Might Donald Trump be a Cyrus Type?

Jason Micheli —  May 31, 2017 — 6 Comments

I made an offhand comment this past week while my friend Scott Jones interviewed me for his podcast Give and Take. I said that Christians need to countenance the possibility that God could be using Donald J. Trump (who, let’s be clear and honest, is in NO way a Christian) as a Cyrus-type character.

Apparently Scott’s podcast has as many listeners as he tells me because in short order I was besieged with apoplectic responses to the contrary.

My good friend Brad is a political adman and strategist presently working on a book about the Trump voter. He’s narrow-focusing on those voters, who had voted for Obama but voted for the Donald in ’16, in the few districts in the MidWest that swung the election. Brad tells me that most Trump voters generally and Evangelical Christians in particular were under no illusions about the Donald’s character or his pretense at Christian discipleship- nor did they have any real expectations the Donald would deliver any concrete policy accomplishments.

Evangelical Christians primarily were driven by animus to vote Trump; that is, evangelical Christians knew (correctly, I’d concede) the same people who hated Trump hated them too.

A few of them- but not as many you’d guess- Brad tells me, hold out the possibility that Donald Trump is a Cyrus-like leader.

Cyrus, for those of who you skipped Sunday School, was the (pagan) King of Persia who (unwittingly according to Isaiah’s prophecy) freed the Israelite exiles from their captivity in Babylon, delivering back to the promised land and, even, helping them rebuild their razed temple in Jerusalem. In scripture, Cyrus stands as paradigmatic of God’s active but unseen agency, directing history to God’s chosen ends.

Cyrus knew not God but the Living God nonetheless used him for God’s own ends.

Might the orange-hued president with the little hands and even slighter control of his compulsions prove a different sort of Cyrus for a unique time?

Might God be using this p@##$-grabbing pagan leader to deliver God’s People from the exilic captivity of nihilistic secularism and into a new Promised Land? Or simply to appoint a pro-life court?

I get the urge- the visceral urge- to say hell no. The mere hypothesis angers my wife. A man who hated his way to the White House, often demonizing immigrants who look like my own Hispanic children, CANNOT be God’s vessel. He is anathema precisely because he makes everyone counted under Matthew 25 anathema to America.

I get the urge to say “No way.”

But-

I wonder. Does the black/white, absolute, reflexive “No” betray another conviction; namely, that God is dead or, if not dead, at the very least not an active agent?

I wonder if those who dismiss outright even the possibility of Trump being Cyrus do so because they believe to the extent that the Kingdom of God is furthered in the public square it’s up to them alone to bring it.

I wonder because- Donald aside- so much of the way we speak Christian does not rely upon a living God being the subject of our sentences.

In my parish, we will celebrate confirmation next weekend at Pentecost, and, in preparing, I’ve noticed how the baptismal vows in the tradition have “evolved” over the years.

For example, in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer the questions posed to godparents came with this God-dependant answer: “I will, God being my helper.”

Here and throughout that prayerbook there was the awareness that faith itself is the creation/result of the agency of the living and active God.

By the 1978 revision of the Book of Common Prayer that same profession had been neutered to: “I will with God’s help.”

Notice how the change in the language invests considerable more trust in confessor’s unaided human ability to be faithful. Already we’re far gone from the language of Romans where only the faithfulness of Christ can elicit anything resembling faith on our part. Farther still is the phrasing in the United Methodist Book of Worship which omits the agency of God altogether from the baptismal vows. There’s only a semantic change between ‘God being my helper” and “I will, with God’s help.”

In the United Methodist Church’s Baptismal Covenant, the human being is the only active agent:

“I will.”

This is a far cry from the old Catholic rite that so believed in the Living God and God’s Enemy it included exorcism and placing salt on an infants tongue to preserve them from the forces of Sin and Death.

I will is indistinguishable from ‘I am able’ and apparently that I is capable of resisting evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms (we’re afraid apparently of saying ‘Satan’). That I is capable unaided to repent of sin and put our whole faith in Christ and serve him through the Church.

“I am able” in now way corresponds to the language of bondage and rectification and gift in the New Testament. Nor does it cohere with the language of the Holy Spirit which at Pentecost reverses our proclivity for idolatry by compelling faith in Peter’s listeners. Whenever the Old Testament mentions the Holy Spirit it does with verbs; the Spirit does because without it we cannot.

How ‘I will’ is any different than Pelagianism I’ll wait for someone to email and explain it to me.

I wonder if we resist the notion of the Donald being a Cyrus because we’ve lost our theological nerve when it comes to God being an active agent in the world?

In the mainline church we’ve certainly not failed in offering people a Loving God but have we, I wonder, offered them a Living God?

 

Jason Micheli

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6 responses to Might Donald Trump be a Cyrus Type?

  1. You make a good point, Jason. Unsettled times require all thinking people to reflect on what sustains them. Being grateful for God’s grace starts with a bit of humility–something that has always been in short supply in politics and government.

  2. I won’t go into a long story here, but “with God’s help” has grated on me like an ear worm for years. I am relieved to know there was a better wording (and I have a 1928 BCP: I should have read it more.)

    But that’s minor. Cyrus was a great king, an intelligent ruler. Just because someone might be a catalyst in history does not make them his equivalent. 45 seems to me to personify the darkest side of America. Our greed, willful ignorance, bigotry, selfishness, arrogance, crudity, is now being brutally shown to us. “Monster’ and ‘demonstrate’ have the same root.

  3. I confess I had thought of the possibility that Donald Trump might be a Cyrus-type instrument of God. But, I’ve also wondered if there is another possibility.

    Remember when Hurricane Kathrine was proclaimed by many to be a instrument of God, proclaiming God’s judgment against the sins of a fallen nation. No doubt you rejected such teachings as I did if for no other reason than because we know the rain falls on both the righteous and the unrighteous. But, I’m wondering, could Trump’s election be evidence of this sort of judgment after all? However, not because that Trump is Cyrus; rather, because we who are the American church are Laodicea?

    We continue to preach “love they neighbor” (meaning our neighbors across the backyard fences that surround our nice homes) at the same time that we join forces with those who would deny entry into our country of refugees and others fleeing desperate times in their homelands. We’ve lost our first love of being a people who loved both God and humankind so much that we accepted and erected a monument inviting the world to send us their tired and poor, to now applaud plans to erect that now infamous fence Trump promised to keep those the OTHERS of this world out. We send legions of our youth around the world on exotic mission trips to build homes abroad, yet won’t even allow the homeless here at home the comfort of a park bench. We say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that [we] are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

    We are neither hot nor cold, and utterly worthless in terms of advancing God’s Kingdom. So, “Christian” America (if it ever was) will certainly be no more; our lampstand is about to be removed from its place. God is in the midst of spewing us out of his mouth, and Trump is just the first bit of emesis we’ve happened to notice.

  4. Jason, I have found myself asking similar questions in conversation with others. I have also wondered is Trump a truer reflection of the state of the soul of American Christianity than many of us are ready to accept. Your final question is the kicker – have the mainline church substituted a Loving God for a Living God? In a number of senses, as a colleague in the Virginia Conference, I would say, yes, in a number of ways we have done so in order to make God more palatable to our secular senses. Continue the dialogue!

  5. This all depends on how you see the relationship between God and history. I’ve become very careful about how I see that connection. I could just as easy say that Trump is more like one of the corrupt kings of Israel, who destroyed Israel from within, thus serving as God’s instrument for our destruction, but this replicates the same thing my evangelical friends are doing. The problem I have with the whole “God’s agent” thing is that often we project our desires into history and onto
    God to see God acting when it, in fact, is us, all us. God as an abstraction outside of Christ therefore becomes the cipher we use to justify our perspectives, much like I see in some of the evangelical community right now regarding Mr. Trump. So, interesting to think about for the 15th for pub theology, huh?

  6. Keith A. Jenkins June 1, 2017 at 10:45 PM

    Much of your argument seems to be based on a correspondence (or at least parallels) between Israel and America, but that is a false equivalence. Israel was a theocracy, then a theocratic monarchy. Its guiding principles were drawn from its national religion and its scriptures. But America is not a Christian nation. Christianity may be its dominant religious faith, but America itself was not founded as a Christian nation, and it has never been such. It is a secular republic with a representative democratic form of government. Its guiding principles, enshrined in its Constitution and other founding documents, were drawn from the writings of the 18th century European Enlightenment, not from the Bible. Without this correspondence, the idea of God playing a role in the election of any American president (but especially one like Trump) is just bad theology.

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