Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The theological issue of Donald Trump

The Republican Party has a problem. And it is a theological problem.

As you are well aware, they nominated a certain Donald Trump as their presidential candidate for the 2016 elections. They did this by the number, following all the steps and procedures laid out in advance for how a presidential candidate is supposed to be nominated. Everything in the nomination process went according to the rules, traditions and party spirit. Out of all possible candidates, the process ended up with Donald Trump as the candidate. The Republican Party nominated Donald Trump. Unequivocally.

There is no doubt with regards to this. Let's focus on theology for a moment.

If you are well versed in theology, you know that the precise nature of the trinity is a topic that has garnered a non-trivial amount of attention over the centuries. There is only one God, with a capital G, but God also consists of three parts: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These three parts are all part of God, and encountering any of them is the same as encountering God, as they are all God.

However, this three-part structure is complicated by the fact that the three parts are not one and the same, but three distinct entities. While they are all connected, problems arise if you say they are all the same. While Jesus (the Son) is no doubt of a divine nature, He is not identical to God (the Father), and this has very important implications for His intervention into history. Depending on how you define the precise relationship between the two, the theological and historical figure of Jesus Christ takes on different meanings and connotations.

This might seem like a subtle point, and it is. But depending on who Christ is, you get different versions of Christianity. In one version, God appeared to humanity in the form of a man; in another, He became a man in order to administer the salvation of humanity. Both cases feature the same actors, but the exact significance of what they did differs.

Returning to the matter of the Republican Party, we see the same dynamic playing out both on and behind the scenes. Trump is, following the internal logic of the party, the presidential candidate, and as such he is of the party. But he is also, by all accounts, a bumbling buffoon who turns everything he talks about into an incoherent mess of contradictory nonsense. Which, by virtue of Trump being the party's presidential candidate, also becomes the expressed will of the party. The party chose Trump to express its views and beliefs, and Trump expresses them.

Thus, those in the party have to make every effort to ensure that the precise relationship between party and candidate is delineated in such a way that there is in fact a party left standing when this presidential race is over. And at all times the party functionaries have to be very subtle about how they make these delineations, since they must perform the contradictory tasks of being sufficiently loyal to the party orthodoxy, and heretical enough to not drag the party into sectarian obscurity. They cannot denounce Trump outright, since that would also mean denouncing the party, but they also can't support him, since he is in all things himself. He both is and is not the Republican Party.

It truly is a mess of biblical proportions.

I do believe thoughts and prayers are in order.

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