Labels

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Donald the Dishonorable: On the Spiritual Damage of the Trump Presidency

Image result for Trump and evangelicals

Many Christians voted for Trump with high expectations that he would be a great president and bring both economic revival and a renewed sense of Christian nationhood to America (“Make America Great Again”). Some Christians prognosticated that Trump the candidate as a new “Cyrus” who, following the biblical type, would mightily serve the interests of the Kingdom of God without personally being a believer.

Many other Christians voted for him out of fear that a Clinton administration would proceed into the continued Paganization of America. For example, the continued advance of the  LGBT agenda and ever increasing discrimination against Christians. Fear of a liberal dominated Supreme court weighed heavily on many as they poked the electronic voting machine for Trump.

In my experience (I am 76) it was the worse election choice in my lifetime. The unpalatable choice was partially ushered in by the spiritual decline of the Republican party in the last two decades via its acceptance by many party followers of an extreme form of libertarian doctrine advocated by Ayn Rand. The Tea Party, which made an idol of no compromise on taxes,was the locus of this extremism.[1]

It may well be that Trump will put a stop to America’ slide into Paganism and anti-Christian discrimination, and fulfill the “Cyrus” role.  Certainly his choice of Betsy DeVos as head of the Department of Education broods well for concerned Christian parents. She strongly affirms a pro-choice solution for public education and voucher plans. The possibility is that ultimately many Christian parents, who now cannot afford it, could move their children from the secularist and Pagan environment of the public schools to private Christian schools. Trumps first choice for a supreme court justice, Niel Gorsuch, to replace Anthony Scalea also seems prudent and constructive.

Other cabinate appointments seem to be less than constructive, especially Scott Prutt to the environmental protection agency.  That appointment has pleased only the extreme wing of the Republican Party and climate change deniers - and it will likely look foolish and even disastrous in the coming years. 

Trumps actions and pronouncement, including his dystrophic inaugural address (and his tweets) seem to have generated a pall of depression and negativity throughout the land.  As a long time Republican I was appalled at how his “America first” stand marginalized the heroic achievements of the veterans of the Cold War where over 100,000 American soldiers died to further the interest of freedom for America and other countries.[2]  

Image result for President Kennedy inaugural address

President Kennedy's inaugural address 

All in all, the first months of the Trump administration have been a spiritual calamity. Trumps boasting, exaggerations, lies and “alternate truths” have shocked most Americans.

Trump has shown himself to be a man with great pride and without a true sense of honor. Even traditionally Republican journals are now sounding the alarm that something is deeply troubling with Trump. The National Review counseled that he must stop telling lies.[3]  And a recent editorial by the Wall Street Journal warned that Trump’s continued boasting, exaggerations and lies put the nation as risk if an international crisis were to arise, as few would believe him.[4] 

The fool of Proverbs:

Rather than elect a Cyrus to rebuild American Christianity we seemed to have elected as president the “fool” of Proverbs, a person intemperate in speech and not subject to correction.

The righteous hate what is false,
    but the wicked make themselves a stench
    and bring shame on themselves. (Prov 13:5)

The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
    but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. (Prov 15:2)

Fools find no pleasure in understanding
    but delight in airing their own opinions. Prov 18:2

As a business executive Trump had a strategy of never admitting to a mistake. This was passed on to him early in his business career by one of his mentors, Roy Cohn, the lawyer famous from the McCarthy hearing.[5] This may work in the rough and tumble real estate business, where law suits are omnipresent, and admitting guilt is monetary suicide, but it is a deep spiritual flaw.

Most of us had hoped that the office of the presidency would bring moderation and temperance to President Trump. But so far we have been disappointed:

Item: Trump’s claim that the crowd at his inauguration was the biggest ever, and beat that size of the Obama’s first inaugural. Photos show to the contrary, but no retraction was forthcoming.

Item: Trump claimed during the election campaign that he would release his tax returns as soon as an audit of them was complete. But now he says he will not release them because “only the press” had interest in them. Actually, many Christians are interested in knowing if he is serious about charitable contributions in view of his vast wealth (whatever that figure is). The 2005 tax returns were leaked showing that Trump indeed paid his fair share of taxes to the Government, but what of the recent returns? His negation of his pledge to do what he promised is dishonorable.

Item: Perhaps the most grievous and dishonorable of his claims is that he really won the popular vote because there were 2 or 3 million illegal votes for Clinton. Now, every election has a certain amount of fraudulent voting, but that number has greatly decreased in recent decades. I recall (I am older than you, - I bet) that Republicans claimed that J. F. Kennedy “stole” the 1959 election from Nixon because the Democratic machine in Chicago had brought out every long-dead citizen and their grandmothers to the polling stations, and thus fraudulently won the state of Illinois. Some election fraud had indeed taken place – the Chicago Dealy Democratic machine was good at that. Ultimately however, that did not change the legitimacy of the election as California shifted from the Nixon to Kennedy column when the overseas absentee votes were fully counted and put Kennedy over the required electoral count.

In my state, Georgia,  in the current election, the Republican secretary of state strongly affirmed that the voter count was true and that there was no fraud. In fact, later it was discovered that a few Hispanic votes were denied the vote due to faulty instructions to the poll personnel. That would have increased the Clinton vote by a dozen or so.

Apparently, one of Trump’s advisors told him that at his polling station many on line “did not look American.”  What? Who has not noticed the great demographic shift in the American population in the past decades? In any case, Trump’s whopper is an insult to the secretaries of state of the various states and to the great strides that have occurred in tallying the voter count. His wish/accusation was childishly self-centered, wildly exaggerated, and grossly dishonorable.

Item: Trump claimed during the election campaign that the job statics were false and that there was a much higher unemployment rate in the nation, perhaps reaching 30%. Thus the Obama economic recovery was false. But the job statistics released after his moth in office, showing a lowering of the employment rate were accurate. That is dishonorable.

Item: Trump claimed that the Obama Administration wire-taped the Trump towers during the election. There has been no retraction on that claim in spite tea lack of evidence and denials by the FBI chief.  It seems that for Trump suspicion is equivalent to fact., and can be stated as fact.

The meaning of honorable and dishonorable:

Let me unpack the meaning of a person being honorable or dishonorable because it is central to the issue of Trump’s administration. “In times of old” (when I was a boy) much business was still done on the basis of an oral agreement and a handshake. A businessman who went back on his word, and did not fulfill his business agreement was labeled as “dishonorable” and shunned by fellow businessmen as unreliable and an unacceptable risk. That is now only a faint memory, and now business is carried out with elaborate contacts and fine print that only lawyers understand.
The point being that, until recent decades, it was important to be recognized as an honorable person. That is, one who is true to his word, and that he says what he meant, and would carry out a promise (contract) even if the situation changed and it was difficult or expensive to fulfill.

Image result for hamilton-burr duelThat need of an honorable reputation was even a step-down of earlier 19th Century mores where a rigorous code of honor guided oral and written exchanges between gentlemen. Violations of this code of honor, perceived or real, would often result in a blood duel.[6] The most famous duel in American history, now illuminated by the smash hit play “Hamilton,” was the Hamilton - Burr duel in which Hamilton was mortally wounded.  The duel was precipitated by a long standing dispute between the two, and specifically at Hamilton campaign against Burr’s run to be governor of New York. During it Hamilton accused Burr of shady and immoral conduct in a letter that became public.

Now, I am not in any way affirming that honor is a virtue that must be protected by a duel, or even that it is a Christian virtue. It is too close to pride for that.  Rather, honor is a necessary civic virtue for persons in public life so that he or she is motivated to be truthful and faithful in their words and would feel shame if they did not fulfill their word to the best of their ability.

Trump’s actions and communications (tweeting and spoken) show great pride but no honor. There is no thoughtful marshaling of his word or tweets to ensure that what he says is true to the best of his ability to know. Nor is there a sincere effort to carry out a promise if it inconveniences him – as in his tax returns.

Trump as model for the youth?

This is a serious moral and spiritual fault. It is already affecting many young people. A Christian family tries to teach the biblical pattern of right and wrong, truth and falsehood to their children and yet the President of the United States blusters, exaggerates and bullshits (sorry, no other word will do).[7] Recall, for instance, his campaign assertion that he knew better than the generals on how to eliminate ISIS (a moment of bullshitting). Later he promised that after elected he would demand from the generals a new plan for rapidly defeating ISIS. The plan turns out to be a lot like the Obama plan. All of that is dishonorable.

I wonder how many thousands of times some conversation like this has occurred in America. "Johny, your teacher informed us that you lied to her yesterday, and we are grounding you this weekend as punishment. But Mom, President Trump does that all  the time."

In my youth I had all honorable presidents, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. None were saints, and for instance, Kennedy was a womanizer - discretely kept from public view. But in regards to their public actions and  speech they were all honorable. Nixon turned out to be the only dishonorable president I recall until Trump.  

One good thing that may result from Trump’s exaggerations, bullshitting and lies may be that they highlight and place a mirror to the current sophistries common at liberal institutions of higher learning. That is, that truth is indefinite and socially formed, as in, “My truth is different from your truth.” This is a solipsism, the idea that my mind forms truth without need to reference the outer world. For instance the solipsism of “I am in a body of the wrong sex” is now universally affirmed and unchallenged by large elements of the educational and psychiatric establishments. Why solipsisms are so dangerous I have explained elsewhere.[8]

So perhaps some good will ultimately result is having a grossly dishonorable person in the White House. Two months is too short to affirm that Trump’s election to the presidency was not providential, -  the claim of many Evangelical Christians. Thus far it has been a spiritual disaster, but God sometimes works in mysterious ways. 

Image result for Elisha and ahabFor now, Christian leaders, especially those who publicly supported Trump’s election, should also publicly call him to account. It is time to stop being Trump apologists and start playing the role of Elisha to King Ahab. Most Evangelical pastors will recall how to do that if they remember their sermons during the Clinton and Obama presidency.


In all seriousness, I suggest that Christian pastors petition Trump that he repent of his careless, bullshitting and mendacious talk. He should specifically apologize to the secretaries of the states of the various states for his childish claim that he really won the popular vote, and also to ex-President Obama for his unsubstantiated wire-tap accusation. If this is not done in some manner and by a significant Evangelical group there may be a serious and overt anti-Christian movement by the next election. Many are already saying, "Those stupid Evangelical Christians voted for that man.

So how shall we pray?

Many Christians are already praying for Trump and the success of his presidency. That is certainly pleasing to God and scriptural. I suggest that added prayers petition God to bring Trump to true repentance and a sincere Christian commitment. In that change Trump would find humility of spirit and temperance of tongue. Further we should all pray that he would be given the grace to esteem honor (and not confuse it with pride), and that by God’s grace Americans and the peoples of the world would recognize a great transformation in him, and this would lead to making America spiritually great again – the very thing that really matters most.  





[1] Willim De Arteaga, “The Spiritual Decline and Fall of the Republican Party,”  Anglican Pentecostal. Posted: April 6, 2016.  http://anglicalpentecostal.blogspot.com/2016/04/the-spiritual-decline-and-fall-of.html
[2] Compare Trumps Inaugural Address with John Kennedy’s in 1960.
[3] Ben Shapiro, “To Promise Free Things is to Lie,” National Review, Mar 22, 2017.  http://www.nationalreview.com/article/445967/republicans-trump-should-stop-lying-no-free-health-care-nothing-free
[4] Wall Street Journal, “The President’s Credibility,” March 21, 2017. https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-presidents-credibility-1490138920  I am old enough to remember the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. Not even the staunchest Republicans doubted that President Kennedy was telling the truth about the placement of Russian missiles in Cuba. But who would believe Trump in a similar incident?
[5] Thrush, Glenn and Maggie Habermanmarch, “Why Letting Go, for Trump, Is No Small or Simple Task” Washington Post. Posted March 21, 2017 :  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/21/us/politics/trump-obama-wiretapping-motivation.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0 
[6]The U.S military academy at West Point provided its officer candidates with a booklet on dueling for honor.
[7]There are now academic tomes on the meaning of bullshit and how it is a variety, but distinct, from plain lying. See: Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit (Princeton: Princeton University, 2005).
[8]William De Arteaga, “The Demonic Origins and Confusion of the Transgender Issue.” Anglican Pentecostal. Posted, November 1, 2015. http://anglicalpentecostal.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-demonic-origins-and-confusion-of.html





Announcements:

The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.

The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle HERE You can purchase the print version at a discount from the publisher HERE





Just released is my first book of  plays. Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts). It includes two plays and their postscripts.

The play, “One Day at St. John’s” depicts what everyday life can be like in a church that practices the gifts of the Spirit and the healing/exorcism ministry as normal. Among the events that occur in the course of the play are the healing of a waitress who was scalded with hot coffee, an exorcism (led by a layman) and the “laying of a ghost” to rest.

Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts) can be purchased HERE at Amazon.

The second play, “Joseph ben Jacob,” explores Joseph, husband of Mary, as the dream interpreter, master carpenter, and father of Mary’s other children. It helps explain why Joseph was able to discern correctly his dream about Mary’s first-born.

The postscripts examine the controversial aspects of the plays and focus on two false early gospels which distorted the meaning of the true Gospels. The “Proto-Gospel of James” claimed that Mary was “every virgin” and never had other children, and the “Gospel of Nicodemus” cancelled the true meaning of Jesus’ “descent into Hell” and his ministry there as described in 1 Peter 3 & 4

Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]

My wife has written a funny and inspiring story of how she transited from a cessionist and Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer. The book has many stories of our three decades of ministry together.  It may be purchased HERE.