Thursday, December 22, 2016

Is Trump Like Moses?

            It’s been kind of weird, seeing Christian reactions to the election of Donald Trump. Of course, the big headline grabber has been how Evangelicals turned out for him in big numbers. And I’ve seen several Evangelical leaders (e.g. Franklin Graham) encourage their followers to think of Trump like Moses or David from the Bible, in that he is a flawed leader who will nonetheless lead God’s people to greatness. Separately, John Hagee told his followers that God would punish them if they didn’t vote for Trump.
            Now let’s be fair; Trump may be a pathological liar, possessed of the empathic capacity of a starving velociraptor, openly using his new office to generate income for his businesses and who’s perfectly willing to stoke xenophobic hatred and pander to the basest instincts of a deeply bigoted, fearful, and angry voter base… but he’s never actually committed genocide. So it’s not really fair to put him in Moses’ or David’s league. Although, who knows? Maybe all he’s lacking is the political power to ascend (descend?) to those heights (depths?).
            But that’s not really the point of this post. You see, on top of all of that, I’ve seen other Christian articles (such as this one) claiming exactly the opposite: that the Christian god didn’t want his people to vote for Trump, and that saying God caused the election outcome serves only to drive people away from Christianity. The article I just linked goes so far as to claim that “Crediting Donald Trump’s win to God is the best conceivable argument for someone rejecting faith.”
            Which brings us, at long last, to the point of this post: how would anyone know which view is right (or even if either is)?
            See, here’s the thing: both sides of the argument are talking about the opinion of the same God. One side can tell you that the God of the Bible, who created the universe and sent his son Jesus to die for your sins, wanted Donald Trump to be President of the United States of America. The other side can tell you that the God of the Bible, who created the universe and sent his son Jesus to die for your sins, would never want Donald Trump to be President of the United States of America. I have no doubt that representatives of both sides sincerely believe their view. They each read the same Bible, they each pray to the god they believe is represented by the stories it contains, and yet each come to exactly opposite conclusions about what that God wants about a pretty substantial topic.
            How do you tell who’s right?
            Sure, you could listen to their arguments. Each will cite Bible verses, and the strength of their personal faith, and the results of their prayers for guidance. Ultimately, the only one of those you can verify for yourself is the Bible verses. And sure, you’ll find in there declarations of a God who espouses love and acceptance to support the “God wouldn’t endorse Trump,” camp. But you’ll also find declarations of a God of religious intolerance and draconian law to support the “God would endorse Trump,” camp.
            You’ll also find a God who is perfectly comfortable declaring a general rule, and then issuing directly contradictory orders in specific situations. After all, “thou shalt not kill,” and “thou shalt not steal,” occur in the same story where God orders the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites and steal their property. So there’s nothing in the Bible to suggest that even if you understand the general rule properly, it’s not possible that God ordered a specific violation of it. Even if, for example, one camp could demonstrate conclusively that the God of the Bible wouldn’t want someone like Trump to rule a nation in general, there’s no way to demonstrate that he didn’t want Trump specifically to rule this specific nation in this specific circumstance.
            At the end of it all, whatever arguments either side presents, the only thing you will have will be arguments. The one thing you will not have is a definitive statement from your god saying, expressed clearly enough to be understood by everyone regardless of their political or religious beliefs, to the effect of “I do/do not endorse Donald Trump.”
            Now that’s a pretty weird problem to have, don’t you think?
            And you know who doesn’t have that problem? Everyone.
            Every person who actually exists can clearly express their position on that question in such a way that everyone else knows the answer. Ask me if I endorse Trump? No, I don’t. No matter what your beliefs are, you can read this and come away knowing that I don’t support Trump. Send anyone else you like to read this, and they’ll come away knowing the exact same thing. Doesn’t matter if they are liberal, conservative, Evangelical, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, pagan, or atheist, anyone and everyone who reads this can tell that I do not endorse Trump. I can record it in audio or video form, write it down and sign it in front of you or in front of witnesses you trust, or on video. I can tell you personally. If I sat down in a room filled with a dozen people from vastly different backgrounds who all entered the room with different preconceptions of whether I would endorse Trump, every single one of them would leave the room knowing that I don’t.
            If there were a group of people out there sincerely dedicating themselves to doing everything I wanted them to do, and those people actually spoke with me, I could tell them clearly enough that not a single one of them would have voted for Trump.
            No god can do that. Or, at least, none seems willing to. Why?

            In one of the links above, the author claims that “Crediting Donald Trump’s win to God is the best conceivable argument for someone rejecting faith.” I disagree. I think the fact that he can sincerely believe that his god does not endorse Trump, while another Christian can sincerely believe that the same god does endorse Trump, makes a much better argument.