There are few things more swallow or fleeting to pledge one’s allegiance to than a political figure.
I ended Part 3 arguing that both the Christian faith and the conservative worldview demand we order our loves. That is, we must assign our support, allegiance, devotion, submission, or even worship on the basis that some things are higher than others and, therefore, require more of us; so that the duty we owe our spouse is greater than the duty we owe our pet, but less than what we owe our God. What’s more, ordering our loves means that we recognize what level of support is inappropriate at each level. It would be wrong to only support our God, just as it would be wrong to worship our pet.
It’s not about Trump, it’s about identity
While the title of this series—Stop “Supporting” Trump—would appear to have the president as its object, this series isn’t really about Trump at all. It’s about identity. Your identity. It’s about those who’ve confused support for the things a politician is doing with a desire to belong to some group that identifies itself as Trump supporters. It’s bad enough when we rest our identity in our ethnicity, culture, or sexual orientation. One’s identity should never rest in support for a politician.
Taken far enough, this can be an act of worship in that it is the act of giving away the most precious thing we have to offer: ourselves. When we order our loves, our identity belongs only to the highest levels. And politics and political leaders simply don’t make the cut. Identity politics is, fundamentally, anti-identity, for it doesn’t recognize the individual for who he or she is as an individual, but for what sub-group he or she supposedly belongs to.
In the Christian and Jewish faiths the first commandment—"Thou shalt have no other gods before me”—prohibits this giving up of one’s self to anything other than the Creator. I must stress that support for Trump may be complex and highly nuanced, and that we should not assume those who identify as a “Trump support” are in violation of this command. However, to the Christian—whose religion prohibits such adulation—or to the conservative—whose worldview calls for allegiance to ideas over mere humans—it is imperative we are mindful of when support for something as trite as a political leader could venture into the territory of worship.
One of the more bizarre manifestations of this phenomenon is the introduction of dating websites that cater to those whose identity rests in supporting Trump. Websites like Trump.dating or Trumpsingles.com offer members a place to make dating great again! As Trump.dating put it:
"When Political Foundation Is The Same, The Sky Is The Limit"
"We believe that by matching patriotic and political viewpoints as a base foundation of the relationship, it will allow one to focus on what really matters—conversation, commonalities, and if all goes well, courting. Being with someone who shares the same core standards is absolutely essential if you're truly searching for a real, life-changing relationship."
Look, I agree that a compatible political philosophy is helpful—though certainly not essential—to a healthy relationship. Though I don’t know that support for a specific politician signifies political compatibility, but I digress. What’s absolutely disturbing here is the belief that support for Trump somehow constitutes one’s “political viewpoints” and “core standards”. That’s like basing one’s religious beliefs on a flamboyant televangelist’s teachings. In the hierarchy of loves, a political figure is hardly the best place to define one’s “political viewpoints,” let alone one’s “core standards”.
Jon McNaughton knows what it means to identify as a Trump supporter. His biography states he is “an established artist from Utah” whose “experiences and faith are the inspiration for his work”. His “You Are Not Forgotten” painting must have been inspired by his “faith”:
Notice the serpent crushed beneath Trump’s heel. McNaughton writes, “When I decided to paint this picture, I wondered if this was taking it too far. But, sometimes you have to speak forcefully, like the brushstrokes of my painting…I want a president that will crush the enemies of liberty, justice, and American prosperity. They may have the power to bruise his heel, but he will have the power to crush their head!”
For those unfamiliar with the prophecy, this symbolism comes directly from the Bible. Genesis 3:15 reads, “And I will put enmity between [the serpent] and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Traditionally, the Jewish and Christian faiths held that this is the earliest reference in scripture to the promised Messiah. This painting is, shall we say, depicting Trump as a wee bit more than a savvy politician.
Examples of this sort of buffoonery abound online and would take considerable time and space to explore them in-depth. I found this composite image below of some of the more on-the-nose drawings. But I’ll not belabor the point any more by providing example after example of those whose political views and affinity towards the president has crept bizarrely and disturbingly into their religious convictions.
Worship doesn’t have to mean we bow down and pray to an effigy of Trump. Worship occurs whenever we assign far more devotion to something or someone than it is due. Trump worship is replacement for real worship—though many would be appalled to hear such an accusation. It means looking to a political messiah to provide for us or to solve our problems. It means a loss of community and transcendent hope that leaves only a hollow, political identity. It means sacrificing truth on the altar of alternative facts. It means believing paying hush money to the porn star you had an affair with while you third wife was pregnant with your child doesn’t in any way disqualify you from being the messiah with the “power to crush their head”.
It means placing your identity in being a Trump supporter.
Look, I know what it means to support a candidate when they’re running for office. But it means something entirely different to support them if they’ve already won. That seems to imply the race is somehow not entirely over. And, in today’s context, it would seem to imply that Trump needs the support of “his” people to advance his agenda; it means he needs their allegiance, their fealty, their loyalty, even their protection. He is at once the most powerful man in the world and the most vulnerable. He is our savior who happens to be so encamped by the Forces of Eeeeevil that we must all pull together to thwart their efforts.
A “good” Trump supporter responds to the president’s call for support as if the president is in terrible, terrible danger. The Forces of Eeeeevil are everywhere, surrounding the man, attacking, looking for chinks in the armor, looking for anything that can be exploited to “take him down.” And sometimes I wonder just how literal “take him down” must mean in their minds. This isn’t the language of those who agree with what the man is doing and wish to see him succeed. Oh, that idea may be present among them; but what’s far more present—what takes centerstage—is the idea that this man, this messiah, is our man. He’s our leader. He’s the one who’s going to make things right. No one else has accomplished as much as he has, or as much as he will.
Since support has come to mean recognizing Trump as the voice and will of the people who count, anyone standing in his way doesn’t count. Support leaves no room for compromise, nuanced arguments, or disagreements. Support means you’re either with the “good guys” or the “bad guys”. In fact, a perpetual cavalcade of enemies is necessary to make sense of this needlessly oversimplified view. For without enemies, this kind of support becomes meaningless. Enemies are the fuel that power Trump’s populist movement.
And, if Trump’s supporters aren’t vigilant, if they’re not careful, if they’re not sufficiently united, the forces of the Deep State, the Establishment, RINO’s, Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Hollywood in general, CNN, ABC, NBC, the MSM, Megyn Kelly, George Will, National Review, the Remnant, Bill Kristol, Fake News, Islamists, our past three presidents, Mexicans, the Chinese, illegal immigrants, feminists, NATO, NAFTA, European allies, Canada, the FBI, the DOJ, the NSA, the NFL, the NYT, the DNC, Mr. Khan, Pelosi, Schumer, Obama, Hillary, NeverTrumpers, the Resistance, Romney, Cruz, Kasich, Rubio, Jeb!, Ryan, McConnel, McCain, Flake, Corker, Comey, Boehner, McCabe, Mueller, Rocket Man, and the devil himself will prevail.
Sigh…or maybe, just maybe, we’re starting to lose sight of what it means to support a president.
Why you should stop supporting Trump
Historically, the Left has been more accustomed to playing the identity politics game, which defines who you are by the various interest groups or cultural subdivisions you represent. In his constant calls to divide the world between supporters and opponents, Trump has effectively carved out an identities politics on the Right—those whose identity is found in their allegiance to Trump.
From time to time, when Trump makes some appointment, executive order, or signs a bill into law that’s—shall we say—agreeable to a policy wish list of your average conservative, I’ve been asked whether I can finally get around to supporting him. And I have always struggled with answering the question; not because I don’t want to admit some mistake on my part, but because the question always seems loaded with a lot of ill-defined presuppositions.
Far too often, the question—in effect—is an invitation for me to identify myself. Do I identify with the tribe who supports the president or the tribe who opposes him? Did I love him or hate him? Am I with the right people who count or the wrong people who don’t? THAT is the question I’ve never quite known how to answer, because I reject its implied premise: that the world must be divided into those artificially polarizing extremes.
Do I support Trump? No. But it’s not because I oppose him. It’s because I reject the premise on which the question is based. The question only makes sense if you accept the populist/tribalist worldview of identity politics. It’s not Trump I’m being asked to support, it’s a worldview that’s antithetical to my conservative values.
And that is why you too should stop supporting Trump too.