The most intriguing part is the connection and support he continues to hold on huge groups of Christians. Receiving the backing of names like Jerry Falwell Jr and Franklin Graham. These are big names in Christian circles.
The phenomenon of Christian, it may need the qualifier evangelical Christians, support is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Why is the support there? What does it mean?
More and more I wonder if what Trump shows the church is the human embodiment of the God our churches have been teaching. It’s horribly sad for me to say this out loud but I wonder more and more if it’s not what’s happening.
The God so many of us were taught, and still believe in, seems to be embodied in the person/persona of Donald Trump.
He’s retributive. He will seek the justice we feel needs to be brought. For all the love and grace we know is a part of who God is, there is justice. One that holds people accountable, one that keeps people safe, one that protects what is good and righteous. One that protects us and our way of life. Especially justice for the harm that has been done to us.
He’s violent. It’s a protective violence. One in defense of ideals and people we love. It’s directed at evil people. People who deserve it and who, while we wish it could be different, have left us with no other choice.
He’s judgmental. He’s scanned the world and sees the problem. It’s not us, it’s them. They are the problem. They are doing wrong. They need to be changed and stopped. We are now and will continue to be in the right.
He sees the white, privileged, Christian as oppressed, like so many of us see ourselves. He see us as victims, like so many see ourselves. And like the God we see in the bible, he will come and save us. He will fight for our freedom. Release us from our captivity.
But is that what our God is really like? Is that who God really is?
Was Jesus punitive or restorative?
Was Jesus violent or peaceful?
Was Jesus judgmental or gracious?
Did Jesus side with the power of the Roman Empire or the oppressed Jewish people?
What’s happening? Where did a view of God that is so different than the person of God that we see in Jesus come from?
I think we see ourselves on the wrong side of the biblical narrative. We see ourselves as the oppressed not the oppressor. We see ourselves as the weak not the powerful.
It’s on full display in one of my favourite bible stories, the woman caught in adultery.
When I hear that story taught, when it comes up in Christian conversation it is always in one of two ways. It’s to show the abundant grace and love of Jesus that we, seeing ourselves in the woman, can receive just like she did. Or, sadly less often the teaching, we are to be like Jesus in this story. We are to pass along grace and hope to someone who clearly doesn’t deserve it.
Or so the teachings go.
But we miss my favourite interpretation, or rather the reading that resonates with me the most. The more I hear it I can’t help but read myself into the position of the crowd. The one tossing someone in front of Jesus. The ones looking for her condemnation. The righteous. The ones who see the law and love the power it gives them. The ones seeking violence, trying to working out their judgement. Trying to use the scripture to trap Jesus. Trying to leverage the law against Jesus.
Because they had the power, she was in the wrong according to law. But she wasn’t even really important to them. She was a pawn to make a point. She was an object. She was trotted out, embarrassed and abused to make a point by the religious people. She was simply an example to be used to force Jesus to be what they wanted, to have him fall in line with the god they wanted.
Like I have done so many times. Like we have all done so many times.
The church, bringing out the marginalized and powerless to show how right we are. Claiming to work for Jesus as we crush the weak and the oppressed again. Using them as an object, missing their very humanity. Taking their story to show our dominance and power. Reveling in their sin. Reading ourselves and our actions into the wrong character in the story. Missing the obvious power dynamics at play and missing how we are obviously the ones in power being rebuked.
When we take on the imagery and language of God, its in support of our experience. We read ourselves into the positions of the oppresses and the poor despite being the powerful and rich. So it’s easy to warp the scripture in support of our violence, our judgement, our privilege.
Because God is on our side and He will ensure our side prevails.
We just fail to realize that while God loves us, he has actual come to break down our side. To demolish what we’ve built.