In September 2015, David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network stood with Donald Trump on a golf course in Southern California and asked him, “Who is God to you?”
The future president responded: “Well, I say God is the ultimate. You look at this. Here we are on the Pacific Ocean. How did I ever own this? I bought it 15 years ago. I made one of the great deals, they say, ever. I have no more mortgage on it as I will certify and represent to you. And I was able to buy this and make a great deal. That’s what I want to do for the country. Make great deals.
We have to, we have to bring it back, but God is the ultimate. I mean God created this (gestures at golf course), and here’s the Pacific Ocean right behind us. So nobody, no thing, no there’s nothing like God.”
This is not a good answer. In the course of affirming the existence of God, you should not talk more about yourself.
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My guess is that Trump’s attention to religion is like his attention to policy, which is to say fleeting. When he spoke at the very strict Liberty University, he used stock lines like “we don’t know what the hell we’re doing” and enthused about “Two Corinthians” by which he meant “Second Corinthians.” Christians only say “Two Corinthians” when they’re telling a joke. Like: Two Corinthians walk into a bar. “Wine?” the bartender asks? They say, “No, just give us two glasses of water and we’ll do the rest.”
For most of my life, I’ve wondered why conservatives are the only people dating Jesus (to borrow a phrase).
The notion of a living will, which you take for granted, used to be defeated every year in the Connecticut General Assembly because the Catholic Church said it was disrespectful for mortals to decide when their lives would end.
In 1979, during a long speech on this theme by a Catholic senator, I sat by his colleague and mused as follows, “That guy is saying living wills are an offense to God. The liberals on the other side say: Keep religion out of a legislative debate. But isn’t there a third way? Why not argue that keeping somebody artificially alive on a ventilator after God snips the thread of life is the real sacrilege?”
“That’s the most interesting thing anybody’s said to me all session,” the senator responded. It was Joe Lieberman, and that was back in the Era of Believing Joe Lieberman, which, contrary to Journey’s instructions, I eventually stopped doing.
Years later, a rabbi and a Democratic leader started a movement called the “politics of meaning.” They argued that spirituality and biblical teachings – especially as a rebuke to greed and selfishness – could be successfully embraced by Democrats, whose constant reliance on secular arguments was unnecessary.
The Democrat was Hillary Clinton. The idea was mocked mercilessly. The New York Times ran a piece titled “Saint Hillary.” It was 1993, and picking on her was already a thing.
Politics didn’t change. Religion did.
Mike Pence’s denomination, the Evangelical Free Church of America, identifies Syrian refugees as a part of its ministry and urges congregants to “Check out local refugee resettlement agencies in the area you live.”
Evangelical leaders, including the reliably conservative Southern Baptist Convention, have emerged as powerful voices for climate change as a moral issue.
The ground under religion and politics is shifting. The people standing over on the golf course may find that God already played through.