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Idolatry at the Core of White American Christianity: Why a Trump Presidency is only one of its many rotten fruits

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"In the beginning there was the Word and Word was with God and the Word was God... And The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." John 1:1-14.

In broad historical terms, the election of Donald Trump by those who call themselves Christians may not stand out as one of Christianity's greatest sins. But it may. For someone like me, flawed, weak and sinful as I am, but who looks to Jesus Christ as the full revelation of God, this was still stunning. When I saw the iconic photo of the sign, amid throngs of ravenously cheering white faces, reading, "Thank you Lord Jesus for President Trump," I became physically nauseous. It was like a wind-taking punch to the gut; a final confirmation of what I had only heretofore suspected, that white American Christianity had abandoned Jesus Christ altogether.

The name Jesus rolls off the tongues of these self-described Christians so very easily and frequently, but is rarely associated with the Jesus one comes to know in the Gospels. To associate His name with Donald Trump, however, is unthinkable. Never has a major candidate so brazenly inflamed the dark passions of fear and hatred for "the other" (aka our neighbors) as did Donald Trump. It seems self-evident that anyone familiar with the Gospel Jesus would easily recognize that one could not find His more opposite number than in the likes of Donald J Trump.

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Only a church blinded by idolatry could do this. I am not speaking metaphorically here. I am speaking literally. I'm talking old-school, blatant, easily recognizable idolatry; obvious in its naked imagery as well as in its intent.

On television screens and in churches across America the scene is repeated thousands of times a week. A well-dressed or colorfully robed man or a woman stands in front of a congregation, television camera or both holding an object above his or her head and proclaiming that object to be God. That man or woman then goes on to forcefully influence his or her audience with a power that can only be attained by visibly holding and audibly manipulating and controlling "God" so completely.

The object held high and idolized as God is a bound copy of 66 books known collectively as The Bible.

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In those 66 books one can find justification for almost any ideological or selfish purpose. In those 66 books one can justify almost any reach for power or wealth. In Jesus' life and teachings, by contrast, one finds absolutely nothing upon which to build worldly power or wealth.

Recognition of this idolatry is not new. The term most commonly used to describe this sin is "bibliolatry." I prefer the root word idolatry because it most plainly defines the spiritual sin at work. I will make some reference here to the theological grounding of my assertion, but will focus primarily on the fruits of this wholesale spiritual sin because, as Jesus told us, that is how we shall know them, not by their hermeneutics, but by their fruits.

I will note, however, that it is the theologian among the Gospel writers who lets us know that the Word of God is Jesus Christ and that, consequently, the collection of scriptures written before the ultimate revelation of that Word and those written as post-scripts (as inspired and as revered as some may be), are not the Word of God. The result of burying the Word Made Flesh in this tomb of tomes is that those who wish to sincerely know Jesus are led astray. Like the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus time, the promulgators of this idolatry today commit sin against the spirit in their use of religion to gather prestige and wealth for themselves while misleading those who trust them away from God.

In the wards of this idolatry, the Bread of Life is not fully taken up as the nourishment for which it was given. Instead the Bread of Life is dissolved into a vast, boiling cauldron of a million words of men, leaving those who seek Christ slurping hungrily at a weak and bitter broth that bloats the ego and emaciates the soul.

How else does one explain the state of white Christianity in America? How else can it be looking so intently away from Jesus Christ and seeking validation from principalities and popular culture rather than in the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ?

How can those who call themselves followers of this God who explicitly taught us not to pray in public as the Pharisees (hypocrites) do, but to do so in private where "our Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:5), demand that the State sanction its public prayer on properties owned by the State?

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How can chest-thumping adrenaline junkies calling themselves by Jesus' name agitate for deadly war against Islam and do so in the name of a God who instructed them to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39)?

How can the followers of a God who rebuked the offer of secular power over all of the kingdoms of the world as a temptation from Satan (Luke 4:5), self-righteously demand secular power (both cultural and political) for themselves and stomp their collective feet in entitled fits of rage when their fellow citizens are granted secular rights to which these "people of god" believe them unworthy?

How else does one explain white, Christian America's rejection of science? A science that claims no answers to questions of who created the universe or why, but only provides insights into the how and when of creation poses no threat to the faith that Jesus challenges us to embrace. Yet, these "Christians" contend that faith in Jesus demands a rejection of the very faculties God gave us in favor of stories told in humanity's childhood. They go on to demand that our representatives in government reject science as well.

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55 year old white male. Married with three children. In my youth I co-founded, and for 10 years directed, the not-for-profit organization Part of the Solution (POTS) in the Bronx, NY. I currently serve as President and CEO of a not-for-profit (more...)
 

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