Donald Trump recently got around to noting a specific verse from his professed “favorite book,” the Bible. Speaking at Liberty University, the candidate gave a fumbling nod to what he called “Two Corinthians 3:17,” the founding verse of the Christian school.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” he gushed.
Given the level of decadence the first-century author of this verse found among the Corinthians─over and against Trump’s own lifestyle─there was some unintended irony in his citation. And it only became acuter when Trump proceeded to comment on the passage: “That’s the whole ballgame…and it’s so representative of what’s taking place.”
By way of background: Saint Paul wrote two letters to the Christian church residing in the Greek city of Corinth. In classical times, Corinth was renowned for its temple to Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, pleasure and so-called love. Temple prostitutes devoted to her worship were a major financial resource that made the city “great again.” Roughly one thousand women serviced the wealthy merchants and powerful officials who frequented the city.
Referring to its pricey, sensual luxuries, the poet Horace coined the aphorism: “non licet omnibus adire Corinthum” (“Not everyone is able to go to Corinth”).
This decadence continued into New Testament times, compelling Paul to spend an unusual amount of time addressing sexual sins (porneia) in his letters to the city’s church, more than in any of his other epistles.
Fast forward two thousand years to a candidate for president and first family who cheated on and then divorced his first wife; who had a child out of wedlock before briefly marrying his second wife; who bedded a fashion model young enough to be his daughter (she was 28, he was 52); and who has bragged about his numerous sexual exploits. In his book, Think Big, for example, Trump wrote “Oftentimes when I was sleeping with one of the top women in the world I would say to myself, thinking about me as a boy from Queens, ‘Can you believe what I am getting?’”
The Queens’ boy not only “slept” with women, he opened up a showroom for them. When hard economic times hit Atlantic City, where he owned three casinos, Trump fought back, borrowing a page from the Corinthian playbook. In September of 2013, the $25 million Scores Atlantic City opened up in Trump’s Taj Mahal casino.* This massive 36,000-square foot strip-club was the first for a United States casino.
I could detail additional aspects of his character, policies and even business practices that should give the voting electorate pause─particularly those of a Christian persuasion.
Yes, it’s also true Trump has some worthy policies, characteristics, and good deeds that should also be considered. His children seem to have turned out well, and he appears to be generally well-loved by his employees. And we can and should appreciate the attention he has brought to important issues like illegal immigration and his disrupting influence on establishment politics, PC group-think, and big-money lobbyists.
It’s also true that his sexual exploits and values may be no worse─and indeed could well be better─than some presidents. Kennedy and Clinton come to mind immediately. There’s a big difference, however, in that their indiscretions were covered-up by them and their handlers. While no one, particularly God, likes hypocrisy, it nevertheless is the homage vice pays to virtue. Do we really want a man who has displayed an open disregard for this virtue; an unrepentant adulterer, serial fornicator and porneia-promoter to be the leader of America and the free world?
And, by the way, about Trump’s frequent boasts that he has a brilliant plan to defeat Isis and Islamic terror: their leaders could very well use his lifestyle and the nude photos of his wife, Melania, as propaganda/recruitment tools to bolster the ranks in their “holy war” against they believe to be the Great Satan, the United States of America. And they would have a point.
These moral issues, of course, could be profoundly ameliorated with one word, REPENTANCE: the simple act that opens Heaven’s window of grace, forgiveness and healing. By acknowledging his past sins, turning from and renouncing them, Trump could become an explicit force for good rather than a not-so-implicit one for evil.
Interestingly, it was to the Christians in Corinth, who had been guilty of every sexual sin from fornication to homosexuality, that Saint Paul famously observed:
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you
were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
1 Corinthians 6:11
The big problem for Trump, as well as for the values voter, is that there is little or no evidence he has repented and been washed. Trump has disavowed nothing.
When asked at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa last July if he had ever sought God’s forgiveness, Trump incredibly responded, “I’m not sure I have. I just go and try and do a better job from there…If I do something wrong, I just try to make it right…I don’t bring God into that picture.” A week later, Anderson Cooper gave him the opportunity to clarify his remark. “Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness, if you’re not making mistakes? I work hard, I’m an honorable person,” he replied.
More recently (1/26/16), Trump was challenged about the perceived hypocrisy of his stone-throwing at Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretions when his own glass house was so morally compromised. Trump replied:
One would be hard pressed to come up with responses that are more contrary to the Gospel; more profoundly un-Christian. And frankly lame.
Many evangelicals could perhaps better handle these moral issues if Trump wasn’t wrapping himself in the Christian flag and making insipid, patronizing promises like the hambone he threw out to his audience at Liberty: “If I’m president, you’re going to see ‘Merry Christmas’ in department stores, believe me.”
Not to offend or come off as mean-spirited, but how desperate─or stupid─does one have to be to swallow this kind of nonsense?
Right now, I’m praying fervently for Mr. Trump as well as for our country. What both need is a gift of grace: for God to bust up inside our hearts, knock us off the high horse presently slouching toward Gomorrah, and reveal to us the true way of salvation.
Father, grant Mr. Trump, grant us Your mercy. Show us that only where the Spirit is Lord can there be true liberty.
*Technically, Robert Gans opened it in the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort . But it was done with Trump’s blessing and permission.