What Does Jesus Have to Do With Trump’s Budget?

To look at my newsfeed, he has quite a lot to do with it. It comes mostly in the form of memes designed to slam the Christian hypocrites, like the example posted with this essay. The target of derision includes those who declare their born-again devotion to Jesus Christ while ignoring his teachings on feeding the hungry.

Image 3-18-17 at 4.20 PMThe theology of this meme is not well developed, to say the least. It is not created from a forward-thinking theology of social programming, but it is conjured from the Theology of Gotcha, hurled with glee in the face of hypocrites.

Might the Son of God have an opinion about Meals on Wheels? That possibility could be unpacked with some good textual or historical-grammatical exegesis. But Jesus is not seriously invoked here. Instead, he is touted conveniently in a shouted spray of bad populist theology.

I would rather see Jesus invoked seriously as a support for more generous government social programming than to be used to shame hypocrites. I cannot be sure (so who am I to judge?) but my hunch is that the authors of these memes are not prepared to discuss any theology beyond the simple shaming of hypocrites that it provides for them.

The bothersome thing here is the wide presumption that evangelical Christians are all hypocritical, the whole lot of them. The creators of the meme might balk at that, and simply say that not all evangelicals are meant here, only “if the shoe fits, wear it.” But readers of the memes get that the whole of conservative evangelicalism is implicated. Usually this is illustrated well in the dark dungeon of comments under the post.

The narrative goes something like this: “Aren’t you following the guy who fed the hungry? And now you all are supporting a budget that cuts food to the hungry? Some Christian you are!” This cheap shot is undiscerning of the evangelicals who do not support Trump or his budget. It also ignores the thoughtful theological distinction, held by many, that Jesus directed his words toward our generosity of heart, and many thoughtful conservatives would rather do this (and they do) with unforced charitable giving. Tax revenues collected under the coercive power of the magistrate may not be in view when Jesus commands us to be charitable.

That is to say, Jesus was talking to my heart and my wallet, not to my 1040. And if you are of the other view, tell us why Jesus’ words really do apply to the distribution of government revenues.

This meme closes the discussion by slapping a final “you’re all hypocrites!” on the argument, tinting every prudent budget cut as presumably demonic. No discussion, you are the devil. That is silly, disrespectful, and bigoted toward a whole people group.

Can we have a discussion about where to put our budget dollars without calling all your opponents the anti-Christ?

Bill Clinton / Donald Trump Quiz

Match each statement on the left with the statement on the right that is most consistent with it.

A:   “Bill Clinton’s affairs were just about sex and that’s his private life. I might agree that it’s damaging and wrong, but it has nothing to do with his capabilities to be a good president.”

B: “Bill Clinton used unequal power to score with women and then lied about it. From an HR Legal point of view, using unequal power as a mentor, boss, counselor or master to a protege is a form of assault; Such a man should not have been our President.”

1: “Donald Trump’s lewd statements show a misogyny unbecoming a president; he is crass, low, predatory and he brags about actions that amount to sexual assault; he is unfit for the office.”

2: “Donald Trump’s lewd comments on women are just locker-room talk, his private boys-will-be-boys moment like many have had; it’s just sex-talk, boy-talk, and has nothing to do with his fitness to govern.”

Key:screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-7-40-49-am

Correct match is A-2 and B-1. These are consistent positions. Not that they are morally equivalent (they’re not), but at least you are not changing your view of what you’ll wink at, or completely forgive, simply because you prefer the politics of one and not the other.

Pairing B-2 is the common Republican inconsistency; A-1 is the common Democratic inconsistency. Both involve lengthy explanations for why your guy’s sins are not quite the same thing as the other’s, according to you.

The Republican inconsistency (B-2) engages in the hypocrisy of deriding Clinton’s Oval Office shenanigans while excusing Trump’s lewd locker-room talk. I cannot figure out this inconsistency except by saying that it’s held by someone who likes Donald but not Bill.

“But Bill was President at the time, and lied.” That makes it different? One was president, and one wants to be. Both have sought to score on women, and have. But your guy would be different in office, once there? He with the 7th grade boys locker room braggadocio would not “grab her *****” if he thought he could get away with it?

“But Bill actually did things to women — this thing with Donald is all talk.” No. I’ve read the New Testament too many times not to remember the words about how if it’s in your heart, you’ve as good as done it. The heart is revealed just as much by words as actions.

The Democratic inconsistency (A-1) is that Bill’s was “just sex” but Trump is lecherous and misogynistic. But if you have ever pontificated that “his private life is separate from his ability to lead” then it is hypocritical not to apply the same reasoning to Trump. This might unnerve you, so you protest that you are not inconsistent, that at the time you agreed that Bill was wrong in this.

But you, and the rest of us, have effectively given Bill his pass. His behavior is now viewed as quaint, the stuff of jokes, giving us a snicker just to see him shake hands with Melania at the last debate. We’ve forgiven him so much that it’s cute now. “Time heals,” we say, and this lulls us into thinking we can give Donald some fresh outrage without it pointing to our hypocritical gee-aw-shucks tolerance of Bill’s past. Or maybe it’s just that we do not have Bill on a hot mic talking about his power to grab things.

To say that Donald’s lewdness is different and worse is to say that there is a line demarcating two categories of sexual misconduct carried out against female victims. This side of that line, a man’s offenses are passable for leadership, but not beyond. I want to hear that case made, and to read the guidebook on how that line is drawn. That will be a hoot.

You try to make that case, and I will imagine how to explain to your daughter that in America if a woman is ever described as a target for groping by a grotesque showman, that man is unfit to lead, but if it actually happens with her boss in the Oval Office, it’s no problem.

Of the consistent pairings, I do not recommend A-2 (It was “only sex” for Bill, and only “locker room talk” for Donald). Though in the matching quiz the sentiments are consistent, in terms of a personal position it is low reasoning, at least morally. Two wrongs do not make a right, we say. In fact, what it makes is, well, two wrongs. This is playground whining, crying that “he did it too!” Trump is already going there when he brings up Bill’s behavior.

The moral pairing is B-1. Bill victimized women and so did Donald. And we could consider forgiving them both. You could even consider forgiving one of them, and not the other, (for mysterious reasons of your own) but at least be consistent when comparing the original offenses. On policy positions or temperament it is understandable that we would say that one is (or could be) the better leader, but when invoking their sexual behaviors, they either both qualify for a pass, or neither do.