As faith leaders we are both disturbed and alarmed by the manipulation of the Word of God coming out of this White House. In particular, regardless of one’s theology, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ pronouncement that God wanted Trump to be president of the United States showed a deep lack of respect for religion, and it represents a danger to our democracy.
Claims of divined power and divined competence is political subterfuge that manipulates the citizenry by misusing the glory and authority of God. It is fraud perpetrated in the name of God.
Across human history, people have wrongly deified leaders and celebrities, elevating false gods in their own image. Such assertions are far more than foolhardy; they have led to dangerous influence over others and unabashed power grabs. To hear such claims come out of our White House in 2019 assigns a chilling false faith in executive power.
Our concern is not a progressive concept; it is a faithful construct. Christian conservative Rev. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the moral and policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, rightly says, “Those who claim earthly rule now by divine appointment are, according to Jesus and his apostles, frauds.”
That’s true whether they are seeking a murderous rule over a nation, or whether in a more benign setting they are trying to use God’s Word to snuggle up to the local powers-that-be by promising a ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in exchange for a place at the table. This is a claim to speak where God has not spoken. God has made clear, repeatedly, what he thinks of such”. Members of this White House may want to read the scripture Moore cites:
Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. [Ezek. 34:7-10]
To be sure, some conservative faith leaders have also implied that Trump’s presidency is divinely mandated, making his authority virtually unlimited. These are dangerous assertions from Trump evangelical advisors like Paula White and Robert Jeffress, which suggest that if God chose Trump, who are we to challenge him and his policies? But these conservative leaders have the free speech right to their opinions, however radical, and no matter how much we may disagree.
When these radical religious ideologies come from within our government, the phone call, as the horror film says, is coming from inside the house. The White House in this case.
Recall Attorney General Jeff Sessions used Romans 13:1-7 to argue that the Trump administration had the political and biblical right to remove and cage children and parents at the southern border. And that is precisely why when Sanders says that God wanted Trump to be the president — we must resist.
Sanders’ statement is a flagrant breach of the First Amendment’s wall of separation between church and state. So concerned were our nation’s founders about the State imposing or restricting religion that they expressly prohibited the establishment of state religion in order to protect the integrity and free exercise of all religions. Sanders took a sledgehammer to the First Amendment when, as an officer of the state, she declared definitive understanding of the mind of God.
Any sacred text can be weaponized. Sanders’ brand of Christianity rises from the same soil as those who sat out the Abolitionist Movement claiming God chose some to be slaves and others to be masters. They dared not question the sovereignty of God. We dare not question God’s anointing of our President. But there is such a thing as sin. There is such a thing as oppression.
Those of us who share in the teachings of Christ, look not to Romans 13 but Matthew 25 (NIV):
For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in … ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
When it comes to the personal faith claimed by some members of the White House administration and Congress, the evidence is clear that this flock does not follow the teachings of Jesus the Christ. Where is eradicating poverty and caring for the marginalized? Where is peace-making? Where is welcoming the stranger? Where is centering children and the aged? Where, quite frankly, is love of neighbor?
Biblical readers like Ms. Sanders would do well to grapple with the compassion and uncompromising justice lens of Jesus, that Afro-Semitic, Jewish refugee baby she claims, before she claims that God wanted Donald Trump to be president; and she would do well to leave God out of it.
The authors are Auburn seniors fellows: Rev. Traci Blackmon is the United Church of Christ‘s executive minister for justice and local church ministries in Cleveland; Lisa Sharon Harper is the founder of Freedom Road LLC in Washington, D.C.; Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis is the senior pastor of Middle Collegiate Church in New York; and Rev. Dr. Otis Moss is the senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.