Hijacked faith fuels Trump

February 24, 2024

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Donald Trump gestures during an interview in preparation for the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

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(The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, February 24, 2024)

An American I know once told me that if your house is on fire then you don’t care much about a firefighter’s faults. You only care that they’ve arrived to put the fire out.

Then she explained how Donald Trump was the only firefighter in town who could save America from the fire of itself.

I wonder what Francis of Assisi would say. (More on Francis in a minute.)

That firefighter conversation unfolded before the 2016 U.S. election, about the time when, at a Christian university in Iowa, Trump made the bizarre remark that if he shot someone in the middle of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, he still wouldn’t lose supporters. Apparently he was right.

Now here we go again. Trump still says wild things. (Let the Russians do “whatever the hell they want” with delinquent NATO nations.) This, while the law catches up with him, now with 91 felony charges in four criminal indictments. Yet we’re still looking down the barrel of Trump 2.0. Bewildered Canadians wonder as much as anyone what it might mean for them.

Because firemen aren’t all the same. Some – have you read the novel “Fahrenheit 451”? – go and start fires to begin their day before explaining to you that up is down, and down is up, and the burning house now needs saving.

So in 2024 we’re left, it seems to me, with two questions. (Besides “What would Francis say?”)

First, in an innovative nation of 330 million people, why can’t anyone find one worthy Democrat opponent who’s not an aging, frail man to keep Donald Trump, an aging dangerous man, from the White House and the red button? America’s two-party system needs reform.

And second, how many evangelical Christians, perceived or real, will vote Trump this time?

In 2016 plenty did. It mattered little how depraved he acted, how much he threatened or mocked opponents, (or innocents), how he degraded women – remember the Hollywood Axis tapes? – or how unhinged he appeared. Trump was, apparently, on the right side of the culture wars. Plus he’d save America from outsiders. He build walls. Big walls. Literal and figurative.

So, in 2016, 81 per cent of white evangelicals, about one-fifth of American voters, helped make fireman Trump the president. In 2020, when then 78-year-old Joe Biden became president, Trump’s white evangelical vote exit-polled 75 per cent.

It’s the odd truth. Americans carrying Christ’s name, at least some of them, people you’d imagine would want to at least learn to walk in Jesus’ footsteps, have left the historic, global faith and its theological understanding in favour of something else, namely a strange brew of consumer culture and Christian nationalism.

And this subculture of toxic, even hijacked faith, helps fuel Trump. Jesus, you see, didn’t carry his cross and lay down his life for the redemption of all things. No, Jesus wore a hat that says “God, Guns and Trump,” the sort you might see at the deadly 2021 insurrection in Washington.

So who’s Francis of Assisi? He’s the historic figure, an Italian, still celebrated for his faithful commitment, for leaving wealth and family for a life of Christian service especially to the poor. His life remains an example, and corrective, for modern believers anywhere.

Today, February 24, is the day remembered as the start of his vocational ministry in 1208. It was a long time ago, for sure. Which is to say, how many of us will be remembered for 800 years?

What would Francis say now? God knows. But maybe something like this.

“Get small. Hold things lightly. Pursue wisdom. Love your maker. Serve others. Don’t overcomplicate life. You’re here just briefly, so make the most of it. Don’t build walls. Take walls down. Or go over them. Or under. Or around.”

Maybe he’d also say that no group of people, like no individual, is locked into mistaken ways. That’s the beauty of free will. It just takes courage to look in the mirror, unravel things, and go the other way.

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February 24, 2024 • Posted in ,
Contact Thomas at [email protected]


4 thoughts on “Hijacked faith fuels Trump”

  1. Thank you for the encouraging words, as from Francis of Assisi! I am truly bewildered as I look and listen south of the border…

  2. Good question! I’ve been asking since about 2015 why a country with so many millions of people can’t find better candidates for both parties for president. It’s dumbfounding. And while we’re at it, why can’t they reform their electoral system that was designed for the rich and educated (only) to run the country?

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