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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Trump Is Not a Christian.

I ruffled some feathers and poked the badgers on Sunday when I posted the following on the Twitter machine:

Some, in the time since, have argued that no one except God can judge another person’s heart,that I have decided to “usurp the judgment of God Almighty.” But, while we may not be able to know the inner thoughts of another, we are called to make judgments about our fellow believers. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians explicitly says that immoral behavior within the body of believers is to be judged. (1 Corinthians 5) It’s even in the paragraph titles that many Bible translations supply to the text. (“Sexual Immorality Must Be Judged” – NRSV)

And I do not believe that I have usurped the prerogatives of the Almighty for myself. In fact, I very rarely – almost never – I think this may be the first time – say that Person X is not a Christian. I am reluctant to make such a claim because I know how hurtful such a statement can be. 

So let me be clear about what I mean when I say that “Trump has only a pretense at faith.”

I am not saying that President Trump is not a Christian because I dislike his political agenda. I know and love Christians across the political spectrum. Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Communists, Libertarians, Anarchists… I do not say this because I didn’t vote for him.

Also, I am not saying that President Trump is not a Christian because I disagree with his theology. (In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to identify his theology.) I know and love Christians across the spectrum of theological interpretation. We debate. We argue. But I don’t dismiss their faith; we can debate and still be brothers and sisters in faith.

I'm reluctant to say Person X is not a Christian because I know, from personal experience, how much that hurts. I’ve been told that I’m not a Christian because I’ve voted democrat, or because I accept the label of Socialist. I’ve been told that I’m not a Christian because I’m a pacifist and because I think that LGBTQI persons should be fully welcomed into our congregations. I was even once told that I can’t be a real Christian because I don’t like Southern Gospel music. (True story.)

But if it doesn’t look like a duck, swim like a duck, or quack like a duck it’s probably not a duck.

Maybe we should bring back the old youth group chestnut: If Donald Trump were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict him? The answer has to be no. If God is love, and Jesus is God incarnate, and Christians are called to love – ask the questions: Is President Trump patient, or kind? Does President Trump put away envy? Does he refrain from boasting? Is he not easily angered? Does he keep no record of wrongs done to him?   - And here’s the kicker – Does he rejoice in the Truth? (1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 7)

Even the 81% of Evangelical Christians who voted for Donald Trump should be able to recognize that there is nothing in his actions, his behavior, his words, or his attitude that reflects the person or love of Jesus Christ. (Some few do, and I appreciate their willingness to admit that Trump does not reflect their values or ethics.)

Now, again, this is not a condemnation of those who struggle to put their beliefs into daily practice, or those who fail to live up to the standards of their convictions. This is all of us. We fail, we fall, we get up and try again.

This is not a condemnation of those who doubt, or waver, or even of those who wander into the darkened corners at the edge of faith and belief. These are real, even if variable.

But this is not Trump. He has only a veneer of godliness. He is a whitewashed tomb. (Matthew 23:27)

And my critique of Trump’s faith (or – more accurately – lack thereof) and his Presidential call to prayer is not a dismissal or rejection of prayer itself. I do believe in prayer and that Christians should pray for those who are hurting.

But again, the words by themselves are nothing. If we pray, “Give them peace, keep them warm and fed” but we do nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:16) (And that very question – that Scriptural question – is a value judgment question…)

Faith without works is dead. (James 2: 17).  Even more, the profession of faith, the pretense of faith without any works, any evidence, any substantive action is a corpse, and it stinks.

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