“I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me.” — Woody Allen
For a while there, I was certain that Pope Francis had died, since apparently, while I was sleeping, someone named Peter Wehner became Pope.
As I was riding the train home from my temp job, helping to feed the homeless in New York City, I noticed the passenger next to me reading the Times op-ed page, and the headline “The Theology of Donald Trump” caught my eye.
After all, I’ve delved into this before, and consider myself one of the few people who have even seriously looked into what Trump believes.
So on getting home — my old eyes, worn out from processing credit card donations for the homeless, wouldn’t let me read too much over this guy’s shoulder — I pulled it up online and gave it a look-see.
Well, this is just, well, bad. Truly embarrassing. Like a high school essay that just pulls together some random quotes. The author — who elsewhere identifies himself as an “Evangelical” — seems to know nothing about religion, Christianity or Nietzsche other than whatever might serve him to thump Trump.
Wehner starts off by snarking about Trump naming the Bible as his favorite book. He seems unaware — or insensitive to the fact — that gazillions of people have read the Bible and quite sincerely found something — some more, some less — of value there. William Blake, for example, or Neville Goddard, or Norman Vincent Peale; all influences on Trump (well, Peale at least) and all of whom found a non-dogmatic, non-denominational kind of wisdom there that speaks more about using the power of the Imagination to bring about a better world than about, say, more traditional Christian concerns, such as propping up syphilitic monarchs, burning heretics, and gleefully contemplating the sending of infants to Hell; to say nothing of the minute regulation of people’s sexual activities.
But Popes don’t like people reading the Book themselves, so what then does Pope Peter define, ex cathedra, as “Christian”?
The calling of Christians is to be “salt and light” to the world, to model a philosophy that defends human dignity, and to welcome the stranger in our midst. It is to stand for justice, dispense grace and be agents of reconciliation in a broken world. And it is to take seriously the words of the prophet Micah, “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?”
And blah blah blah. The same old boilerplate, the same weasel-words that mean everything and nothing. And Trump violates this vague happy-talk how, exactly? By advocating the enforcing of the existing immigration laws? By putting forward views on immigration and trade that would have been considered not so much “Christian” as common sense prior to, say, 2008?
By building a wall, just like the one around the Vatican — or Israel?
He then fixates on one paragraph in a recent Trump speech, finds the word “power” in it, connects that to Nietzsche, and hoo-boy, the trains start rolling to Auschwitz.
I’ve been blissfully unaware of Wehner’s existence until now, but turns out he’s a Bush 43 stooge who’s been keeping his “political viability” fresh by penning the occasional fact-free anti-Trump screed for various well-known “conservative” legacy rags like Commentary and The Wall Street Journal. Like the rest of his ilk, he’s moved from confident dismissal of the very idea of Trump even running for the nomination to ever more shrill “warnings” about the “dangers” of Trump either losing or — it’s hard to tell if this is worse — actually winning.
And like the others of his ilk, his signal failure to predict, or even diagnose, the greatest political development in American politics since Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” has neither disqualified him from further pontifications, nor caused him a moment of self-doubt.
“Pontification.” There’s that word again. Yeah, I was talking about Pope Francis. Last time I checked, he was still alive, and — barring another unprecedented “retirement” like Pope Benedict — that means he’s still Pope, still speaking ex cathedra about faith and morals, at least for the Catholic folk.
Of course, that’s why a lot of Protestant folks think Catholics are a bunch of ignorant peasants, taking orders from a guy in a dress in Rome. And a lot of American Catholics agree, hence the “American heresy” of Catholics picking and choosing what to believe.
And of course, that’s also why there’s hundreds of Protestant sects, especially in America.
And this is what irks me — someone who’s not trained in theology or philosophy or even history, as far as I can tell, yet struts forth upon the public stage — at least in the legacy media — to pontificate on who is and isn’t a “Christian.”
As card-carrying hypocrites, Republicans and “conservatives” are always willing to flip-flop on this kind of thing. I recall recently reading a conservative blog commenter who reacted to Obama’s nth reiteration of the “terrorists are not true Moslems” line with this most excellent response: who made Obama an expert on Islam? How dare he tell someone their view of Islam is incorrect.
Touche! And, as Huston Smith would add, pari passu! Obama, despite his madrassa schooling in Indonesia, is surely no imam; hell, he’s not even supposed to be a Muslim, right? So where does he get off telling some suicide bomber that “Islam is a religion of peace” and he’s not getting those 72 virgins?
By the same token, however, who is Peter Wehner, and who is he to tell Trump, or anyone, that he’s not a Christian?
And what is the supposedly secular, and historically Jewish, New York Times doing, giving him a pulpit to spew his ill-informed opinions? As always, the Times hates religion, and religious people, except when they can find one — like Wehner — who promotes one of their hobby horses, and can be used to shame the recalcitrant. Catholics and Evangelicals are great when they’re pro-open borders, dangerous troglodytes when they oppose abortion.
Give it up, legacy losers, we’ve seen this show before; it’s not funny, and no one’s buying it.
And that is the most comical, most hypocritical, most loathsome part of Wehner’s screed. As he tries to articulate for us — like a hung-over jock desperately improvising on the final exam — how “Mr. Trump embodies a Nietzschean morality rather than a Christian one,” we learn that
It is characterized by indifference to objective truth (there are no facts, only interpretations), the repudiation of Christian concern for the poor and the weak, and disdain for the powerless.
Again, pari passu! Peale, Goddard, and the other figures of the true American religion, New Thought, would certainly scoff at this “objective truth” guff as being Caesar’s law, the signs the Pharisees asked for, everything the true Christian sets aside, for we are the children of the free woman, not the bond servant (Galatians 4:31); we are empowered by Christ within us, for whom all things are possible.
What could be more Christian than belief in Christ?
On the other hand, there are no facts given — or available — to support Wehner’s rap sheet, only disingenuous interpretations:
Time and again Mr. Trump has shown contempt for those he perceives as weak and vulnerable — “losers,” in his vernacular. They include P.O.W.s, people with disabilities, those he deems physically unattractive and those he considers politically powerless. He bullies and threatens people he believes are obstacles to his ambitions. He disdains compassion and empathy, to the point where his instinctive response to the largest mass shooting in American history was to congratulate himself: “Appreciate the congrats for being right.”
Spoken like a true Pharisee; or their modern equivalent, the Judeo-Con. So much for walking humbly. But then, he is a paid-up member of the Power Elite, right?
Yes, even more egregiously, Wehner — publican if not Republican — preens himself on his — and the Times’ and its goodthinking readers’, of course — implied concern for “the poor and weak,” while denouncing, in the most hysterical terms, Trump’s actual concern for the majority of the poor and weak in this country, who are in reality beneath the goodthinkers’ notice, being merely stale, pale hicks.
There is only one source of “disdain for the powerless” in this election, and it radiates from the Times building, and whatever gated community in Maryland Wehner has found to hide out with his family from the consequences of his elitist policy prescriptions on immigration and the economy.
Wehner imagines he’s the good guy, saving the poor little lambs from Hannibal Trump, who’s best locked up in some deep dark basement. But he can’t escape Hannibal’s parting shot:
“Do you want the scent? Smell yourself.”
1. See “The Secret of Trump’s A Peale,” Counter-Currents, here.
2. According to the Prophecy of St. Malachy, the last Pope before the Apocalypse.
3. He seems especially upset every time Trump says Bush “lied us into war,” which is not surprising since he’d be in the dock just like Alfred Rosenberg.
4. And since Catholics used to be exactly that, to that extent Protestants were correct in doubting their patriotism, and fitness for public office. Modern liberals deplore this — see the tut-tutting about Trump’s guru Peale in my op. cit. — they can’t have it both ways: either liberals are right about the “authoritarian” pre-Vatican II church, which they like to mercilessly mock, or not.
5. His Politico bio coyly refers to him as “a graduate of the University of Washington” which I assume involved majoring in nothing in particular, so as to maintain his “viability.”
6. He does own to being an “evangelical,” but whatever cred that may have in Republican circles, or Liberal circles that always welcome a Christian cuck to denounce the latest threat form the Right, that only means that the vast majority of Christians today and throughout history would assume him to be a heretic headed straight for Hell, so good luck to him with that. And I’ve got a Protestant preacher on the radio right now that says Christianity isn’t even a religion at all (it’s a person relationship with Jesus; religions are just man-made nonsense.)
7. Smith, Huston. Forgotten Truth: The Common Vision of the World’s Religions, 2nd ed. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992, p. 143.
8. See Mitch Horowitz: One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life (Crown, 2014).
9. RUBIN: Still, a large number of evangelicals are supporting Trump. How do you explain that?
WEHNER: It’s complicated, and among the tentative explanations I’ve come up with, based in part on personal interaction with others and in part based on my survey of stories and the data, is that some blue-collar, non-college educated Christians — like blue-collar, non-college educated non-Christians — are drawn to Trump’s positions on trade and illegal immigration. “A Conversation: How Can Evangelicals Support Trump?” Washington Post on March 7, 2016. Wehner then calls Trump “rude, vulgar, cruel, crude, narcissistic,” and his interlocutor adds “bigoted, crude, mean and dishonest,” just so we’re clear on that.