Thursday, August 27, 2015

Donald Trump--Onward Christian--What?

photo by KAZ Vorpal / flickr

Looks like Donald Trump has taken over the airways. It appears that he is giving a news conference almost every day.  The pundits are delirious--after all entertainment outshines news anyway. Hillary must be happy that the spotlight is almost totally on Mr. Trump. So it will be a while before we learn if the former Secretary of State gave away the store or is simply being Swift-boated.

But the scary thing about Mr. Trump for this preacher is the number of Evangelicals that are standing behind his candidacy. I wish I could express my feelings about linking some Evangelicals to Mr. Trump as well as Frank Bruni in his article in the NY Times this week. Read the whole article if you wish. It's great. He begins the article by saying:

        "Let me get this straight. If I want the admiration and blessings of the most flamboyant,        judgmental Christians in America, I should marry three times, do a queasy-making about or sexual boasting, verbally degrade women, talk trash about pretty much everyone else while I'm at it, encourage gamblers to hemorrhage their savings in casinos bearing my name and crow incessantly about how much money I've amassed?
         Seems to work for Donald Trump.
         Polls show him to beg the preferred candidate among not just all Republican voters but also the party's vocal evangelical subset."

Fifty years ago Richard Niebuhr wrote a book which Martin Marty has called one of the most significant books in our time. Mr. Niebuhr tackled a perennial problem in his book, Christ and Culture. Niebuhr wrote that the goal is Christ transforming culture. And our challenge,h wrote, is to work toward that transformation. That "the kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of Christ."

Niebuhr who was a realist said that the Christ and Çulture struggle is an enduring problem. It has always been with us--and will be with us always. The problem comes when we Christians link Christ with culture. And one of the dangers of this idea is that we filter Christ through the prism of our time. We make Jesus conform to what we assume is the best of society.  Nazi Germany is a classic example of a time when culture triumphed over Christ. Now we are a long way from Nazi Germany. But for some Evangelicals or liberal Christians to throw out the teachings of Christ and get on a bandwagon for whatever Mr. Trump--Hillary Clinton or any candidates say is putting culture above Christ.  This is scary idolatry. Niebuhr reminds us that all human systems are flawed. Which means: God is not a Democrat or a Republican. Any attempt to drag Jesus into any political system must be very suspect. But neither can we wash our hands of what is going on in the world. Christians, of course, should be engaged in politics.

All this reminds me of the story of an artist years ago named Barosin. He  painted a "Head of Christ" and the painting had a strong blue background. A Christian education press published copies of the picture for Sunday Schools and home use. People complained that the art work did not go well with strong wall colors. So the Press reprinted Jesus' picture with a neutral background that would fit any decor.  We can't change the picture of Christ's teachings without seriously damaging his meaning. Any attempt by politics or church or any other institution that tries to drag Jesus to our side is destined for failure.

photo by takomabibelot / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

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