Vail Daily column: Pride wins the Super Bowl Of sin
The Donald trumpets his tune. In bold letters he titles it “Trump.” The sound of this word proudly fills his universe.
When FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly horned in, Trump muted her upsetting questions. He boycotted a debate against Republican presidential competitors. Bellowing lyrics laced with self-congratulatory hyperbole, The Donald is offended when “stupid” critics play desultory political melodies other than his.
Trump struts on a political field that regards pride as virtuous. He rakes opponents with a rat-tat-tat machine gun burst of insults.
In contrast, the National Football League penalizes taunting, flagging it a vice. A linebacker smashes a ball carrier. A tackle sacks a blitzed quarterback. A defender swats down a pass and levels an opposing receiver. When a player taunts after these hits, a referee throws a yellow flag. The team is penalized for bad sportsmanship. The NFL is proud of the Super Bowl, but not of players who are full of themselves rather than the game.
Donald Trump grandly elevates taunting in the Super Bowl of presidential politics. He identifies himself as a Presbyterian Christian who regards pride as a giant asset. Most Presbyterians, whose ancestors founded the College of New Jersey in 1746 (now Princeton University), believe Trump’s conceit ranks No. 1 among the traditional seven deadly sins.
A teetotaler, Trump skips consuming alcohol because he’s intoxicated with himself. A biblical writer scorns peacocks like Trump who “strut through the Earth.” They wear pomposity as if “pride is their necklace” (Psalm 73: 6, 9).
Critics question Trump’s Presbyterian brand of garish faith. Last year, he muffed a reporter’s query to recite a favorite Bible verse, having nothing to say. And he childishly called a Communion wafer “my little cracker.”
This thrice-married tycoon, speaking on Jan. 26 at Liberty University—evangelical Christianity’s educational citadel—tried to score with the religious crowd. He ended up an embarrassing “2 Corinthians short of biblical literacy,” teased late-night T.V. host Stephen Colbert.
Trump quoted a biblical text from correspondence between the apostle Paul and the haughty church in ancient Corinth.
The New Testament retrieved two letters, called First and Second Corinthians, amid other lost correspondence between Paul and the Corinthians. Trump repeatedly referred to these biblical epistles as Nos. “1” and “2” Corinthians. His reward for this flub? Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty University’s president, endorsed biblically-illiterate Trump for president.
Claiming the Bible is “the greatest book ever written,” Trump brags his “The Art of the Deal” best-seller ranks a close second.
Asked last summer if he seeks God’s forgiveness, Trump shrugged off needing mercy. Hooked on himself, The Donald leaves little room for a forgiving God. Trump confessed, “I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there.”
“I don’t think so,” he rambled in defense of skipping God’s mercy. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.” A perfectly good Trump doesn’t need God to remove stains when his life gets milk spilled on it.
On Sunday, Jan. 24, he worshiped with 100 members at First Presbyterian Church in the Mississippi River town of Muscatine, Iowa. The pastor gave a sermon about Christian hospitality. She urged congregants more fortunate than others to build a longer hospitable table rather than a taller fence. A Christian’s delight and duty is to care for immigrants.
Trump brushed off this sermonic challenge. A Pew Research Center survey has found that half of white evangelicals believe Trump would make a good or great president. They embrace his pride. Such Christians want to block Mexican and Syrian immigration into the U.S. More than 80 percent of Trump’s voters believe immigrants who perform grunt work beneath the dignity of most Americans hurt the U.S. more than help it.
Evangelical supporters ignore Trump’s prior support for partial-birth abortions. They side with far right-wing commentator Ann Coulter whose pride is legendary. She doesn’t “care if (Trump) wants to perform abortions in the White House.” But he must hold the line on building a Trump version of the Great Wall of China. It blocks Mexican entry into the U.S., even as Trump vows to expel 11 million undocumented workers.
“Trump personifies everything the rest of the world despised about America: casual racism, crass materialism, relentless self-aggrandizement, vulgarity on an epic scale,” writes Paul Thomas in the Jan. 20 New Zealand Herald.
Pride that doesn’t garner good biblical press fortifies Trump’s bombast. “Let’s say,” writes biblical scholar Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., “that pride is a blend of self-absorption — that is, narcissism —with an over-estimation of one’s abilities or worth — that is conceit. So a proud person thinks a lot about herself and also thinks a lot of herself” (The Way It’s Supposed To Be, p.84, Eerdmans 1995).
This lethal duo — narcissism and conceit — makes Trump’s voters heartless. In the Super Bowl of sin, pride wins and common decency gets whipped.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax-exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.