Trump Administration is Too Christian and Not Christian Enough
In an OpEd at the Los Angeles Times, Phil Zuckerman (a professor of “secular studies”) bemoaned the fact President Donald Trump’s administration is overrun by Christians — while simultaneously accusing them of being bad Christians.
First, the list — with his continuous parentheticals mocking their beliefs:
Betsy DeVos, who leads the Department of Education, has stated that her goal as a public servant is to “advance God’s kingdom.” Secretary of Energy Rick Perry employed mass prayer as a means of addressing social problems when he was governor of Texas. Ben Carson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, believes that the theory of evolution was encouraged by the devil…
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions has said that people who don’t believe in God can’t be truthful. Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency chief, is a devout Baptist who denies that climate change is real. Mike Pompeo, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is an evangelical who opposes abortion even in cases of rape. The president’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, another evangelical, has defended school prayer at the Supreme Court, and Trump’s spiritual advisor, Paula White, is a Pentecostal televangelist who teaches that if people give her church thousands of dollars, God will reward them with favors. Vice President Mike Pence might be the most piously anti-gay politician in America.
Before going any further, it’s worth noting the actual beliefs (not their caricature) cited by Zuckerman are completely consistent with the Christian beliefs of a substantial portion of Americans. It should be no surprise, then, that those views would be represented in government — nor should it be a surprise those beliefs are not roundly condemned.
Zuckerman then does what many critics of Christianity do: He tries (unsuccessfully) to appropriate the Christian worldview, and then — without any actual understanding of the Christian faith — he tells Christians they’re not acting like Christians:
What’s really remarkable about this group, however, is not that so many ardent worshippers of Jesus are running the country, but how non-Christian this ostensibly Christian government is proving to be. The Trump administration’s Bible devotees are pushing an agenda that flies in the face of their own savior’s message.
Jesus taught that wealth was deeply problematic…yet Trump’s appointees are doing all they can to increase the wealth of the wealthy and cut funds and services for the poor…
There’s so much wrong in Zuckerman’s characterization that it’s almost not worth addressing. In short, Zuckerman — a non-believer — attempts to say
- True ChristiansTM would do [A].
- [B] is antithetical to [A].
- Trump’s administration does [B].
- Therefore these “Christians” are not being Christian.
But his argument is flawed at every step. Zuckerman bases his position on a false premise of Christianity — both in what he thinks Christians should do (1) and what he thinks is contrary to the Christian faith (2). His characterization of what the Trump administration is doing (3) is similarly flawed, as it is wholly unsupported opinion. Thus, his conclusion falls on its face.
For example, Jesus did preach on the difficulty of a rich man entering heaven, but to categorically say the Bible calls wealth “problematic” is incorrect (and also vaguely ambiguous). Thus, whether the Trump administration is helping people build wealth is irrelevant to the Christian faith of any members of that administration. (And questioning a government that increases wealth is rather…odd.)
More importantly, Zuckerman presents no support whatsoever for his assertions that, for example, Christians in government are “increas[ing] the wealth of the wealthy and cut[ting] funds and services for the poor.” Like his presentation of Christianity (Zuckerman says it is, therefore it is), his presentation of the Trump administration’s policies simply is, per se.
The same is true for his attacks on the Trump administration’s lack of “mercy” (he ignores the biblical concept of sin and justice), his non-biblical characterization of the Christian view of weapons (“They’re bad.”), and his equivocation and generalization of the Christian treatment of “outcasts” vice modern Christianity and “gay[s], transgender[s], [and] Muslims.”
Zuckerman sets up a false premise, roundly defeats it using mischaracterization, and pats himself on the back for his brilliant secular insight of a sectarian worldview.
It’s an awkward and illogical — but frequently repeated — means of attacking Christianity in public service. This “method” is also frequently used against Christians in the military — since, by using the same process, a Zuckerman acolyte would proclaim True ChristiansTM can’t even serve in the US military (you’re supposed to turn the other cheek!).
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein takes a more extremist view than even Zuckerman, whose false premises at least sound reasonable, even if they’re incomplete or ripped from context. Weinstein abandons reason and proclaims US military Christians believe (because Weinstein is qualified to tell others what they believe) their job is to take control of America and its nuclear arsenal to bring about Armageddon, a second Holocaust, and the return of Jesus Christ.
With that in mind, Zuckerman’s bigotry seems pretty tame.
After all, Phil Zuckerman’s OpEd presents a caricature of Christianity to caricature Christians as a means to caricature the Trump administration.
His column is ultimately about nothing.
Sounds like a Seinfeld episode.