As you can probably see just in the title of this post, and my spelling of the word ‘favourite’, I am Canadian, and so when I comment on American politics, I do so as an outsider, and that’s fine with me. Also, I feel that as a Christian, my primary allegiance is not to my own government either, and so when I discuss Canadian politics, I do so as an outsider here as well.
Recently, I was fascinated by an interview with front-running American Republican leadership candidate Donald Trump. Shortly before the interview, he had stated that the Bible was his favourite book. Using that as a springboard, the interviewers asked him what his favourite Bible verse was. Instead of answering the question directly, he insisted over and over that he didn’t want to get into it, and that it was very personal to him.
To me, we can take this exchange to mean one of two things. If we take him at face value, we have to presume that he is a man of faith, but that he feels his faith and his politics shouldn’t mix. This is a perspective we’ve heard before, but almost never from leaders within the Republican party. Is Donald Trump advocating the separation of church and state? So far he hasn’t been accused too often of being a liar. To a fault perhaps, he has been branded as a person who fearlessly speaks (what he perceives to be) the truth. So, maybe we need to take him seriously on this one. But, he operates in a political world where there are serious consequences to not knowing at least a little bit about his Bible, and so there exists the possibility that he might be lying. Maybe he has no favourite Bible verses. Maybe, just maybe, he was lying when he said the Bible was his favourite book. For a long time, people have been saying that America could never elect an atheist as president, but maybe Trump is about to prove that it is possible. Maybe.
As I reflected on this though, I wondered what verses he could have chosen. I came up with a few, just in case anyone from his campaign team reads this blog (they don’t) and in case he gets asked this question again (he will).
A verse that might actually inspire him, but he would never say
“And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” – Job 42: 10 (ESV)
Isn’t Job his best Biblical parallel? Except, unlike Trump, Job only declared bankruptcy once (granted, he declared it literally, a la Micheal Scott, not legally like Trump) and, unlike the Donald, he only got a new and younger wife once.
A verse that he could have actually used as a joke
“From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’ they said. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’ He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.” – 2 Kings 2: 23-24 (NIV)
This would have been incredible. It would have subtly communicated that he knows his Bible, that people should stop making fun of his hair (or lack thereof), and that there is a danger in picking a few verses here and there out of context. This is a tricky passage for sure, but it’s there for us to deal with, just like our politicians.
A verse that would have angered some (and surprised no one)
“For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” – Matthew 26:11 (ESV)
This is not a favourite verse of social justice minded Christians, understandably so. I see it as a rebuke of Judas’ hypocrisy, the treasurer who would siphon off a little for himself, and a logical statement about the definition of poverty (ie. No matter how much we help the poor, there will always be economic disparity and we will call the people with less ‘poor’). But coming from Trump, it wouldn’t be clear if this was going to inform his economic policy, if he was discrediting the work of charities, or if he was speaking about himself as much as he was quoting Jesus.
Do you have any other suggestions for him?