond the ludicrous and silly and has entered into the heretical and blasphemous. When someone who calls himself a Christian pastor “prays” the words below as a benediction, we have entered a frightful zone where the name of Jesus Christ has been completely co-opted for selfish purposes and worldly gain. It’s really the definition of blasphemy.
“Hello Republicans! I’m Pastor Mark Burns from the great state of South Carolina! I’m going to pray and I’m going to give the benediction. And you know why? Because we are electing a man in Donald Trump who believes in the name of Jesus Christ. And Republicans, we got to be united because our enemy is not other Republicans — but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.
Let’s pray together. Father God, in the name of Jesus, Lord we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him, the you are giving him the words to unite this party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united. Because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party under God.
To defeat every attack that comes against us, to protect the life of Donald Trump, give him the words, give him the space, give him the power and the authority to be the next President of the United States of America, in Jesus’ name — if you believe it, shout Amen!”
Um, need I say more? This is despicable. He has claimed other humans who happen to disagree with his viewpoints are the enemy (instead of, you know, the devil). That sounds very anti-Christian to me, and he is making the statement while he stands there as a Christian pastor. He is using the name of Jesus to push his own agenda.
I know Godwin’s Law says when you mention the Nazis the argument is over, but come on – if you have studied history how can you not see some Naziism in that “prayer”?!? It’s really, REALLY disturbing – and that’s why I wrote this post. We need to see this nonsense and this blasphemy for what it is…
Since I guess I just ended my own argument, let me just say one final word. Woe to us.
Woe to us if we fall for this.
Woe to us if we as Christians go with the flow and do not differentiate our historic, subversive, life-changing, universe-altering faith from this self-serving blather. (That’s what the mainstream German church, which ended up lining up behind Hitler and rubber stamping his evil ideology, failed to do).
Woe to us if we forget that following Jesus is not about looking good but about becoming the servant of all.
And woe to us if we allow any of this to drive us to hate others, as it seems we are being encouraged to do from every side. Jesus spoke truth to the Pharisees, and he went on loving them. May we speak truth, and never stop loving…