Discipleship · Politics · Theology

Stanley Hauerwas on Donald Trump

One of my favourite theologians Stanley Hauerwas has this to say about Donald Trump:

“There is nothing, in Trump’s view, the American people cannot accomplish as long as we believe in ourselves and our country. But Christians do not believe in ourselves or our country. We believe in God, but we do more than believe in God. We worship God. Nothing else is to be worshiped.

Christians have a word to describe the worship of that which is not God: idolatry. Idolatry, of course, can be a quite impressive form of devotion. The only difficulty is idolaters usually end up killing someone for calling into question their “god.”

Trump’s inauguration address counts as a stunning example of idolatry. His statement — “At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country we will recover loyalty to each other” — is clearly a theological claim that offers a kind of salvation.

[…]

Christians must call his profound and mistaken faith what it is: idolatry. Christianity in America is declining if not dying, which makes it difficult to call Trump to task. Trump has taken advantage of Christian Americans who have long lived as if God and country are joined at the hip. I do not doubt Trump thinks of himself as a Christian, but America is his church.”

Original article here.

To which I would add that I think many Christians are fighting the wrong battle when they attack Trump, or at least, they are watching the wrong channel. The spectacle of an infinite internet where all opinions and portals are available to us at all times causes us to be profoundly deceived about the nature of the conflict in which we find ourselves, and the way in which our lives are supposed to bear witness to Christ. Social media has annulled any divisions that once existed between politics, sport, news, and entertainment, and the result is that often the greatest political hope for Christians and non-Christians alike is that we can turn on our smartphones and see that our side is winning today.

The amassing and exchange of a thousands of rhetorical snippets, memes and truth/counter-truths about Trump and his wickedness misses the important fact that the internet deceives us about the nature of our actions. It deceives us by causing us to believe that the administration of endless representations that have largely been prepared by others (which is after all largely what social media consists of) is the same thing as prophetic truth and effective witness.

A truly prophetic witness to Christ consists not in the shuffling and re-shuffling of virtuous memes and propaganda, but in real action in the real material world. Love is nothing if it is not practical. Love is not sentimental. The most authentic way to counter the Trumps of history is not through outdoing their violence or outshouting their rhetoric, but through the quiet and faithful practice of worshiping the Living God through caring for the stranger, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and welcoming the refugee.

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