Herb Strentz reflects on President Donald Trump’s religious supporters as well as Christian voices of opposition. -promoted by Laura Belin
Take 1: A Farce—President’s ‘Trinity’ trumps Christianity’s
In the mix of politics and religion, President Trump has his own “Trinity” for his supporters on the Christian right, who in Iowa include our U.S. senators and governor.
While Trump strays from Christian principles of humility, sacrifice and service, he and his acolytes do have a threefold creed to offer their faithful.
Instead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Trump F-S-H translates into Fake news, Satire and Hypocrisy.
A brief distinction:
For Christian theology, the Trinity often is Father—creation; Son—redemption; Spirit—salvation or regeneration.
Trump’s creed condemns Fake news— whatever finds fault with his self-ascribed genius.
Satire, however, is invoked and valued — for example such Trump “witticisms” as suggesting Lysol as a cure for COVID-19.
Hypocrisy, like many of the Psalms, promises refuge and escape to the faithful —in this case from the perils of Fake news—and also may be Xaploméni (Greek for lying).
While Christians may puzzle over the Three-in-One, Trump demands loyalty to the One in One. The slightest deviation from belief is heresy and cause for dismissal from the White House flock.
Further, consider the contrasts between Christian and Trumpian martyrdoms.
Christian martyrdom offers the examples of Stephen, death by stoning as he witnesses to the holiness of the Christ, and there is the beheading of St. Paul and the executions of St. Peter and other disciples, that continue even today.
Also many of the Jewish prophets — Amos, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah among them — suffered horrible deaths for preaching the majesty of Jehovah.
Trump martyrs, however, are those who obey Jehovah’s Ninth Commandment — “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Trump needs no middle-man executioners. He martyrs those who bear truthful witness to flaws in Trump preaching and to the threats to the nation inherent in Trump’s creed.
Really, one of the few places a Trump-like theology surfaces in the New Testament is in Luke 18:13 where a Pharisee begins his prayer with “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…” In the Greek that might be Eímai mia polý statherí idiofyḯa. (“I am a very stable genius.”)
Take 2: Fright—President’s “Trinity” trumps Democracy
You can read thousands of words about the fear and terror that many have about the religious right and its devotion to Trump. But the photo at the top of this post speaks volumes about a frightful fear of Trump and the voice, vehemence, and violence of some of his “Christian” supporters.
Nazi symbolism took priority over the cross and crucifix in many German churches. Opposition to Hitler was crushed as kneeling gave way to “Seig Heil.”
Perhaps the most noted religious voice speaking out against Hitler was a young Lutheran theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, then in his late 20s. He led what was called the Confessing Church and even had a quasi seminary opposing the Nazification of the German church and the nation in the early 30s, as a master race/nationalistic ideology took hold.
The atmosphere reflected in writings by and about Bonhoeffer is similar to fears in our nation because Trump and his supporters peeled off the veneer that kept a white supremacy ideology out of public affairs. Now we have been told by the President that many nationalistic/white supremacy advocates are “very fine people.”
In Germany, such “very fine people” survived World War II and remained as leaders of the church — Bonhoeffer having been executed by the Nazis on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1945.
There is religious opposition to Trump and the extremists who flock to his banner.
For example, the magazine Christianity Today, founded in 1956 by evangelist Billy Graham, warned readers in its December 19, 2019 issue,
Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come?
That editorial was by Mark Gail, the outgoing editor, who could stomach no more of Trump.
Other religious opposition to Trump was offered by Sojourners magazine, considered more liberal than Christianity Today. In January, the magazine reported on a statement adopted by the International Bonhoeffer Society. The statement read in part:
As grateful recipients, and now custodians, of the theological, ethical, and political legacy of the German pastor-theologian and Nazi resister Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we believe all persons of faith and conscience should prayerfully consider whether our democracy can endure a second term under the presidency of Donald Trump. We believe it cannot.
Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.