Social Issues

the Crucifixion and #NeverTrump: what the Cross teaches us about politics

In case you’ve missed it, Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee for president after Cruz withdrew from the race yesterday. The news kept me up last night, mostly because my emotional state resembles something like Edvard Munch’s The Scream. Handsome and I have been watching a WWII documentary recently, and the episodes describing the political movements that brought Hitler and Mussolini into power left us in dumbstruck horror. I know comparing Trump to Hitler at this point is basically passé, but it doesn’t change the fact that the comparison works for a reason.

While I’m relieved that the theocratic Dominionist-Reconstructionist fundamentalist is out of the race, I’m still terrified of a Trump candidacy and the possibility of his presidency. His campaign has already incited horrific violence against black and queer and female bodies, and I believe it’s only going to get worse. God forbid he’s elected.

As his candidacy has grown more and more successful, winning primaries by ever-wider margins, I’ve looked around at my fellow citizenry and despaired. I honestly thought we were better than him– that sure, maybe some of us were just that bigoted and racist– but certainly not enough of us to get him nominated. Watching this has been a brutal corrective and I’m far more cynical about America than I was back in September.

Aside from his hatred, lewdness, and blatant dishonesty, aside from the fact that he’s advocated for torture and war crimes and directed a miasmic bombardment at women, Trump is the representation of Empire made flesh. He is, quite literally, an anti-Christ in the sense that he stands in direct opposition to everything Jesus Christ taught us to do.

  • Trump tells us that we must fear and hate our enemies. Jesus tells us not only to love and forgive them, but to radically resist oppression through turning the other cheek, to carry the Roman conqueror’s pack not one mile, but two.
  • Trump tells us to ostracize or exile those who look different, to barricade them behind a wall. Jesus tells us that all people are our neighbors, and that our example is the Good Samaritan who sacrificially brought aid to a stranger.
  • Trump calls on us to enact abominations against women and children. Jesus says that anyone who hurts a child deserves to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck.

I understand what he’s appealing to. He is a tool of Empire– he is slavering and rapacious, greedy for power, for control, for prestige, for wealth, for domination. It doesn’t surprise me that when he says “Make America Great Again” he’s pulling on the fear and lust that dwells in all our hearts. We don’t want to feel threatened. We want to feel secure. And, worse than that, we are a nation built on the principle that white men deserve land ownership, deserve enfranchisement, deserve gainful employment– and these white men were quite willing for hundreds of years to enrich themselves off the fact that they literally owned women and didn’t even recognize black people as human beings fully endowed with the imago dei.

Trump is conjuring an image of America for white men where they can have all of that again– all that power, all that wealth, because they deserve it for no other reason than an accident of birth. If they serve Empire, they’ll be rewarded by the restoration of their power.

Jesus asks us to walk a different path than this.

He said that whoever wants to be his disciple must take up their cross and follow him (Mt 16:24, Lk 9:23, Mk. 8:34). It’s clear that he was speaking metaphorically, but I think that over time we’ve lost the bluntness, the absolute starkness, of the imagery he chose for this teaching. Today we think of “bearing our cross” as a form of drudgery– it carries similar cultural weight as putting your nose to the grindstone, and has a feeling of daily wear-and-tear. Our “cross” takes on various forms, usually none of them all that weighty. Fulfilling your obligations as a parent. Chronic illness. A narcissistic employer.

We’ve lost it partly because we abandoned public executions like the crucifixion; today, as despicable as it is that we still execute people, we tolerate it because we culturally accept the lie that lethal injection is somehow humane. We don’t have the absolute brutality of crucifixion as a part of our public consciousness– it’s not something we associate with our government as a daily reminder of their authority and what they will do to us if we try to subvert their power (at least, not if we’re white). We don’t have to move about our day with crucifixion as a constant threat.

The people Jesus was speaking to, though, they did. They knew that if they put one toe out of line, that’s where they could be– hanging on a Roman cross, enduring Roman humiliations, bearing Roman torture. Jesus’ call to discipleship demands that we face that risk, that we stand in the face of Empire and say No!–no, I would rather die a horrible, agonizing death than serve the Empire and Mammon.

Handsome and I were talking about the evangelical notion that the Cross is the pinnacle of God’s love for us– like how Joshua Harris said, that “God’s perfect love for a fallen world is more clearly seen in the death of His Son.” As I argued in response, under the penal substitutionary atonement theory, this doesn’t hold true– but in some theological positions, it could. Handsome argued how God loved us enough, wanted to be with us enough to become Emmanuel, to face what they knew was coming. He said that there was something important enough to teach us that they left heaven and put on a body and walked among us… even knowing that he’d be crucified.

I think that’s true, regardless of what Atonement Theory convinces you most. Setting aside the Atonement for the moment, I think it’s important to concentrate on the “pre-Easter Jesus,” as Marcus Borg puts it. Forgetting all the theological implications for the moment, what does the Cross mean? What does it mean that Jesus suffered this form of death: an execution by the state for treason and sedition?

Like all mythical stories (and, before you clutch your pearls, mythical doesn’t mean untrue), the story of the Cross has a multiplicity of meanings and Truths tied up in it. What it means can change, can flicker, and that is one of the glorious beauties of myth. Today, as Trump ascends to the throne of the Republican party, I think that one of the things that the Cross is meant to teach us is this: we are to resist Empire with all our hearts, souls, strength, and minds. Empire is a siren’s song, luring us in with promises of security and wellness, but those are not our priorities as Christians. In fact, being a follower of Christ means that we’re willing to risk being hung on a tree right beside him because we refuse to bow to our oppressors. We will not give in to white supremacy, or misogyny, or the belief that we have the right to slaughter countless innocents because their communities oppose our nation– either through active war or passively refusing to take in the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

I believe that’s what it means for us today to take up our cross and follow him. Are we going to do it?

Photograph by Brian
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  • Lucy Moore

    No kidding. The noise I heard coming from the crowd at a Trump rally on TV once sounded like orcs at the gates of Mordor, not kind, loving human beings. What’s more, the New York Times magazine showed an EIGHT-YEAR-OLD KID at a Trump rally with an incredibly hateful expression you’d expect to find on someone years older. I mean, come on; While the basic amendments of the Constitution might make it impossible for Trump to enact an open Final Solution, there are still plenty of hateful things he could do behind closed doors as well as more open “solutions” such as deporting hispanics and Muslims that would severely disrupt and could even end millions of lives anyway, with Trump being able to at least somewhat plausibly deny that he is anywhere near as bad as Hitler because he didn’t build gas chambers. Never mind that just because the Holocaust happened doesn’t mean that FDR is off the hook for sending the Japanese-Americans to internment camps like Manzanar because they didn’t have gas chambers either. They still disrupted millions of lives, and I bet they ended thousands at the very least. This is not even counting what we did to the Native Americans. We killed off millions of them and we sent many kids to residential schools where they were told that their culture was wrong and they had to become “civilized”, a problem that never truly went away because they do something disturbingly similar on an emotional level to autistic children and other kids with disabilities, and they still do a version of that to at least some Native Americans as well.
    I think a good phrase for the Holocaust/Manzanar comparison (or indeed a comparison with something that is Manzanar-bad) is “The Holocaust doesn’t excuse Manzanar”.

  • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

    I can’t believe Trump has gotten this far. I never thought it would happen. It makes me disappointed in America too. I keep thinking something is going to stop it, that the Republican party shotcallers will grab the reins back at the convention and announce another canidate. This is really the election cycle where the country ran mad.

  • Skittish Cat

    This is amazingly well-written. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I will think about this a lot.

    • ⊕RussR⊕

      no, no its not…. its rambling with out any facts to back up a single word…

  • RavenOnTheHill

    It may help, in thinking of our country, to remember that primary voters are after all a minority, that this has been decades in the making, and that mass media technology, abused and without safeguards, can drive most-any population insane.

    In Blish’s The Devil’s Day, the four main characters find themselves walking, under compulsion, to the gates of Dante’s hell, and Theron Ware, the black magician, points out that they have all committed mortal sins and and that their presence there was no accident. And Father Domenico, the white magician (except it turns out there is no such thing as white magic), comments, “We have been making this journey all our lives.”

    And so we have. Great efforts, going back decades, have been made to make the rise of a fascist Presidential candidate possible. It appears that, as in the fascism of the last century, a movement of conservatives like Buckley, who at least wanted to preserve some social order, albeit an authoritarian one, has been coopted by someone who could direct the simple greed and anger of the public.

    As you say, Jesus appeared among a marginalized, conquered people and taught, among other things, non-violent resistance to empire. We can only hope that enough of us will take up that teaching.

  • Northwoods Dan

    The ascendancy of Donald Trump is truly mortifying. I’m a white guy, older than Samantha and a probably more of a political centrist than she is but I agree with her 100%. I add my sentiments that Hillary Clinton has to be elected this fall and Donald Trump defeated, regardless of one’s usual political views. To me, Samantha’s call to the cross is imperative right now.

    I get the sense that Samantha’s readers are varied but that many are more progressive than they once may have been. This probably means that many of us have plenty of folks in our historical circles who may not generally be democrats but are folks of good will and a moral compass. We have relationships with these folks and we need to talk with them. These people may be our parents, siblings, coworkers, members of our congregations and people we know from congregations we have left behind. I have to believe that there are enough people with a sense of decency to do the right thing this fall, regardless of political affiliation. But we have to talk.

    • RavenOnTheHill

      Mmmmm. My take on it is that the Republicans have abandoned governance to the Democratic Party. You might consider Hillary Clinton, who is fairly conservative. The usual smears against her are trumped up.

      Myself, I am to the left of Sanders and hence am unhappy with the offered choices, but I can see the lesser evil here.

  • TRUMP: Ok, let’s get one thing straight. Nobody incites violence better than me, and not only that, but it is the best violence. Truly violent violence. Ted Cruz? He couldn’t incite a riot in a… in a… riot store. Where do people riot? I don’t know; doesn’t matter. I’m an inciter, and when I’m president, I will make Americans incited to be American again.

    Fearing our enemies? Listen, I don’t fear anybody. But you should, because our enemies are very scary. Think of the scariest thing you can. Have you got it? That’s nothing compared to how scary I can become. No one is scarier than me, and I will scare the scary enemies when I’m president. Let me tell you something about ISIS, all right? They hate Christians, they have scimitars, and I just saw a documentary on Arabia that shows they have carpets that fly. This is terrible news. Very scary to all of you, but not to me.

    Does Hillary Clinton know how to deal with flying carpets? No, she does not. I deal with carpets every day. Beautiful carpets. The finest quality carpets anyone can put in their buildings, of which I own 872. Most of which are in Arabiastan.

    Jesus? Oh, Jesus is great. Let me tell you, I respect Jesus more than any other South American. But if you know Jesus, I mean really know him, then you know what he meant when he said, “To make peace, you must prepare for war.” And nobody can prepare for war like I can. Kasich couldn’t prepare a souffle, but when I’m president, I will prepare for war so completely that Jesus will have nothing to criticize, and I think Evangelicals recognize that. They know Jesus wants manufacturing jobs back in the U.S. Remember, he taught us to build houses on rocks and sand and wherever we could build them. That’s what I’ll do when I’m president. There will be no sand without a house on it, priced very reasonably.

    Thank you.

  • Jackalope

    The one positive part about this is that while some people truly like Trump (for… what reasons exactly, I’m not sure), and some people are neutral, many moderate Republicans are against him. This means that the Democrat candidate just got a much better chance. Of course, that’s not saying anything is certain, and I’m scared about the election as well, but… I cling to that hope.

    I think this is also an indicator that our primary system is messed up. One of the things that many of my moderate Republican friends have lamented is the fact that relatively few states get to make the decision on which candidates move forward. This is a fair argument for the Democrat candidate as well, although that was less of an issue this year since there were far fewer. The fairest way as far as I can see would be to have primaries all be held on the same day (or the same week, if for some reason that’s too cumbersome), so that everyone gets a voice. So many candidates dropped out that might have made it had they been voted for in a general election (including, on the Republican side, forerunners such as Rubio and Cruz, but also some of the lesser-knowns that were still doing well). Meanwhile, my state STILL hasn’t had our primary, and by the time it happens, there will be no point.

    • Kevin

      Some Republicans are so against Trump they say they’ll vote for Hillary to make sure he doesn’t become President. (And some Bernie supporters would rather have Trump than Hillary.)
      The horrifying rhetoric of Trump has actually been present in certain circles for years.

    • Timothy Swanson

      If those of my acquaintance (and family in a few cases) who support Trump can be believed, they support him because they like his bullying narcissism and *especially* because he will kick the damn Mexicans out of “our” country. Sad, but true.

      • RavenOnTheHill

        “But who will bring the crops in?”

  • Dag

    I’m not going to blame average Americans if Trump comes to power. Or if Clinton comes to power. Because ya’ll are a painfully obvious oligarchy at the moment.

    But the Christian thing to do is … Pray for Trump. Maybe if we did God would soften up his heart and help him realize that money and power can’t buy eternity. Like, a legacy of trying to justify others suffering and living in fear is not worth having.

    • RavenOnTheHill

      Also pray for wisdom, courage, and compassion for the American people. It would be better still to display these things ourselves.

    • Jackalope

      I agree with you that praying for Trump is a good and important thing to do. That being said, I am also praying against his candidacy, because no matter how much he might change as a result of letting God work in his life, I doubt it would happen at a speed that would make his presidency in the near future anything other than disastrous.

      • Dag

        It’s not one tyrant that results in disastrous outcomes, though. We (America and allies) could have rejected the mission to bomb the living hell out of millions of innocent people for no actual reason, but hey, some guy on tv who looked important told us there was a ‘war on terror’ or something.

        • Jackalope

          Out of curiosity, how do you think we could have done that if the president said we were going to war? Looking back at the Vietnam War, for example, it’s clear that having the people say loud and clear that they are against a war doesn’t do a single thing to stop it from happening. There may be a way, but I can’t see it.

          • Dag

            So if you can’t stop your government from involving you in wars that you don’t want to be involved in, why would it matter who the president is? Why pretend the government cares about your feelings and thoughts on any level when they’re seemingly happy enough to send off anyone they can get to suffer or die for their agendas in perpetuity? Why give the office some veneer of respectability, or act as if you have some say in it? Human sacrifice is not okay. Some poor kid from Nebraska who joins the army because what else can you do with a high school diploma … his life is more important than the myth of America he’s sent away to die for.

            Believing in government authority as somehow inherently ‘legit’ gives it more credibility. You don’t actually have to identify with or defend it at all. Did you do something special to be born in America? I didn’t choose to be born in Canada. I just happen to exist on a land that some governments and crowns have decided they have magical powers to rule over. Do their feelings about it mean they truly have magical extra ‘rights’ that I don’t have? Not really. I don’t believe in the ‘divine right’ of kings, presidents, or prime ministers. Governments are made up of human beings, and some humans aren’t more important than other humans. A president or CEO aren’t more important than a refugee child or a homeless person. The only differences are money and mythology.

          • Jackalope

            See, that’s exactly why I think it’s so important to vote carefully and make wise choices about the people we elect to office. The way democracy is SUPPOSED to work (not saying it always does, as we all know differently) is that the people vote people into office based on what the running officials’ beliefs/views/positions are, and then those people put into place, as much as is possible, said beliefs/views/positions. People continue providing input (calling senators, writing to the governor, etc.), but the ones who have the authority to make those decisions are the elected officials.

            To bring it back to a specific, practical example, imagine that 15 years ago Al Gore had been in office instead of George W Bush when the Sept. 11th bombing happened. Would we have had the same wars that we’ve been embroiled in over the past few years? Maybe, but I would guess not, or at least not in the same way as we have. Whether this would have been a good thing or a bad thing is anyone’s guess; I tend to think it would have been better not to have those wars, but I don’t know how things would have played out. But either way, many things in our country would be different (including many soldiers still alive, not maimed, etc.) if we hadn’t had those wars.

            That is why I am deeply concerned about the possibility that someone who has proved repeatedly that he is a swaggering, narcissistic bully eager to be rude and insulting at every chance and unwilling to listen to those around him might be president. Like it or not, the president is our representative throughout the world, and I see many possibilities for other countries with whom we have strained relations to have everything go south (including possible war), and countries with whom we have good relations to become strained. Furthermore, the president has certain powers in running the country, veto powers, etc. that mean that Trump as president could have very real impacts on our lives. As we’ve seen the last 8 years, Congress could throw a monkey wrench in that and thwart him at every turn, but he still has the chance to make decisions (supreme court justices, going into war, etc) that will affect our country for years to come.

            Now does my personal vote affect things? Probably not in this case; the Republicans haven’t taken the presidential votes in my state for over 30 years, and they aren’t likely to start now if Trump is the Republican candidate. But if the American population has in fact swung back against Trump, then they will have to show that in November or else some dire things could happen.

            (And I’m confused about how “believing in government authority as somehow inherently ‘legit’ gives it more credibility”. No matter what you believe about the legitimacy of the government, they still establish the rules that you have to live by if you don’t want to go to jail, lose your job, lose your property, etc. Tax protesters don’t get excluded from paying taxes just because they don’t like the IRS, speeding tickets don’t go away for those who think the speed limit in a specific area was too slow, and during the draft, draft protesters still went to jail.)

          • Dag

            ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him alone shall you serve.’

            > I see many possibilities for other countries with whom we have >strained relations to have everything go south (including possible >war)

            I don’t know where you’re seeing these possibilities unless ‘war’ truly means bombing people who can’t resist in any meaningful way, now. Unless the USA is going to stir something up with China there is no other nation with a military large enough to engage in an actual ‘war’ with the US. Realistically, China isn’t advanced enough to war with the US, either.

            >But if the American population has in fact swung back against Trump, >then they will have to show that in November or else some dire things >could happen.
            What’s the most dire thing that could happen? Nazi Germany the sequel? Again, the point is, if millions of Germans had said ‘hey, this guy is whack, we’re not going to obey him no matter how scary he gets’ things would have gone very differently. Many would have died, yes. Some people like being given permission and means to do evil to others, it would appear. But Nazism wouldn’t now be used as this perpetual bogeyman to justify a ‘lesser’ evil. Vote or else Hitler! Really?
            People who want to oppress women use the same rhetoric against feminists, implying that I should be grateful for more benevolent oppression if I don’t want to be treated like a ‘really oppressed’ Daesh slave, or something. How about no oppression? Can I choose no oppression?
            Now you know why Jesus was killed. Now you know why many Christians were martyred/murdered even though they never committed a single violent act. Some Romans were like ‘just following orders’ and some (legit oppressed) Jews were like ‘this deal is getting worse all the time!’
            You can’t preserve or protect what you love by justifying how others are destroyed to maintain it.

            > No matter what you believe about the legitimacy of the government, >they still establish the rules that you have to live by if you don’t want >to go to jail, lose your job, lose your property, etc.

            Sure. They can even kill you. They used to enjoy crucifixion but now they prefer lethal injection. So classy.

          • Jackalope

            I’m sorry, I’m truly not following your argument here. What does worshiping God alone have to do with recognizing the fact that the government has power and authority over our lives? I’m not worshiping the government. I’m not arguing for or against government. (For what it’s worth, my observation is that it is not possible to have a population of millions of people and not have some form of government, no matter what you might choose to call it. Some are better, some are worse. But they will exist with large populations because there’s not a way around it.) I’m merely describing the role government has in our lives. And since this power exists, I would prefer that the people who are in charge in this system that we live under be people who are ethical and make wise choices, which are not traits I’ve seen in Trump. Could the public go against a tyrant? Yes, that’s possible, but it tends to get really bloody, and given the choice, I would prefer not to elect a tyrant in the first place.

            As far as war options, according to that most reliable of sources, Wikipedia, 8 countries in the world have nuclear weapons that are under their control (as opposed to a few countries housing weapons for the US but who can’t set them off). Out of those countries, at least one (North Korea) has a strained relationship with us, and some of the others have had one in the past. One of those countries deciding to send nuclear weapons in our way because Trump was his offensive, bullying self could cause millions of death if aimed the right way, and it wouldn’t matter if the country had military that could stand a long fight with us if they managed to wipe out large population centers.

            I’m also confused about your comment that now I know why Jesus died and many Christians were martyred. I’ve been aware of both of those things for a long time. I’m not seeing how Jesus’ death could be blamed on the Romans, though, given that according to the primary source documents that we have, the people were doing exactly what you appear to be suggesting that they do, and taking action to force the government to obey their wishes (through threatening a riot). Martyrs, yes, many of those are due to the governments in power at the time, which is (again) why I would rather have someone ethical in power than someone who is not.

          • Dag

            I’d recommend watching Statism: The Most Dangerous Religion by Larken Rose on youtube if you want to better understand my argument. I don’t know how to explain so you’ll get it … basically, all relationships should be consensual. If they’re not consensual, they are inherently coercive and violent. Even if one of the parties has really good intentions and lots of nice sounding ideas. The reality that forcing your will on another is oppressive doesn’t change because one of the parties was elected and has ‘special powers’.

            I didn’t mention nuclear war because I don’t consider it war. It would just be the end of the world.

            I have never suggested rioting. I am advocating individual moral action and personal accountability. Finding reasons why someone else should be killed is not moral action. I also don’t advocate ‘taking action to force the government to obey our wishes’. Forcing people to do what you want against their own will IS WRONG. That’s the whole point.

            Why would anyone ethical pursue power over others? I don’t understand how ethical power can exist, sorry.

          • Jackalope

            “Why would anyone ethical pursue power over others? I don’t understand how ethical power can exist, sorry.”

            It’s not possible as human beings to function as a social group without some humans having power over others. Maybe some species can manage it, but not us. Power is found all over the place. Parents have power over children. Bosses have power over employees. Teachers have power over students. Pilots and bus drivers have power over passengers. And government officials have power over their constituents. There isn’t a way to make that go away. Small children can make many decisions for themselves, but are physically and mentally incapable of making the decisions they need to be self-sufficient, so parents need to take care of them (and babies are helpless enough that for the first several months of their life their parents control every place they move to because they can’t move on their own). The second someone is able to hire or fire someone, they gain power over that person. And so on. It is possible to use this power in ethical or unethical ways, but if you try to pretend that the power doesn’t exist, then you’re much more likely to go the route of power being used in unethical ways because you don’t create appropriate checks and balances.

            Nuclear war might end up being the end of the world. Alternatively, in the aforementioned scenario, the US and North Korea (or whomever) could merely destroy each other and leave everything else untouched (which I consider more likely than attacking everyone else), meaning disaster for those countries (and probably their close neighbors), but still leaving large parts of the world untouched. I am against this idea, but can still see that many lives would continue on peacefully untouched by this conflict on other continents.

            And perhaps you didn’t advocate rioting, but history has shown that when an abusive or tyrannical government/leader is in power, violent solutions tend to be the main ones that will work because the person in power will respond with force no matter what you do, so you have to win the arms war. Again, this is why it matters who we elect to power. Trying to go for peaceful opposition in places like Nazi Germany tended to lead to you being killed or at least sent to a concentration camp.

          • Dag

            You assert that we always ‘need’ someone in power, but you haven’t proven it.
            You consent to take a job. It is an agreement, not compulsion. If you don’t consent to a job but are forced to work, it is slavery. I’m sure you’ll agree that we don’t need slavery even though we have had it throughout history. You consent to take a bus. If someone is forcing you to take a bus … why should anyone have the right to force you to take a bus? I agree that babies and children need protection and guidance … but if someone’s power-tripping over children, that’s abusive.
            If we always ‘need’ someone in power, than women’s liberation and equality is an impossible dream – because many men simply won’t let go of their established power.
            Jesus, on the other hand, gave us the example of peaceful, non-violent opposition – even unto death. He didn’t say ‘you have to win the arms war’.
            Excuse me if I sound a little short. Am dealing with food poisoning. 🙁

          • Jackalope

            I feel like we are operating under different definitions of “power” here. The definition that I’m going by is fairly close to these definitions from “the possession of control or command over others; authority; ascendancy; legal ability, capacity, or authority”. And having power does not have to mean “power tripping”. Parents have power over their children. They have authority to control their actions (to a certain extent), and have the ability to enforce consequences for those actions. When a parent takes a baby and puts that baby to bed, he or she is exercising control and authority in that baby’s life to a certain extent. When a child acts out and a parent imposes consequences, that is a usage of power and authority. That power can be used in loving and wise ways, or it can be used in abusive ways, or some mix of the two, but it is still power and authority.

            Likewise, the fact that I choose to go to work in no way changes the fact that my bosses have power over me. They choose my hours, dictate how much overtime I can work, which work projects I am assigned to, and when I work on them. If I were to do something against policy they could use that power to impose consequences, including firing me. The fact that I have entered into this job voluntarily does not change the fact that they have power over me when I am there. And for those who have no back-up income or second job waiting in the wings, the ability to just leave is limited by practical needs to pay bills and have income. I am fortunate in having good bosses who use this power wisely, but that in no way negates that they have it.

            So why did I say that we need someone in power? Imagine a moderately sized city, such as we have throughout the world, of 100,000 people. That city will have many needs. It will need some sort of sanitation/hygiene if everyone isn’t going to poison the water supply and die of cholera. How do you figure out the rules for that system? How do you pay for it? Who maintains it? Some sort of market or form of buying and selling will be needed; for that many people, a barter system alone won’t work. Who verifies that the weights and scales are accurate? Who mints the currency? Who makes sure that market stalls are given out fairly, or stores pay appropriate rent, or…? Some sort of roads will be needed. How are they made? Who maintains them? Are they paid for by taxes, or by tolls, or are they built by volunteers? Does everyone have a required volunteer week each year? Who makes sure that system works? At some point in time conflicts will arise between people that they cannot resolve by themselves because that is human nature, and in a city of 100,000 people you can’t possibly know everyone else. Who helps resolve those conflicts? Who decide what is a fair result? If the two gets into a fight and one hurts the other, or even kills the other, who ensures that there is justice? I could go on, but I hope you get the idea. All of these people, these sanitation system enforcers and testers of weights and scales, these minters and determiners of currency, these judges and arbiters, they all have authority and power over the people of the city. They have control over their constituents whether those constituents like it or not.

            And if you fail to recognize that there will be people with power, if you fail therefore to take steps to ensure that there are checks and balances, then the default option is that the strongest will get what they want at the expense of the weakest. That will be the strongest in whatever is the currency of strength at the time, whether physical strength, wealth, popularity, or what have you, but ultimately if you refuse to acknowledge power and set up a system properly, then you will have injustice. (You will probably have injustice even with a good system, but it is likely to be less injustice.)

            And I agree that Jesus acted for the most part in non-violent ways, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t use power. He used his power and authority to command demons to leave people, to command the winds and waves to obey him, to heal people, and to raise himself (and a handful of others) from the dead. He said that all power/authority (depending on the version) in heaven and earth was given to him. God frequently talks about the power to move mountains, cause the earth to shake, to give us life and to take it back again, to send rain or withhold it, to knit us together as babies in our mother’s wombs, and many other things. All of that is the power of God.

            (And on a related note, you said earlier that all relationships that are not consensual are inherently coercive and violent. Every single one of us to one extent or another has some sort of relationship with God. Not all of us choose to embrace that relationship, but every one of us [if you believe according to Christian theology] was created by God, has our life sustained by God, and in the end we die according to God’s will. Does that mean that that is a coercive and violent relationship? Some people would say yes, some no, but we can’t escape it.)

          • Dag

            The notion that we couldn’t figure out sanitation without government always irks me. Compost toilets would be better for the environment, for one thing.

            That humans can work together for mutual benefit is not something I question. I remain unconvinced that anyone has the ‘right’ to rule over others, because actually, when you think about it – it violates the golden rule. (Do unto others as you would have done unto you.) If you do to others what you outlaw them to do to you then obviously you’re not obeying that command of Jesus. By demanding the existence of government, we are putting the souls of these leaders at risk. Even if they have the best intentions, once in power, they have to enforce ‘rules’ that violate the laws of God. Not cool!

            Parents have the power to put a baby to bed, sure. They don’t have the power to make that baby sleep, though.

            God has perfect knowledge, perfect ways, is wholly good, and knows the content of every heart. If someone like that wants to reign over me, I’m good with it – but I recognize that not everyone will be and can still choose to serve or reject God as we are not living in a theocracy.

            Government puts itself in a god-like position, giving itself rights that no individual human has, and threatening punishment if we don’t obey. Politicians certainly do not have perfect knowledge or perfect ways, so why should they be endowed with supernatural rights?
            I don’t really see a lot of ‘coercive’ elements to perfect love, but your mileage may vary? I think we have a tendency to tie up our ideas about love with our experiences with other humans, but God isn’t a human. When He did come down here as a human, He came as a tiny baby and a non-violent miracle worker. I wouldn’t say that Jesus was coercive in any way. If people didn’t want to follow Him or listen to Him, it’s not like He forced them.

          • keefanda

            To comment on anti-government philosophy:

            Here is something profound: All the references in the New Testament to government *as an institution* are positive – they all speak positively of government. (An individual act by an individual in government is not about government *as an institution* any more than an individual act by an individual in a corporation would be about a corporation *as an institution*.) What makes this so profound is that in spite of the fact that the main government of that day was a ruthless dictatorship that invades your country and barbarically occupies and rules over you and taxes you without representation, the New Testament writers still spoke only positively about government. Imagine how much more positively they would have written about government had they seen the best examples of modern representative democracy in action.

            The reason they are all positive is this: In terms of impersonal gifts (which means for this restriction we exclude the gift of Jesus the person), government is the greatest gift God ever gave to humanity. Consider the following two of many general ways in which it is such a gift:

            It is the only means by which we can collectively defend ourselves against those who would like to be allowed to engage in behavior that is harmful to at least some of the rest of us. This right of collective self-defense speaks in part to the public health and the public safety. Some examples of our right to collective self-defense in action is we through our government putting restrictions on those corporate “persons” who with no limit whatsoever wish to be allowed to spew poison into our breathing air and dump poison into our drinking water.

            It is the only means by which we can as much as possible stop and prevent the suffering of the Suffering Christ in the form of say, all those people including homeless people who suffer because of little to no access to food or shelter or medical care, this lack of access caused by the anti-government philosophy of conservatism/libertarianism combined with the abject incapability of private charity to ever cover any more than the tiniest little percentage of the total unmet need for these New Testament commodities of food (“feed the hungry”), shelter (“shelter the homeless”), and medical care (“heal the sick”). Consider: In 41 states in the US before so-called Obamacare, almost all homeless people were denied Medicaid and were allowed Food Stamps for only the first three months of every three year period. This still goes on in those anti-government conservative states that disallowed the Medicaid expansion. Allowing the Suffering Christ to suffer like this was and still is a moral obscenity. (Don’t forget that Jesus identified himself with such as those who suffer because of lack of food or shelter or medical care, no matter what the reason for the lack.)

            Finally, consider what part of human nature anti-government philosophy appeals to. It should be clear that it is rooted in what the New Testament literally calls “the flesh”, which is actually a metaphor. The term in the original languages is translated non-literally in many different translations many different ways, notably as “the selfish nature” in the Common English Bible. That is, hatred of government appeals to this selfish nature, the selfish desire to not have to “be told what to do” even though we have to sometimes yield to others if we are not to live by this selfish nature. The selfish nature has to take a back seat to higher ways, ways that lead to and make possible collectivism and redistribution, New Testament ideas found in such places as the ends of Acts 2 and Acts 4, especially the end of Acts 4 – see the idea of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need” in practice, where it’s about paying money according to their ability to pay into a single public pot out of which needs were met according to their needs. (The New Testament “flesh” or selfish nature in action: “I don’t want to have to pay taxes to help homeless people, to help the Suffering Christ. They deserve to rot, the lazy bums!”)

            Government even exists in nature. Examples of such “government” would be how some of the higher mammals such as apes form groups and collectively work together in groups, which means that individuals in these groups cannot be totally selfish all the time – they have to yield to others, to “be told what to do”. (Again: The selfish nature has to take a back seat to higher ways, relating to collectivism and redistribution.)

            Any kind of meaningful life is impossible without government – for humans, it’s the essence of civilization.

          • Dag

            Well, hey. I knew there was a reason to hang on to the Old Testament …

            You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. Ezekiel 34:4

            Sorry, not joining the cult of civilization. Paying your taxes and voting isn’t actually doing anything to help people in need. It’s paying someone else to worry about and deal with those ‘lazy bums’ (the irony). I do want Jesus to have food and someplace nice and warm to sleep but I don’t want to shoot Him, blow Him up, imprison Him, or have Him tear-gassed. I don’t want to pass legislation on who He’s allowed to marry, or which washroom He’s allowed to use. I don’t want to build a wall to keep Him out if He’s not originally from the area. Can’t really get behind a lot of what government does. Pretending it’s a force for good would be outright lying. Lying is wrong. Government does that, too.

            You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Corinthians 7:23

          • keefanda

            “Paying your taxes and voting isn’t actually doing anything to help people in need.”

            There are so many examples that show that this is not true when voting and paying taxes is done in a way that actually does help people. So what if other people do it via government? I can’t save the world by myself, but many of us working collectively together via the right type of tax paying and voting can move things in the direction of heaven on Earth (think Norway) rather than hell on Earth (think Somalia). Here in the US, how Christian is it to shut down Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and throw all the elderly out into the street and let them rot so one can feed one’s own selfish motives to not have to pay higher taxes? (Note that not far from half of Medicaid goes to taking care of poor elderly people in nursing homes.)

            (By the way, the Old Testament is not anti-government.)

            Yes, people have used government in evil ways. But it is logically fallacious to use this fact as an argument against government – to argue that government is evil because some people have done some evil things with government, in the same way that it is logically fallacious to argue that guns are evil because some people have done some evil things with guns.

            Jesus said to evaluate a tree by its fruit. OK, let’s do that – let’s compare and contrast the fruits of anti-government philosophy and pro-government philosophy.

            From anti-government philosophy fully implemented, we see essentially no good outcomes, ever. Having no meaningfully functioning government at all always yields such as a Somalia, where, like it not, there is some “government” in the form of organized crime taking over everything. The end result for almost the whole population is morbidity, sickness, disease, pain, suffering, and premature death, many times via mass murder, even genocide.

            From pro-government philosophy we sometimes get the above.

            And sometimes we do not.

            When we do not, it’s because the people have become involved via democracy to form prosperous societies. The best examples are where the people voted for the New Testament values I alluded to in my last comment to form social democracies that on a per capita nominal GDP basis are essentially the most prosperous countries in the history of humanity (excluding the small city-states like Luxembourg), namely the richest Scandinavian countries (which for almost every year of the past 30-40 years have had larger per capita GDPs than even the US).

            Look at the results of such Christianity in action in such data as the chart on minimum wages for various countries I link to below. Although these richer Scandinavian societies do not have statutory minimum wages, they do have effective minimum wages via strong collective bargaining laws that effectively make most wages in the country under a collective bargaining agreement. We’re talking about effective minimum wages in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark up around 4,000-5,000 dollars per month – that’s right, per month. These are at roughly 60-80% of per capita nominal GDP, calculated up to 2014. (The median – not average – wage in Norway last time I checked a few years ago was up close to $7,000 per month.) To compare to the US past and present: The federal minimum wage in the US in 1970 was also at roughly 60% of per capita nominal GDP, but because of voters believing in the falsity of economic conservatism of anti-minimum wage and anti-collective bargaining, this country abandoned progressive public policy of having strong support systems for wages via strong minimum wage and collective bargaining laws. Because of this, the federal minimum wage has collapsed to less than 30% of per capita nominal GDP, and wages in general have collapsed as well. That is, in 1970, 0% of the full-time workforce made less than this 60% threshold, but now close to 50% of the full-time workforce makes less than this 60% threshold. If we had maintained what we had in the same way that these richer Scandinavian and other rich countries such as Australia and Netherlands (measured by per capita nominal GDP) maintained, where via strong minimum wage and collective bargaining law all full-time workers stayed above this threshold of 60% of per capita nominal GDP, the present minimum wage would not be $7 plus change per hour but at roughly $17 plus change per hour, roughly $3,000 per month, about the same as it presently is in Australia for adults 21 and older, which is a statutory minimum wage. Folks, get out there and vote in Democratic primaries and general elections over the next several election cycles to promote the progressive revolution of the early 21st century to mirror the progressive revolution of the early 20th century. Here is the chart, but I first give a link to the webpage that contains the chart, an article at a blog by one in Singapore trying to promote change in his country, change from the slave-labor conditions and wages for so many to better working conditions and wages for all:



          • Dag

            You can’t force heaven on earth. You can’t *make* people be better. You can’t compel people to live the way you think they ought. When such things are attempted, oppression is the result.
            Also, genocides are most often carried out by governments (even European ones). Just so you’re aware.
            It’s probably best to accept that we’ll not change each other’s minds. Have a good day. 🙂

          • Jackalope

            It looks like someone else has jumped in while I was gone, so I don’t have as much to respond as I would have. I did want to say though, that part of the issue with trying to avoid government is that with larger populations, everything breaks down. To use your composting toilet example: I think that’s a great idea. Where it can be used, sure; go that route. On the other hand, the city I used to live in had around 2 million people (give or take a bit, depending on how you calculate it) and 87 square miles of land. That works out to right at 23,000 people per square mile. All of the non-built-up space is given to parks; no farming, nothing until you get a ways out of the city. You can’t compost the waste of 2 million people with nowhere to put it. There is not a way to deal with it without some form of establishment to deal with it, which is (or eventually becomes) government. Same thing for water, food, building rules, etc. It’s not manageable to have that many people just agree on rules and live them out.

      • This is a sweet but ultimately naive perspective. Why? Because he is a narcissistic sociopath, and they are rarely “curable,” much less open to God’s “softening.”
        I admire the way you desire to emulate Christ as He himself directed, but want to note that exercising one’s faith by interceding for an individual is a far cry from allowing him to wreak havoc on a country and its government.

        • Jackalope

          I’m not 100% sure which comment you are responding to, since there have been many comments in this thread, but I’m going to assume based on where your comment falls in the nesting that it’s my first comment. If that is wrong then feel free to let me know.

          I personally am a fan of the idea that you should pray as if God is the only one who can fix it, and then work as if you’re the only one who can fix it. If you read all of the comments you can see that I’m not arguing that praying without taking any other action is the way to go (the only person who may — *may* — have been arguing this was Dag). In the small ways that I can take action I’m trying to work for Trump not to be president, but in the grander scheme of things I don’t have a lot of power in this area as one concerned citizen. And yes, prayer is one of the things that I’m doing, but not the only one.

          (Although I’ve seen people whose personalities were changed in dramatic ways as they drew closer to God, so while I stand by what I said about it being unlikely that this would happen with Trump at this point in time, it is still a possibility. [And yes, other things can change you in dramatic ways for the better, but I can’t encourage Trump in any way to go get therapy, or to put himself in positions where he might have life-changing encounters, etc. I CAN talk to God about this, so I do.])

          • Hi! I was replying to Dag, the original comment, and then wrote this assuming wrongly that you and he were the same:

            Your words greatly help me understand your perspective. I have seen prayer used as a replacement for action, and I have also had multiple extended encounters with people who have Trump’s style of disorders. I have seen women wait years in toxic marriages praying for change, even enduring abuse, and to me, his actions towards our country now are no less pathological. For this reason, perhaps, I am more cynical in regards to praying for so unhealthy an individual.

            None of this, however, renders your points unreal. Thank you for clarifying.

  • Kevin

    I’ve received a number of links texted to me that support Trump. One was from the conspiracy theorist wing of Evangelicalism, saying the joining of forces of people on both the left and right is sign of the Illuminati’s globalist conspiracy. In another a prominent leader in Pentecostalism dismissed Kasich as an establishment RINO and claimed that a Biblical(TM) case can be made for either Trump or Cruz(said leader is Dominionist). This leader criticized NeverTrump, claiming based on some of their critiques, NeverTrump would have rejected some biblical characters.(Sounds like this is dangerously close to abuse apology!) He also said that people shouldn’t be dismissive of the frustrations of the Trump supporters. (I’m glad people I know don’t read this blog; they would NOT be happy if they knew I posted this. I’d probably take heat for criticizing The Lord’s Annointed[TM] and threatened with God’s wrath.?)
    Another thing people like about Trump is they vote for him to give PC the finger, which is like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.(I plan on doing a blog post on my views on PC.) What people need is Moral Courage(their YouTube channel has many videos that restore your faith in humanity).

    • spacegal2003

      Ah yes, the supporters who like him because he “tells it like it is” without caring whom he insults. Which will be great when he’s negotiating with other world leaders.

      While I believe he started this campaign not expecting to win but is now running with it, I have sympathy for the conspiracy theorists who think he joined the race as such a terrible candidate that everyone will have to vote for Hillary, that he’s been working for her all along.

  • tophergraceless

    Well Trump supporters only represent about 25-27% of the electorate. so not as big as one may think. Also, as 538 blog points out the median income for a Trump supporter is 72,000 a year. so his support is middle-class and upper-middle class whites. People who have done well for themselves but also see that slipping away and are very angry about it. Working class folks, when they vote, usually trend democrat for all races.

    Anyway, it is almost impossible for Trump to win in the general. Clinton, to win has to only win all the states that have voted democratic in the last six presidential elections and then win Florida (which I know it is early but polls showing her against Trump have a way ahead in Florida). Trump, on the other hand, has to do a lot more work. This on top of the fact that Trump has no GOTV organization and hardly any kind of organization on the ground in any state. Plus, we should take heart that Trump’s negatives are so high. I mean he is hated by more of the electorate then any other candidate in history. There is even talk that trump is so despised he may cause negatively motivated turnout, I mean he could motivate people to get out to vote just to vote against him.

    This is not to say we need to get complacent about Trump’s campaign, but I am not too worried about him actually making it into the White House.

  • That we as society accept lethal injections as humane – that reminds of the Star Trek Original Series episode where war is fought solely on computers, and people “killed” virtually must report to a vaporizer. As long as the war feels safe, as long as the people don’t have to experience the insecurity and horror, they continue their war for centuries. 🙁

    • Timothy Swanson

      That was a chilling episode, wasn’t it?

  • Timothy Swanson

    Outstanding post.

  • ⊕RussR⊕

    look, i think Trump is a douche, but this “story” ain’t much better…

    “His campaign has already incited horrific violence against black and queer and female bodies”????

    who incited violence?…. do you not watch the news?… its not trumps supporters getting violent… its the BLM and illegal alien crowds..

    “an anti-Christ in the sense that he stands in direct opposition to everything Jesus Christ taught us to do.”

    and Hillary is mother Teresa… :/

    “radically resist oppression through turning the other cheek”…

    hard to turn you head after they cut it off….

    “Trump tells us to ostracize or exile those who look different”…

    lets translate that to English… he wishes to enforce the law equally and try to stop a threat to the country… and you have a problem with that?

    “Trump calls on us to enact abominations against women and children.”

    lol… sources? …

    let see…. ““Make America Great Again” in your mind = “white men deserve land ownership, deserve enfranchisement, deserve gainful employment– and these white men were quite willing for hundreds of years to enrich themselves off the fact that they literally owned women and didn’t even recognize black people as human beings”

    wow… projecting much?

  • keefanda

    Here are some things about Trump and the phrase “master race” (used to justify slavery in the United States well before German Nazism) that everyone ought to know:


    “Donald Trump used to keep a book of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside, so said Trump’s ex-wife, Ivana….Trump’s ex-wife said Donald studied the speeches of Adolf Hitler. Not only did Donald lean heavily on his German heritage, but Trump viewed Hitler as some kind of hero – at least, in terms of Hitler’s ability to sway a crowd and hypnotize folks by his speaking abilities. According to the Vanity Fair piece, Trump’s cousin even greeted Donald with a “Heil Hitler” salute.

    “Donald Trump appears to take aspects of his German background seriously. John Walter works for the Trump Organization, and when he visits Donald in his office, Ivana told a friend, he clicks his heels and says, ‘Heil Hitler,’ possibly as a family joke.”

    “This Is Why Donald Trump Sounds and Acts Like Adolf Hitler”


    “Trump confirmed that the former Mrs. Trump’s 1990 assertion is true.

    The Hitler volume, “My New Order” not only contains 23 years’ worth of Hitler’s speeches, “it is profusely indexed and filled with details about the speeches’ impact on the media and the political establishment.” According to a literary periodical, Kirkus Review, Trump’s collection of Hitler speeches contains “actual quotations from Hitler’s own utterances, including corresponding data showing the effect on the world press. Section after section follows pattern-background, speech, press;” and Donald Trump faithfully follows Hitler’s model.

    The way Trump rages like a madman, responds aggressively in public and argues closely follows Hitler’s instructions in “My New Order.” Trump successfully learned about targeting the audience’s lowest common denominator, how scare-propaganda works, and how to structure an emotional speech for effect and to incite rage. Trump has succeeded up to now in emulating his apparent Nazi hero because a recent analysis in the New York Times concludes that Trump is as proficient at hateful demagoguery as any 20th Century monster.”

    “Bill Maher Points Out How Frighteningly Similar Donald Trump Sounds To Hitler”

    “On Holocaust Remembrance Day Trump Ignored Calls to Repudiate Anti-Semitism”

    “7 Takeaways from Vanity Fair’s 1990 Profile of Donald Trump”


    ” The Oxford English Dictionary records that William J. Grayson [a U.S. Representative from South Carolina] used the phrase “master race” in his poem The Hireling and the Slave (1855)…in 1863 the Richmond Examiner stated that “there are slave races born to serve, master races born to govern.”

  • I find my waning faith an issue now. I love your writing and have a similar feeling about Trump, but without needing to justify it with Jesus’ example. Even from a humanist perspective, he is a horrible person whose rise is deeply troubling.

    While I absolutely admire the way your faith informs your personal values, I don’t think it’s even necessary to use Jesus’ example to say why Trump is a problem. In fact, I might (tentatively, because I hate conflict) even say that conflating Jesus’ example with a template for national policy is just another example of church and state being intermingled inappropriately. Not because it isn’t admirable, but because it’s ultimately unnecessary and fuels the kind of right-wing nationalism cloaked in conservative Christianity that kind-hearted individuals have fought so hard to overcome.

    In other words, it seems like going the long way around to an obvious conclusion (Trump is an unhealthy reflection of an unpleasantly numerous minority) that doesn’t need faith to be valid on a national stage.

    • Jackalope

      There are many ways to come to the conclusion that Trump is a terrible person who should not be our president. The thing is, at the risk of speaking for Samantha who is perfectly capable of sharing her own perspective, I will point out that Samantha’s blog is not about politics, it’s about faith (and lots of other things, too, but the Christian faith in all its beauty and ugliness is one of her major themes). If she were a political commentator you might have a point, but she writes about: faith and how to live our lives; faith and how it affects gender roles; faith and how that affects the books we read; faith and our perspective on LGBTQ issues; and so on. So it would actually be a much odder fit for this particular blog if she wrote up a review on Trump, especially a review talking about Trump as a moral issue for our country, without talking about Jesus. (And to be frank, if you are a Christian then one of the key lenses that you use to consider the world is Jesus and Jesus’ perspective, so whatever decisions you make are going to be colored by that consideration.)

      (Samantha, please feel free to contradict what I’ve said or jump in yourself. Not meaning to speak for you, but I thought it might be a helpful point.)

      • Hi!
        First of all, thank you for replying to both of my comments so kindly. It takes a lot of restraint to reply to criticism with a gracious spirit, and I appreciate that about you.

        I see your point about the content of her blog. In that context, it was a beautiful post.

        I suppose my adjusted point is simply that even if people don’t share her faith, there are still a myriad of ways to be horrified by Trump and to unite against him…does that make sense?

        Again, though: thank you for your kind tone. That means a lot when talking about faith and politics–not exactly easy!

      • That pretty much nails it. 🙂

  • ⊕RussR⊕