Donald Trump, my Presbyterian brother

In my little Presbyterian corner of the Christian community, there is much hand-wringing over the nation’s leading demagogue describing himself as a Presbyterian. “He’s not actually on the rolls of any Presbyterian church,” we are quick to say. The talking heads on cable TV demand that we moderate Presbyterians renounce the demagoguery of the Donald, but they will not give us any airtime to do so. “We don’t need some Presbyterian clergy person to tell us what a Presbyterian is, we have Trump the Presbyterian and he’s much more entertaining than you.”

trumps-macys-new-yorkOur Stated Clerk even sent the Donald a letter earlier in this primary campaign season reminding him that the Presbyterian denomination’s actual position on refugees and immigrants stands in opposition to his campaign rhetoric. As far as I know, he has not responded, not even a tweet.

We can see where this is going. There will soon be long news programs on the inherent racism, sexism, and Islamophobia in the Presbyterian DNA going back to John Calvin and John Knox.

With Trump as our loudest un-appointed spokesperson, Presbyterian Churches will be the target of vandals who spray-paint “DOWN WITH PREDESTINATION!” on our church doors. Men wearing khakis and blue blazers will get harassed by the TSA at airports and Presbyterian women will have to surreptitiously remove their James Avery Presbyterian symbol nose rings before they leave church for Applebee’s Sunday lunch. The Unitarians will hold vigils in front of Presbyterian Churches with signs that say, “Dump Trump!” “Denounce the Demagogue!” and “Presbyterians, Go Back to Scotland!”

O.K., that probably will not happen.

But, since I cannot seem to convince the world that Trump is not one of us, I have decided to embrace him as a brother, and explain him to the world.

He is the greatest performance artist ever.

Some have speculated that he’s secretly trying to get Hillary Clinton elected, but I think it goes much deeper than that.

Donald Trump gets easily bored with the shenanigans of most rich men. Trophy wife? Done that. Conspicuous consumption? Been there. Reality TV show? Tired of it. Run for president? Now, that sounds like fun.

This campaign is the uber-rich man’s version of the redneck’s famous last words, “Hold my beer and watch this.”

Trump will soon reveal that his campaign is pure satirical theater, a performance artist’s pièce de résistance. He is actually still the liberal he used to be and his rhetoric on the campaign trail is a work of art designed to reveal the darkest part of the heart of America’s soul. Total depravity is the only Presbyterian doctrine that is provable with evidence, and Trump is generously providing us with all the evidence needed to convince us of The Truth.

“You think racism is no longer an issue in the U.S.? Watch this!” And his poll numbers climb as he insults Mexicans and encourages beating up an African-American man.

“You think sexism is fading away? Watch this!” He insults women and his poll numbers climb.

“You think we’ve come a long way since we interned the Japanese in 1942? Watch this!” And he proposes banning entry to the U.S. for Muslims. When asked “even those returning from overseas deployment in our armed services?” his spokesman replies, “All of ‘em,” and his numbers continue to climb.

Serious people say, “This is not funny anymore,” but like all edgy comics, once he has made everyone uncomfortable, he’s just getting started.

By the time he finishes this campaign, he will have given it his all. He will have fully developed the character of the American Demagogue and no matter what he says in the future, no matter how many times he protests, “It was art! Art, People! When the Donald does performance art, he does it better than anyone has ever done it before!” he will never be able to separate himself from this role. As Captain Kirk is to William Shatner, as Archie Bunker is to Carroll O’Connor, the American Demagogue of the 2016 campaign will be Trump’s career-defining role.

He will have sacrificed everything for this role, his energy, his reputation, and his future career as a performance artist. (But not much of his money, he wouldn’t go that far). But, he’s done it all for his country, to bring us to repentance, to hold up a mirror and show us what we’re really made of. “You think you’ve come so far,” his performance tells us, “but you ignore the fact that you have perfectly normal looking people walking around who will cheer when someone with money and a bunch of bravado says we need to institute a religious test for travel into this country. Wake up, people! Make America great again! Repent of your racism, your nationalism, and your Islamophobia!”

Just you wait and see. This has to be what he’s doing. He can’t possibly be serious, even if he is a Presbyterian. But, he’s not. No, really. He’s not.

16 thoughts on “Donald Trump, my Presbyterian brother

  1. Neil, I appreciate your take on this. I laughed. I was moved to tears. I got angry. Jill Duffield expressed a similar message in the Presbyterian Outlook from December 7th entitled, “What if Trump is right about us?”. Thank you for your message.

  2. Sounds as if you think Trump has free will. I think as a Presbyterian you must understand him to be predestined to this. You seem to doubt Gods hand.
    Even more glad to be Methodist,
    Dave

    1. Dave, a lack of free will is called predeterminism, not predestination. Predeterminism, the belief that every act or thought has been determined by God, and humans are only puppets on a string, would be rejected by Presbyterians (with the exception of some really whacky fringe characters). Predestination teaches that our ultimate destination is in the hand of God, not ourselves. The pathway to our ultimate end, whether it be eternal salvation, damnation, or just a cold grave, is a mysterious combination of our own free will and the leading of the Spirit. Calvin held that predestination guarded us against the hubris of believing that we can accomplish our own salvation, or take credit for the salvation of another. In the case of Donald Trump, I imagine many Presbyterians would agree with Lindsay Graham when he said, “If you want to make America Great again, tell Donald Trump to go to hell.” We predestinarians just know that no matter how many of us tell him so, it is not, unfortunately, in our hands. And, like Jonah sitting beneath the gum tree sulking over the Ninevites’ repentance, we are greatly disappointed that God may be more gracious with Donald Trump than we.

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