August 7, 2016
Donald Trump – not a Christian
But Hillary is?
Here is a recent article from Greg Snyder, self described as “a professor of religion and chair of the religion department at Davidson College.”
By Greg Snyder
Special to the Observer
A recent New York Times article stated that four-fifths of evangelical Christians intend to vote for Donald Trump. At the recent Republican convention, Trump thanked evangelicals for their support, adding, “I probably don’t deserve it.” This minor aside was perhaps a half-conscious reference to certain lifestyle choices: the multiple marriages, the gold-plated logos, the opulent lifestyle. Trump is right. He does not deserve the support of Christians, not simply for reasons of lifestyle, but because his values are fundamentally opposed to Christian commitments – commitments that Jesus urged in word and deed, principles for which he laid down his life. These values constitute the Kingdom of God, the heart of Jesus’ message.
There is no mystery about the heart of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus welcomed the downtrodden and embraced social outcasts. Those that society rejected, he accepted. Those that society feared – Samaritans, lepers, and other outsiders – he welcomed. Those that society shunned, he touched and healed. The bible that Jesus read and believed and preached, the Hebrew Bible, bears eloquent witness to the same principles. The God of Israel condemns those who “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way.” “I will save the lame and gather the outcast.” Does Donald Trump represent these values, even remotely?
When approached by a rich man who wished to follow him, Jesus said, “sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me.” When a tax collector named Zaccheus desired to become Jesus’ follower, he said, “half my possessions I will give to the poor. If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Much has been said about Trump University and other such business ventures. Does the long record of Trump’s business practices align even remotely with the ideals laid down by Jesus? How would Jesus respond to this record? Is it possible to imagine Trump repenting of anything?
When an argument arose among the disciples about who among them was the greatest, Jesus directed them to take their eyes off themselves and focus on the powerless: “whoever welcomes this little child welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, welcomes him who sent me.” When Jesus went to a feast and saw guests competing for places of honor, he said, “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Can these teachings be reconciled with the persona and character projected by Trump?
Many Christian voters object strenuously to abortion, and support Trump in the hope that he will appoint Supreme Court justices sympathetic to their cause. The weight of this real and persisting moral issue cannot be denied. But should this one issue, important though it may be, cause Christians to jettison the manifest teaching of Jesus on all other subjects?
Jesus was a prophet, not a politician, and experience has shown that politicians must be complicated creatures: as public servants, they cannot pursue their own fierce moral vision while ignoring all others. A good prophet will almost certainly be a bad president. But there are better and worse politicians; some politicians are animated by visions of community and inclusion and have patience for the hard, painstaking work of governing. Other politicians galvanize followers by calling up the evil angels of grievance, fear and racial hostility. We must now decide which imperfect candidate is the better kind of politician, and which is the worse.
Greg Snyder is a professor of religion and chair of the religion department at Davidson College.
Before I get to Donald Trump, let me say this: If Jesus is merely “a prophet,” [sic], as the Apostle Paul put it in his first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 15, verse 19, “we are of all people most to be pitied.” He was referring to those who denied the resurrection of Jesus, but it makes the same point – we Christians are a sad and pathetic lot if Jesus is nothing but a prophet… BUT HE IS FAR MORE THAN A PROPHET – He is Yeshua ha Mashiach (His Aramaic-Hebrew name, meaning “Salvation, the Anointed Deliverer of Israel”). He is, as proven by His resurrection from the dead, God (Elohim, the All-Powerful One) in human flesh. If He is NOT Elohim and He did NOT rise from the dead, then He was nothing but a liar – simply human like we are.
Jesus Himself – many times, many ways – claimed to be “one with the Father (Yahweh, the Self-Existent Covenant-Keeping One)” in a way uniquely different from any other human who has ever lived. The Gospels proclaim Him to be God in human flesh – especially John, who starts his Gospel with the simple straight-forward statement: “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and THE WORD WAS GOD.” Later on, Jesus says to His disciples “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; NO MAN comes to the Father, but through Me.” Pretty bold for a prophet! If He were nothing but a prophet, those statements prove that He wasn’t!
But those statements are true! Yes, He is a prophet – but far more than a prophet – He IS God in human flesh.
OK – I know what you’re thinking, Mr. Snyder – “Well, we brilliant religious scholars believe that those gospels you’re quoting were written 300 years after the First Century, by the church during the time of Constantine. They’re a bunch of fakes…”
You say all of that, despite the genuine proof that the Gospel writings were quoted well before the time of the Council of Nicaea. But there are many sources that you guys have never explained that no one doubts are from the First Century: the Letters of Paul, included in the Messianic Writings (also known as the New Testament). You can’t deny that Paul wrote when he claims to have written: sometime from his first letter – Galatians, around 45 AD – to his last letter – 2nd Timothy – shortly before his death in 64 AD by execution. Does Paul ever express any doubt who he believes Jesus to be? Not in the slightest! He proclaims Yeshua ha Mashiach as the One and Only Son of God!
Paul has no doubt in Galatians 1: 3 – 5 “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Paul has no doubt, just before he died: (1 Timothy 1: 1 – 2) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul, ever and always, equated Jesus with God the Father – something he would NEVER have done if he had stayed a Pharisee!
Second: YES! WE KNOW DONALD TRUMP IS NOT AN EVANGELICAL BELIEVER! At least, not by the evidence of his lifestyle – he claims to be a Christian (so does Hillary), so I’ll go so far as saying that I don’t know, for sure. Many people profess to be believers who are not. Many people who are genuinely saved don’t walk as closely to the Lord as they should – we’re all sinners saved by grace. Only the Lord knows for sure. That’s the meaning of the parable Jesus told about the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13: 24 – 30): in this world we will never be able to be completely sure who is a genuine believer and who is not.
But – this is an irrelevant question, isn’t it? I thought we weren’t supposed to give our candidates “a religious test.” I thought we were voting for a person, not for their “religion”, right? I thought we were not supposed to care if the president was a Roman Catholic (like Kennedy), or a Southern Baptist (like Carter), or a Quaker (like Nixon), or a Presbyterian (like Reagan), or an Episcopalian (like George H. W. Bush), or a Methodist (like W. and Hillary), or even if Mr. Obama WERE a Muslim (which I’m not saying he is…), we shouldn’t refuse to vote for somebody because of it, right? I mean – even if a MORMON were to run for president, that shouldn’t keep us from voting for that person…
OK – all irony aside: we’re voting for the President of the United States, not the pastor of our local church. It does matter what he (or she) believes, but so we voters can make a political decision. No president ever claimed to be part of a denomination called “Evangelical Christian”, anyway. It matters as part of who the person is, whether I believe they’ll defend the things I believe thing country stands for. But, ultimately, it’s politics. When it comes to the general election, I’ve got to vote for the individual who will best preserve the US Constitution, thus preserving our Freedoms as Americans. I believe Donald Trump will do a better job protecting the Constitution than Hillary – or any modern Democrat – will.
Third: Are you suggesting, Professor Snyder, that Donald Trump is the ONLY rich person in the United States? You better look around at the rich people that surround you at Davidson University. There were an awful lot of rich people supporting Hillary, aren’t there? And – are we to believe that Hillary and Bill aren’t rich, or aren’t living an opulent lifestyle? Most wealthy people in Hollywood or in the music industry are rich, aren’t they? And a huge chunk of them are voting for Hillary, aren’t they? Union bosses – aren’t they in the Democrats’ pocket, too? I’ve heard they do pretty well for themselves. George Soros is rich, isn’t he? He’s supporting Hillary, isn’t he? If I can’t vote for a rich person, who can I vote for? They’re ALL rich – you have to be to get anywhere in politics today. At least Donald Trump has USED his substantial fortune to fund his own campaign – I can’t say Hillary has done that – isn’t that right, Mr. Soros?
Fourth: How does Mr. Snyder know so much about how much Mr. Trump “cares” about the poor? His businesses have given many people employment and a good livelihood over the years, I’m sure. True – some of his business ventures have failed, but no one can accuse Mr. Trump of not knowing what he’s doing when it comes to business. Every job he’s given over the years is one less job the government has to supply, or one less person the government has to support. Mr. Trump has produced many more jobs over the years than Hillary ever has. We can’t count government jobs – paying for them comes out of our pockets.
Fifth: Yes – we evangelical Christians believe in helping those less fortunate than us. In fact, evangelical Christians tend to give more money to charity than liberals do. That’s not because liberals don’t have money – many of them do, as I said above. But their idea of “helping the poor” is to pass government programs that, basically, give money away. There is, really, no such thing as the government’s money – it’s OUR money that they redistribute. “Give-away” programs by the government tend to INCREASE the needs, not decrease them. People get used to receiving money from “the government” – those of us who pay taxes – and the vicious cycle continues from generation to generation. Last thing: socialism (which is what this is) never, ultimately, works for a lot of reasons. To make it simple: Margaret Thatcher said it works until you run out of other people’s money to give away.
Sixth: Jesus castigated the Pharisees, not because they were rich, but because they were religious hypocrites. They were “white-washed sepulchers”, full of dead men’s bones. They looked “spiritual” on the outside, but they were selfish and proud on the inside. They took credit for the “good” that they accomplished in their own strength; they were not humbly seeking forgiveness from their sins. Those who are true believers come from all segments of society; in fact, Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved. That’s not saying it’s evil to be rich; it’s saying that a rich man tries to use his resources to deal with his needs rather than trusting in the Lord. In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, both men were well-off – rich in this world’s goods. It was their attitude toward their spiritual situation that was the focus. The Pharisee believed that he was blessed because of his own efforts and took pride in his own accomplishments. The tax collector knew he couldn’t do anything to earn the Lord’s grace – he saw himself for what he really was: a sinner totally incapable of doing anything to merit salvation. He humbly asked for mercy. He offered no good works; he knew there were no good works he could do to get forgiveness. It was his humble repentance and trust in the Lord that justified him.
Seventh: The rich young ruler worshiped himself and his riches – he was in violation of the first commandment: he put something (or things) above worshiping Yahweh. It is NOT the fact that he was rich that made him a sinner; it was the fact that he put those things ahead of Elohim. He denied that he was a sinner in need of redemption; he saw no need to repent and “believe the gospel” – put his trust in the Lord to forgive his sins. The most important thing was to believe that Jesus was who He claimed to be: the “Lamb of God” who had come to die, the just for the unjust (all of us), so that our sins may be forgiven.
Eighth: Jesus said: “Don’t store up your treasures on earth… store up your treasure in heaven.” That’s not saying it’s wicked to be rich – again, many liberals planning to vote for Hillary are very rich – but this world’s goods are only temporary. If the Lord prospers you, you should serve the needs of others anyway you can. That might not make you rich in this life, but spiritual riches are the blessings we’re going to enjoy forever in eternity, if we humbly come to Him, repent of our sins, and believe that His sacrifice has paid the price we could never pay for forgiveness.
Ninth: Many people discussed in Scripture are rich. The richest man who ever lived was Solomon, who wrote the Song of Songs, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes in the Bible. Job was a very wealthy man before he lost all his riches, his family, and his health, only to have everything restored in abundance after his brutal experience of losing everything. Abraham was wealthy; so were Isaac and Jacob. Joseph was extremely wealthy, after his experience of extreme poverty in prison – he is only ever spoken of in positive terms. Some rich people are, of course, evil, like King Ahab and his wife, Queen Jezebel. David starts out poor, but also becomes rich. One of the richest men who ever lived wrote Daniel 4 – King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon – yet it was not his riches that saved him, but his acquiescence to Yahweh’s punishment for his pride. There are also rich people in the Messianic writings that are not condemned for their riches: Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Zaccheus (because he repented, not because he gave his wealth away), Lydia (the first European convert to following Jesus), Philemon, and many others.
Tenth: Jesus did all those wonderful things – yes! He was showing the love of God (Yahweh, or, as Jesus called Him, Abba Father) to the world. The most famous Bible (with a capital B because it IS the Word of God) verse is John 3: 16 – “For God [Elohim, Yahweh, or Abba] so LOVED the WORLD, that HE GAVE His only begotten Son, that WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That’s the message of Jesus!
And I’m still voting for Donald Trump – even if he is rich. I do not, however, put my faith in any man (or woman). I put my faith in He who called Himself “The Way” – Yeshua ha Mashiach!