Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Trump, Their Rock

Unfortunately, no.   Matthew Teague of The Guardian spoke to the Horbowy family of the Florida panhandle, which watched

live as Trump walked from the White House to St John’s. “My mother just shouted out, ‘God give him strength! He’s doing a Jericho walk!’”

A Jericho walk, in some evangelical circles, refers to the biblical book of Joshua, where God commanded the Israelites to walk seven times around the opposing city of Jericho, whose walls then came crashing down.

Horbowy already supported Trump politically – he heads the local chapter of a pro- Trump motorcycle club and is campaigning for a seat in Florida’s state senate – but when Trump lifted the Bible, Horbowy and his family felt overcome spiritually.

“My mother started crying. She comes from Pentecostal background, and she started speaking in tongues. I haven’t heard her speak in tongues in years,” he said. “I thought, look at my president! He’s establishing the Lord’s kingdom in the world.”

Did he feel that conflicted with the Gospel of John, where Jesus said “my kingdom is not of this world”?

“Well,” Horbowy said, “that’s a philosophical question.”

After watching Trump’s gesture, Horbowy changed his Facebook profile photo to one of Trump outside St John’s, with added rays of light emanating from the Bible. “It was the coolest thing he could do. What more could he do, wear blue jeans and ride in on a horse?” he said.

The catalyst for the protests was the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Asked about that, Horbowy said, “There’s a Bible verse that says we shouldn’t talk about evil things. We can just say, ‘There’s evil’ and move on.”

He couldn't remember the exact verse, he said.

Of the 454 references in Scripture to evil, evildoer, evildoers, or evils, the closest to recommend moving on because there is evil and we shouldn't talk about it is Proverbs 24:19. There, the author advises "Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked."

Bible commentaries differ but one (citing three complementary verses in the hard copy) interprets verses 19-20 as warning "it is foolish to envy the wicked, because they are doomed. Their lives ('lamp') will be suddenly 'snuffed out.'"  While, Horbowy evidently believes we should not obsess about evil because it is ubiquitous and everlasting, the author probably is advising calm because evil individuals will receive their just due. Teague adds

When Trump describes himself as a “law and order” president and holds aloft a Bible, he conflates which law he will enforce, and whose order will follow. In a short speech before the walk to St John’s, Trump said he would “dominate the streets”. That is the “kingdom in the world” Horbowy referenced.

“I believe it’s like Ephesians 6:10 through 19,” Horbowy said from Florida. “I believe this is a president who wears the full armor of God.”

But one of those verses – verse 12 – says explicitly that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood”, but against spiritual enemies.

“Well,” Horbowy said. “He’s fearless.”

Hanging out in his bunker or walking across a park cleared by the US Army with tear gas, Trump is less fearless than cowardly. However, for every Pat Robertson willing to question Dear Leader, there are many more like Horbowy. 

Trump will continue to ridicule Christianity and Christians, and doing so obviously. As he was leaving for the transparent photo-op at St. John's Episcopal church,  Trump stated "now I’m going to pay my respects to a very, very special place," using the phrase "pay my respects" as if the church were a dead relative. He stood holding a Bible awkwardly, as if he had never held any book, let alone a bible.

The President might have offered a few empty words of prayer or could have cracked the book open, pretending that he cared about anything in it. But that would have shown some interest, while Trump has been engaged for over four years demonstrating only contempt.

However, notwithstanding Robertson and a very few others, the President's popularity among evangelicals remains unshakable. He opposes abortion, appoints right-wing judges, and supports the right of individuals declaring "Jesus" to discriminate under the cloak of "religious freedom." But he also pays attention to them. Trump not only panders to white evangelicals, he makes sure they know he is doing so.

He pays attention to them and they think he cares because he doesn't ignore them.   Nothing, it seems- not 100,000+ deaths, skyrocketing unemployment, civil unrest, nor a barely disguised disdain for believers- can separate them fromthe love of God they believe is in their Lord, Donald J. Trump.

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