The Gospel of Trump
Donald J. Trump infuriates me. Not gonna lie.
But for ONE thing I am grateful - that The Donald is pointing me towards the true gospel.
I learned a long time ago to examine myself whenever someone annoys me this much, to ask whether what is bothering me is actually something I recognize in myself.
The Donald hasn't suddenly come up with a clever, new spin on evil. He's frankly not that clever! In fact, his brand of everyday hatred is actually as old as the earth, and shared by all of us to some extent.
A few decades ago a Roman Catholic scholar named René Girard named this evil, when he described the way groups of people typically deal with their internal group conflicts - by projecting their violence onto a scapegoat. Girard pointed out that scapegoating is as old as human society itself.
You've probably seen it or experienced it a bunch of times yourself. A group of people - prone to bickering or infighting - suddenly develops a sense of new-found unity around their blame of some poor sucker that is different in some way.
Think of it as Mean Girls for the rest of us.
I know. I've been there myself.
The frenzied crowd will not rest until that person or group is expelled (or in extreme cases destroyed).
And then everyone can breathe easy, for a temporary sense of relief and calm has been restored.
The funny thing is, it's pretty easy to see that other people’s scapegoats are innocent victims, falsely accused of wrongdoing. But our own scapegoats seem to us like terrible people - BAD-guys who deserve our hatred and blame.
We see the innocence of other people’s scapegoats but never our own.
As an outsider here in Asia, it's easy to see that many Cambodians have made scapegoats of the Vietnamese in their midst (especially when whipped up by the local versions of Donald Trump - Yes EVERY country has 'em, and they want your vote). Vietnamese are now being rounded up and deported. Their businesses targeted. Their children picked on. Even by Christians...
It's easy to see how the Rohingya people in Burma are unfairly maligned and mistreated by the Burmese government and wider society. They have been hounded out of Myanmar, onto rickety boats as refugees and asylum seekers along the coasts of South-East Asia.
Political leaders throughout history have cunningly played on our fears and rallied us around their cause by focusing our hatred onto the designated scapegoats.
In this season, those scapegoats happen to be Muslims, Mexicans and Megan Kelly.
In the past those scapegoats have been Jews, Japanese, Blacks, Communists, Catholics, or people who liked the musical stylings of Michael Bolton...
In fact, almost every marginalized group has found themselves with that unwanted spotlight on them at one time or another.
But, here's where this theory gets SUPER interesting for us as Christians. Does the term "scapegoat" strike you as vaguely Biblical?
I'm guessing it does. Because it originally comes from Leviticus 16:8 - where a particularly unlucky goat was designated as the sacrifice that would take on the sins of the community and be cast out into the desert (not as unlucky as the other goat which was designated to be butchered though). Most ancient societies had similar practices.
As Christians, we recognize that Jesus was the ultimate scapegoat. The scapegoat to end all scapegoats. The one who came to put an end to our violence and hatred and evil and sin, by willingly taking upon himself all that crap, once and for all.
"Christ was offered ONCE to bear the sins of many..." (Hebrews 9:28)
Girard describes it like this, "Christ, the son of God, is the ultimate “scapegoat” - precisely because he is the son of God, and since he is innocent, he exposes all the myths of scapegoating and shows that the victims were innocent and the communities guilty."
The only "good news" Trump offers is a perverted kind of unity, where we rally around our hatred of those who are different. The excitement of scapegoating.
But the work of Jesus on the cross puts an end to our violence and scapegoating.
Some would say, Jesus was not sacrificed to appease an angry deity. Instead, Jesus, God himself, entered our society and became the scapegoat, and in doing so, eliminated the need for any future scapegoats or sacrifices. It is a mystery worthy of the God of the universe.
The Gospel of Jesus invites me to lay my need to scapegoat at Jesus' feet.
The Gospel of Jesus takes my violence and hatred of others, and exchanges those things for love and the radical welcome of Christ.
The Gospel of Jesus means the Gospel of Trump is no longer needed.
So step aside Donald.
In the words of Jesus, "It is over."