Saturday, February 03, 2018

The President Who Knows More About Humility Than Anyone

John Turner of Patheos, not a Trump supporter, has insight into what he recognizes as "the sturdy alliance between white evangelicals and Donald Trump."

He points to two passages of the President's State of the Union message. In one, Trump recognizes (to inevitable applause) police officer Ryan Holets and his wife and remarks

Thank you, Ryan. Last year, Ryan was on duty when he saw a pregnant, homeless woman preparing to inject heroin. When Ryan told her she was going to harm her unborn child, she began to weep. She told him she didn't know where to turn, but badly wanted a safe home for her baby.

In that moment, Ryan said he felt God speak to him. You will do it, because you can. He heard those words. He took out a picture of his wife and their four kids. Then he went home to tell his wife Rebecca. In an instant, she agreed to adopt. The Holets named their new daughter Hope. Ryan and Rebecca, you embody the goodness of our nation. Thank you.

The President later commened

we are joined by one more witness to the ominous nature of this regime. His name is Mr. Ji Seong-ho. In 1966, Seong-ho was a starving boy in North Korea. One day he tried to steal coal from a railroad car to barter for a few scraps of food, which were very hard to get. In the process, he passed out on the train tracks, exhausted from hunger.

He woke up as a train ran over his limbs. He then endured multiple amputations without anything to dull the pain or the hurt. His brother and sister gave what little food they had to help him recover and ate dirt, themselves, permanently stunting their own growth.

Later he was tortured by North Korean authorities after returning from a brief visit to China. His tormentors wanted to know if he’d met any Christians. He had and he resolved after that to be free.

Turner  comments "no evangelical Christian listening to the address would have missed it. Ji embraced Christianity, and in so doing, 'he resolved to be free.'”  He recognizes Trump "has hired some good speechwriters, who know what will resonate with evangelicals and with many other Americans at the same time."

True, but color me cynical.  The message resonates with average Americans because they are feel-good stories which avoid explicit reference to Christianity.  Instead, Trump subtly mentions Seaong-ho's "tormentors wanted to know if he'd met any Christians." Similarly, the Holet moment was powerful for viewers intent on convincing themselves they are "pro-life," as if their critics are anti-life, and not have to face the reality that they are pro-forced birth. The nod and wink can be quite effective,

Still, pro-Trump evangelical Christians should not be let off so easily, and not only (or primarily) because Trump carried on an affair with a pornographic star while he was married. And he specifically should not be given the pass for his State of the Union message that he has by white evangelicals.

The President's address was  not only an orgy of right-wing ideology. It was an orgy, a celebration, an endorsement of self-congratulation.  At every opportunity, Trump not only encouraged applause but unashamedly led the applause himself.  This was no mere pat on the back but a blatant, even unparalleled, display of  brazen egotism.

That is clearly acceptable to the religious right- possibly, even welcomed.  However, someone (probably Solomon) wrote in Proverbs 3:34 "Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor."  Peter (in his first letter, verse 5:5-b) repeats “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble,” as does James, who in chapter 4 repeats the admonition and adds "humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." Jesus himself warned (Matthew 23:12) "For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

By contrast, Donald J. Trump has boasted that he knows more than does anyone about: taxes; banking; money; politicians; trade; ISIS; "the horrors of nuclear;" and the VISA "system."  And "there is nobody bigger or better at the military than I am." Unfortunately, there also probably never has been a politician on the national scene who is better at, or knows more about, conning people than he does.  Politically conservative evangelicals have not been the only victims, but they're probably at the head of  the line, and are determined to remain there.

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