Fri 1 Feb 2019 13.22 GMT Last Arwa Mahdawi
Are you there, God? It’s me, Arwa, and I have a question. Namely, is it true you wanted Donald Trump to become president? Because that is what Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, is saying. And, while the idea may sound wholly implausible, I really can’t imagine Sanders would lie.
If you’re not God, and you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about, I refer you to the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Sanders recently told CBN that she believes it was God that put Trump in power rather than, you know, any of that Russian collusion malarkey. “I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times, and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president,” she said.
I’m an atheist, and generally sceptical of marvellous explanations for less-than-marvellous situations. But, after considered analysis, I can buy into the idea that President Trump is a form of divine retribution. After all, God is great at thinking up creative punishments; having handed out plagues of blood, boils and locusts, it makes sense that He might inflict a torrent of Trumps on to the US. The plague of blood turned Egypt’s rivers red; the plague of Trump has turned the US’s airwaves orange.
But perhaps I have misinterpreted Sanders’ statement; a closer reading of the interview suggests she believes, more charitably, that Trump is making the US godly again. Indeed, the press secretary told CBN she thinks Trump “has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about”.
Now, forgive me if I find this statement perplexing. Like I said, I’m an atheist. Nevertheless, I always thought the Bible was about loving thy neighbour and helping the poor. And I distinctly recall a commandment about not committing adultery – which seems hard to square with Trump’s sexual mores. You have to hand it to the president’s evangelical base: no matter what the president does, there seems to be a Bible verse to prove Trumpiness is next to godliness.
Take the Stormy Daniels affair. Last year, it was reported that Trump had allegedly cheated on Melania, his third wife, with the porn star, just a few months after Melania had given birth. While that may seem difficult to defend, it turns out that the Bible says thou shalt not commit adultery, except in very specific circumstances. After the story broke, a number of evangelicals, including the Alabama pastor John Kilpatrick, cited the story of King David, who adulterously impregnated Bathsheba and then had her husband murdered. “David committed adultery and had a man killed,” Kilpatrick said in a sermon which compared Trump to the biblical figure. “God left him as king of Israel.” He also quoted 1 Timothy 2:2, which asks people to pray for “kings, and for all that are in authority”, as a reason to support Trump.
Sanders has previously argued that respecting authority is a core tenet of the Bible. Last year, Jeff Sessions, who was then attorney general, cited Romans 13 to justify the Trump administration’s family separation policy. Sanders backed Sessions up, stating at a press conference that “it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.”
Once you bear all this in mind, the idea that Trump may be some sort of emissary of the almighty doesn’t sound so ridiculous. So, God bless America. It may be having a hard time with democracy, but it seems to be on its way to becoming the greatest theocracy in the world.
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