Why isn’t Donald Trump’s unfitness obvious to everyone? A majority of Americans have found his approval ratings, though low, still persistently higher than his competence, personality, and truthfulness would seem to support. Can it really be that one of every three Americans is easily duped, blindly partisan, confused by anger or fear, or stands to profit from Trump’s actions (including the blatant political toadying of Republican officials). Like many, I have struggled to understand the Trump phenomenon. And I’ve challenged my own bias in the matter; for maybe I’ve gotten Trump all wrong myself.
Like many of you, I’ve long been aware of Trump’s support from white evangelicals, but have minimized its overall effect. I was wrong. While many blue collar white Republicans abandoned Trump in the 2018 mid-terms, white evangelicals stood firm, exhibiting something akin to the “Lost Cause” theology that followed the Civil War. Moreover, a recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that most white evangelical Christians favor Trump’s wall, having increased from 58% in April 2016, to 62% in September 2016, and 67% now.
Of course, despite these figures, all white evangelicals do not think alike. But evangelical leader John Fae attests to widespread “racial and religious fear” among white evangelicals worried about demographic changes going on in America, along with growing secularization. That fear had shown up in Trump’s 2016 election, wherein 28,000,000—81%!—of white evangelicals voted for him. Supporting the magnitude of these numbers is that there were enough evangelicals to swell sales of Lance Wallnau’s evangelical book, God’s Chaos Candidate: Donald J. Trump and the American Unraveling, pushing it to #19 on Amazon’s bestseller list shortly before the election.
Wallnau claimed God communicated directly to him regarding Trump and the “Cyrus prophesy.” OK; who’s Cyrus anyway?
Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, in the 6th century not only freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity, but according to Jewish history even generously funded a new temple for them in Jerusalem. To Jews, Cyrus became a Gentile hero who—despite his not being a fan of the Jews’ god—was seen by Jews as quite literally a godsend. And they never forgot. Cyrus lived on in Jewish lore, famed as a nonbeliever whom God nevertheless used as a vessel for Jewish benefit as recounted in the 45th chapter of Isaiah:
“Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and gird the loins of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed . . . I surname you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I gird you though you do not know me.” Isaiah (KJV) 45:1-5.
Then eight hundred years later along came Donald John Trump. Donald was clearly no Jew, no Christian, and by most measures not even a decent human being. But evangelical leaders in the United States—distressed by increasing secularization of their country—saw a dim light at the end of their darkening tunnel. Perhaps God had sent another Cyrus, this time in the form of a crude, rich, shallow narcissist whose only interest in religion seemed to be using it for desperately needed political points, for shoring up his minority presidency. It mattered not how unfit, ungenerous, even cruel Donald was, the lesson of Cyrus taught that God could send such a man as “a vessel for the faithful.”
To an increasing number of fundamentalists, a 21st century Cyrus was not only possible, but no less than God’s plan. Lance Wallnau—who was first to notice the parallel between the 45th chapter of Isaiah and the 45th president of the United States (!)—led the way. He was joined by prominent evangelicals like Curt Landry, Derek Thomas, Mike Evans, John Fae, and Creation Museum founder Ken Hamm. Wallnau has been quoted as saying “I believe the 45th president is meant to be an Isaiah 45 Cyrus, who will restore the crumbling walls that separate us from cultural collapse.”
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, certainly no evangelical, brought up Cyrus in connection to Trump’s 2018 relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem. Similarly, some ultra-orthodox Jews like Rabbi Matityahu Glazerson, while not necessarily signing on to evangelicals’ interpretations, embraced the Cyrus prophesy. Pleased by Trump’s moving the embassy to Jerusalem, the Israeli Mikdash Educational Center minted a “Trump Coin” showing Trump and King Cyrus together on its face.
Trump, in a characteristic dog whistle, quoted King Cyrus recently on the Persian new year, a greeting that went largely unnoticed except in evangelical circles. Trump has welcomed fundamentalist leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Robert Jeffries, Paula White, Ralph Drollinger, and Mike Huckabee to the White House. Further, while Vice President Mike Pence is not known to be evangelical, he is clearly fundamentalist. Others who are include Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), James Dobson (Focus on the Family), and John Fea (Messiah College).
You can see how Trump can boast he’d maintain his robust following even if he shot someone on New York’s 5th Avenue. At least for the evangelical base, it seems he is correct. Donald Trump is invincible, no mere president but part of God’s plan, faulty in himself but in his historic role God’s vessel for the faithful to restore evangelical Christianity in what was meant, they believe, to be God’s country.
As a nonbeliever, I can’t shed much light on Isaiah’s intriguing Biblical tale nor on its application 26 centuries later. Yet I can’t help but notice that there’s at least one obvious fly in this carefully constructed parallel:
The government of King Cyrus was said to be well organized and stable.
Readers’ comments are invited for every post (essay) in “JohnJustThinking.com”—moreover, agreeing with me is not required. Normally I don’t respond to comments, choosing instead to let a reader’s point of view speak for itself. I’m making an exception to that practice here only because an anonymous comment January 10 on “The Great Wall of Cyrus…uh, Donald,” exemplifies the kind of wide-of-the-mark response Trump devotees often cite to argue against any opposition to our Petulant Prez.
I recognize that many Trump defenders are clearly intelligent, some known for their dissenting from many of Trump’s behaviors and values, though despite that inexplicably misled. On the other hand, some exhibit the bellowing herd mentality (just watch a Trump rally) that Republicans often ascribe to liberal marchers. Almost any group has some mix of these characteristics. But let me get back to the reader’s remarks:
I’d like to be wise enough to know how every problem could be solved, but that isn’t going to happen despite the commenter’s graciously accusing me of “formidable intelligence.” He or she complained my post is “long on criticism but short on solutions.” Unfortunately, that’s more true than I’d like, though it’s probably true of most critiques. Solutions are more difficult to come by and likely some person’s (or group’s) job that isn’t being done. So criticism that shines a light only on what’s awry is useful in itself. Judicious solutions are needed, of course, but even they begin with unearthing and assessing undesirable circumstances, lest we fail to notice what’s not OK or we misguidedly solve the wrong problems.
In fact, I and many others do have solutions in mind. Quite a few of mine have been published in my (so far) 191 blog posts, but other persons have produced far more. However, we shouldn’t overlook that the more knowledgeable and duty-bound persons to assemble solutions are politicians who are not only paid to do this already, but are closer to the levers of government than outsiders.
The commenter then employs a “but nothing can be done about it” tolerance of the problem, citing partisan Republican obstruction in the senate (!) and the longsuffering hyper-thoroughness of Mueller’s investigation. To dive into complete irrelevancy, the commenter wraps up his/her argument by defaming Clinton’s motivation for running and implying that I am belatedly stumping for her, neither of which is related to the crucial question of what should be done about our troubled country and disastrous president, getting close to “your mother wears army boots.”
Trump and his supporters use far more reason-hampering techniques than those in the commenter’s few sentences. Notice the current interchangeable use of “border security” and “border wall” depending on which direction the speaker wishes to obscure the message. Or note Sen. McConnell’s slippery language in 2016 in refusing to schedule a hearing for Pres. Obama’s 2016 SCOTUS nomination of Merrick Garland. It was justified, he claimed, by saving the open seat for the next president, then by representing his action as normal (it was not) and constitutional (it arguably was not).
But back to my comment on the comment. Pardon me if I chuckle a bit about Trump apologists “tuning out potty-mouthed” persons and “hysterical Trump-haters.” That comment calls for taking time to review Trump videoclips and to analyze Trump rallies, though doing may well interfere with the commenter’s hope that we enjoy being alive!
Very good post, John. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know. Don’t you just love how God’s plan works out!! (heavy sarcasm)
Once again you are long on criticism but short on solutions. Not to insult your formidable intelligence, but short of impeachment of Trump by the House and removal from office by the Senate, or death, the next chance for a change in POTUS is the next presidential election in a little less than two years. Removal by the Republican-controlled Senate is highly unlikely. Impeachment by the House is possible, even probable, depending on whether Mueller can finally come up with an impeachable crime before then. Did you have another solution in mind? Until then, those us you condemn for not voting for the “lady” who, along with what you would call the enlightened half of the voters, believed she was entitled to be president, if for no other reason than it was “her turn”, will try to tune out the potty-mouthed and hysterical Trump-haters and get on with the everyday joy of still being alive.