So what would make me come out of my self-induced blogging hiatus, you may ask. The leader of the free world approvingly re-tweeting someone who called him a “king of Israel” and, “the second coming of God.” That coupled with Trump describing himself as “the chosen one” during an interview about trade wars with China is enough to make even a hermit like me take notice. Claims of Messiah-ship are not to be taken lightly, even if said in hyperbolic rhetoric.
Hubris is nothing new to the Presidency. Many, if not all, of our presidents possessed it to some degree. Andrew Jackson, Lyndon Johnson, and Barack Obama were all accused of being prideful and arrogant. Teddy Roosevelt sent the Navy around the world just to show off America’s strength, while Richard Nixon’s abuse of the office of President is well documented by conservative and liberal historians alike. So what makes our current president different?
Twitter. Yes, President Obama used the social media platform as well. So much so that Presidential tweets are now archived as Presidential correspondence. But whatever constraint the previous president used is completely devoid in our current president. Every week something new and outrageous hits the Twitter-verse, beamed from the Oval Office with little regard for grammar much less historical impact. And this week was no different. But I’m not going to talk about the President. Everyone knew what we were getting when he got elected: a brash, outspoken, somewhat bombastic leader from the corporate world. So while the tweets and comments he made earlier this week concern me, what concerns me more is our response to them as Christians.
Travel Back in Time
Travel with me to November of 2012. The BET awards honoring black musicians are being held. President Obama is fresh off of a victorious re-election campaign when a well known and respected entertainer, Jamie Foxx, takes the stage and declares thanks to “our Lord and Savior, Barack Obama.” The reaction from conservative Christians was to be expected: outrage, disappointment, and a heap of criticism of both Foxx and then-President Obama. Some conservative outlets used the occasion to call the president a “nasty and divisive politician” while other bloggers used the moment to compare the Obama campaign to a “North Korean… personality cult” that could generate more support than ” Saddam Hussein racked up at the height of his power in Iraq.”
Granted, these were political bloggers comparing the U.S. president to oppressive dictators, but many Christians were sharing these articles via every social media outlet they had on hand. Foxx was rightly criticized for his comments, but the President, who neither repeated, nor endorsed those comments, was also vilified by the religious right. Many religious conservatives were frustrated by the recent loss at the polls, as well as President Obama’s seeming war of words with conservative Christians, and they capitalized on an opportunity to criticize the President yet again. Renewed were the accusations of the POTUS being a Muslim sympathizer, or even a Muslim himself, while cries of “blasphemy” and “heresy” echoed through the digital streets as the inquisitors made their voices heard.
Back To The Future
Now we find ourselves nearly seven years later. Another president from a different party has retweeted, without remorse, a tweet comparing him to the “second coming of God.” He has given an interview where he looks to the heavens, spreads his hands and declares, “I am the chosen one.”
He endorsed these comments, if not overtly, then tacitly. He made this declaration. Surely the same Christians who criticized Jamie Foxx, and in turn, Barack Obama, would now call on President Trump to recant or at least apologize.
Some have. But many, including some who shared Breitbart and Fox News articles years ago, have resorted to excuse making.
“He was joking.”
“It’s an exaggeration.”
“We didn’t elect a preacher, we elected a world leader.”
May I remind you, world leaders who have set themselves up as God have often met untimely ends. Nebuchadnezzar was made to live and eat like a cow for seven years in order to humble him. His descendant, Belshazzar, after using vessels dedicated to God in idol worship received a message written on a wall by a disembodied hand that said his life would be taken that very night, and it was. In Acts 12 Herod received praises from the Jews hailing him as a God and not a man, and he was eaten by worms. Blasphemy is not a joke to God. It is not to be taken lightly, and those who excuse it, or turn a blind eye to it simply because the one speaking it is the man they voted for are themselves giving tacit approval to it.
More than that, those who spoke out against Foxx and Obama in 2012 and now excuse Trump make themselves out to be hypocrites. This is why our response as Christians is so vital, because our reply is out there for all to see. Facebook and Twitter has preserved our outrage or acceptance, as the case may be. If it was wrong in 2012 but it’s okay in 2019 what changed? Why was it wrong for Foxx to call Obama “Lord and Savior” but it’s okay for Trump to retweet that he’s “the second coming of God.”? The answer is both are heinous examples of blasphemy. Both statements elevate a politician to the office of King of kings. Both should be loudly and publicly condemned by Christians everywhere, but especially by Christians in America, so many of whom supported Trump with a vote in 2016.
There comes a point in time where we can no longer remain quiet. We proclaim stories of young men refusing to bow down to statues, or of old men refusing to pray to earthly kings. These heroes were thrown in furnaces and lion’s dens. The history of the church is covered by the blood of those who defied the demands to declare “Caesar is Lord” or refused to bend the knee in other forms of emperor worship. Crucifixions, burnings, dismemberment, even being run over by tanks soil the pages of our faith-history. Their stories are our stories. Their faith is our faith. They are a great cloud of witnesses to us and around us. All over the globe today Christians in North Korea, China, Iran, and countless other nations are risking all they have in efforts to say no to the blasphemy that the state, or head-of-state, is God. Yet so many here in America, where we have the freedom to speak out against such heresy, make excuses and enable the Nebuchadnezzar of our time to build his idol. In doing so we make ourselves the hypocritical Pharisees that Jesus railed against in Matthew 23, those who paid lip-service to God, yet bowed the knee to Roman puppets like Herod. Now is a golden opportunity to point the world to the King of Israel; the chosen one of God, the true King of kings. We can do this by calling on our President, who professes to be a Christian, to repentance, and re-affirming his allegiance to King Jesus. But we can’t do that if we’re busy defending someone who claims those roles for himself, even if he is just joking.