This was supposed to be shocking:
Trump voter panelist: “If Jesus Christ gets down off the cross and told me Trump is with Russia, I would tell him, ‘Hold on a second. I need to check with the President if it’s true.'” pic.twitter.com/4f8bXkXzhY
— New Day (@NewDay) November 20, 2017
The quote comes near the end of the clip, and the interviewer takes it as hyperbole. I probably would have done the same thing, but it’s worth noting that viewers on both sides of the ideological divide (belief vs non-belief) have commented on it as if the words, taken at face value, are revelatory of a primary axiom of Trumpvangelicals: some version of “In Trump We Trust.”
Clearly, it’s possible the guy could have been at least partly serious, but if he was 100% serious, it would simply mean he’s just like the overwhelming majority of evangelicals and fundamentalists in American Christianity. They don’t believe Jesus either. They haven’t in a very long time, if ever.
Every semester, students in my world religion class are forced to endure my reflections on this guy named Silly Jesus. He is the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount, the one who tells his followers to love their enemies, not to resist evil, not to get divorced, not to worry about their lives, not to swear oaths or pray in public, etc. I tend to refer to him as Silly Jesus, because, with the exception of the Anabaptists, I don’t know a single Christian who takes the longest collection of Jesus’ words seriously, at all.
Christian ethics have not been formed by the words of Jesus. In fundangelical circles, Christian ethics are formed by exegetical magic tricks that combine Moses, David, Isaiah, non-red-letter portions of the Gospels, and Paul, but mostly Moses and Paul. In fact, the typical approach to Christian ethics, especially in those areas where Jesus seems to speak clearly, is a dialectical exercise wherein Jesus is pitted against one or both of the Bible’s architects. Jesus always loses. Always.
Consequently, Jesus exists for evangelicals and fundamentalists as a savior, not an anthropological model. They are supposed to be grateful for the work he did on the cross, and then ignore him like they would a conspiracy theorist uncle at a Thanksgiving dinner.
Silly Jesus. Didn’t he know he came to die for me, and then remain silent (stfu)? All those words and deeds prior to the crucifixion? Who knows? It’s so hard. My pastor said the Sermon on the Mount is there to show us our need for grace. I mean, who could possibly do all those things? I’m not perfect. What’s that? Jesus said to be perfect? Silly Jesus. Eat your turkey and stfu.
So you see, that nice Trump voter wasn’t being scandalous, after all. He was simply applying one component of evangelical Christianity to this emerging religious category I’m calling Trumpvangelical for now. It’s clearly a syncretistic category that combines components of evangelicalism, fundamentalism and civil religion, so if evangelicals are upset about his assertion that he’d trust Trump ahead of Jesus, they’re going to need to be upset with their own ethics, hermeneutics and Christology first.