During a recent trip to Ohio, the current occupant of the White House said that if Joe Biden were elected that Biden would, ” “Take away your guns, destroy your Second Amendment. No religion, no anything, hurt the Bible, hurt God. “He’s against God, he’s against guns, he’s against energy, our kind of energy.”(1)
From a theological standpoint, Trump’s statement is utterly absurd and a naked attempt to pander to a certain subset of American Christians – white evangelicals – despite the fact that Trump knows nothing at all about, nor cares about the Bible or the Christian faith, except when he can use them as props to pander to his base. It’s also ridiculous from a Constitutional perspective. Still, it is important to unpack what he said a bit in order to show just how ludicrous a statement it was.
Joe Biden is a devout Catholic. His faith and how he expresses it is between Joe Biden and God, inasmuch as it is expressed in his worship at mass or in his family life. Doubtless, it also at times informs some of his political decision making. In this arena he can be scrutinized legitimately if the policies he has advocated for or actively written hurt those whom Christ would call “the least of these.” To say that Biden’s support of the 1994 crime bill was wrong because of the impact it had on people of color, and the Black community in particular is one thing. It is another thing altogether to say that Biden hates God, religion, and will hurt the Bible. The former is to express a theological opinion about one of Biden’s political positions, while the latter is a condemnation of Biden the man. I recall Jesus having a decided opinion on the latter. – see Luke Matthew 7:1-3 ; Luke 6:37
Trump conflated God and guns as part of his pandering comment to stoke the flames of those on the right who idolize and fetishize firearms. The thing that should be obvious to people with a rudimentary knowledge of the Bible is that Jesus was not pro-gun, nor he was he pro-violence, as he showed in his life and ministry. I am not saying that there is never a place for gun ownership by people who are Christians. A gun can be a useful tool on a farm or ranch, and of course many Christian people hunt deer and other game to supplement their diets. That said, to intimate that gun ownership is somehow sanctioned by God, and is a God-given right is completely baseless, especially the kinds of weapons that so many NRA members brazenly flaunt whose purpose is to kill human beings. The Second Amendment has exactly nothing to do with God. It is a purely man-made law, that if legal historian Carl Bogus’ hypothesis is correct, has deep roots in white supremacy and the enslavement of peoples from the African continent. (2)
Theologically, I remember that Jesus, as soon as one of his disciples used a weapon, he denounced the action and in the Lukan version of the event, he healed the person whose ear was cut off. He did not congratulate the wielder of the sword on his swordsmanship or the sharpness of the blade. Instead he said that those that live by the sword will die by the sword (in Matthew’s version, Mt. 26:47-56) and reminds those that came to arrest him that he was not a bandit in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Clearly, violence against his fellow humans was not sanctioned by Jesus, and therefore to conflate Christianity’s God with guns like the AR-15 is a satanic undertaking.
Trump said there would be no religion if Biden were elected. He must have forgotten that the First Amendment of the Constitution protects everyone’s right to freely worship or not to worship and therefore there is literally no way that Joe Biden, himself a religious man, could make America a religion-free state. This is basic civics. If Trump doesn’t understand this, he certainly has no business being an elected official of any sort, much less President. Alternatively, if he does understand it, then he is intentionally misleading his supporters to promote his own personal ambitions and welfare. It should go without saying that abject selfishness, naked ambition, and lying are not Christian virtues.
His claim that a Biden presidency would hurt the Bible is completely nonsensical. It literally makes no sense to say that as President, Biden would or could hurt the Bible. Hurt the Bible how? The government has no authority over the Bible and in fact is prohibited from either promoting it or denouncing it by the aforementioned First Amendment. In reality, what does hurt the Bible is turning it into an idol and refusing to actually take it seriously by claiming that it is an inerrant, completely consistent document that all people everywhere should believe is an inerrant, completely consistent document in the same way that white evangelicals and fundamentalists do. (3) The Bible is actually a collection of theologically diverse texts replete with a host of differing views about God throughout the Hebrew scriptures, and widely divergent views of what it means to follow Jesus in the New Testament. Evangelicals (as well as other Christians) often divorce the various texts completely from their contexts to fit their narrow interpretative agenda, which in the case of white evangelicalism is fraught with racist beliefs. Taking the Biblical texts from their contexts hurts the Bible, authoritarian and misogynistic interpretations hurt the Bible, and using it as a prop to pander to people hurts the Bible. Joe Biden, for all his faults, will not.
If Donald Trump actually believes that Joe Biden as President would hurt God, his view of God is incredibly small. That’s fairly consistent with Trump’s view of anyone who isn’t Trump, being the malignant narcissist that he is. That’s not actually what Trump was doing though. What Trump intimated was that Joe Biden would take away white Christianity’s power and privilege. Believe me when I say, that slave-holder religion hurts God, and much of white, American Christianity is slaveholder religion. The death of that noxious form of Christianity, with its authoritarianism, misogyny, and bigotry, and glorification of American empire, is a death I believe God would most certainly welcome because it is completely antichrist.
The sad fact is, that every American president has hurt God in some way. Joe Biden would not be unique in this, nor are American heads of state unique in this. States, America included, are ruled by the principalities and powers (see Walter Wink’s work) and therefore often enact policies that hurt God. God hurts when people are starving because of human greed enacted by political leaders. God hurts when people are scapegoated and “othered” by governments and then put into concentration camps, bombed into oblivion, or sanctioned into horrific poverty. God hurts when racism is at the core of law making and law enforcement. God hurts when LGBTQIA people, all of whom are beautiful expressions of divine creativity, are targeted for harassment, violence, and being denied the same rights that heterosexual people are given. God hurts every time a new recruit signs up for the military, because the military is always used to kill other children of God. God hurts when God’s creation is destroyed and pillaged to generate profits with no regard to the sanctity of God’s creation and the life it contains. (4) God hurts when his children forget to love their neighbors as themselves by putting profits over people instead of enacting laws that would protect humanity and foster human thriving like universal health care and universal basic income would. God hurts when people accumulate vast wealth while billions of God’s children struggle to live without basic necessities. God hurts when people like Donald Trump blaspheme saying only he can prevent Joe Biden from hurting God. God hurts when people of faith defend the actions of and offer support to a man like Donald Trump who brazenly admitted to being a sexual predator, has a multi-decades long history of racism, and whose utter lack of empathy and narcissism has fueled his many cruel policy decisions.
And finally, Trump said that Biden is against “our kind of energy.” I can only assume he means fossil fuel energy. By now it should not be news to anyone that continuing to subsidize fossil fuel extraction and then burning them is destroying the planet. Every politician on the planet should be against continuing to use energy sources that are wreaking havoc on the biosphere and the climate. Only those who reject the scientific data and those who simply do not care what that data says as long as money is being made support the continued development and use of these sources of ancient sunlight. (5) To reject the data and to give primacy to profits over the life on this planet are theologically untenable positions because doing so is directly contrary to the golden rule. Please recall that Jesus placed a good deal of importance on the golden rule…
I pray that Trump’s blatant pandering will fall flat. I pray that he repents and tells all his supporters that his racism, bigotry, predatory sexual assaults, and authoritarianism are wrong. I pray that Joe Biden becomes president and listens to the least of these who need real political change and not more centrism fueled by whiteness. God in your mercy, hear my prayers.
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