Are Christians “Missing the Boat” on Donald Trump?

Wayne Allyn Root, a businessman and political commentator among other things, wrote a column in which he argues that Christians are “missing the boat” on Donald Trump and that they should not only vote for him, but that doing anything else is denying the messages that God is sending us. I had enough thoughts on this that I wanted to write my own point-by-point rebuttal of where I believe Root is missing the whole point.

Root begins with the famous joke about a devout man stuck on a roof during a massive flood. He refuses any and all help, claiming that he’s waiting for God. Now, the man dies and meets God, and he asks about God’s refusal to save him. God replies, “What did you want? I sent you three different people to help you.”

This man on the roof, the writer claims, is America, and Trump is our rowboat. “Maybe God,” Root says, “is trying to tell us something important — that now is not the time for a ‘nice Christian guy’ or a ‘gentleman’ or a typical Republican powder puff…. Because right about now we need a miracle, or America is finished.”

My first question to Root — what’s the flood? What’s the supposed disaster that only someone who is as much of a “warrior” as Donald Trump is (we’ll get to that in a second) can save us from? And how exactly is Donald Trump, who has offered to pay legal fees to defend those who attack his dissenters, a miracle? And finally, if Root is worried that putting Hillary Clinton in the oval office will “finish” America on the world stage, imagine the damage Trump could do. Just look at his kowtowing to Putin and say that under Trump, America is in no danger of losing its place in international relations.

“Maybe a gentleman… would lead us to slaughter,” Root says. Slaughter? As in, mass death? How exactly would the election of a democrat, even one as hated as Hillary Clinton, lead us to a slaughter? Maybe what we’re talking about here is the fear that Hillary would appoint super-liberal Supreme Court justices who would extend the power of the government and whose politics would far outlive her presidency. I would be just as worried, if not more, about the justices Trump would appoint, considering his opposition to a free press, free exercise of religion, and free speech from anyone who disagrees with him.

On the other hand, maybe “slaughter” is referring to the possibility of widespread Christian persecution, of ultimately outlawing Christianity. I find this a difficult possibility to imagine from a candidate who also claims Christianity, unless persecution here is taken to mean the allowance that non-believers not be bound to Christian morality. In a world where Christians in other countries are being actively arrested for practicing their faith or even hunted down and killed, this, too, is an offensive parallel. And this is to say nothing of Trump’s repeated desire to stop Muslims of all sorts from entering the United States (including those Muslims who are also being hunted down and killed) and to assume the guilt, rather than innocence, of Muslims who are already citizens. This is persecution.

But either way, “slaughter” sounds more like fear mongering than an actual danger.

Then Root brings up several past Republicans, presumably the “all-around nice Christians” he’s warning about, who have failed to do what Root wants. “Did any of them lead the GOP to ‘the promised land?’”

What exactly is this “Promised Land” that the GOP is ostensibly looking for? It seems that what Root would really like to see is a theocracy, a government run strictly under Christian values. A country run by God — or at least, run by what we think God wants. A country to bless those around it — or at least, to tell them why they’re wrong. However admirable doing what we perceive to be God’s will may be, it is not the government’s job, nor under conservative ideology should it be. It’s ours.

Root seems to think America is the new Israel. It would take a whole other column to explain why I believe that’s so wrong, but suffice to say for now that America is not Israel. We are not the Chosen People. We have been promised nothing more than His grace and mercy, which is far more than we deserve. But it is not “the Promised Land.”

Then Root answers his own question: “No, because if you don’t win, you have no say.” This, to me, betrays an ultimate misunderstanding of the American government, or deliberate oversimplification, which seems more likely, given Root’s political experience. One senator can force things to grind to a halt on procedural grounds or start a filibuster. A minority can be significantly more problematic. And, you know what’s interesting? The GOP currently has majorities in both chambers of Congress. Does Root really believe that the Presidency is the only seat of US political power? Republicans have managed to block major policy from the Obama administration since gaining the Senate, and had managed to block plenty from just the House. If they’re don’t “have any say,” I don’t think it’s because of who’s sitting in the Oval Office. Maybe it’s because they’re not doing their job.

So, then, Root addresses what happens if “we” (Christians, or in Root’s estimation, Republicans) have no say. “Maybe God understands if we don’t win this election, America is dead. It’s over. The greatest nation in world history will be gone. Finished. Kaput. Adios. … And God can’t allow that.”

I find this premise faulty at best — America is finished if the Republican nominee doesn’t win this election? What is his definition of “finished” here? Is he talking about a failed state with an inability to protect its citizens, or is he talking about less power and prestige, less acknowledgement of American exceptionalism? Or, even deeper, is he talking about losing the ability to turn this country into a Christian theocracy? But there’s a larger question at issue here.

Does God need America?

Root seems to think that God needs America in order to accomplish His will, that America is the Kingdom come to Earth. And without America, God will fail.

Put that way, Root’s assertion is hubristic at best, blasphemous at worst.

But, Root argues, America has used power to overcome evil before. “When we won World War II, was God ‘nice?’ Were we gentlemanly when defeating Hitler?” Well… yes. At least as far as chivalry goes — in World War II, we were defending those who could not defend themselves. Yes, it’s more complicated than that, but comparing defeating the Democrats to liberating concentration camps and stopping the wholesale slaughter of millions of people is more than misleading and tone-deaf. It’s blind to the point of absurdity, and it’s offensive.

Then, Root does the requisite scripture-quoting and cites Isaiah 40:30-31: “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” Trump has lots of energy for someone his age, Root says, more than the rest of the primary contenders, and therefore his energy must be from God. “You mean that kind of energy in a 70-year old [sic] isn’t inspired by God?” Apparently, a few cans of Red Bull and you’re divinely inspired.

Taking strength (or energy) to be equivalent to God’s favor/inspiration isn’t supported by scripture, or history — what about the strength of Ahab and Jezebel, of King Herod, of the Roman Empire? What about the strength of Egypt? Sure, they lost — after enslaving Israel for 400 years. What about the strength of the Nazi movement and Hitler, of Stalin’s cult of personality, of the North Korean dictatorship that still refuses to fall? What about all of the Psalms where David mourns the strength and power of his enemies?

Let’s take a look at the people God HAS used in leadership:

  • David, a shepherd boy and the youngest of twelve who only defeated Goliath because everyone else refused to. He wouldn’t accept any shiny armor or acclamation. He was just doing what God commanded.
  • Daniel, who gained power through submission and using his gifts. He refused to give glory to anyone but God to the point of ending up in the lion’s den.
  • Paul, who God struck blind to humble, who accepted imprisonment with thanksgiving, and whose epistles are saturated with gratitude and humility. He told his followers to be joyful when they were persecuted for the sake of the gospel and to continue serving anyway.
  • Moses, who had a stutter or other difficulty speaking and who couldn’t even speak without his brother Aaron to help him. Moses could be someone you say isn’t a “nice guy,” but God humbled him and used him to bring liberation to people who were in literal slavery.

These examples don’t demonstrate that God only uses “nice guys” — God uses humility and those who are able to point back to Him (and not just by accident).

But Root is uninterested in the submissive form of leadership. He wants to fight “against Obama, Hillary, big government, big business, big media, big unions… the powerful forces of evil.” So Obama and his cohort are the ultimate enemy for Christians, despite Obama being a Christian himself. Even if you don’t believe that Obama is a Christian (which seems pretty presumptuous), the assumption in Root’s argument is that Obama, Hillary, and liberal groups are the enemy of American Christians — or maybe even Christianity itself. But I can’t find anywhere in the Bible where Christians are instructed to fight God’s fight against political parties or interest groups. Jesus tells the Pharisees to “render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” and their problem wasn’t just taxes that were too high. Jesus’s messages to the oppressed Israelites were to free the captives and love the poor — not to fight a political revolution or crush their enemies (though his commands are definitely revolutionary on their own).

But Root is in awe. “With Trump we mount up with wings like eagles. With Trump as our leader there is nothing we can’t do. …With Trump we run, we are not weary. … Trump inspires us. Trump gives us hope.”

This, friends, makes Trump God. And Trump is not God.

Let me say that again. In this reading of this passage, Root has given the role of God to Trump. He has told us that our hope is in Trump, and scripture is pretty clear that our hope is in the Lord.

Let me refute with my own scripture citation: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” — Ephesians 6:12. These are not earthly authorities or governments; these are the powers of spiritual darkness. Our fight is not against our “political enemies,” and it’s not against each other. As Christians, our fight is against the forces of Hell, not the forces of the Left.

And the more we fight each other, the more the forces of darkness cheer as we do their work for them.

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (a review)

On Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to go see a screening of Minimalism, which is a documentary put together by The Minimalists, some of my favorite podcasters (much better known for their website and books). Unlike their other projects, though, this was mostly dedicated to yelling the stories of other minimalists, including Courtney Carver, Joshua Becker, Leo Babauta, and Tammy Strobel. What’s awesome about that is minimalism is often portrayed as something only single white guys do, so it was a lot of fun to see the ways in which these other individuals interacted with the idea of minimalism. Continue reading

A Better Alternative to a Bucket List

Do you have a bucket list? It’s usually a highly aspirational collection of accomplishments and adventures you want to complete before you, well, kick the bucket. The idea was popularized in the 2007 movie “The Bucket List” and has since spawned many websites, books, blogs, and artistically filtered pictures on Pinterest. That’s how you live life to the fullest, right? Set audacious goals?

The Problem with Bucket Lists

The truth is, though, bucket lists aren’t really lists of “goals,” or at least, not in any helpful sense. They tend to be vague, at least in a plan of execution, and don’t have a deadline. In my experience, deadlines are one of the most helpful motivators in the world. Without a deadline, your bucket list ends up being a “someday” list — full of things that would be nice to do, but that you probably won’t fight too hard to accomplish. At least not until, well, someday. Continue reading

Habit RPG: Your New Best Friend

Okay, it’s official. I’ve found the most fun productivity program ever. It’s called “HabitRPG,” and if you’re obsessed with gamifying things  like me, it’s pretty awesome. It’s like a to-do app, but the functionality is a lot wider. You can add habits, which are things you want to encourage or discourage yourself doing; dailies, which are thing you want to complete on a regular basis (daily, weekly, etc); and to-dos, exactly as they sound.

The program is, as its name suggests, RPG, and completing these things gives you health and XP. As you go, you can level up, find pets, raise them into steeds, buy armor and weapons, pick a class, etc. It’s super addicting, and for me it’s been a really good way to stay on track with habits, particularly ones that don’t take that much time but that I don’t think to do.

Anyway, it’s super fun, especially if you’re nerdy. Check it out!

A Review of “Yellow Face” at Theater J

I had no idea what to expect with Yellow Face–all I knew was that it was about the experience of being Asian-American, and what that really entails. I was not expecting it to be so funny, and, frankly, I wasn’t expecting it to be so honest.

Yellow Face is still in previews, and it was a little rough around the edges, but I was amazed with the way the actors left everything they had on the stage. Despite the initially rocky start, it was obvious that the entire cast committed themselves fully to the difficult racial and cultural issues the shows deal with, and managed to do so with humor and obvious honesty, even where that honesty was uncomfortable and less than flattering. Continue reading

A Review of “Our Suburb,” written by Darrah Cloud

Hearing that a local theater is producing an homage to “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder is not a promising beginning. An attempt to write an homage to the quintessential American classic is a daunting task for any playwright, and the somewhat clunky title did little assuage my doubts. I was honestly prepared to be thoroughly underwhelmed by the reworking of the classic, especially considering that “Our Town” was, in a way, my first introduction to theater, and holds a very special place in my heart.

To put it bluntly, I stand corrected. “Our Suburb” not only far outshone its somewhat awkward title, it actually may have been even more emotionally impactful for me personally than “Our Town” was. That may have been because of the age of the protagonist throughout the show: Cloud’s Emily equivalent (though quite her own person), Thornton, was in the last stages of high school and about to possibly enter college before her untimely (or very timely) demise at the end of the second act. Continue reading

Targeting Millennials

I read a pretty interesting article in the New York Times today about narcissism in the Millennial generation called “Seeing Narcissists Everywhere.” Interesting, but not particularly shocking. The article centered on a psychologist named Jean M. Twenge who, in 2006, wrote a book called Generation Me that seemed to sort of jumpstart this national conversation. She wrote another book in 2009 entitled, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.

As I stay, the story is a familiar one. Supposedly, my generation is the generation of self-obsession, laziness, materialism, and a lack of any sense of communal obligation or identification, as exemplified by the rise of social media and, per the NYT article’s paraphrase of Dr. Twenge, “America’s culture of self-esteem, in which parents praise every child as “special,” and feelings of self-worth are considered a prerequisite to success, rather than a result of it.” Now, first of all, I have a problem with self-worth being equated to narcissism, but that’s neither here nor there. Continue reading

Radical by David Platt: Review, Thoughts, and a Call to Action

Last night, I finished reading the book Radical by David Platt. You’ll probably recognize it by the cover if you click on the link: it’s the book with the bright orange cover and the subtitle, “Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.” It lives up to its title and its subtitle, too–this book is not for the faint of heart.

What really gets me about this book is not necessarily just how convicting it is–there are plenty of books that are–but how specifically it calls us to action. The first chunk of the book is paradigm-shifting, to be sure, but what really gives this book its strength is the practical plan it lays out at the end for taking action on that conviction. Radical challenges you to look at the gospel the way it really is, not the way you want it to be. It is a brave, insightful, and completely practical book, but in a way that could radically change your life. Continue reading