Donald Trump’s 3 Favourite Bible verses

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?

Booking for clues

Not long ago I wasn’t really a big fan of funerals. I didn’t like how artificial they seemed and how anything remotely wrong a person did was instantly forgotten. I was uneasy with how morbid they were; that a bunch of people could casually sit in the same room as a dead body. Also, like most men, I wasn’t at all comfortable with the idea of being a place where my emotions, grief, sympathy, fear, etc., might override my ability to maintain an outward appearance of keep-it-togetherness. So, it is still odd at times that I am now in a professional situation where I am called upon to not only participate in, but to lead these funeral services, to speak hope and comfort into an audience of mourners.

I got a random phone call from the hospital not long ago about a man on his deathbed that wanted to talk to a pastor. I went to see him and some family members and friends who had gathered at his side. I was there for an hour and a half, mostly listening and observing, but I also got to pray with him, which was a powerful thing to experience.

The gentleman passed away a few days later, and I was honoured when the family asked if I would perform the funeral. I asked if I could meet with a few of them ahead of time to talk about the man, to hear some stories and get to know a little bit more about him, so that when it came time to speak about him, I could speak from a position of honesty and understanding. They told me stories about his work and his play, but they also told me about how he would spend a lot of time, especially later in life, praying and reading the Bible. As a pastor I always love if I can use a part of the Bible as a building block to a public speaking opportunity, so I asked what he read. Did he read about the patriarchs, about the founding of the Jewish society, law and religion? Did he read the Psalms, the poems of praise and anxst? Did he read the gospels, the stories of Jesus and his followers? They didn’t know. I could tell they were worried that I didn’t believe them. He wasn’t always a church-going man, and his language was often more colourful than it was spiritual, and all of this was part of the reason I was randomly called in to the hospital than to have his normal pastor visit. They seemed worried, as though maybe I was trying to catch them in a lie and revoke my willingness to participate in and bless this service. I might have read them wrong, but I think for a moment they might have been reading me wrong.

“Can I see his Bible?” I asked.

A few of them looked around, unsure if they would be able to find it, but I already knew where it was. His Bible was sitting exactly where he had left it, beside the chair where he would sit and watch the birds, beside the pile of coasters on which he would put his morning cup of coffee, and among the photographs that showed memories of happier and healthier times.

I flipped through it, hoping to see certain passages underlined or highlighted, but even though none were, it was still clear that this was a well-read Bible. I held it up to the light, and I could see that the edges of the book that were once a shiny silver were now dulled and worn. A few pages were more crinkled than others, and so I opened it to those places. I could tell that he was the kind of reader who licked his thumb before turning the page, because there was a kind of round indentation on a lot of the top corners. The page with Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd, had a coffee stain on it. The page were it talks about Jesus feeding the five thousand had a crease in it. The spine of the book was actually broken right where the book of Revelation starts.

Did he read these passages more? Did he like them? Did he hate them? Whatever these clues mean, I found this to be a highly spiritual exercise, to leaf through the pages that contained the words that brought hope to a dying man, and words that engaged his mind and spirit when he was more active. Maybe this will be lost in a generation that reads digitally. Maybe this will be lost when our whole society is spiritual but not religious. But maybe, someday someone will try to connect with me after I’m gone, and the things that I read and the things that I write will leave a trail for them to follow.