The Rolling Stone’s Grasps Is Better than Liberty’s or, Why It Matters How You Read the Scripture

Dumbfounded. The early morning text read, “”From Rolling Stone, which is more Biblical than Liberty U, apparently.” If that won’t wake up the preacher in you, it will at least startle any relationship to Evangelicalism one may have.

No Trumpeter Here

The recent decision by The Donald to boycott the next Presidential candidate debate on Fox represents getting even. How else should we read the news?

“Why should the networks continue to get rich on the debates?” Trump told reporters at a news conference in Marshalltown. “Why do I have to make Fox rich?”

Might as well get ahead of the truth that he does not like Megyn Kelly. His inability to influence Fox becomes the impetus for an obfuscation to talk about making the networks rich. The strong talker looks weak in his claims he will get Mexico to pay for a wall. Trump looks worse than that if he thinks he can battle Putin but cannot withstand Kelly. If he cowers to Kelly under the rouse of not wanting to make Fox rich, how does he ever hope to deliver on one single promise of greatness?

Search this website and it will be immediately clear I am no Trumpeter. I go back and forth. On the one hand, I think a Trump Presidency would be disastrous, at least to the reputation of the United States. It would surely be more than that. Trump may run his company, but Corporations run the U.S.

On the other hand, I think a Trump Presidency is just what is deserved. Our system is woefully entrenched in partisan warfare. Maybe the only way to get our attention is to blow the system up with a Trump election. Perish the thought!

Getting Even

Now to more of the point. When Alan texted me early this morning with the news Rolling Stone read the Bible better than Liberty’s President Falwell Jr, I could not wait to get to the article.

For Falwell, Trump is a strongman who can save America where the Christian right has failed to do so. Falwell’s endorsement is a tacit admission that his father’s mission to rescue America from the supposed scourges of feminism, the “homosexual agenda” and secularism is now a defunct fundamentalist dream. Falwell, who leads evangelicalism’s flagship university — which claims to “encourage a commitment to the Christian life, one of personal integrity, sensitivity to the needs of others, social responsibility and active communication of the Christian faith” — seems to have conceded that those virtues are insufficient for America’s greatness.

And then there is this,

But Trump has other qualities that many evangelicals admit they admire: wealth and success and — don’t let this surprise you — ruthlessness. Trump first addressed a Liberty University audience in September 2012, after his failed presidential bid. In his remarks, he suggested to students that they need to “get even” with adversaries in order to succeed, prompting an outcry over whether this advice was compatible with Christian values.

At the time, Trump’s special counsel, Michael Cohen — without pushback from Liberty — told ABC News that he conferred with a Liberty official, who confirmed, in Cohen’s words, that “the Bible is filled with stories of God getting even with his enemies, Jesus got even with the Pharisees and Christians believe that Jesus even got even with Satan by rising from the dead. God is portrayed as giving grace, but he is also portrayed as one tough character — just as Trump stated.”

Yes, that is the Christian agenda, “getting even.” That was Jesus’ vision. It is the same schtick Mark Driscoll played into the hearts and minds of the disenchanted who could not bear a loving Jesus but needed a sword-wielding tail-kicking Jesus. How you read the Bible matters. And, interpreting apocalyptic literature, imprecatory psalms, and a tribal history matter too. Especially the tribal history that is Evangelicalism.

Jesus clearly subverts the idea of getting even. Remember? “You have hard it was said, ‘An eye for an eye . . . but I say to you.'” Ruthless, that Jesus. Or what about the Apostle Paul, “See to it that no one repays evil for evil, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.” (1 Thess.5:15, italics added)

The Rolling Stone, and Sarah Posner, could have easily titled the piece, Evangelicals Don’t Understand Jesus: Why Do Christians Love Him?

Missing the Essential Nature

Maybe we should not be surprised by Christians, Evangelicals, attracted to Trump. After all, Falwell Jr is not alone. When a person decides the essential nature of Deity, of God, he or she will inevitably support actions and people that exhibit that very trait. Most prefer to talk about the power of God. In fact, often is it described in such a way that it is the preeminent feature, the essential attribute. We are formed by that vision of God to which we give ourselves.

The consequence is to emphasize power to the reduction of love. Put another way, love is always in service to power. When another trait is necessary to present the Divine as powerful, love gets trumped. Consider the immediate response by some when love is mentioned, “But what about justice.” Exploring what is most often meant by justice and you learn that it is really about getting even.

How we read the Bible matters. Concluding that the most important aspect of the Divine is power creates followers that care more about power. Consider it the tendency of human beings to reduce things to the manageable, most easily explainable. For instance, when facing life’s most difficult questions, one of the favorite fall backs connects to God’s power to do what he wants.

But, in Jesus it appears we witness the power of love. Read differently, we may describe the essential nature of Deity, of God, to be love, at least if we are to take the Bible at its word that Jesus is the exact representation of God. That is, if we want to essentialize anything about God, we at least should derive it from the life of Jesus.

For many this creates more difficulty than if it were power. But power has its own set of problems far more difficult to settle, or so it seems. Giving simple answers to complex problems is what sells books, gets you on screens, and exalts you to celebrity.

What If

What if it really is true Rolling Stone is more Biblical than Liberty University? I bet some will be thinking Balaam’s donkey is talking. If so, you better listen. Remember that donkey saved Balaam’s life.

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.