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Rants & Reason

Trump sins

9/5/2018

Acolytes shout ‘Hallelujah! Amen!’

A trinity of points to open this theological treatise:

First, here’s a line from a commercial popular before many readers of CITYVIEW were born: “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” The commercial for Vicks Formula 44 first aired in 1984, featuring Chris Robinson, who portrayed Dr. Rick Webber in the soap “General Hospital.”

My paraphrase: “I’m not a theologian, but here I’ll play one for CITYVIEW.”

Secondly, while I won’t endorse cough syrup, I do subscribe to what historian Garry Wills says in his review of Jimmy Carter’s book, “FAITH, A Journey for All”: “Many have expressed surprise that evangelicals voted…in overwhelming numbers for our arguably least religious president. There is no reason for surprise. The religious right has long been not a religion but an ideology.”

Finally, President Harry Truman drew a distinction between the Office of the President and whoever held the office. Many of those fed up with Trump are driven by respect for the Office and by disdain for the person who now holds the office.

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Wills makes sense because principles of about every faith would have Trump forfeit support from believers. Hence, when it comes to supporters of the heretic Trump, we are dealing with political ideologues, not with a blanket indictment of conservative religious beliefs.

On Trump, consider the “Seven Deadly Sins,” shaped by Pope Gregory I (540-604). He followed up on the work of the Greek monk Evagrius Ponticus (345-399) who had fashioned a list of eight wicked human passions.

Given theologians’ fascination with the number 7, we wound up with: envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth and wrath.

That hits the hypocrisy jackpot when it comes to Trump ideologues. (A year ago, a Trump “religious” adviser, the Rev. Robert Jeffress of Dallas, even gave Trump a pass when it comes to wrath. Trump, he said, has permission from God to “take out” North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and anyone else Trump deems an evildoer.) Hallelujah! Amen!

Want to be more positive? Well, there are the “Seven Virtues,” which Pope Gregory also had a hand in shaping: faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, prudence and temperance.

Trump does do well with his version of “fortitude,” never giving up — as in his persistence with sinning or building the wall. (Oh! Another virtue! Trump’s white supremacist friends consider it a virtue he is white and a sin Barack Obama is black.) Hallelujah! Amen!

As a segue to the Old Testament, consider the cliché line on TV bargains: “But wait, there’s more.”

The first four of the Ten Commandments demand worship of and obedience to the Deity. Trump is fine with that since that’s how he sees himself. The other commandments, however, deal with what we should not do, like tell lies and commit adultery. Hallelujah! Amen!

So let’s move to the Sermon on the Mount. That’s where Jesus Christ says good things about the poor in spirit, the meek, mourners, the hungry, the merciful, the pure in heart, peacemakers and the persecuted and martyrs — you know, those Trump sneers at as “LOSERS.” Hallelujah! Amen!

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was among those whom Trump denigrates with a scoff: “I don’t like losers.” That line was in reference to McCain’s 2008 presidential race. But in Ames, in July 2015, Trump offered more derision of McCain, who spent five years as a POW in Vietnam and was frequently tortured: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

In our history, people who were captured include the 500 to 600 Americans killed in the World War II Bataan Death March. Mercifully, in April 2017, the 75th anniversary of that horror, we were spared Trump dismissing them as “LOSERS.”

Perhaps, given his arrogance, Trump will soon ban posthumous awards of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
If he does, his acolytes surely will shout “Hallelujah! Amen!” ♦

Herb Strentz is a retired administrator and professor in the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication and writes the monthly Rants and Reason column for CITYVIEW.

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