The Self-Made Man
and His Religion

It’s kind of an open secret that, as Christians, most of us are not well versed when it comes to scripture. Even the basics are buried for the sake of simplicity.

Resurrection has gone from a universal foretelling, applying to everyone, to only a singular event. With the exception of Jesus who was resurrected and rose to heaven (that was THE resurrection), most of us take for granted that everyone who tries really hard to be good will pretty much go to heaven as soon as breath leaves the body. Of course, that’s not what it says in the Bible. Scripture is pretty clear that people who die, die. Then, at some future time, everyone comes alive again, when the sea shall give up its dead, and death and the grave shall give up their dead, in the life of the world to come.

Resurrection is not central to my own belief. If, after death, I awaken amid a crowd of fellow souls coming out of the ground, I’ll be okay with it. If I find myself at the other end of a brightly lit tunnel, I won’t complain. If, as friends point out, all of the imagery is part of an implausible myth, that none of it is true, that all that lies beyond is emptiness, I won’t be around to be disappointed.

But I am sometimes startled, in minor surprise, by those who have never heard of beliefs as written in biblical times. What I see as ignorance extends to spiritual law.

Jesus pretty much summed up his entire approach when challenged about which biblical instructions from God were most important.

I don’t know, but I do try to imagine what answer most religious folk in those days might have given. I suspect they would have insisted that there is no priority. Every biblical law must be followed to the fullest.

But Jesus said that following completely in the path of love toward God and toward every other member of the human family was the foundation of all spiritual instruction. You do that, and everything else would be okay.

Paul was even more explicit when he said that everything is lawful, then added that not everything is helpful. He insisted that love is the first last and middle of everything positive. Everything that God requires.

So Jesus and Paul make things simple for me. When Jesus says he came to fulfill the law, not to break it, that fits right in. So do the times he tells crowds of people not to judge.

Hell, Jesus even used as an example of that love a fictional Samaritan. Samaritans were a sort of offshoot from traditional Jewish beliefs. Most Jews pretty much despised Samaritans. Think of Irish Catholics and Protestants from not so long ago. Or the Hatfields and the McCoys. Or Sunni and Shiite Muslims. al Qaeda, and now ISIS, pretty much hate Christians, but they have been most aggressive in going after Shiites, and those Sunnis whose hatred of Shiites they see as insufficient.

In ancient times, the relationship between most Jews and most Samaritans was not really brotherly.

But Jesus deliberately described a Samaritan, someone of different religious beliefs, as the ideal example of brotherhood, fulfilling the true law of love.

This tolerance for someone of a different belief was followed a bit by Paul. When he spoke in Athens on the Hill of Mars, he started out by complimenting the local folk on their faithful worship. He told them that the sheer number of temples to pagan gods was evidence of their great spiritual devotion.

We are reminded by Paul that our blind belief is not entirely willful. That blindness is an inability to comprehend anything more than the small part of true reality that is bent toward our limited understanding. So we are wiser to resist a too tempting attitude of superiority. Everyone tries to finds a path that meets their spiritual needs, and we all take that long climb toward that truth of which we might come to some limited understanding.

And so I try not to be judgmental, but . . . DAMN . . . it’s hard sometimes.

I have tried to avoid the more judgmental of my brethren, at least partly because intolerance makes me kind of mad, which pretty much is counter to the whole idea of non-judgmental love, isn’t it?

Some of what I sometimes hear makes me sometimes bite my lip until it bleeds.

Jesus went through a lot of trouble and considerable pain to tell us to stop worshiping rules and get back to what should have been behind those rules – a decent regard for the inherent value of every child of God. God is just crazy about you, and God is just as crazy about those you may have been taught to hate.

Jesus started the original movement for the separation of church and hate.

So it pains me to see Christians proclaim that what Jesus REALLY wanted was to abolish old rules that got between God and his children, and put in their place new rules to get between God and his children.

When Jesus saved a woman from execution by stoning, he told the crowd that those who were without sin could throw their stones first. That poor woman was lucky there were no Christian evangelicals back then.

God loves you, you see, and He joins in your hatred of gays, Muslims, Obama, and Hillary.

Makes my teeth itch.

I do have to admit that some of those who use evangelical Christians have also given me uncomfortable bicuspids.

And I tell you, with the evangelicals, they get it. They get it. They get me. They understand me. I’ll be the best thing that ever happened to them. I mean that 100 percent.

– Donald Trump, in Jupiter, FL, March 8, 2016

Hurts my molars.

When Donald Trump described himself as the best thing that ever happened to evangelicals, Josh Marshall responded:

“The resurrection had its run. Times change.”

The church members Donald Trump is pursuing are developing a more forgiving attitude. The marriages, the language, the complete lack of familiarity with basic Christian concepts.

Two Corinthians, right? Two Corinthians 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame.

Donald Trump, Liberty University, January 18, 2016

Okay, so many of those who occasionally go to church might not be aware that, as he traveled, Paul wrote a series of letters to the churches he had established. So it isn’t Two Corinthians. It’s Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. Any of the liturgists in our church might have made that mistake.

There is a certain brashness in never needing forgiveness.

I have a great relationship with God. I have a great relationship with the evangelicals. In fact, nationwide, I’m up by a lot. I’m leading everybody.

I like to be good. I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad. I try to do nothing that is bad.

Donald Trump, CNN, January 17, 2016


I admit I have developed a jaundiced view of many conservatives. I try to remember that even bad actors are more than the two dimensional caricatures we see on screen. We should hate the sin, not the sinner. We should hate the bite and not the biter. When we are intolerant of intolerance, as we should be, that does not mean we need to become intolerant of the intolerant.

The embrace of Mr. Trump by evangelicals might be laudable. Their embrace of his proclamations is less so. It brings to plain view the dark shadows of religion. Are evangelicals willing to depart, not only from the liberating teachings of Jesus, but also from their own crimped interpretations? All to be baptized in the boiling hatred they happen to share? Is that hatred a result of their religious fervor, or was that religion merely a cover for the hate that was already there?

I’ll tell you, with the evangelicals, they get it. They get it. They get me. They understand me.

When Mr. Trump proclaims that evangelicals get it, that they understand him. It is possible they see something many of us miss. Perhaps they perceive something deeper and more worthy than a hatred of others, a mocking of the disabled, a preening pretense of moralism.

I think back to the Old Testament, as Moses asked God how he should present the Commandments to the Israelites. How should Moses speak with authority. How should he say that the Lord had sent him? And so we hear from the Creator of the universe by way of scripture.

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Exodus 3:14

And, as he is asked and asked again, to moderate his public statements, to use judgement and a decent regard for the value of others, we hear from Donald Trump, by way of Twitter.

I am who I am

He invites evangelicals to a new discipleship, joining him in a different sort of reverence.

Donald Trump considers himself a self-made man. Let’s think about that as he invites others to join in worshiping his Creator.

Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or RSS
to get episodes automatically downloaded.


6 thoughts on “The Self-Made Man
and His Religion”

  1. “Donald Trump considers himself a self-made man. Let’s think about that as he invites others to join in worshiping his Creator.”

    That’s Donald Trump” in a nutshell.

  2. As I have often said, Trump is far more like Obama than not. Obama was the first political “messiah” for the left. He was going to unite us all and even make the rising sea levels recede, if you will recall. Indeed, he was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for the inevitable harmony he was going to bring the world as he first took office and had literally done NOTHING of which to base the later-proven successful nomination and award.

    Now we have the similarly narcissistic Trump saying many of the same things, albeit not as eloquently as President Obama. The difference is that now many “conservatives” love Trump, where the left hates him. Just as the opposite was true where the conservatives despised Obama and the left did indeed have great hopes that he was the one they had waited for in his coming.

    Seems to me that they are both false gods and prophets leading us further into darkness.

    Oh, and by the way, Christ did indeed tell all of the people that were going to stone the adulterous woman that the one among them without sin should throw the first stone. When they all left in shame, he then told the woman to go, “and SIN NO MORE!” That part always seems to be forgotten these days….

    And as a miserable sinner, I realize the hypocrisy of pointing this out too.

    1. Thank you, T. Paine.

      Do you think, had he been present, the Apostle Paul would have thrown the first stone? Or would he have joined Jesus in suggesting that the woman would find it helpful to live another way?

      As far as your comparison of President Obama and Mr. Trump, I believe the criticisms you mention of Mr. Trump are for things that he has actually said and done. Your own comment criticizes President Obama only for how others react to him. Even at that, the reactions you describe are not to anything he has said or done, but rather to him as a person.

    2. Wow. I can understand a conservative not liking Obama, but the idea that he and Trump are meaningfully similar (in temperament, self-regard, outlook–anything, really) is, to put it politely, absolutely ridiculous. Of course, if you can even think that, then you’re too far gone to be helped. I really expected better from you.

      And I second Burr’s point about your criticism. Some of the biggest criticisms that conservatives have of Obama, like “race-baiting” and “Bush-blaming,” would be much better directed at some of his followers instead. This bit about Obama being a “messiah” is no exception, though I would point out that it has mostly been conservatives snidely depicting him that way in order to insult liberals rather than liberals actually believing it. I can’t say the same about Trump, who frequently talks about how great he is and how only he can solve our problems, or his followers, who repeat his words to everyone who will listen and everyone who won’t. Trump’s following is much more cult-like than any other US politician’s, whether liberal or conservative, in recent years–or beyond, as far as I know.

  3. Saul would have thrown the first stone. Paul would have echoed our Lord’s way. I agree with you about judging others in condemnation. It is not our place to do so. As you said we are to hate the sin and love the sinner. Note though that Christ did not “suggest” that the woman find another more helpful way to live. He made a direct statement. He said he did not condemn her and to “go and sin no more.” It wasn’t a suggestion. It was a commandment from God.

    As for Obama, it was HE that talked about slowing the rise of the oceans and healing the planet under his “humble” leadership. It was not others talking about him. The reality is that the world and nation are far worse off now under his governance than before he took office. We are more divided racially, religiously, and socio-economically. There are far more people living in poverty and a labor force participation rate that belies his so-called anemic recovery. He has given weapons and money and emboldened our enemies through his actions. He has created power vacuums that have been the catalyst for the rise of ISIS.

    Instead of transparency, as he promised, his has been a very opaque administration kowtowing to special interests, and replete with corruption and unpunished transgressions throughout the executive branch.

    I do not hate President Obama, and I’ll leave it up to God to judge him, but I do despise the harm he has caused America, its citizens, and the world.

  4. It’s true Obama the “Messiah” has been the slogan behind the far Right’s hate and contempt for the man before he even took office.

    Those few of us paying attention in 2008 knew Obama had a corporatist nature. His Bush-appeasing approval of the Fourth Amendment-defying FISA amendment that exonerated telecoms for sharing our communications with the NSA was the first warning flag.

    Obama swiftly appeased the Right again when he removed the public option from the conservative Heritage Foundation-inspired Obamacare.

    Obama the “socialist messiah” even offered to cut Social Security for his “grand bargain”.

    Obama’s support for the TPP is yet further proof of his record of corporatist appeaser.

    His “looking forward” and ignoring the lies and treachery that led us to torture and the debacle in Iraq was another clear indicator this man is no progressive, let alone socialist.

    ISIS was a direct product of Bush’s destruction of Iraq and dismissal of the Iraqi army. Now many of the cult zombies buy into Trump’s lie that Obama “founded ISIS”.

    Yet the far Right cult blames Obama for this. And then they whine about their obvious racism at worst, and stupidity at best, being called out for blaming the black guy for the damage their white Republican leader caused. The same hate cult blames Obama for the financial collapse and the Bush Recession.

    Give me a f-ing break. If these closed minded, vile, false Christian assholes are looking for respect, they’re not getting any from any sane and informed persons.

    And if this is what many “good Christians” believe, they will be in for a shock. These false beliefs reflect only the willful hate and ignorance of sanctimonious hypocrites. I doubt their “heaven” is full of hypocritical willful haters, for they directly defy the commandments of their Savior. No wonder Ghandi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    Instead of understanding these facts, the far Right STILL parrots their “messiah” BS. They truly embrace ignorance and believe their own crap, or are basically evil. They promote their own concept of the “noble lie”.

    Many of them clearly, and deliberately, do not want to be like Christ. Greed is their god. Hate is their creed. Ignorance is their strength.

    It may take a leap of faith to be Christian, but it takes a giant leap of ignorance and hate to be a far Right Christian. That giant leap of ignorance and hate is exactly what con-servative Republicans nurture, and need, to dupe the American people into letting Big Oil dictate environmental policy and allowing the Kochs to dictate regulation of commerce and providing for the general welfare.

Comments are closed.