Lessons from Trump about how (not) to be a Christian.

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As I write, it’s looking like Donald Trump will be the next President of the USA. That’s terrifying.

There’s so much I don’t like about Donald Trump, it’s hard to know where to begin. But I think one of the major issues I have with him is that he represents almost everything I least like about Christians. And I say that as a Christian myself.

Trump has called himself “Presbyterian”, “Protestant” and according to James Dobson, he has “accepted a relationship with Jesus Christ as his Savior”.

But he’s hypocritical, selfish, racist, misogynistic, and it seems very much like he just uses the label “Christian” in order to serve his own purposes. Trump seems to embody the criticisms most often leveled at Christians, and I’m quite worried about what a Trump Presidency would do in turning people against Christianity.

While I could easily rant on about how terrible Trump is and how fundamentally un-Christian he really is, I thought I’d take a more positive tact. No Christians are perfect, and whether or not Donald Trump really is a Christian, I think there are a few things we can learn from Trump about how (not) to be a follower of Christ.

 

1Christianity leaves no room for racism. 

Trump has used anti-Mexican rhetoric to gain support, refused to renounce the support of KKK, repeatedly questioned whether Obama was born in the USA, shown a pattern of discrimination towards African-Americans and referred to Mexican immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists”.

But the way of Christianity is very different. The New Testament recounts how Jesus Christ came, not just for people of a certain race, but for Jews and Gentiles and everyone who calls upon his name.

Paul writes in Romans 10:12:  “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.”

Sadly, Christians have been racist in the past, and some are today. But the message of the gospel is one for all nations – meaning there is no room for racism. All are created in the image of God, and all who call on Jesus will be saved, regardless of their race or where they  were born.

 

2. The Christian call is one of caring for others, not oneself – a call of love, not hate. 

Trump’s rallying cry might have been to “make America great again”, but it seems like his campaign has been all about him gaining more power. He’s been very quick to criticise and ridicule those who oppose him and even those who have supported him, all in the name of gaining more power for himself.

What a contrast to the way of Jesus Christ.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul urges the church there to put others before themselves:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Instead of pulling others down to build ourselves up, let’s serve each other. As Christians, let’s follow the lead of Christ – and put others before ourselves.

 

3. Christianity affirms that women are created in the image of God.

Perhaps the most outrageous of Trump’s comments are those that he’s directed towards women. His “locker-room talk” has suggested that he views women as subordinates, as objects for him to grab.

But Christianity teaches a very different view of women. In Genesis, women are spoken of as being created in the image of God. Women were the first witnesses to Christ’s resurrection. And in the epistles, Paul writes:

  • “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” – Ephesians 5:25
  • “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers,  older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.” – 1 Timothy 5:1-2

 The New Testament shows that women are not simply objects for men’s own gratification. Instead, wives are to be genuinely and sacrifically loved by their husbands, and women are to be treated as sisters, in all purity.

It seems to me that Trump’s comments towards women are completely incompatible with the way of Christ.

 

4. Christianity is about more than just words.

Being a Christian would be oh-so-easy if all it involved was wearing a name badge, or ticking a box in the census. But the bible affirms that in response to what Christ has done, Christians should live lives consistent with what they believe.

1 John 3:18 says “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Trump has said he is a Christian. But the mark of a Christian is not just someone who says they are one. Christians are called to follow Christ’s example in living for him, in living a life of love for God and for others. And yes, Christians will fail at this. But nonetheless, Christians are called to live out their faith, not just give it lip-service.

 

5. Christianity at its core, involves asking God for forgiveness.

Trump made headlines last year for claiming that he sees no need to ask God for forgiveness. And perhaps here we see Trump’s greatest misunderstanding of Christianity.

Because asking God for forgiveness is what Christianity is all about. It’s about admitting that we are sinful, that we’re hopeless without him. We’re evil people, doing evil things, with no chance for redemption…apart from Jesus Christ.

This was the message of John the Baptist – he called people to repent of their sins and ask for forgiveness. On the road to Emmasus, the resurrected Jesus told two of his followers: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48)

And at Pentecost, Peter told the assembly:Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

Being a Christian means admitting that you’re a thoroughly flawed and sinful human being. It means asking God for forgiveness, and trusting in him alone to save us from our rightful punishment. He is the only one who saves.

***

I find the prospect of Trump being our next President horrifying. And partly because I’m worried it about the damage Trump will continue to do to the way the world sees Christians, who already are perceived as hateful and hypocritical by so many.

But at the same time, I believe God is sovereign. This world has had worse leaders, and no matter how bad things look, a huge comfort of Christianity is knowing that God is in control.

And let’s continue to point out how Trump is not living out the way of the Christian. But let’s not neglect the logs in our own eyes. Let’s press on to becoming more like Christ, as his Holy Spirit works within us, as we live in response to his love and grace that he has so generously given to us.

 

(P.S. I’m usually pretty reluctant to comment on political issues, but sometimes needs must. And yes, Hilary Clinton is a thoroughly flawed human too. As we all are.)

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