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On Thursday, the day Donald Trump became the first former President of the United States to be convicted of a felony, I visited the Columbine Memorial in Littleton, Colorado.

On Friday, the day after Donald Trump became the first former President of the United States to be convicted of a felony, the Frederick Buechner Quote of the Day that came into my email was about idolatry.

I see some connections.

The Columbine Memorial is beautifully done, in a park that stands in the shadow of the high school. I wept as I read the descriptions of each of the murdered students. The shootings happened 25 years ago, meaning the kids who were killed would be around 40 now. I cried thinking of the lives they didn’t get to lead. There’s also a wall of healing dedicated to the survivors, and there are powerful quotes embedded in the wall. Here are three:

That first quote captures some of the pain of trauma: life goes on while your world stops. This is demonstrated by the Memorial itself: the nearby high school is bustling, full of students not born when the shootings happened.  The park housing the Memorial is busy—people jog by on trails and there are softball fields and pickleball courts at hand. Life goes on, yet normal feels impossible to the traumatized.

The second quote summarizes the tragedy.

The third quote echoes the question I had as I walked through the Memorial: What have we learned? Places like Uvalde, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Charleston, and Newtown, along with hundreds of other tragic sites, bear testimony to our deep polarization and inability to do anything meaningful about gun violence.

Later in the day, when I heard of Trump’s conviction, I thought of that third quote again. What have we learned? Will this change anything? I wish it would but doubt it. Will Trump learn? Change? Don’t be ridiculous. The man’s narcissism prevents him from admitting error and he is incapable of remorse.

Will it change the devotion of his followers? Again, I don’t think so. Of the many crimes Trump has been accused of, this is the most sordid. A psychologist told me this joke that gets at it: Sigmund Freud is analyzing Trump and says, “Let me get this straight. You were spanked with a magazine that had your picture on the cover by a porn star who reminded you of your daughter.”

“That’s right.”

“Hmm,” Freud says. “I’m going to have to get back to you on that one.”

Let’s all roll in the gutter and make America great.

One of Trump’s favorite words is “rigged.” He pulls it out whenever something doesn’t go his way. The 2020 election was rigged. This trial was rigged. You’ve heard it over and over. The reality is, Trump became president because of a rigged system, created by America’s founders in a compromise to placate slave owners. Their creation, the Electoral College, can, and in the case of the 2016 election, did facilitate minority rule. Although he claims to have won in a landslide in 2016 and that the 2020 election was stolen from him, he didn’t win the popular vote in either.

As president, he should have been removed from office twice, and after both impeachments Republican senators saved him because their positions of power were at stake. Talk about rigged. Now, the 12 ordinary citizens on the jury in New York, who were under no such pressure, listened to the evidence and decided Trump illegally covered up hush money payments meant to rig the 2016 election.

Still, I’m skeptical Trump’s conviction will make any difference. Nothing has stuck to him before. If he was going to go down, shouldn’t “Grab them by the …” have done it? I wish this criminal conviction would stick to him and especially wish, for the sake of the church, white Evangelical Christians would repent of their obsession with this man and move onto someone who won’t make them so compromised and hypocritical.

That’s where Buechner’s quote of the day comes in. “Idolatry,” he wrote, “is ascribing absolute value to things of relative worth.” Some of the things Buechner listed that become idols were predictable, like money and physical beauty. Others were more surprising, including patriotism, family loyalty, denominations, and the Bible. Although Buechner wrote this about 45 years ago, the words ring true today. Sure, some have made an idol of Trump. It’s easy to throw stones, especially at the white Evangelical Christians who worship him. But what of those of us who have made bringing him down an obsession? Has that become an idol? Trump speaks of “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” and I agree with him. Some people have it. I am prone to it.

I have heard Trump-despisers claim this guilty verdict will save America. Even if this is Trump’s last straw, this won’t save us. We’re too broken. Trump will inevitably go away at some point and we’ll still be broken. Consider Columbine. As striking as it is, the Columbine Memorial stands, like every ground zero memorial, as a monument to our brokenness.

Or consider that while the drama around Trump unfolds, our own little corner of the Reformed world continues to fight over how to read the Bible and who is in and who is out of our denominations. Trump’s status is irrelevant to those fights, where all too often things of relative worth are given absolute value.

I wish it was clear that we have changed and that we have learned.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Jeff Munroe

Jeff Munroe is the editor of the Reformed Journal. 


  • Lisa Vander Wal says:

    Thank you, Jeff—I needed this.

  • Alicia Mannes says:

    Powerful and sobering words.

  • Jean Scott says:

    I wish those in my circle of family and friends would be able to read this; it’s so true and yes, we are so broken. Lord, have mercy!

  • John K says:

    Words well written, Jeff, apples of gold in a vase of silver.
    Accurate assessment of continuing brokenness in many spheres.
    The disgrace and hell we see in others is in each and all of us as well.
    Lord, in your justice, show mercy; in your mercy, have justice.

  • John K says:

    Jeff: on second thought, we really need the One who was broken, for us. To be in us and through us to a broken world. Thanks again.

  • Jack Ridl says:

    A serious pun——

    🎶🎶 “Mourning has broken” 🎶🎶

    Thank you for “I cried thinking of the lives they didn’t get to lead.”

    Thank you for this heartrendingly lucid and “Let’s face it” elegy.

  • Uko Zylstra says:

    Jeff, your words concerning idolatry are words we all need to internalize. I have just finished reading Tim Alberta’s book: The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an age of Extremism. He reports on how the idol of power has infected Evangelicals and how many have made an ‘idol’ of Donald Trump. He also points out how Evangelical supporters of Trump misread the simple gospel message and ignore the teaching of Jesus in their pursuit of power in supporting Trump.
    With regard to your comments of the little corner of the Reformed world, I find it striking that we have focused so much on interpreting the Bible with regard to the seventh commandment, but we say very little about how to interpret and apply the reading of the ninth commandment in the post truth age in which we are showered with lies and falsehoods. That, I believe, also significantly undermines the message of the gospel.

  • Beverly Sullivant says:

    I, too, feel convicted of “bringing him down syndrome”.

  • Steven Tryon says:

    Well said. Thank you.

  • Henry Baron says:

    Thanks, Jeff. Many of us join you in lament.

  • Gail Ebersole says:

    Jeff thank you so much for this. Your writing as well as courage to write the truth is so inspiring to me. May we all experience God’s peace and power in these next months before the likely most important election in the USA ever! I’m a bit petrified as we approach all the craziness but know God is my anchor going forward! Grateful for you my friend of so many years!

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