As I approach my 55th birthday, I hope that it can be said of me that I’ve grown wiser, that more and more of who I am in my core self reflects the Christian truths of what modeled my life for over 30 years. Though my beliefs are much more universal and I no longer see the Bible as I once did, these principles are a part of my soul’s internal compass.
Galatians chapter 5…
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
…the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: [i]immorality, impurity, sensuality,20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, [j]factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these…
Christian or not, it is my observation that each of us has a mix of light and dark and wrestling with the two is the hallmark of most of our lives. In the Christian worldview “Spirit and flesh” form our moral framework. I quote these verses, primarily because THIS morning, I watched Mr. Trump express that he thinks he is being audited because he’s such a good Christian. Head spinning, heart spinning, I wondered to myself, why I even gave his words precious time from my day. Of course it is because during an election year, here in America, we would have to dig a very deep hole, set up residence in it and cover it with concrete in order to miss him. I also genuinely care about the politics of this country and am genuinely interested in the elections even if I’ve tried to tune out the hype machine that precedes our actual vote.
When I heard Donald Trump utter the words, “I am such a strong Christian” in an instant I realized that the American gospel has little or nothing to do with the sandal-clad man from Galilee anymore. The American gospel is not about choosing to wrestle with your shadow by self reflection upon verses like one finds in Galatians 5 anymore, it is now about being exclusively right and prosperous as evidence of God’s blessing on your life. In a nutshell it is about money and power. Donald Trump utters such nonsense because he is sending a message to Evangelicals that assures them he is in their tribe simply because he says he is. Let me explain.
I tried in vain to remain faithful to my own Evangelical Christian faith and participate in its organized religion for almost 30 years. As life blessed me with problems too big to solve on my own, my church and its people charged with bringing life in the Spirit to the earth, in large part refused my reality. My daughter being diagnosed with an eating disorder AS A CHRISTIAN did not compute to many of them. I was broken, I was devastated and all the while assured that my daughter was inhabited by Satan, spoiled and rebellious and if she would just stop believing the lies she would be healed. Thank God that there is a higher voice in the universe and as I wrestled with it all, clarity came to me and she is alive and living WITH mental illness brought on largely by a stress-filled pregnancy and early childhood trauma. Her brain didn’t develop like it would have and it set her up for all kinds of “deeds of the flesh”. Which by the way, they are not necessarily evil as much as they are from our shadow-self that doesn’t magically disappear by making the decision to be born again.
Donald Trump’s Christianity is what the post-modern, Americanized, empire building people have turned it into but it is NOT the faith I learned from a lifetime devoted to God through Jesus Christ. The American gospel assumes that most important thing is that America is this kind of a Christian nation, where even faith has been reduced to making the sale, the transaction and owning the purchased item.
The kind of Christian nation too many of us want is one where the most important thing is that one is either baptized, prays to receive Christ, does both, joins a church, adopts the Bible as inerrant and faultless and then seeks to bring others into the fold. What is apparently neglected, if not completely forgotten, is that life in the Christian sense is supposed to be about personal faith that transforms one’s heart so that it continually resembles a life of Spirit as mentioned above.
Look hard at the two lists from Galatians and tell me, based on his own words that he is a Christian, where Donald Trump gets the idea that his life reflects the kind of life Jesus and his early followers knew. At the very least one would expect a wolf in sheep’s clothing to pretend these qualities to be true of him in his public discourse but he makes no attempt whatsoever. So, how does he get a buy in from the Evangelicals? By simply proclaiming to have made the transaction and being devoted to the American empirical hi-jacked gospel. That is how it is done and that is a real tragedy.