Religion

Donald Trump as God’s Gift?

Picture of Trump and Putin: God's gift
Trump and Putin at 2017 G-20 Hamburg Summit
Guy Nave
Written by Guy Nave

I, like many Christians, reflected on the birth and life of Jesus during this Christmas/Advent season. Many Christians refer to the birth of Jesus as “God’s gift that keeps on giving.” Days before Christmas, Vladimir Frolov, a Russian columnist and foreign affairs analyst, declared, 

Trump is God’s gift that keeps on giving. Trump implements Russia’s negative agenda by default, undermining the U.S.–led world order, U.S. alliances, U.S. credibility as a partner and an ally. All of this on his own. Russia can just relax and watch and root for Trump, which Putin does at every TV appearance.

I understand why Russia was motivated to interfere in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. I also understand why Russians are grateful for the presidency of Donald Trump. I am dumbfounded, however, over the continued evangelical Christian praise and support of Donald Trump’s presidency.

During the 2016 Presidential election, 81% of white evangelical Protestant voters vote for Donald Trump. In a survey published immediately before the 2018 mid-term elections, 72% of white evangelical Protestants had a favorable opinion of Donald Trump. A 2018 evangelical Christian film called The Trump Prophecy portrays Trump’s election was an act of God.

While white evangelical Protestants view Trump favorably, most non-evangelical Christians have an unfavorable view of Trump. Three-quarters of black Protestants view Trump unfavorably. Nearly six in ten Catholics view Trump unfavorably. And nearly two-thirds of the religiously unaffiliated view Trump unfavorably.

During this Christmas/Advent season I’ve been reflecting on the life, teachings, and practices of Jesus. In doing so, I struggle to understand why any Christian would consider Donald Trump “God’s gift.” 

Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric regarding immigrants is problematic. His border wall policy is problematic. His administration’s treatment of immigrant children and families at America’s southern border is problematic. Trump’s actions and policies have very little resonance with any of the teachings and practices of Jesus.

What do white evangelical Christians do with Trump’s long history of racist practices? How do they do they tolerate his long history of sexist and misogynistic rhetoric? Why do they ignore and dismiss the several accusations of sexual misconduct leveled against him? What exactly is it that contributes to their fervent Christian admiration of Trump?

Fact checking indicates that Trump engages in habitual lying. His lies make it difficult for many Americans to recognize truth. Even during his recent visit with military personnel in Iraq, Trump blatantly lied about military pay raises.

So what exactly are the attributes that cause evangelical Christians to identify Trump as “God’s gift?”

Some people identify his “pro-business” and “pro-capitalism” policies and practices as God’s gift. I, however, know very few religions that depict God as “pro-business” and “pro-capitalism.”

Others praise Trump’s efforts to “make America safe again” through tougher immigration policies and increased border security as God’s gift. Trump’s so-called “immigration crisis,” however, is a crisis of his own making in search of an answer of his own making.

Trump stated he would be “proud” to shut down the government in order to get the money he wants for a border wall. Data, however, show that illegal boarding crossings have been declining for years. There is no increased need for a border wall. Furthermore, if America’s safety is Trump’s primary concern, shutting down the government actually makes America less safe.

As Christians and Jews celebrate high holy days this holiday season, many are deeply reflecting on God’s blessings. In the midst of these reflections, I believe most Jews and Christians are hard pressed to find reasons to identify  Trump as God’s gift.

I challenge those who identify Trump as God’s gift to reflect on their understanding of God. I also encourage them to reflect on how their religion calls them to engage and interact with others, especially the most vulnerable members of the human family.

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About the author

Guy Nave

Guy Nave

Guy Nave is a professor of religion at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. His research focuses on the topics of Christianity, religion and social justice, the social construction of religious meaning, and race-religion-and-politics. Professor Nave is currently researching the power, politics, and meaning behind the rhetoric of "change."

He is the author of several articles and book chapters, and he served as a New Testament Greek translator for the 2011 Common English Bible. His commentary on 2 Corinthians is published in the African American New Testament Commentary, and his book, The Role and Function of Repentance in Luke-Acts has been identified as “the standard scholarly work on repentance in the New Testament.”

Guy Nave received his Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and his Ph.D. in New Testament studies from Yale University. In addition to his blog posts here, he is a frequent contributor to Sojourners Magazine's online "Commentary" blog series.