Growing up, I attended a tiny Lutheran church near our family farm. During a Christmas service four decades ago, as our beloved pastor was delivering another soft-spoken sermon about kindness and grace, thick sheets of snow thundered down the pitched church roof in a seismic event that threatened to collapse our rickety house of worship.
Dust flickered through the stained glass sunlight shafts. The communal hush and the pastor’s stunned expression quickly gave way to relieved laughter as we realized that God hadn’t thrust his hand through that wintry roof to end our earthly existence.
Last month, my wife Betsy and I attended the Christmas Eve service at Northampton’s Unitarian Society. We felt the same sense of community that drew me to the church of my youth long ago. Something else about that Christmas Eve service emanated a sense of welcome: The pews were clearly not occupied by people whose faith led them to vote for Donald Trump.
My own religious views are simple. I’m pretty sure that there’s a higher power, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s not. Either way, our purpose in life seems to be making the world a better place and being kind to each other. Those views are compatible with Christian values – but not with Trumpocrisy.
White evangelical Christians voted for Trump by a five-to-one margin – “white” being the key word. Trump purposely appealed to resentment against ethnic groups who, ironically, look like the real Jesus, a dark-skinned Middle Easterner vastly different from his blue-eyed, sandy-haired, porcelain-skinned modern portraits.
Trump’s life reflects Christian values about as much as those white Jesus portraits resemble the true Nazarene. Trump’s hostility toward immigrants goes against basic biblical teaching, and he’ll never be mistaken for a Good Samaritan. Of the seven deadly sins, only sloth isn’t on his résumé. He works hard at his pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, lust and greed.
Trump tries to mimic the pseudo-Christian paternal authority figure, but he’s more like the schoolyard bully who lashes out because he’s weak and fearful. He may be a “strongman” in the dictatorial sense, but he’s far from strong. Hillary Clinton is much stronger than Trump and proved so repeatedly by tattering his empty, ill-fitting suit at each debate.
According to one of my conservative Christian friends, Trump’s election was “divine intervention” to protect us from Hillary Clinton. Putting aside the idea that God makes presidential endorsements, I asked what was wrong with Clinton. “Everything,” he replied, “She’s as bad as Hussein Obama,” and then he launched into a diatribe about Obama and Clinton killing Americans in Benghazi, murdering nine-month babies in the womb, and bringing terrorists right into our homes.
He must think that God reads the same fake news that he does because none of that is true in a Ninth Commandment sense. Obama and Clinton are actually guided by their personal Christian faith. Yet right-wing Christians rant about Obama being a secret Muslim and chant that Clinton should be locked up. Does the term “Pharisees” ring a bell?
Christianity – the Jesus variety, featuring grace, social justice, and love – is consistent with liberal values. Unfortunately, the Republican Party hitched itself to the extreme anti-abortion splinter of Christianity decades ago, successfully mainstreaming fringe views. Anyone who doesn’t understand how that lengthy con led directly to Trump’s pretend piety should read the appropriately titled book, “Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party” by Max Blumenthal.
Trump can do no wrong for most Republican Christians. For example, Trump tweeted a Christmas photo of himself holding up his tiny fist while standing before a Christmas tree. Had Obama posed like that, Republicans would have accused him of injecting a “Black Power” symbol into his “War on Christmas.”
Trump’s raised fist actually mimics a gesture co-opted by White supremacists. Was Trump using his Christmas photo to dog-whistle his racist supporters? That seems absurd until we consider Trump’s overwhelming support among the KKK and other racist organizations that also identify as Christian. Yet no Christian leaders condemned Trump’s behavior.
Can anyone imagine Trump praying? “Thank God I was born wealthy, white, male, American, and straight.” Without even one of those gifts, Trump’s real estate career wouldn’t have advanced beyond gossipy overnight desk clerk at an hourly-rate motel on the wrong side of the tracks.
What hymns would Trump sing? “How Great Trump Art,” “Nearer My Trump to Thee,” and “O Come Let Us Adore Trump” aren’t real hymns – although Trump may try to use them for his inauguration if he can’t blackmail any celebrities to perform.
What would a Trump sermon be like? When he spoke at right-wing Christian Liberty University, Trump mentioned Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, which every Christian knows is pronounced, “Second Corinthians.” But Trump said “Two Corinthians,” as if introducing a bad joke: “Two Corinthians walk into a bar.”
Unfortunately, the joke is on everyone. Trump, the antithesis of Christian values, will soon be president, thanks in large part to voters identified as Christians.
Whether we’re softly singing “Silent Night” at the Unitarian service or being conned into seeing Trump as God’s president, the truth is that we’re all Trump’s victims. Some people will just take longer than others to learn that lesson.
John Sheirer is an author and teacher who lives in Florence. His most recent publication is a children’s counting book, “Tim-Buck-Ten,” co-written with his dog Libby. Find him at JohnSheirer.com.