Samuel L. Adams, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the McNair Chair in Biblical Studies at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, has a few things to say about Donald Trump, his supporters, and their ludicrous, sacrilegious embraces of all things religious.
Like Trump, his followers claim they speak for God and/or Jesus. Like most of what Trump says, such claims are outright lies.
On CNN’s website, Pastor Adams writes:
President Donald Trump is now presenting himself as God’s special agent, defending American Christians against evil Democratic opponents. Trump declared earlier this month that Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic who has relied on his faith during moments of crisis, is “against God.”
Trump’s tweets are usually petty and spiteful, but now they have taken on an apocalyptic flavor. His recent language about God, Christianity, and the Bible suggests that the universe is in grave danger if enough Americans vote for Biden.
The President maintains that Biden is “going to do things that nobody ever, would think even possible because he’s following the radical left agenda. Take away your guns, destroy your Second Amendment. No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God.”
I am a biblical scholar and Presbyterian pastor, and such language is theologically bankrupt and dangerous. Trump labels himself a Presbyterian who attends church “occasionally,” but he has not heard a sermon on divine sovereignty — basic Presbyterian theology would never argue that God is going to be “hurt” by partisan American politics.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this incendiary rhetoric is the claim by Trump and some of his supporters that they have exclusive rights to what is “Christian” and “evangelical.”
Such language implies that most Christians support the man who had American citizens protesting in Washington dispersed with tear gas and batons to brandish a Bible for a photo-op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
As someone who grew up in the Presbyterian Church, I have a serious problem with those who abandon true religious faith and claim they are “evangelicals.” I had to leave the church of my youth after the church leaders voted to abandon the Presbyterian Church USA and become an evangelical one, because of its support of gay marriage and other common decencies that all Christians should share.
I remain a man who believes in God and also believes that his faith is intact when served by being non-denominational. Personal faith does not require guidance of self-important purveyors of religion tainted by their bias and bigotry.
Trump’s base is packed with white supremacists, racists, and haters of anything they feel is not “truly white.” He has declared bigots “good people” and relishes the support and endorsement of racist, white supremacist, and even pro-Nazi groups.
In more than half a century of covering this nation’s government and leaders, including a seven-year term as a political operative, I can say with background and knowledge that Trump is the most racist, immoral, and disgusting bigot to ever serve as president of this nation.
“It is time to confront more directly Trump’s fake apocalypticism and the frequent conclusion that his followers represent Christianity as a whole,” says Rev. Adams. “As the school year begins, I am about to teach a wonderfully diverse group of students at my seminary in Richmond, Virginia, and all of them are faithful Christians. We will open the Bible and study it rather than wielding it as a weapon, and none of us will claim to speak for God.”
Followers of Jesus are a diverse lot in a country with many faith traditions. All of us can debate the “Christian” response to any number of issues, but we can no longer accept the erroneous conclusion of Trump and his supporters that they alone speak for Jesus.
Amen. Let us pray.