Donald Trump, evangelicals, and the Ten Commandments

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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Ten Commandments and Trump 2020 yard signs are a common combo in 90-percent-white, Bible Belt western Kentucky where I’ve lived all my 70 years. 

The former signs are perennials, the latter quadrennials, having first sprouted in 2016.

I just spotted a new front lawn variant of rendering unto the Almighty and unto America’s Caesar-wannabe: the Stars-and-Stripes-Trump-flag-cross-and-scripture mashup.

“FOLLOW ME” and “MATTHEW 4:19” are inscribed on the cross. “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” says that passage from the Good Book, King James Version, the favorite Bible of conservative white Protestant evangelicals.

The signs reflect a new Pew poll that showed a big majority of right-wing white evangelicals — the most fervent of Trump’s till-the-last-dog-dies supporters — still aim to vote for him in November. (The poll also revealed that the president has slipped only a tad among those of the “you-can’t-be-a-liberal-and-a-Christian” persuasion.)  

The Ten Commandments are an evangelical shibboleth. Evangelicals love to display the Decalogue as indoor wall décor, too.

A lot of these white folks also want the Ten Commandments (Protestant version) put up in government buildings such as courthouses and schools. Never mind that the First Amendment clearly implies a “wall of separation” between church and state. Forget that public buildings are funded by us taxpayers of all — and no — religious faiths.

Anyway, white conservative Christians nationwide don’t seem troubled that their guy Trump has spent most of his adult life as a repeat offender when it comes to the Ten Commandments, which are supposed to be the bedrock of Judeo-Christian ethics.

Let’s be fair. It looks like Trump is solid with two Commandments. He honors his late parents. The president hasn’t personally killed anybody, though he famously boasted, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”

But Trump has serially violated the other Commandments.

He worships at the altar of earthly riches. He puts golf on the links, not God in church, first on the sabbath. Time and again, he has refused to pay people to whom he owes money for goods or services, which is the same as stealing.

Thrice married, he’s cheated on two — maybe all three — of his wives. 

Trump’s an habitual liar, pathological or otherwise. Since he was inaugurated, the president has borne false witness or made misleading statements 19,127 times, according to the Washington Post’s latest count. (The fib figure is doubtless higher because the tally only goes through June 1.)  

Trump covets the unfettered power of dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Turkey’s RecepTayyip Erdogan. He even envies minor league strongmen like Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.

New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg thinks it’s no coincidence that Trump’s whole base is almost entirely white. 

Conservative white evangelicals — most of whom go to all-white, or nearly all-white churches — hotly deny that racism has anything to do with their fealty to Trump. This in spite of the fact that he has been race-baiting (along with pandering to sexism, misogyny, nativism, xenophobia, homophobia and religious bigotry) since he descended that golden escalator in Trump Tower. (I’m surprised Trump didn’t liken his advent to Moses returning from Mt. Sinai with the Commandments.)

“Republicans might act as if they don’t know why Trump’s fans are so unfailingly loyal,” Goldberg recently wrote. “Some commentators spent the first year or two of his presidency dancing around the reason he was elected [white grievance], spending so much time probing the ‘economic anxiety’ of his base that the phrase came to stand for a type of willful political blindness.” (Scholars dug deeper into the election results, conducted scientific studies, and concluded that racial resentment was the main motivator for most Trump supporters. Click herehereherehereherehere and here.)

Added Goldberg: “But Trump understands that he became a significant political figure by spreading the racist lie that Barack Obama was really born in Kenya. He launched his history-making presidential bid with a speech calling Mexican immigrants rapists and adopted a slogan, ‘America First,’ previously associated with the raging anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh. Throughout the 2016 campaign, he won the invaluable prize of earned media with escalating racist provocations, which his supporters relished and which captivated cable news.”

Goldberg doesn’t pull punches. Neither does Bruce Dobyns, a retired Disciples of Christ pastor in the town where I live. 

“It seems to me that if you get what you want, according to white evangelicals, you can look past sinful violations of the Ten Commandments,” Dobyns said. “The end justifies the means.”

“That fits them, for they say and do horrible things in the name of ‘saving’ people. They show no love to those that don’t fit their orthodoxy.”

White evangelicals dote on The Donald “because he supports their selfish version of Christianity,” according to Dobyns. “Franklin Graham fits this definition perfectly. As far as I am concerned, nothing about this is what Christ calls us to do.

“It is also hypocritical to say you live by the Ten Commandments, then give Trump a pass, but not others. While guided by the Ten Commandments, I refuse to use them to slam others, for we all have failed God by our sins. I see Trump and white evangelicals violating the love and forgiveness taught by Christ. They also refuse to love others while saying they love God.”

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