Some politicians have a high regard for the current president of the United States. In fact, they think his presidency comes from on high.
Consider that Rick Perry, recent energy secretary, confidently stated that Donald Trump’s presidency was not merely the will of the people; it was ordained by God. He said the same about Barack Obama’s presidency because, as Perry said, he is a big believer that the God of our universe is still very active in the details of the day-to-day lives of government.
If this were true, one wonders why God ordains presidents but stops short of having them shore up needed resources for solving so many problems. Poverty, illness, pollution, food scarcity and violence, among other challenges, come to mind.
Other politicos omit Obama from God’s plan but do not temper their take on the sacredness of having Trump in the Oval Office. Sarah Sanders, former press secretary, stated her belief that, “God wanted Donald Trump to be president … that’s why he’s there.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concurred, suggesting the possibility that God made Trump president to protect Israel from Iran.
A poll in 2017 showed that more than half of Americans agreed with these perspectives and affirmed that God played a role in Trump becoming president.
U.S. House Rep. Barry Loudermilk is the latest politician to speak of Trump with religious affection. As members of the House of Representatives debated the articles of impeachment, Loudermilk compared the decision not to allow the so-called Ukraine whistleblower to testify before Congress to Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate. Loudermilk said, “When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process.”
There is no logic in this comparison, and Loudermilk is naïve to suggest that Jesus was falsely accused of treason. Jesus challenged the suspect values and unjust practices of the Roman Empire, questioned the authority of its leaders, subverted established social and political norms, drew others to his cause, and threatened political stability. Jesus was surely treasonous. That’s what got him killed.
Other contradictions follow from suggesting that Trump’s presidency has a divine stamp of approval, just as they do when he draws comparisons to Jesus. Consider what the Bible says about those who are poor, disabled, or a stranger in a foreign land — that is, an immigrant. Three groups of people Trump consistently objectifies and devalues.
“Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him” (Proverbs 14:31). “Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor” (Proverbs 22:9). “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (Luke 14:13). “If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard” (Proverbs 21:13). “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19). “[Jesus said,] I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Matthew 25:35-36).
Jesus embraced the values of his Jewish ancestors. He championed the poor, disabled and the immigrant stranger, urging others to have compassion and to practice generosity toward them. Instead, Trump mocks them, touts policies that limit their opportunities, separates them from their families, and treats them with contempt.
God did not make Trump president. People did. People who share his values and his priorities. Let’s stop the sanctimony and religious gymnastics. Let’s recognize the difference between the sacred and the profane.
Allan Hugh Cole Jr. is a professor and senior associate dean for academic affairs in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin. He holds degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and Columbia University.
A version of this op-ed appeared in The Hill.