Cal Thomas interviewed Donald Trump and it released today. Toward the end, they talk about religion and who Donald thinks Jesus is and how he sees him. You can read the whole interview here.
CT: Every president has called upon God at some point. Lincoln spoke of not being able to hold the office of the presidency without spending time on his knees. You have confessed that you are a Christian …
DT: And I have also won much evangelical support.
CT: Yes, I know that. You have said you never felt the need to ask for God’s forgiveness, and yet repentance for one’s sins is a precondition to salvation. I ask you the question Jesus asked of Peter: Who do you say He is?
DT: I will be asking for forgiveness, but hopefully I won’t have to be asking for much forgiveness. As you know, I am Presbyterian and Protestant. I’ve had great relationships and developed even greater relationships with ministers. We have tremendous support from the clergy. I think I will be doing very well during the election with evangelicals and with Christians. In the Middle East — and this is prior to the migration — you had almost no chance of coming into the United States. Christians from Syria, of which there were many, many of their heads … chopped off. If you were a Muslim from Syria, it was one of the easiest places to come in (to the U.S.). I thought that was deplorable. I’m going to treat my religion, which is Christian, with great respect and care.
CT: Who do you say Jesus is?
DT: Jesus to me is somebody I can think about for security and confidence. Somebody I can revere in terms of bravery and in terms of courage and, because I consider the Christian religion so important, somebody I can totally rely on in my own mind.
It is not my desire to be critical of Donald just for the sake of it. There is enough of that and he is a man that we should pray for, just like others made in God’s image. But, it is important to say what his religion is, especially when many conservative Evangelicals are throwing their support behind him and some are doing it by saying that he will be good for Christians. The religious beliefs of a presidential candidate matter because they give insight into how he will govern. He gets Jesus all wrong and his religion is clearly of the cultural variety. He does not give a Christian testimony or confession because a Christian is someone who is born again and has trusted Christ for forgiveness of sins and knows Jesus as savior. Donald is where we all are before we come to know Christ. He might be culturally Christian of some variety in a loose sense, which is a position that many Americans who claim to be “Christian” hold. But, the teachings and person of Jesus are unfamiliar to him, at least in the way he describes Jesus.
Donald sees Jesus in the way that victors, champions, and strong-men see religion – security, confidence, bravery, courage, relying on in their own mind. All of these things are more closely related to Norse or Roman or Prosperity Teaching or Greek Stoic views of their war gods and success in life and philosophies than of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 who was despised and rejected and gave his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Jesus did not come as ruler in a worldly sense or as a conqueror at the head of an army or as a philosopher dispensing good advice on how to win and be successful. He came to die for others and to introduce a new Kingdom that is totally different from the kingdoms of this world. He calls the poor, the weak, the sick, the children, and the broken to himself. Jesus says the first will be last and the last first. Jesus came to rule, but in a totally different way that we would expect. He came to live by the ethic of sacrificial love for others and He calls us all to that transformative life with Himself at the center. The Apostle Paul writes about Jesus in Philippians 2:1-11 by saying that he did not consider equality with God something to grasped but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, and humbled himself and became obedient to death on a cross. Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name above all names that at the feet of Jesus all will one day bow and confess Him as Lord. Jesus came to rule, not not like we think.
However, this counterintuitive “way of Jesus,” has been opposed through the centuries. Jesus has always been a stumbling block for those looking for worldly power. Nietzsche, the German philosopher, talked about the weakness of the Christian ethic in producing people with a “slave morality.” He preferred a “master morality.” From Wikipedia:
“Master–slave morality is a central theme of Friedrich Nietzsche’s works, in particular the first essay of On the Genealogy of Morality. Nietzsche argued that there were two fundamental types of morality: ‘Master morality’ and ‘slave morality’. Slave morality values things like kindness, humility and sympathy, while master morality values pride, strength, and nobility. Master morality weighs actions on a scale of good or bad consequences unlike slave morality which weighs actions on a scale of good or evil intentions.”
This is very similar to how Donald has recast Christianity. It is about power (the Evangelicals support me), strength, bravery, confidence, and “winning.” Trump wants to win, not lose. Whatever helps him, and now America, win, is what is good and right. The weak are to be rejected (On Sen. John McCain’s POW experience, “I like people who don’t get captured.”). He made fun of a handicapped reporter and he mocks those who are losers and says we don’t win anymore and that America is weak. He was saying this in the late 80’s too, by the way. Donald sees everything in terms of winners and losers and strength and power. It is not surprising that he has recast Jesus into that image.
Some, like Pastor Robert Jeffress and Jerry Falwell, Jr. say that they are not electing a “Pastor-in-Chief.” No. We are not. But, ideas have consequences and Trump seems to have some particular ideas about who Jesus is and what God blesses. He is not devoid of theology. He has a theology and it is pretty clearly articulated and seems to guide him, or vice versa.
For those saying that Donald Trump will be the protector of Christianity in America, I simply ask, “Of what kind?”