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Saturday morning as I was pondering this blog, two things came to my attention in swift succession.  One was colleague Jeff Munroe’s blog in which he pondered idolatry, noting that it would appear for some people both political power generally and Donald Trump specifically have themselves become idols for some segments of the church if not of the country generally. 

The second item was from columnist and former W. Bush White House aide Peter Wehner.  In a post on X/Twitter Wehner presented a meme by Eric Metaxas that Wehner succinctly and accurately described as “blasphemy.”  I will not paste this abomination into the blog but suffice it to say that the meme featured a picture of Trump’s mug shot next to a depiction of Jesus on the cross.  Under each picture was the word “Convicted” and overtop it said “If you are wondering if you can vote for a convicted felon, remember you worship one.”

Let’s be clear: this is not a blog about whether a Christian can vote for Trump yet again.  But let’s also be clear: there is more that is downright wrong with the Metaxas meme than can easily be described.  But Wehner was right: it’s blasphemous.  Because what is blasphemy?  Well, at a basic level it is a breach of the commandment not to take God’s Name in vain.  But taking God’s Name in vain goes well beyond verbal invocations in empty vows or by using “God” or “Jesus” or “Christ” as a curse word.   We violate that commandment just as much when God’s own religious symbols are abused.

Blasphemy takes what is good and holy and perverts it into something close to the opposite of goodness or holiness (if not in fact the dead opposite of those things).  A classic example—of which I was repeatedly reminded on the recent ReStory trip I wrote about last month here on the RJ blog—is how the KKK took the beautiful symbol of hope and salvation that is the cross of Jesus and perverted it into a racist symbol of hate and intimidation by burning crosses as a way to intimidate black people and broadcast the Klan’s malevolent views on race.  Blasphemy steals what is holy and then uses the stolen symbol to accomplish something unholy.  Blasphemy associates symbols of the Gospel with things that have nothing to do with the Gospel, draining the Good News of its power and its ability to reach into people’s hearts with grace and mercy.

Metaxas accomplished that quite handily.  But we saw similar displays of blasphemy during the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.  Literal wooden crosses and depictions of the cross on flags and banners brought the sacred symbol of our salvation into an arena of ugliness, mendacity, murderous rage, and deeply riven partisan politics.   It is difficult to underestimate the lasting damage that blasphemy does both to those who are guilty of the blasphemous words or deeds and to those who witness them and who may forever after be deprived of a pure apprehension of what God intended to be something good and redolent of Gospel hope.

If church leaders and all of us cannot call out blasphemy for what it is, then this too shows how damaged the church and its message have become.  Again and to be clear: this is not about for whom a Christian votes or whom they support.  This is about things that are deeply holy and so, when abused, things that are deeply, if not devastatingly, troubling.

In the hymn “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” the third stanza asks “What language shall I borrow to thank you, dearest Friend?”  Sometimes I think God has to ask a similar question.  When God is robbed of his own sacred words and symbols, what language is left by which to convey his mercy and grace?  To condone, overlook, minimize, or shrug at the blasphemy that leads to this conundrum is in the end inexcusable and a tacit approving of wickedness.

Scott Hoezee

Scott Hoezee is Director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Well done, Scott, really good.

  • Lisa Vander Wal says:

    Amen and amen!!

  • Al Mulder says:

    Thanks, Scott. This so needs saying — also in friend and fsmily interactions.

  • Keith Mannes says:

    Thank you for your courage, Scott. So good, once again.

  • Jill Fenske says:

    A year ago a colleague from another denomination recommended Metaxas’ book ” If You Can Keep It” (2017) to me. The thing that most frightens me is that Metaxes is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It all seems so reasonable, until it’s not. Deception, deciever, “satan”. I’m thinking Eve might have some reflection on that…. it sssssounded sssssso reasssssonable, until it wasn’t .
    Thanks for this.

  • Joanie Rosema says:

    Excellent reflection, Scott.
    Regarding your reference to “O Sacred Head Now Wounded”: Paul Simon used this very music in his song “American Tune”, and I have to say, his opening lines are similarly just as achingly sad as so many of us feel right now. His song often was on repeat in my head after January 6.

    • David Landegent says:

      I’m a Paul Simon fan and I never noticed how he borrowed from that tune. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Geace says:

    Thanks so much for the reminder of how damaging blasphemy is. Great blog.

  • Jan Zuidema says:

    You are so right, but what struck me this morning is that we who read the blog regularly are somewhat of an echo chamber. If I share this truth on my FB page, I will get likes from those friends who share my views on the menacing chaos in our political world. I suspect those who don’t probably won’t even give it a look. I once had a friend who, filled with sorrow, said that he wished you wouldn’t do this – stray into the political arena. Just keep to the weekday meditations that we can all enjoy. As though we, as Christians, should not be challenged to look closely at the Christian mindset that seems to say the end justifies the means. Keep on having the courage to speak the truths we all need to hear.

    • Rodney Haveman says:

      Of course, “We should not stray into the political arena,” is another way of saying, “Please don’t make me uncomfortable.” If the Gospel has nothing to say to the “Polis” (the city and the “politics” the life the city holds in common), what good are we ultimately.

  • Mark Bennink says:

    Thank you, Scott, for having the courage to say what needs to be said in this time of political division and idolatry.

  • Pam Adams says:

    Scott, I read your entries all the time because there is Biblical Truth in them. Keep it up. Our society needs these writings.

  • Nick Baas says:

    The goal, of course, was to transfer the holiness of Jesus onto Trump – which is to diminish the singular holiness of the Holy One in order to raise up the perceived holiness of another.

    What bothers me most is that the Jesus many worship today has been completely disconnected from the wisdom tradition of Jesus’ Bible. If you cannot hold your tongue in a moment like that, if you cannot feel the fear of the Lord in you, if you cannot see the many inconsistencies in such an analogy between the Holy One and a broken human being, then you have become the fool and made a fool of God in the process.

  • Ron Calsbeek says:

    Thank you for giving substance to my previously undefined anxiety about those Trump signs. I’ve shared your essay on my Facebook page. I hope many will read it and think seriously about the implications.

  • Bob Ballance says:

    I have been unable to conceive how ANYONE could equate ANYTHING regarding Trump with Jesus Christ. Such equating reveals a radical perversion of how a growing number of American Christians understand the Gospel. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

  • Lee Hardy says:

    Thanks, Scot, for saying clearly what needs to be said. As it turns out, I was reading Thomas Reid’s Lectures on Natural Theology today, and came upon this germane passage: “The abuses of the best things are always the worst. . . The abuse of meat and drinks is attended with hurtful consequences; so is it also with religion.”

  • David E Stravers says:

    Thanks for writing what needs to be said. Using your definition of blasphemy (“draining the Good News of its power and its ability to reach into people’s hearts with grace and mercy”), I cannot help but take issue with your statement that this is not about who to vote for. The church itself, our identity as followers of Jesus, has been compromised by the public identification of self-proclaimed evangelicals with someone who is proud of evil and who openly defies the teachings of Jesus. So long as this person remains prominent in the public eye, we followers of Jesus will struggle to be taken seriously as proclaimers of the Good News.

  • Jeff says:

    Thanks for your courageous words

  • Brian Hibma says:

    Oh boy, I think I might be putting my foot in it but someone mentioned an echo chamber so here I go. I don’t argue with the post being blasphemous but I will ask , have you condemned the Pride flag as blasphemous? Or President Biden’s support of abortion up untouched day of birth? If not aren’t you overlooking, condoning and minimizing other forms of blasphemy? Maybe I shouldn’t be here, I didn’t know this blog existed until last week, if so I apologize.

    • Rodney Haveman says:

      Are these blasphemous, as defined here by Scott, or are they disagreements over morality or justice or theology? I think there is a difference. I don’t mean to belittle the issues you are raising, and we would do well to have meaningful conversations about these issues and others. Some, like me, may fly a pride flag. Others, I assume like you, would not, and we could go through the rest of what you offered, but does anyone in this community want to put Trump on the cross and equate him to Christ? As much as we can disagree on a variety of issues, that feels like a bridge too far for all of us.
      But of course, I could be wrong …

      • Brian Hibma says:

        Thanks for the answer Rodney. I still think that the co-opting of God’s rainbow, for not just the acknowledgement of gay pride but an entire month of celebration and the conflating of abortion with reproductive rights are almost as blasphemous, aren’t they ? Not just a difference of opinions.

        • Rodney Haveman says:

          I do not want to dismiss your idea, but these “issues” somehow feel different than setting the cross on fire in the front lawn of a black family’s home. It may be that you believe gay pride or LGBTQ+ sexual acts are sinful and abortion is a sin, but I don’t know that this would mean they are blasphemous. For example, the Ten Commandments are often positioned as two tablets. The first accounts for our relationship with God and the second with our relationships with each other. Obviously, they are related and overlap, but generally that is how we regard them. Blasphemy is generally reserved for the first tablet and sexual sins and “murder” (how some think of abortion) are second tablet sins. (I use those words for folks who think of same sex acts and abortion as sinful, which I believe you do. I do not, but I’m trying to avoid a big argument about that).
          It gets rather tricky when we start blending the two, so I think we tend not to do so, but that’s black and white thinking, and it’s easy to say that.
          I will say this. If I agreed with you concerning same sex relationships and abortion, I would tend to think of abortion as blasphemous with much more fervor than same sex relationships, but that might just be me and the remnants of my West Michigan upbringing.

  • Jan Price says:

    This is so true. Thank you for your courage.

  • Marc Nelesen says:

    As readers of fine pieces like this one, I think the focus of our concern is the indiscriminate, instrumental use of God, God language, and God-stuff that are regarded as fair-game to advance our own causes.

    Pastors do it with our building campaigns, politicians do it for votes, power and influence.

    The former president has a demonstrable track record of not honoring boundaries. Further, everything from human beings to values is transactional, purchasable, and fair game to be monetized. I think this worldview and the behaviors that emerge from it is blasphemous. In truth, it violates creation and the image of God in all of us.

  • Valerie Van Kooten says:

    My parents and grandparents had a good, old-fashioned Dutch word that best described this: “spottin,” or “sputtin,” some would say. TV shows or movies that poked fun of God were spotten, as were those who re-worked a piece of Scripture to new ends (taking the Proverbs 31 woman, for instance, and making it about teachers, as once was published in a Christian school newsletter to howls of sacreligious outrage). Maybe the definition of “blasphemy” is much like the oft-recited definition of “pornography”: “you know it when you see it.”

  • RLG says:

    Thanks, Scott, for an interesting article that received a lot of response. I question your definition of blasphemy. It seems pretty limited. That is limited to the small box of Christianity. Of course, Muslims, Jews, Jehovah Witnesses and nearly all other religions, as well as many so-called Christians would not include what you would as blasphemous. You seem to include a pretty small circle (or box) of people. But that’s typical of Christianity that excludes all others but themselves. So thanks for your input, although somewhat limited. You’re obviously not speaking of or to the world who for the most part does not share your religion.

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