In President Trump’s war of words with North Korea lies a key to understanding some of the religious dynamics of the Trump era. It has to do with the character of God.
During the ongoing public back and forth with North Korea, the president Tuesday said the country would “be met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before” if it threatens the United States. Later in the day, one of Trump’s evangelical advisers blessed the president’s rhetoric, saying “God has given Trump authority to take out” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The Bible gives rulers “full power to stop evil … to do whatever, whether it’s assassination, capital punishment, or evil punishment” to stop “evildoers,” Texas megapastor Robert Jeffress told The Washington Post.
Many Americans recoiled at this image of a threatening, authoritarian God.
Jeffress told The Post that a Christian writer asked him: “Don’t you want the president to embody the Sermon on the Mount?” The sermon is an epic collection of Jesus’ sayings that have to do with turning the other cheek, loving your enemies and the hell that awaits people who judge or are angry. “Absolutely not,” Jeffress said.
Views of God have become a fault line tearing through American religion, dividing people who emphasize God, and by extension morality, as being about authority, power, loyalty, drawing lines and setting rules from those who focus on God as loving, nonjudgmental and forgiving. Both attributes are found in scripture of major faiths. Researchers have found that people who see God as more authoritarian are more likely to condemn others and to say being a good person means teaching others your morals and converting them to your faith view.
In recent decades, popular culture has favored the Benevolent God, eclipsing the reality that the Authoritarian God is very alive in America and always has been. The most popular Jesus art on Pinterest shows him laughing, smiling in a field of pink flowers and cuddling lambs. Billboard’s top Christian songs portray God as a friend and lover, associated with positive things. “In love, in freedom … bursting in living color,” sings Hillsong in “Wonder,” now at #11.
These two concepts of God as either benevolent or authoritarian shed some light on why Trump’s often harsh language to some seems blatantly sacrilegious, basically a disqualifier for a pious person, while others see it as an expression of hard power – a type of power that to them God approves.
SOURCE: Michelle Boorstein
The Washington Post