As long as we keep it vague, the promise that American could be great again sounds great. If nothing else, Trump has proven to be media savvy in a way that few candidates are (i.e. he's great). He is usually smart enough not to specify that Americans will suddenly be great at algebra, or free throw shooting, or Papier-mâché if he is elected. So we are left to assume the specifics more often than not.
Recently, however, Trump has gotten specific. Trump's latest promise is that Christians will wield greater political power if he is elected president. This provides better clarification to his statement in November, "If I become president we’re all going to be saying 'Merry Christmas' again. That I can tell you." In a speech to Dordt College yesterday, Trump explained,
Christianity is under tremendous siege . . . . The power of our group of people together, I mean, if you add it up, it could be 240, 250 million. And yet we don't exert the power that we should have. . . . We have to strengthen. . . . if I'm there, you're going to have plenty of power. You don't need anybody else. You're going to have somebody representing you very, very well. Remember that.This, in a nutshell, has been Christianity's historic problem. I don't use the word sin often and I do so here reluctantly. I wouldn't want the generalization and abstraction of this truth to detract from what I think is a crucially important point: the Christian pursuit of power might be Christianity's original sin. Too many Christians have concluded that more political power will translate to a more Christian culture. As western history has told us over and over again, the opposite is true. The more Christianity acquires power, the less healthy we become and worse off our neighbors tend to be. I will avoid the temptation here to point out a hundred passages from the New Testament that preach humility, meekness, self-emptying, the way of the Cross, etc. Rather, I will simply quote another American, Benjamin Franklin, who wrote, "How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, his precepts! O! 'tis easier to keep holidays than commandments."
One can hardly blame Trump for capitalizing on the American lust for power. He is a demagogue who worships at the church of Donald Trump. Would you expect anything different from him? This is a man who consciously neglects to ask for forgiveness. By any measure of Christian theology, Trump is not preaching, supporting, or enacting Christianity.
The real and more disturbing problem is the fact that Trump's calculated religious pandering is working. Yet again Christians (far too many if polling numbers tell us anything) have believed the lie that greater political power will make them great. This lack of self-awareness has a long history and few of these narratives end well.