Opinion: Denying the Imago Dei: The triumph of Donald Trump

by Ian Markham


The conventional hypothesis is that Mr. Trump’s success is due to the anger of the Republican base. In response, every candidate has tried to relate to the “anger” of the base. Their messaging has been “we understand your anger, just don’t vote for Donald Trump”. But perhaps we are being too kind: perhaps we have an uglier and more disturbing phenomenon here.


Others (such as Warren Buffett) have made the point that there isn’t any reason for the Republican base to be so angry. When we look at the facts, unemployment is at 4.9%; gas prices have fallen dramatically; inflation is virtually invisible; and we are outperforming by far the other major economies in the world. Add to this picture other recent recessions. George Bush had two recessions on his watch and only added 1.3 million jobs, while Barack Obama has added 9.2 million jobs. If the base wanted to be angry, then 2008 or 2012 would have made more sense.


So if the economic data is OK, then why? Four main theories have emerged. First, there is the slow recovery hypothesis. This is the line of the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal. This recovery has been frustrating slow, they argue. Although it is true that the recovery has been patchy, it is important to remember that compared to the rest of the world this has been the strongest recovery out there   And compared to the Bush years, this has been an OK recovery.


In the pages of The Economist, we find the second theory. The inflamed base hypothesis argues that Republican political leaders in response to the Tea Party allowed their rhetoric to become excessive. An angry base found a mirror in the Republican leadership which created an ever more angry base. However, this hypothesis does not explain Donald Trump. Donald Trump does not reflect back the prejudices of the base. He flirts with higher taxes for the rich; he supports the mandate; and he is only recently become pro-life. He isn’t an angry inflamed base writ large.


A more historical line comes from those defenders of the ultra partisan division – theory three. So Algernon Austin, writing in the Huffington Post, takes this line. We have two Americas, with two electorates who see the world in completely different ways. Democrats worry about healthcare, but not deficits; Republicans worry about the deficit, but not healthcare. For those taking this line, the emergence of Trump is just the logical outcome of decades of growing partisanship and the disappearance of moderates and independents. Again, this hypothesis does not explain Trump. He is utterly maverick on his political positions. And some Democrats are supporting Trump.


Theory four is from Ross Douthat. He suggested the decadent hypothesis. He concedes that the data shows an OK America. The state of the Union might not be fabulous, but “it could clearly be a whole lot of worse”. For Douthat, Americans don’t want “it could be worse”, they want to be able “to advance in the way that its citizens once took for granted”. He believes that Americans are rebelling against the steady decline of this excessively successful nation (hence the decadent hypothesis).


Douthat might be on to something. Trump is pure rhetoric; and Republicans like the tone. They don’t want a realpolitik to shape foreign policy, they hanker for an age when “America just bombs its enemies out of existence”. Trump promises a great America; one where people are all speaking English “again”. The lack of clarity around policy implementation is fine: the tone is what they love.


But there is more going on. There is a revolt against ‘political correctness’. Let me be clear: when attacking political correctness is an excuse to flirt with David Duke, attack Latinos and Muslims, and denigrate women, then that is wrong. The delightful phenomenon marked by the election of Barak Obama in 2008 was the reversal of the ‘Bradley effect’. Obama won by a bigger margin than anticipated because people wanted to be part of the election of the first African American President. This spirit has completely dissipated. For Trump, being “anti-political correctness” is code for the freedom to be ugly. “Muslims should be banned from America”; “Latinos should be sent home”. “This reporter has a disability”. “She is a slut”. This is the language of Trump. Trump is providing license for people to utter what was beyond the bounds of civility.


Trump is wrong because intemperate language against women, immigrants, the disabled, and Muslims is an act of sin. Our civic discourse should always be elevated. In the privacy of our home, late at night, after a drink or two, our discourse might be less than precise and virtuous (not that it makes it right, but it happens), but our civic discourse is public and words have an impact. We should always recognize that when we talk about human lives we are talking about men and women who are made in the image of God. People are of infinite value. This debased and coarse language is totally inappropriate; in fact, it is wrong; it is sinful; indeed it is evil.


The Episcopal Church has a role to play. What is needed is for commentators who are responsible for protecting the Public Square from the language of oppression to be a little less understanding with the anger that Americans are feeling. Much like teenage children, there might be legitimate triggers for angst, but the enthusiasm for Donald Trump is wrong. America is “acting out”. America can live with pluralism; it has done it well in the past and can do it well in the future. The Episcopal Church should start saying, loud and clearly, “stop this tantrum and grow up America”.


Ian S. Markham is the Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary

Posted by

Comment Policy
Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted. We also ask that you limit your comments to no more than four comments per story per day.

  1. Pete

    A very good article marred only by the picture of the article’s subject which appears not to respect the dignity of EVERY human being. I am dissapointed that this “episcopal”cafe would so blatantly refute our baptismal call with a disrespectful photo (such as pols post about their political enemies) especially in an article where the author of the very same takes great care to remain respectful of all.

    we ask that commenters use their full first and last names

    • Pete Ackerman

      Hi David,

      Please do not let my response prejudice you to thinking I am someone other than who I actually am. I am not a Trump supporter and though you make a typical legalistic point a la’ “PerryMason,” about using photos, I’ll be you there are probably 1000 pictures easily available of the candidate and not one of those “between shutter click ones” that people ONLY use for negativity. When a Democrat puts a picture of their opponent…this is the kind that they use. When Republican does the same this is the kind that they use. I would think, especially in light of Mr. Markham’s fine essay which does everything to remain above the fray and respectful of the dignity of all, that episcopalcafe would show the same reflection of kindness and let Mr. Markham’s words speak for themselves, and not add their own commentary by such an “ugly” photo.

    • Robert Howe

      Since the article is about Trump speaking and behaving immaturely, and people irresponsibly reinforcing him in doing this, I think the picture represents the attitude of Trump and those who are cheapening public discourse, and is appropriate to the thrust of the article. You might as well criticize Jesus’ treatment of the money-changers in the temple.

  2. Jeffrey Cox

    I am not a fan of this article. It is pretty easy to state that “all is well” when you are sitting on the endowment that Virginia Theological Seminary has. It can easily fix problems in their institutional life whether building or new chapel or having tuition-free costs.

    The Americans I know are being beaten out of jobs by immigrants who accept lower wages. This race to the bottom has affected many working class jobs. There is a general feeling of crime in places where large poor people gather with little hope. Look at Flint, Michigan and the lack of government to find any solution. There is a lot of rhetoric, not policy.

    We have ISIS fighting and killing ethnic groups including Christians. ISIS’s War on Women include rape, torture, and execution. They promote child rape. What has Virginia Seminary said about this? Yes, ISIS has been rebuffed by lower oil prices, but when the price of oil rises…. Oh, I am a combat veteran, so I know first hand the true costs of war.

    I don’t know if Donald Trump is the answer. I know that he is asking a lot of questions that I hear from a lot of people. Many of them Episcopalians in parishes in dying communities with less than 50 people on Sunday hanging on. We need less sensational picture of Donald Trump and more meaningful analysis of what he is saying and why he is saying. A lot of people are stuck, feel mad, and frankly can care less about what the NEW YORK TIMES or other university elites that are doing fine and have a pension.

    I hope future pictures of Mr. Trump on this website can show the dignity of a Presidential candidate like you would with an Episcopal Seminary President.

    • Pete Ackerman

      I am not sure if my original comment was posted (first timer…neglected the last name)…but I respectfully am on the other side of you and loved this article, but what took me aback and where I agree with is that on such a fine essay posted by a group with “episcopal” in its name, that has clergy (including the clergy editor who posted this article) choose a picture of Trump which is unflattering to say the least. In a church who is going to invite their congregations to “renew their Baptismal Covenant” at the Easter Vigil – is it truly respecting the dignity of EVERY human being, by posting that purposely horrible photo of Mr. Trump? Dean Markham eloquently talks about elevating discourse, and I personally think episcopalcafe failed in living up to the fine ideal lifted up for us to consider by the author.

      • David Streever

        Mr. Ackerman,
        Donald Trump chose this photo. It is in use on posters for his campaign.

    • David Streever

      Mr. Cox:
      This photo appears on Trump’s campaign materials.

      • Marie Honeycutt

        so that makes it ok? Donald Trump has done and said a lot of things in his campaign. I thought the point of the article was to dispute those tactics. The picture posted of him – whether in his campaign materials or not – does not excuse it’s usage in an article to raise the standard of public discourse. A picture speaks louder than the words. Practice what you are preaching and show respect.

      • David Streever

        Why is it wrong to use the image?
        The complaint was that the image distorts him or paints him unfairly.

        The image does not distort him; he himself uses it to represent himself.

        What, precisely, is your complaint? That the image isn’t flattering?

        Media isn’t supposed to ‘flatter’ candidates. Media is supposed to report. This is a real, in context, image of Donald Trump which Donald Trump uses to represent himself. There is no reason not to use it.

    • Coricia Payton

      Jeffery. As a combat veteran myself, I understand your views of war and the real cost. As an immigrant however, I was very taken back by your comment. Immigrants aren’t stealing jobs by accepting lower pay. Immigrants do jobs that will offer pay for their hard work. Cleaning houses, working in fields, menial labor, etc.These are jobs that are more likely to be filled by native born rather than immigrants. They still pay taxes and they do what they can to survive. Unlike you and I (I was naturalized in 2009), immigrants are less likely to have healthcare, jobs with benefits, proper housing and they are more likely to be conned, short payed or suffer abuse from employers with no options for recourse. Except for the very rich, many of us wait over 10 years just to get a green card/work permit after submitting the necessary paperwork to the government.They deserve our empathy, not our hatred. I urge you to read up on the struggles of immigrants and what it is we go through to become citizens of this country. Immigrants also serve in every branch of the military!

  3. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

    It always amazes me that when looking through the stained glass how much better the world appears than when in the trenches of real life.

    On paper everything looks great, but at the kitchen table decisions are having to be made that are painful for families to handle. The decline is household income by about 5,800.00+ a year has caused adjustments to be made as to what the priorities are for families. The increased cost of health care is causing great concern. The cost of groceries like milk, eggs & bread are increasing monthly. The fear that retirement savings and pension plans will disappear before they are needed. The list goes on and on.

    Many parishes and local congregations may well find themselves struggling with paying the utilities, the rector’s salary, the building upkeep and that list goes on and on as well.

    When our elected representatives seem isolated from our plight then we do trend to get disturbed. That leads to anger. In this election cycle that anger has lead to a political revolution in both political parties.

    The People want their government back. The times, as they say, are a changing. I could write volumes of all the reasons for this revolution, but I’ll let others share their observations.

    • Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

      I would add: advise to the Church is to stay out of politics. The pews are already sparsely filled. What go is a seminary if you have no students?

      • Chris Harwood

        I agree, at least if TEC intends to actually be a church that welcomes all. Let’s admit that depending on where you live, your job/ livelihood depends on opposite sides of the aisle and a church that actually welcomes all will be willing to admit that there are good and bad on both sides of the aisle. Unfortunately, just like the pictures above, I don’t think TEC does think people who disagree with them are deserving of dignity.

      • Jennifer Crumley

        I am an Episcopalian and very unhappy with this article. I agree….the church needs to stay out of politics.

      • Rev. Henry Galganowicz

        You do understand that Jesus was crucified by the state for political reasons?

  4. Jan Nunley

    I’m the priest at one of those congregations struggling to pay me half a salary while trying to keep the pride of our small downtown, a late-19th century historic building funded by hard-working capitalists and factory workers, from falling down around our ears. The Americans I know aren’t “being beaten out of their jobs by immigrants.” THOSE jobs are mowing grass and staffing fast food joints for minimum wage and no benefits, and God bless ’em for doing them. THEIR jobs were in offices or factories, and they were good jobs, at union wages and with benefits. THOSE jobs have been downsized or sent overseas, and the unions busted, by men EXACTLY like Donald Trump: overpaid, underworked scions of guys who got lucky gambling (legally or illegally) or running hedge funds, whose only loyalty is to Mammon Almighty, and who would say or do anything, no matter how heinous, to raise their personal bottom line, which will never be enough for them anyway. My Bible has a lot to say about that kind of person, none of it good. And people are hoovering it up because they are so blinded by anger and resentment at what’s been done to them BY MEN LIKE HIM–and dazzled by his “fame” and “success,” not realizing even THAT was Made In China(tm). But oh, Heaven forbid I should preach from the pulpit about “politics”… even when politics “as usual” is killing their jobs, their town, their kids’ education, their retirement…

    • Kurt Hill

      Right on, Jan!

      Kurt Hill
      Brooklyn, NY

      • The Church is called to seek justice. In today’s society Christians must be involved in politics if we are to achieve our mission. Jesus was very political. Just ask Herod and Pilate.

      • Deborah Truscott

        Yes, yes and yes, Reverend Nunley. You made an important point when you wrote: “The Americans I know aren’t ‘being beaten out of their jobs by immigrants.’ THOSE jobs are mowing grass and staffing fast food joints for minimum wage and no benefits, and God bless ’em for doing them. THEIR jobs were in offices or factories, and they were good jobs, at union wages and with benefits. THOSE jobs have been downsized or sent overseas, and the unions busted, by men EXACTLY like Donald Trump.”

    • Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

      Let us just say we agree to disagree and leave it at that.

      I will say if my partner and I sat through a sermon that was blatantly political in an election year, we would get up and walk out. We love our parish, but no more political sermons. I will not be beaten down by MoveOn.Org.

      • Pete Ackerman

        I have to agree. I have been an Episcopal Priest in the DC ‘Beltway” for almost ten years and through my sponsoring parish across the coast, my internships, and the two churches where I have been an ordained leader, we had congregations that were full of members who subscribe to both political parties. Thus we preach the actual Gospel and people who are called to feed the other, visit the prisoner, clothe the naked, etc. can do so as Republicans and as Democrats. I should mention that in the time where people are wringing hands about the decline of Episcopal parishes….each one of those mentioned here, that did not preach the gospel of “Rachel Maddow” or “Rush Limbaugh” on Sundays, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ…are and./or were all thriving and growing parishes…going against the shrinking demographics of others.

      • JC Fisher

        As I was watching a young African-American woman being grabbed and violently shoved out of a Trump rally, I have to wonder: what does it mean, William, when you say “I will not be beaten down by MoveOn.Org.”? [Full-disclosure: I’m less than united w/ MoveOn currently, thanks to their endorsement of BSanders]

      • Jennifer Crumley


    • Pete Ackerman

      Ironically the parishes that preach “MSNBC” or “Fox News” instead of the Gospel of J.C. are the parishes that seem to be failing. Sometimes the reason for the shrinking demographics in our parishes is easily discovered; staring right back at us in the morning mirror.

    • Chris Harwood

      Jan, who was it that Goldman Sachs paid gobs to speak? Some lady named Clinton? And wasn’t some guy named Bill involved in NAFTA? Real life is messy and neither side is immune to greed/money/sin. Here in Montana most of the union jobs are in natural resources-mining, gas, timber…all industries Obama has promised to practically destroy to appease the party environmentalists. So, if a union miner knows all the good jobs and schools in the county are going to disappear if Obama’s environmental laws are enacted, does he vote for his own destruction? Is he an evil Republican for voting to save his community/heritage? Or, if it’s just the rich you hate, our Episcopal church is the local country club church, mostly Democrat, but rich bankers and lawyers and unwelcoming to poor people. Are snobby Democrats any better than Republicans? I know people from both sides who hate church because of “political priests”. A priest who spends every Sunday railing against others isn’t spreading love or peace or getting their own side to look at their sins/weaknesses. What was that old story about taking logs and splinters from our eyes? Whose eye was first?

    • Paula

      Thank you Jan for bringing the discussion to include the most probable causes of the anger a demagogue like Trump can exploit. We do indeed need to have a rational discussion about these issues while we formulate some solutions that don’t involve “burning down the country” with the likes of Donald Trump as President.

      please use your full first and last name when commenting – editor

    • Shirley O'Shea

      Amen!!! From impoverished upstate NY.

  5. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

    I have preached to Presidents and Supreme Court Justices and have never strayed from the Gospel message of God’s love and forgiveness for all God’s children. I do not think human politics has any place in the Church’s pulpits. My calling was to proclaim the Gospel of God unto all creatures throughout the world.

    Even in my post here I have no advocated for any political position. I share the pain that people are feeling and why they react the way they are in this election. Who am I to judge their motives.

    I do admire political leaders whose faith shines through their words and deeds. I know several and they are very good and honest people.

  6. D. Wynne

    Please follow the posted comment policy by using your first & last names when making comments. – ed

    Trump is very smart as are his advisors. he will win nomination and move to the center.
    The middle class and below were decimated by recession; they have not recovered.
    The church has always been an advocate for justice and righteousness but must not take sides in political discourse.

  7. Dirk Reinken

    Jesus was political. To be a par of human society is to be political. To be in a democracy open to participation from every citizen and to influence decisions that affect others means Christians have an obligation to participate in the nation’s political life with an informed conscience. Christians can disagree on many policies and avenues to achieve good ends, but Christianity cannot be faithful and be silent on politics at the same time. The challenge is to speak in a way that honors Anglican respect for the capacity of the individual o make their own faith-formed decisions.

    • Shirley O'Shea

      I agree wholeheartedly!

  8. Love and justice preached from the pulpit that ignores hate and bigotry proclaimed from political podiums does not honor Jesus, the prophets nor the congregation. Most of the prophets were courtiers whose job was to keep the king honest and Jesus didn’t hesitate to take on the corrupt religious and political leaders of his day.

  9. Harry Nicholson

    A great deal of Christian practice has become the cult of the self which reflects our fascination with celebrity and reality television. Mr. Trump is a master of the self and a palpable demonstration of self will run riot. It is impossible to know what he believes because he shifts his positions from moment to moment. He is an entertainer par excellence, but he plays not only to our anger but our greed, our bigotry, our animal instincts. He is the best of the candidates at working a crowd.

  10. Randall Stewart

    While I agree with the general sentiment, I must take issue with the omission of an important factor.

    Things are not equally rosy in America. Where is the hope for a child in deep Appalachia, or old rust belt towns? We know, because there are studies to support it, that the ability to rise from poverty is heavily dependent on geographical location; a poor child from Anacostia, DC or the Bronx has a better chance than a kid from Detroit or Bristol, TN.

    That omission is so glaring that it undermines the argument, however much I agree with it. If you want to know why people are angry, it’s that they feel hopeless for their families, and frankly, are not entirely unjustified.

  11. Keith Patterson


  12. Charles Martel

    An organization that qualifies as “tax-exempt” under Section 501(c)(3) is one that devotes its resources to educational, religious, scientific or other charitable activities, and that complies with a number of other rules, including the prohibition on political activity. In exchange for agreeing to fulfill certain public purposes and following the rules for 501(c)(3)s, these organizations do not pay taxes on their income and contributions received by them are tax-deductible by their donors. Churches are recognized as 501(c)(3) organizations, although under the law, they do not have to get specific approval from the IRS to be tax-exempt under 501(c)(3), unlike other charities.

    In order to remain tax-exempt under 501(c)(3), churches must abide by strict guidelines that prohibit election activity. The Code states in relevant part that 501(c)(3) organizations cannot “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” I.R.C. Sec. 501(c)(3). Thus, as a 501(c)(3) organization, churches are strictly forbidden from supporting or opposing a candidate for public office. To do so jeopardizes their tax-exempt status. Churches cannot engage in any of the following activities under the federal tax law:

    Cannot endorse or oppose candidates for public office
    Cannot make any communication—either from the pulpit, in a newsletter, or church bulletin—which expressly advocates for the election or defeat of a candidate for public office
    Cannot make expenditures on behalf of a candidate for public office or allow any of their resources to be used indirectly for political purposes (e.g., use their phones for a phone bank)
    Cannot ask a candidate for public office to sign a pledge or other promise to support a particular issue
    Cannot distribute partisan campaign literature
    Cannot display political campaign signs on church property
    Under current law, churches, as well as other 501(c)(3) organizations, may engage in nonpartisan campaign activities, primarily consisting of voter education. Thus, they may organize and coordinate nonpartisan get-out-the-vote and voter registration drives; sponsor nonpartisan candidate debates or forums, so long as all legally qualified candidates are invited to appear and wide spectrum of issues are covered; educate all candidates on issues of public interest; and create legislative scorecards or voter guides. All of these permissible activities must be done on a nonpartisan basis. A 501(c)(3) entity should not even tacitly express favor or disfavor of a particular candidate.

    Religious groups of all sides ought to these truths enforced on them.

    • Jan Nunley

      The key word here is “nonpartisan.” And the question is: what do we as pastors do if one of the candidates for office steps over the line? Which line, and where do you draw it? Roman Catholic churches have been drawing it at abortion for years (without penalty). Evangelical and conservative churches have most recently drawn it at same-sex marriage (again, without penalty, in most cases). What about overt racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, endorsement of genocide, calls for nuclear war? At what point does a particular candidate for office become so outrageous that not to express disfavor of his/her stated positions is a betrayal of the Gospel? That’s a different world from the one envisioned by the tax code here.

      • Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

        Priest and Pastors must walk a thin line less they become victims in the war of words. Look how the Roman Catholic Church survived under Hitler.

        I think there is a place for political dialog but just not in the pulpit.

      • Charles Martel

        Oh, those ‘right-wing’ churches are also under the law. It is a real pity that so many are getting away with breaking this.

        I joined the Episcopal church for its tradition of broad ‘tent’. Sadly, the Episcopal church today has lost that, and is now so divided. It was why I ended my membership with the Episcopal church. I also will not go to the ‘Anglican’ option. Frankly, I am done with organized religion. There is a Very line about faith and politics, and quite sadly organized religion (across nearly all groups) have crossed that line. It has done nothing for the issues of faith, and nothing good for those groups.

  13. Jerald Liko

    I am one of those who does not care much for politics in church, although I suppose unofficial church-related websites might be given a pass.

    Still, given the fact that the author of the article is a seminary Dean (or President, didn’t check and can’t scroll up now), it might have been better if he had oriented his commentary toward the issues instead of a single candidate and a single party.

    I see several posters claiming that “Jesus was political.” I don’t remember that too much, except the bit about rendering into Caesar. I see how some of His stuff could be interpreted politically, and I certainly get that it’s fashionable to do so right now, but I can also see how it could be interpreted in other ways. I think it’s in the eye of the beholder. That’s why so many people who like politics see a political Jesus and so many who dislike politics see an apolitical Jesus.

    Bottom line, if the church absolutely has to engage in politics, I’d prefer if we left specific candidates out of it.

  14. John Chilton

    Ian will forgive me, I hope, for noting his British roots — telling America to stop its tantrum is in the same vein of the current and former ABC’s calling out The Episcopal Church for being quintessentially American. I suppose I mean Ian could have made an appeal to our better selves, instead of telling us to grow up.

    I do wholeheartedly endorse his view that Trump has brought out the worst in us as a people — and the worst is always failing to see the image of God in the other.

    Not to pull the Nazi card, but we do know what happens when Christians choose to be silent and allow into power those demonize the other for political gain. I am reminded of what appeared in the NYT in 1922,

    “several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic, and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.”

    Who is it who has been saying I will be presidential when I am president? I’ll be great. You’ll love how presidential I’ll be.

    • Just FYI I am an American citizen. And I’m proud to be so.

      And I am writing in my personal capacity as a Priest Scholar with an research interest in Christian ethics. My views should not be identified with VTS.

  15. Norman Hutchinson

    John Chilton you have every right to, “… pull the Nazi card…” because it is an appropriate comparison. Bonhoffer saw the evil and formed the underground Confessing Church. Churches in the United States have no need to become underground organizations because they can speak freely and warn about evil when they see it. They can fear for their 501 (c) (3) status and just have a nice quiet service or they can do what the clergy at Old South Church in Boston did when they released this statement: “As Christian ministers we disavow Mr. Trump’s candidacy for US president. We disavow the demagogue who barks contemptuously from the podium, ‘Get ’em out of here’,whose disparaging words to and about women, Latinos/Latinas, immigrants, and Muslims are beyond the pail in a civil society; who professes to know nothing about David Duke or white supremacists and refuses to disavow the KKK; whose ignorance of the workings of government is terrifying (averring that Justice Alito signed that bill when Supreme Court Justices don’t sign bills); who exposed astonishing meanness by sneering at John McCain’s military service and unbearable suffering (I like people who weren’t captured)while lavishing rare praise on Vladimir Putin, a brutal, authoritarian murderer. GOD HELP US.”
    Do we as Christians no longer read Matthew 25, do we not know what we are saying when we pray, “thy kingdom come thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven”. This begs the old question about speaking out against evil when we see it: “If not here where, if not now when?”

  16. Prof. Christopher Seitz

    Trump’s support cannot be labelled ‘republican’ without considerable footnoting.

    He is turning out voters who have previously not voted or gotten involved at all. This is a phenomenon that confuses and angers many republicans, as is obvious.

    So it will take social historians to figure out just what is at work here. Even the average TV pundit regularly says she/he has seen nothing like it.

  17. Eric Bonetti

    The Episcopal Church welcomes all people? That’s news to me. Yes, that message appears on our signage, but look at the percentage of minorities who actually occupy out pews, and the problem may be closer to home than is comfortable to us.

    • Helen Kromm

      Unfortunately, I’m forced to agree with your analysis. And this entire thread is troubling and disconcerting on any number of levels.

      Perhaps I’m missing something, but what I find shocking is that there are posts and responses here that seem to argue that taking a position against Trump is one that is political.

      We have seen people of color assaulted at Trump rallies, and all the while we the candidate is shouting get them out of here.

      We know as fact that a white supremacist organization has actually broadcast from Trump rallies numerous times. We also know that a white supremacist attended Trump rallies as an accredited journalist. And we know that this Saturday, a twenty minute interview will be released wherein a known white supremacist interviews Trump’s son who is one of his official campaign spokespersons.

      So to those who believe that it is a mistake to address politics within the church, I have to ask what part of this can you define as politics? This to you is politics as usual? Racism is bad, but when spoken by a political candidate it now becomes a political issue where you remain mute?

      That position is of course ridiculous. And frankly it’s baffling. In at least one case, that position seems to be echoed by someone from a largely, perhaps exclusively, white church. Which is situated in a largely minority geographical area.

      And it’s not like the Episcopal Church has an enviable history as it relates to racial issues. That history is abysmal- in fact, merely labeling it abysmal is a generous description. We are still the church that has parishioners worshiping under a stained glass window depicting Robert E. Lee as Moses in the capitol of the Confederacy. Lamentably and laughably, we call that situation “progress” because that same church threw a meager bone in the direction of racial healing by removing some confederate symbols. And yet Robert E Lee as Moses remains.

      So I suppose the question becomes just how bad does it have to get with Trump? How bad does it have to get before it transcends “politics” and before some feel it’s appropriate to raise their voices in condemnation of this?

      In my opinion, we reached that point long ago.

      • Shirley O'Shea

        Right on!

    • Eric Bonetti

      That is amusing. And, frankly, my sense is that Trump likes these sorts of photos. The whole run-before-I-bite-you look.

  18. Jan Nunley

    We’ve heard this song and dance before. A “political priest” named Jeremiah talked about it.

    “The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’

    For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors for ever and ever.

    Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are safe!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord. ”

    And so on. Well, his congregation got relocated, so I guess we can ignore him now.

    • Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

      Didn’t you get the memo? We are a Gospel People. The Hebrew Text is sometimes best left to the Hebrew Sages for interpretation since they best understand the history of their language and peoples. I find it odd when Christians try to give meaning to the Hebrew Scriptures that something gets left out.

      • Justin Fletcher

        Well, yes, I wonder how much our ‘prophetic’ church would be willing to embrace all that the Lord said to Jeremiah, e.g: chapter 16, verse 2.

  19. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

    Jesus did not engage in political activity. I would strongly disagree with those who try to make Him political. It was for political and religious reasons He was crucified. But even the Roman governor said that he could find no fault in Jesus. He told His followers to love the Romans and render to Caesar what was Caesars. Jesus did not lead a revolt against Rome.

    When I look at world history I can see a very political church. It may well be that this political church forfeited its soul for political power and it has been as abusive with that power as any king, queen, dictator or president. Let those without sin cast the first stone.

    To point out a very important fact to you since the Dean mentioned Trump’s name; God even loves Donald Trump and gave Jesus for him as well. God’s Kingdom is not political. May His Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.

    • Jon White

      He was executed for treason, and the gospel account doesn’t exactly have him denying it. And let’s be honest, a society committed to truly following Jesus’ path has serious consequences to the powers and principalities of the world. Further to claim Jesus is Lord, nay, the ONLY Lord, is to make a radical political claim. That claim lies behind Roman persecution and the martyrdom of the early church. To Jesus, and Jesus alone, we hold allegiance if he is truly our Lord. To preach the Gospel is an inherently political act.

      • Prof. Christopher Seitz

        Thank God the Gospels do not make the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, King of the Jews, so one-dimensional as to classify it ‘treason.’ He claimed to be the Son of God and this ignited a charge of blasphemy from Jewish leaders, who in turn sought to have him executed because it was not possible for them to do so. Pilate was puzzled and sought to release him. Crowds demanded his death, and those who mocked him included you and me.

        Treason? Political felonies? Hardly.

        And thank God for that, else we’d be worshipping the wrong man: the man who died on a cross by his own decision to save us from our sins and create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us, by virtue of God’s raising of him from the dead.

        Not a party platform that appeals to our own sense of righteousness.

        Lenten blessings as we approach the final Sundays of His passion for us.

  20. John Merchant

    Those of us called to preach the Gospel need to guard against allowing the popular habit of our nation’s body politic to politicize many of humankind’s sins and wickedness to, therefore, keep us from speaking truth to power, and from calling us to remember prayerfully that there is nothing in God’s creation beyond both God’s judgement and blessing. In the call process for a parish not long ago, candidates were given a list of topics upon which the new rector was never to speak from the pulpit. Imagine that! I know of nothing, no issue or topic, exempt from the need of the transformative loving power of truth and reconciliation faithfully shared from the pulpits of God’s Church.

  21. Paul Talbot

    If you’ve not read it, Peggy Noonan’s column on this topic in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal (February 27) was excellent, and worth a look. Her basic thesis was that Trump’s success owed a lot to his appeal to what she called the “unprotected” – people who feel that they are ignored or disdained by those in power, on both the right and the left.

  22. Susan Moritz

    Ian Markham writes: “This debased and coarse language is totally inappropriate; in fact, it is wrong; it is sinful; indeed it is evil.”
    Yes. And it’s polluting not only our politics. An article in Newsday describes how children in one school are being affected:
    Donald Trump chooses to speak and to portray himself (see website photo) as a bully. The language that he and his fellow-candidates use is far worse than “intemperate.” It’s not partisan to say that, and churches have an obligation to speak about what is being said in this political year.

    • Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

      I think a reality check is appropriate at this time. The children are already exposed to all of this and more on TV, video games, in their classrooms and in their neighborhoods. Let’s not used the children as an excuse to compromise faith and practice. Public education is a scam today and many of these angry folks you are referring to are these children’s parents. The Bible doesn’t say anger is necessarily a bad thing, it says not to let the sunset on your anger.

      Yes, Americans are angry and they have every right to be. We can’t shelter the kids from reality and they are smarter than you are giving the credit. A psychologist friend tells me letting off anger is a healthy thing to do. Even God expressed His anger.

      Take off the stained glass sunshades and look at our world. It is in very critical condition.

      • Gregory Orloff

        Actually, the Bible says “Be angry, and do not sin.”

        Twice: Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26.

        In other words, don’t let anger make you hate, bloviate, lash out or foment violence and oppression.

        Let it motivate you to do good to right the wrong.

      • Susan Moritz

        Dr. Flint: Perhaps in your many posts to this thread (four is the limit?) you’ve become confused. The “reality check” is that this article is about the specific reactions of a specific group of schoolchildren to the very ugly speech of Donald Trump and other candidates.
        To say that this post uses children to compromise faith and practice is absurd.
        To say that public education is a scam now or ever is profoundly untrue. Public education is the foundation of our democracy.
        Any “angry folks” involved in this news article are not the children’s parents but the candidates.
        But if you are actually replying to this post and telling me to “take off the stained glass sunshades” please also consider your own eyes and the beam that seems to be lodged there.

      • Wayne Helmly

        Yes, indeed, a reality check is appropriate.

        As a veteran public school educator with twenty years experience, ten in the same school, I have seen a sharp rise in bullying behavior that I believe has a direct correlation to the discourse and lack of civility exhibited in the “Reality TV” genre.

        Now, who running for President is a “Reality TV” star? Mr. “YOU’RE FIRED!” himself.

        A decidedly negative change in school climate IS reality, and teachers experience it first-hand everyday. It did not rise out of a vacuum.

      • Shirley O'Shea

        Calling public education a scam is a profound injustice to the millions of teachers who give all they have to educate children, many of whom, sadly, have many disadvantages in their home lives. When was the last time you spent a significant amount of time in a public school? Do you know what teachers must contend with every day? Don’t let Fox News do your thinking for you, Rev. Dr., I beseech you.

  23. Ted Thomas Martin

    Through Trump, republicans are espousing their true feelings. That is why some of them are upset, the truth hurts.

    • Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

      There will always be some that don’t get it.

      • Leslie Marshall

        As a conservative Republican…I’m completely bewildered that Trump will win the nomination. Sometimes I laugh out loud, you know, like the funny parts in a Fellini movie.

        Trump understands that America needs good paying jobs originating from the private sector that produce a product (you know, the kind you can support a family on, buy a home, shop at the mall, buy a new car, save for college, & retirement) And with his 40 years business expertise, he will be able to make some inroads there.

        Hillary understands that America needs more good Government paying jobs that don’t produce a product (you know, the kind that can support a family on, buy a home, shop at the mall, buy a new car, save for college & retirement.) And with her 40 years government expertise, she will be able to make some inroads there.

        To accomplish this…Trump will tap (near limitless) American ingenuity, Hillary will tap (phantom) Government Funds.

  24. Joe Herring

    Dean Markham has it right. What Donald Trump has been saying and doing is evil. As for the relation between the Church and politics, it’s usually best for the Church to keep its powder dry. But Trump and his followers are not usual. Politics always implies a religious dimension. Politics is applied religion, an important form of stewardship. In a merely Gnostic world, we’d all have the duty to fly away into pure spirituality.

  25. Pegram Johnson III

    In re one of the pot shots taken above at the parish I call home, Robert E. Lee did look a lot like Moses, if I remember correctly, though Jefferson Davis not so much like Paul. All the Confederate flag images were taken away. This is what we as a congregation decided to do. If someone doesn’t like that from either left or right, it is hard cheese to us. have a nice day.

  26. Gregory Orloff

    “Shut up, Dietrich Bonhoeffer! Don’t you dare criticize Adolf Hitler. Keep your church and your Christianity out of politics!”

    • Denise LeGendre

      Indeed. I and my family are part of that shrinking middle class, worrying about job security; wondering if we will ever be able to pay off the mortgage, let alone retire; whether our children and grand children will even be able to find jobs with living wages to begin with but to Trump and his admirers, I have to say “Not this! Not this!” Have we really learned so little?

  27. Clay Magee

    Anyone can be justified in anger… I think the point is should it be the reigning emotion or consideration when choosing a political candidate for the US Presidency in 2016? Is the situation bad enough for enough people to explain/excuse/justify nominating someone like Trump that is clearly playing on said anger and fear? In other words, do the means justify the ends?

    I think acknowledging that good Christians fall into any number of political categories and to welcome people into the church regardless of political affiliation is about as far as its logical to be “a-political”. Sure, leave unto Caesar, but was it justified to be “a-political” when the Churches of Germany allowed the holocaust to happen? I don’t mean to imply that Trump in any way is the harbinger of that sort of evil, but I think decrying a Christian stance in a political forum is sometimes people’s way of avoiding tough questions about their own political views (particularly when you might have to admit that perhaps where you stand isn’t actually so Christian).

    The bottom line is that regardless of his actual views or his actual motivations (fairly unknowable for any political candidate) nothing in his message or in his demeanor forwards Christian values. If you still choose to support him on a pragmatic level because you think his executive choices will lead to more jobs and a better economic situation for all, then so be it.

    However, no Episcopal can say in any genuine way that his behavior can be “justified” by ANY Judeo-Christian philosophy. Building a wall, slut-shaming, kicking out all the Muslims–even if you believe it’s “practical” or “politically-justified”, there’s certainly no Jesus in it.

    Everyone has a right to feel slighted or even downright crushed by our current economic situation–I think very few people would disagree with the fact that lots is broken in Washington. But I agree with Dean Markham–angst is childish, and taking a political position based on angst is even more childish. Here, I’ll even say something politically incorrect in order to prove I’m “fair and balanced”: we’re Christians (and Episcopals at that!), so we’re better than being so childish.

  28. Donna Gee

    Well, if you look on the left and right of Trump, you see Rubio and Cruz. Are you kidding me! Straight out of the lobbyists pockets. Then across the aisle is Hillary. What! So, who have you got. In my opinion, these are some of the most rotten people in our country. Want to know why people are voting for Trump. Does it really take a rocket scientist? And, speaking of respectful dialogue, where is your’s?

  29. Jeffrey Cox

    I was queried on immigration. I worry about people that are permanently non-documented and are used as cheap manual labor. It is near slavery. I lived in a community with a lot of permanent, non-documented labor that depressed working people. If we look at larger issues, I think that we need to address how non-documented immigrants depress economy. Does the non-documentation depress the economy? How do you insure that non-document workers have car insurance and have access to health insurance? These are the questions that part of Americans are asking.

    These are the national economic questions. The Church cares about the individuals. The church in my previous community was doing some work with immigrants but building the organization and support is pretty difficult.

  30. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

    My reference to public schools being a scam is in relation to the politics surrounding public education. Bond issues are out of control, public unions disruption of class schedules by striking (where is the concern for the kids here), the political administration of public schools is wasteful. If our schools are so effective, why is this country ranked in the 30 ranks internationally. Teachers are ignored by political leaders and cohersed into following directives that are not related to teaching kids what they need . Private education is superior to public education because the priorities are balanced.

    • Wayne Helmly

      I find it best to eschew obfuscation by not making gross generalities about complex issues.

      For every school district that has staged a strike, there are tens of thousands that have not. This teacher agrees that it would not be best for students, and I have never stood on a picket line. For that matter, not all school systems are unionized.

      Because the syntax of your sentence appears to be flawed (perhaps from a public school education?), I could not quite follow what you meant by the United States ranking 30th. At least in the Pearson ranking of 2015, the United States ranked 14th internationally in education. Not as good as we would like, to be sure. But not 30th, either.

      Like Mr. Trump, whom this thread is supposed to be about, I was both private and public school educated. My experience is that both have their strengths and weaknesses. To make a unilateral statement that one is always better than the other is simply not true, in my experience. In any case, by his own admission, Mr. Trump’s unruly behavior got him ousted from the private Kew-Forest School and sent to a military academy.

      It is very easy to criticize. Anyone with letters after their name might perhaps consider public school teaching. I am sure you could make us better.

  31. Jim Bimbi

    Thank you, Ian Markham, for speaking the truth in the face of evil. Slogging my way through the resulting comments only confirms the insidious nature of evil as so many of the positions and opinions are deflections away from the central issue of Christian morals and ethics. How can we “preach the Gospel” (words are cheap) to people we are demonizing and escorting to the border? What values are we proclaiming to the rest of the world when we, the richest nation on earth, whines that our quality of life, our amassed possessions, are just not enough? Why is it that power has somehow come to be equated with righteousness?

  32. Cynthia Katsarelis

    Good Lord! The author outlines potential reasons for the anger and fear. Then what he says is that we need a polite discourse that recognizes *all people as created in the Image of God.* That is all he says.

    Can anyone really argue against the need for a discourse that recognizes the Imago Dei, in all people?

    Imago Dei is unavoidably political, but it doesn’t have to be partisan. Gay people are created in the Image of God. Black people are created in the Image of God. Refugees are created in the Image of God. As are immigrants, poor people, and horror of horrors, so are women.

    This is controversial precisely because the implications are personal, sacrificial, costly. We lack faith in our Savior who told us to recognize the Imago Dei and love all our neighbors despite our anger and fears.

    We know what faith demands and we (collectively) won’t do it. All this article asks for is discourse about the Imago Dei.

    This article is incredibly tame. Suppose it asked us to actually follow through. We would crucify him, as we did.

  33. Annie Hall

    Trump is that rare “political” phenomenon that allows a preacher to condemn unethical rhetoric without ever actually naming candidate or party… everyone knows who is being called out without such names.

    He can easily be identified as a person broadcasting hate speech. In ways akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater, he is blithely throwing public fear onto the backs of “the other” as scapegoat, using crass language that so distracts the hearers that everyone quickly shifts their attention from deciphering his policy agenda or methods for achieving it to condemning or defending his behavior.

    And because Trump’s extreme disregard for the imago dei in all persons identifies him handily (without a person of conscience ever having to utter a 501 (c) (3) politically worrisome anything), the question shifts to whether or not religious leaders are called to take up a role in civic discourse about ethical behavior in the public square.

    Does the log in one’s own eye prohibit talking about the speck in another’s eye, when hateful things are spoken?

    And what happens when whole groups of people are vilified and targeted for potential policy actions down the road?

    Scale and context/power matter–not only when constitutionally protected freedoms are in the cross-hairs (as is the case with our citizens under fire)–but also when non-citizens are under fire.

    A question that arises is, at what point does the person of conscience find that he or she is at odds with the status quo?

    And, along the same line, do religious leaders have an obligation speak out or teach about the treatment of “the other” as made in the image of God, or should they restrict themselves to other activities supporting people of faith?

    Do the log and the speck have anything to say in a climate of reactionary extremism, and if so, what?

  34. Frank Brown

    When Trump wins, TEC will be cut off from the millions of dollars it receives from the federal government to import Muslims into the United States, because that program will itself be ended.


    (Deleting this comment proves my point, as censorship is a tool of the weak.)

Comments are closed.