Donald Trump is being compared to Jesus Christ this week. Suffering and crucifixion analogies have been thrown around during Passion Week as President Donald Trump prepared to learn of the charges against him and then presented himself to the authorities in New York State.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, protested in Manhattan,
“Jesus was arrested and murdered by the Roman government,” she said. “There have been many people throughout history that have been arrested and persecuted by radical corrupt governments, and it’s beginning today in New York City.”
As the President left the Course house and boarded his plane to Florida, he joined in a ‘prayer call’, comprising an eclectic group of religious Trump followers.
I have seen footage of and tweets all week that make comparisons between Donald Trump’s trial and that of Jesus. None of this is new. Adopting and hijacking the person and work of Jesus for political and social agendas is more common than we might realise. People have been doing so since Jesus’ actual trial and crucifixion. Constantine tried it at Milivian Bridge, David’s ‘The Death of Marat’ and 1000 other paintings that superimpose Christ’s sufferings, the Confederacy and the KKK, the Taiping Rebellion, Horst Wessel, some anti-vax campaigners, and more.
Political agendas from both right and left have a long history of misappropriating the person and mission of Jesus Christ. I recall an incident only two years ago; a representative of the Victorian government informed a group of Melbourne church leaders what Jesus’ views on gender would be today, and then told us that contravening this thinking may lead to criminal charges. In case you’re wondering, this person was not even close to reflecting Jesus’ teaching.
Sadly, there are times when members of Christian communities and leaders of Churches get swept up by these false narratives. That doesn’t mean that there is never any validity to the concerns they raise, but that it is bad theology and even blasphemous to equate their situation with that of Jesus’ suffering.
Notice the religious language that President Trump chose for his speech following his court appearance?
“America is going to hell”
Well, yes, that is a theological truism. It also accurately describes people in every nation, but it has nothing to do with allegiance to Donald Trump or some other political leader, but whether we can find atonement before God for our own sinfulness.
It is of course possible to think that the charges against President Trump are politically motivated and also believe that Trump has little moral compass. After all, behind the 34 felony charges of falsifying financial records are allegations of adultery and sexual immorality. There is no semblance of Jesus in this story. That is not to suggest for a moment that the political alternatives are morally or spiritually better. As a Christian leader, my responsibility isn’t to navigate political left or right but to follow Jesus and faithfully point people to him, a course that is altogether different.
Let it be said again, lest anyone is unclear, there is no comparison between President Donald Trump and Jesus Christ. One is a deeply sinful human being, the other the innocent Son of God. The former President carries with him a lifetime of transgressions, Jesus went to the cross taking our sins onto himself.
It is intriguing to see how again our society never moves far from the cross of Jesus Christ. All of history pivots on those three days: from the cross to the grave and to resurrection. And despite our best attempts to rid the culture of Christianity’s DNA, people from all walks of life and with all kinds of agendas, still think it is advantageous to attach themselves to the image of the suffering and dying Christ.
What if, instead of identifying with the crucified One, we understand what the Easter story really does tell us, and that is, we all stand against Him. Rather than seeing ourselves close to Jesus, we are more like Peter who disowns, Judas who betrays, the Pharisees who denounce, and the crowds who mock.
Donald Trump is no Messiah figure. He is not an innocent lamb laying down his life to save a nation. He may or may not be innocent of these particular charges. But neither Trump nor President Biden and any political leader comes remotely close to the one who had written above his head on the cross, ‘the king’.
Regardless of where we find ourselves on the political spectrum, it’s nonetheless intuitive for us to find a hero in the story. We walk through life searching for someone who triumphs over adversity and overcomes iniquity and who can bring about the new Jerusalem.
Sometimes we put ourselves in that position as the hero, but when the hubris dissipates we are left with despair. Sometimes we elevate our favourite celebrity or politician, but none of them qualifies to carry the burden. There is only one hero and Easter reveals him, and what a hero Jesus is,
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”