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Essay

Donald Trump and the faith community

By June 24, 2016 8 Comments
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Trump and cross

The intent of the confab, according to news sources, was love, to bring together hungry Christian conservatives with rowdy Donald Trump, who doesn’t talk a Christian, walk like one, and had never–before running for President–acted like one nor hung out a shingle to be one or be seen as one. He has, bless his soul, only recently come home to the flock. The volume of heavenly rejoicing has yet to be revealed, I guess.

Last weekend the Presumptive Republican Presidential candidate spoke at the request of a circle of evangelicals who want badly to embrace him, despite his being him. They hoped he could persuade them to baptize him because they want badly to do just that.

All of that according to Ralph Reed, who’s been one of them for years and regularly speaks for them. NPR reported on the meeting, and, like others, explained that Trump had told the Christians not to pray for Obama, thereby thoughtlessly but not surprisingly contradicting Christ’s own dying words about enemies.

Reed tried to spin what Trump had said: “In the meeting that I was in, which was of the advisory group,” Reed said, “he didn’t say don’t pray for your leaders. He said, you know, pray but you need to act. You need change, and this is your opportunity to see real change come to Washington.” Whew.

Ralph Reed, who often glaringly lets his light shine before men, insists that the Donald is the Christians’ “opportunity to see real change come to Washington.”

He’s right. Donald Trump will be a President unlike any other.

Reed went on: ¬†“And, you know, I believe that, should Donald Trump be elected, he will disrupt the broken system in Washington, D.C., in a way that Hillary Clinton won’t. And I think that message is likely to resonate. . .very powerfully in the faith community.”

That stopped me cold because the bald arrogance of that assessment flat out sickens me. Here’s why.

Marcella is 90+ years old, a Lakota nurse who gets emotional when she speaks of how the waters of the Missouri River covered her home fifty years ago when the government decided to create a series of dams through South Dakota to bring water to land that all too regularly had all too little.

She’s not fragile, never was. She was in Europe after D-Day, caring for American GIs on the long march to Berlin. She’s a Lakota woman, an army nurse, a mom, a quilter, a grandma, a resident of the Cheyenne River Reservation, where she lives.

Not long ago, I told her I’d be privileged to help her write her story, which is only half truth. The whole truth is I’d love to hear that story in its entirity, love to know it and her, love to understand, love to know more about just how she’s lived her long and incredible life. So we’re talking about that possibility right now. It may happen, but don’t hold your breath.

Yesterday, I needed to explain to a woman who, in some ways, is acting as her agent, that I am–for better and for worse–a Christian. She needed to know, if she hadn’t guessed it already because my faith is there in my work. She told me she wanted to read the book I wrote about the Rehoboth Mission, so I sent it to her. Previously, I hadn’t mentioned anything about my being a Christian, and I knew I needed to. I didn’t know what faith, if any, this agent of hers might espouse, nor did I know about Marcella’s. Marcella hadn’t mentioned anything in the stories I’d heard her tell at a Great Plains history conference.

I told the (kind of) agent she needed to know that I was a believer but not a preacher, that I wasn’t interested in crafting stories of people’s lives into Sunday School lessons, and that I often felt I had to apologize when I explained that I am and remain a believer.

“Not to worry,” she told me when she responded. She told me she herself is a Unitarian Universalist, a religion she claims harmonizes well with traditional Native religion. Marcella, she said, is Episcopalian, which is not surprising because the Episcopalians have a long history among the Sioux or Lakota people. Marcella’s daughters, she said, who will be very important in my hearing the stories, aren’t greatly taken with Christianity after what it did to their people, as many Native people aren’t–and with good reason. Me?–I’m a Calvinist.

And then I heard Ralph Reed explain that he thought what Donald Trump promises will “resonate. . .very powerfully in ‘the faith community.'”

Am I wrong, or is it sheer sinful arrogance for him to assume that his is THE¬†faith community. It seems to me that it’s exactly that pompous assessment that makes some of us apologize for being believers. What’s more, it’s that very same damning exclusivity that creates anger in the minds and hearts and souls of Marcella’s daughters and many, many others, not all of which are Native.

It just seems to me that evangelical Christians who believe that they are the only “faith community” are the real pagans, the idolaters. I don’t think it’s God almighty they worship, as much as it is themselves.

James C. Schaap

James Calvin Schaap is a retired English prof who has been something of a writer for most of the last 40 years. His latest work, a novel, Looking for Dawn, set in reservation country, is the story of two young women joined by their parents' mutual brokenness and, finally, a machine-shed sacrament of reconciliation. He writes and narrates a weekly essay on regional history for KWIT, public radio, Sioux City, Iowa. He and his wife Barbara live on the northern edge of Alton, Iowa, the Sgt. Floyd River a hundred yards or so from their back door. They have a cat--rather, he has them.

8 Comments

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Amen.

  • Gerry says:

    Maybe it’s a problem to imagine the president is your enemy at all, in the first place.

    When you say “evangelical protestant” I don’t know if you are you putting reformed folks inside or outside that fence. The kind of sectarian and politicized “we as Christians” religiosity that tries to speak for everyone and condemns all who object as less than “real Christians” is pretty widespread.

    The real problem now is Reed is quite possibly right about Trump’s patriarchal nativist-nationalist appeal to many self-identified “Christians.”

  • abeunk says:

    Please send this blog to Ralph Reed, James Dobson, et al.! Thank you for writing it, Jim!

  • As Dan says above, Amen. I pray that you are able to continue to listen to Marcella. I envy you your opportunity.

  • And yes again…thanks!

  • Jan says:

    Bravo for saying this truth.

  • Barbara says:

    All of what you wrote here rings true for me. Well said. I am trying to remain calm post inauguration, but find that turning off the newsfeeds is the only way to reduce the worrying. Everything I’m hearing and reading just makes my heart sink, I can only hope the Office will be the making of a different man than the one seen on Day 1 of his term.

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