A year into Trump’s presidency, Christians are facing a spiritual reckoning

Many traditions in the history of Christianity have attempted to combat and correct the worship of three things: money, sex and power. Catholic orders have for centuries required “poverty, chastity, and obedience” as disciplines to counter these three idols. Other traditions, especially among Anabaptists in the Reformation, Pentecostals and revival movements down through the years have spoken the language of simplicity in living, integrity in relationships and servanthood in leadership. All of our church renewal traditions have tried to provide authentic and more life-giving alternatives to the worship of money, sex and power — which can be understood and used in healthy ways when they are not given primacy in one’s life.

President Trump is an ultimate and consummate worshiper of money, sex and power. American Christians have not really reckoned with the climate he has created in our country and the spiritual obligation we have to repair it. As a result, the soul of our nation and the integrity of the Christian faith are at risk.

As Abraham Lincoln, a politician with a deep knowledge of Christianity, stated in his first inaugural address, political action can, undertaken rightly, appeal to the “better angels of our nature.” But political action undertaken badly, and reckless inaction, can mislead and dispirit us — and appeal to our worst demons, such as greed, fear, bigotry and resentment, which are never far below the surface.

Trump’s adulation of money and his love for lavish ostentation (he covers everything in gold) are the literal worship of wealth by someone who believes that his possessions belong only to himself, instead of that everything belongs to God and we are its stewards. In 2011, before his foray into politics, Trump said, “Part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich.” And in his 2015 speech announcing his candidacy for president, he said: “I’m really rich. . . . And by the way, I’m not even saying that in a braggadocio — that’s the kind of mind-set, that’s the kind of thinking you need for this country.” Later, during the campaign, Trump suggested that our country must “be wealthy in order to be great.”

Lately, faith leaders have spoken out against the proposed Republican budgets and tax plans. The Circle of Protection , a group of leaders from all the major branches of Christianity, of which I am a part, said in a letter to Congress: “We care deeply about many issues facing our country and world, but ending persistent hunger and poverty is a top priority that we all share. These are biblical and gospel issues for us, not just political or partisan concerns. In Matthew 25, Jesus identified himself with those who are immigrants, poor, sick, homeless and imprisoned, and challenged his followers to welcome and care for them as we would care for Jesus himself.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, too, has rejected the tax plan, calling it “unacceptable as written,” and “unconscionable in parts” as it would enrich the wealthy and shortchange the middle class and the poor. And yet, much Christian support for Trump and his administration continues.

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