The Trump Christian

The New York Times published its exit poll data today and, no surprise, President-elect Donald Trump was the head-and-shoulders favorite of white Evangelicals and Born-Again:

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Trump also was the favorite of voters who described themselves as “Protestant or other Christian” and “Catholic.” Which raises an interesting question: is there such a thing as a “Trump Christian”? The answer is: yes, there is.

Trump Christianity is the clearest evidence to date of a deep-rooted, wide-spread heresy within the Christian faith. Voting for Donald Trump is not that heresy. Instead, it is evidence of that heresy. The heresy entails rejection of the Incarnation, God’s embodiment in Jesus of Nazareth, summarized in the Creed’s “true God and true man.” “True man” requires that I attend to all that makes human beings human — not only sin, but birth, development, language, culture, dependence, despair, hope, care, and a range of other conditions amply displayed in the gospels of the New Testament. Trump Christians reject Jesus’ humanity. Trump Christians reject the Incarnation. They are evidence of the eternal attraction of Doceticism — an experience of the divine absent a body; the conviction that bodies detract from divinity.

Biblical and historical Christianity embraces and in fact trumpets and celebrates the Incarnation (see 1 Cor. 1:18-2:16). It is among the leading factors distinguishing Judaism, Christianity, and Hinduism from Islam and Buddhism. The physical and fleshly is not a detraction from, but is essential to the divine. In Christianity, as distinguished from Judaism and Hinduism, the Incarnation is the divine. No Docetism here. None.

Because the body reveals — it does not conceal — God, I attend to it. I expect to find God in the flesh — in history, in time, in space, where it is mixed up together with things that are clearly not God and things that might be God but are not.

If, by contrast, I deny the Incarnation then I am free to mistake any experience or encounter I have — with Scripture, with fellow Christians, with my pastor — with an immediate experience of God, as true, as real, as valid, as though I were immediately in Christ’s presence at God’s right hand. God self-mediates. My immediate experience is divinely inspired. No body is necessary. Indeed, every body is an impediment.

Obviously this form of Christianity is deeply and fundamentally appealing to individuals who feel that the institutions, laws, and arrangements of history have delivered them a bad deal. I get that. Obviously this form of Christianity appeals to individuals who feel that history is rigged against them. God must enter history at a right-angle; must burst into history; must break it open. The embodied world is fundamentally unreliable, false, deceptive, deceitful, and unjust. I get that.

Which is why it simply cannot be that the Palestinian Jew Jesus — precisely as the Palestinian Jew — is God.

Docetism lies at the heart of Trump Christianity because for the Trump Christian it seems so implausible that the embodied world, which is so clearly aligned against them, could embody God. And, yet, there it is. At the heart of pagan Empire, at the heart of Imperial domination, where “insiders” so clearly dominate over the common working family; precisely there God is born a Palestinian Jew; the weakest and most despised outsider of them all.

Christians have a choice. They can either embrace this Incarnate God — the weakest and most despised — and attend to His Body. Or they can reject Him. This rejection has no other name than “heresy,” from αἴρεσις, meaning “choice,” “course taken,” “course of action or thought.” It suggests that I have ignored all of the words, principles, thought, advice, or sign-posts prompting me to adopt one course and that I have instead chosen another. It entails a fundamental, deeply-rooted rejection of the embodied gospel for the sake of a disembodied choice. In its most basic form it is a pagan-nationalist mystery cult. “I know because I know.” For the Trump Christian, the body is immaterial.

This suggests that Trump Christianity is at root a pathology; it is a response to pain. But, by contrast to Jesus, who names Rome and Roman collaborators as the cause for pain, Trump Christians join with Rome and become Roman collaborators against Rome’s victims. In modern terms, they join with Rome against Muslims, women, GLBTs, and Mexicans. They assuage their pain, their pathos, by identifying with the perpetrator. Instead of attending to the body, they seek to destroy it because they feel that destroying the body will relieve them of their suffering, their pain, their pathos. Trump Christianity is pathological; it is rooted in pain.

The Trump Christian is a heretic. The Trump Christian suffers from a deep-rooted pathology. The question that believing Christians must ask is how they might minister to these victims. And the answer we receive is simple: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, comfort the widow, embrace the orphan.

 

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