What a year. Pandemics, protests, and presidential twitter rants are only the beginning. And with election season winding down, we can finally talk about something other than Donald Trump.
How about that? We can finally talk about something else…wait, what? Twitter rants are picking up? He heard us.
Before we move on to another topic though, something has been bothering me.
As a political moderate, I enjoy dreaming up creative solutions to complex problems with friends on both sides of the aisle. You should hear the genius 2-3 beers in.
But in recent months of political discussion, I’ve been confused by one very specific group of voters who I’ll refer to as Group Three.
I’m not mad at you Group Three, but there are some things we need to sort out.
Let me explain.
A brilliant friend of ours recently described the dilemma Donald Trump causes for Conservative Christians: His behavior forces them to choose between their Conservative values and their Christian ethics at the voting booth.
This discomfort forces them into one of three groups.
Group One embraces the position of “He’s a _____ (jerk, poor leader, womanizer, etc.), but I voted for his policies.”
Group Two embraces the position of “I’m a conservative, but I can’t vote for someone who ______ (cheated on his wife, supported child-separation, used Twitter to bully others, etc.).”
These first two groups of Conservative Christians have hard pills to swallow, but swallow them they have. And as a born and bred Texan, I know these are good people struggling with this dilemma.
In my opinion, both of the above positions are reasonable, and I’m not interested in making a case for which is better to take. These guys have enough crap to wade through on their own.
But there is a third group, Group Three, and they are trying to convince us—and themselves—that Donald Trump is not only a warrior of Conservative values but a poster boy for Christian ethics.
Group Three will find creative ways to fit Trump’s words and actions into a Christian narrative with a bumpy plot line. They want to have their cake sitting pretty at the church potluck and eat it too. You know who these guys are because, my God, do they love a good Trump and Jesus meme.
I honestly hate it for them. All Group Three wants is for their vote to align with their Conservative and Christian identities at the same time…is that too much to ask?
Well, for every other modern Republican president, not really. But for Trump himself? You bet your potluck-loving ass it is.
In a December 2019 tweet, Trump claimed, “The fact is, no President has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals, or religion itself!”
It’s true, no other president has put evangelicals in this position before, and you, Mr. President, can take that to the bank…just not Deutsche Bank. Hey oh.
My friend Chris Gioielli, PsyD, put it this way:
When our threat-response system is triggered by imminent physical or perceived emotional/psychological danger, our psyche deploys an arsenal of psychological defenses to rid ourselves of the threat.
We disconnect or avoid reality. We ignore evidence that is hard to take. We focus on the positive or deny the severity of the negative. We rationalize bad behavior in order to relieve the internal tension.
All of this is done to avoid living in a painful reality. Much of the time, this is unconscious, meaning that we cannot see it without someone else to reflect it back. With Trump, the reality of Conservative values and Christian ethics is not compatible, creating internal conflict. We force a resolution when there is none.
Sadly, Group Three has been unable (unwilling?) to name the discomfort Donald Trump has caused.
This doesn’t mean the tension is unresolvable, but I’m not even sure they’re aware of it until they’re confronted at the dinner table by a niece or nephew with a word-for-word example of Trump’s less-than-Christian rhetoric freshly posted to his Twitter.
“But Trump is anti-abortion!” Ah yes, the Christian ethic Group Three will trumpet day after day to validate their choice. I hear you, but remember, Christian Republicans and Christian Democrats have different philosophies on how to tackle the moral conundrum of abortion. It’s a presumptuous position to take that only Christians on the right want to reduce the number of abortions in the world for moral reasons.
Different article for a different day.
I want to clarify that I’m not making an argument about Trump’s personal faith or belief system. The big issues that politics and faith present are more nuanced than the black and white text of a tweet.
I don’t believe in making definitive statements about anyone else’s soul state. Rather, I’m arguing that, from a perspective of lifestyle and leadership, he is not an icon of Christian ethics.
But if you’re one who takes the Christian scriptures seriously, then you have to give some weight to the things that Trump expresses as reflective of his heart. Proverbs 27:19 says, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.”
In this article, I’m addressing Group Three and the discomfort they’re experiencing. I believe that simply acknowledging the tough position they’re in would bring resolution to a lot of issues and even relationships.
Rather than bending over backwards to defend behavior they would find appalling in any other context, admitting that Trump is not their ideal candidate would help Liberals, and even other Conservatives, listen with more empathy and interest instead of immediately rolling their eyes.
When Group Three is unable (unwilling?) to acknowledge this dude is a hot mess, the rest of us aren’t sure where to go from there.
That’s why this is so important: if we have a common ground to start from, it allows for more actual dialogue, and it reduces the current ear-plugging-loud-talking state that we’ve been in for years.
Brené Brown tells us that leaning into discomfort can be revolutionary, and if Group Three is willing to join us on the journey, I think it could be healing for all of us.
I’ll be using ten examples from Tweets and Proverbs to show that Donald Trump is not the poster boy for Christian ethics that many claim him to be and that he did not “literally save Christianity” like Eric Trump claimed this past October.
I’m going to make my case using only ancient wisdom from Proverbs, a book from the Bible (the cornerstone of Christian ethics) and Donald Trump’s Twitter feed.
Are you as excited as I am right now?
…what does that say about us?
This particular trial-by-scripture is a tenant of the Christian faith. If you’ve never heard of Proverbs, it’s a book that was written over 2,500 years ago by a wise king named Solomon and a few other wise men, and it instructed the people of Israel on how to live with wisdom and prudence in a world that doesn’t always place value on such things.
I know prudence has been such a buzz word in 2020, so bear with me…Jk jk, who’s prudence?
Even if these ten side-by-side Tweet and Proverb comparisons don’t change any minds, the practice has been healing for me personally. I’ve been trying to put words to my Group Three confusion for a long time. And my bad, it took almost 3,000 words, but you’re halfway there.
Let the tweets and proverbs begin.
1. Donald Trump is hot-tempered.
Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” Also see Proverbs 29:22, 19:19, and 22:24-25.
Trump, when provoked, has proven time and time again that he has no chill. Like the my nukes are bigger than your nukes type of no chill—which is a special grade of world-destroying no chill. And when he strikes back, his insults and reciprocated provocation know no bounds. “Calming a quarrel” isn’t exactly in his wheelhouse.
2. Donald Trump is prideful.
Proverbs 8:12-13 says, “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” Also see Proverbs 21:4, 27:2, 28:26, 21:24, 3:34, 29:23, and 14:3…that’s a lot of Proverbs. Oh yeah, pride is a pretty big Bible no-no.
My goodness I had so many tweets to choose from on this one, so I chose a couple that left me feeling warm and fuzzy. Trump is notorious for bragging about all kinds of things, from his intelligence to his book writing skills to his penis size…please watch the video. There might not be a single instance of humility in the Trump Tweet archive…trust me, I checked. If you can prove me wrong with some obscure retweet from 2009, I welcome it.
3. Donald Trump stirs up conflict.
Proverbs 6:16-19 says, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him…a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” See also 10:12, 29:8, 16:28, 29:22.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a successful businesswoman whose gay husband left her or a sixteen year old climate activist with autism, Trump loves to stir up conflict. Also, if a specific quality makes it on God’s “hate list,” then God himself might not be a huge fan. Just a thought, don’t quote me.
4. Donald Trump hates correction and accountability.
Proverbs 9:7-9 says, “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.”
Journalism exists in democratic societies to check those in power and hold them accountable. Trump is not a fan of such checks. And if you’re convinced liberal-leaning reporters and news outlets are “Fake News,” I’ll stick with his comments about conservative-leaning reporters and news outlets.
When Fox News runs favorable Trump stories, he sings their praises. When they don’t, he throws them under the bus faster than an unelected incumbent can cry election fraud.
As for Megyn Kelly, her sin was calling Trump out during the 2015 Republican Presidential Debate with a statement holding him accountable for words that he’s used, “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals…” Since that moment, she has been a favorite of Trump’s to trash.
No apologies issued, no regrets to note, just a tried-and-true “I’m rubber, and you’re glue” approach.
5. Donald Trump bullies and belittles people.
Proverbs 11:12 says, “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” See also 22:10.
What do you call it when the most powerful man in the world uses the internet to troll people? I have absolutely no idea because this is so far beyond any and every presidential precedent. Trump’s like, “I’m just doin’ me,” and the rest of the world is all, “for the love of God stop being yourself.”
6. Donald Trump doesn’t overlook insults.
Proverbs 12:16 says, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” See also 29:11.
For as much as he dishes it out, he sure as hell can’t take it. You could tell this guy he looks sunburnt, and he would tell you that our sun is the stupidest sun that ever sunned and that another sun could do such a better job at being sun…you suck, sun, but it’s not your fault! Bottom line? Trump’s not one to overlook an insult. Also, don’t tell him he’s sunburnt. Apparently he hates that.
7. Donald Trump is quick to fight.
Proverbs 20:3 says, “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” See also Proverbs 14:29 and 15:1.
If there’s a vicious cock fight to be had with an ex-employee or even a supreme court justice, Trump can’t help but cover himself in feathers and jump into the ring. He’s not always the one to start it, but he has no problem fighting dirty, and he’ll definitely always have the last word, even if that last word is surrounded by grammatical errors.
8. Donald Trump is reckless with his words.
Proverbs 12:18 says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” See also 13:3 and 29:20.
As Trump is admitting Stormy Daniels signed an NDA—there would be no reason to sign an NDA if there was no information to disclose, yes?—he attacks her appearance.
As a female, my first thought when I read this is “How would he insult my physical appearance if I set him off?” And also, “Are you seriously insulting someone else’s appearance right now? Are peaches with hair allowed to do that?” This attack on a woman’s appearance has the power to polarize women everywhere. In the second tweet, his use of adjectives like “Crazy” and “low I.Q.” and “Psycho” polarize whole other populations.
Recklessly adding cheese to pizza? Cool. Being reckless with words on Twitter when planet earth is your audience? Not cool.
9. Donald Trump befriends violent authoritarian leaders.
Proverbs 3:31 says, “Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways.”
International relations are complicated, we all get that, but Trump has found unique ways of embracing violent authoritarians that presidents before him have avoided.
For example, in front of a group of Russian journalists, Trump told Putin to “Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia but we do,” overlooking the fact that journalists critical of Putin have a way of getting into trouble and even disappearing under his leadership. Now that’s one way to deter criticism!
And while speaking of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Trump told Fox & Friends, “He’s the head of a country. And I mean, he is the strong head…He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.” Yes, Mr. President, if we knew we would suffer immediate, and likely deadly, consequences any time we publicly (or privately) disrespected you, we would do the same—but America.
Finally, even after it was discovered that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia played a role in the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist and critic of the Crown Prince, Trump negotiated a hefty arms deal with Saudi Arabia that made the US over $8 Billion dollars. Later, Trump even referred to him as a friend. Money is good, murder is bad…but disregarding murder to make money? Not very Christian to say the least.
10. Donald Trump talks too much.
Proverbs 17:27-28 says, “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. See also 10:18-19.
I could’ve used many tweets for this example, so I went with two oldy-but-goodies. Who doesn’t love when Trump insists on being politically correct?! Our president has a way with words, meaning, when none will do, he’ll choose 280 characters.
55,000 tweets later, I’m not sure how I feel about being subjected to such consistent noise for four years. I look forward to the good ol’ days when I would forget for weeks at a time that we even had a president.
So where to now?
Proverbs 26:4-5 puts it perfectly, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”
It sounds a little contradictory on first glance, doesn’t it? What the writer is trying to communicate is complex.
- If you respond to Trump in kind, you stoop to his level, and you lose.
- If you don’t respond to him at all, he claims victory, and you lose.
It’s a lose-lose with Donald Trump, an unwinnable battle Conservative Christians and the rest of the world has been fighting for four years.
But that’s the key, isn’t it? We’re not playing his game. We see what he’s doing, and rather than stooping or engaging, we rise above it and silence the noise.
If you’re in Group One or Group Two, I’m sorry you’ve had to spend the last four years sitting with the discomfort this guy has caused. I believe there are millions of thoughtful, introspective Republicans who have felt stuck between an orange rock and a hard place.
And Group Three, what a year it’s been. All you want is for your vote to align with your Conservative values and your Christian ethics…it really shouldn’t be too much to ask.
It sucks, it’s uncomfortable, and I’m sure even you agree with me and the rest of God’s green earth that we’re tired of talking about Donald Trump.
So so so tired.
But the Tweets and Proverbs have spoken—Donald Trump is not a poster boy for Christian ethics. Can we all agree on that now that I’ve used your own book of ethics to make the case?
Maybe? I’ll take it.