JBB’s Final Thoughts Episode 41: Jesus & The Folly of Using the Bible As Prop
June 1st Trump takes a walk after protesters are forcefully removed, so that he can take a picture in front of a church and how does that or doesn’t that express his Christian Faith.
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- All images and screen grabs by Joe Bustillos ©2020 except where noted
A video timeline of the crackdown on protesters before Trump’s photo op, Washington Post, 2020-06-08, https://youtu.be/JxYmILDya0A
Jimmy Carter (caricature) by David Levine, https://shop.nybooks.com/collections/david-levine/us-presidents
Jimmy Carter And Rosalynn Building Home, Habitat for Humanity
George W. Bush, jr., caricature by managevpants, https://www.deviantart.com/managerpants/art/George-W-Bush-caricature-408026248
Bill Clinton caricature by managevpants, https://www.deviantart.com/managerpants/art/Bill-Clinton-caricature-408026999
Tricky Dick by Nina Reid, https://flic.kr/p/dguKDM
Ronald Reagan – Caricature by DonkeyHotey, https://flic.kr/p/2iE39wi
George H.W. Bush caricature by managevpants, https://www.deviantart.com/managerpants/art/George-H-W-Bush-caricature-408028476
Barack Obama caricature by managevpants, https://www.deviantart.com/managerpants/art/Barack-Obama-caricature-408025985
18 of the funniest photoshops of Trump’s Bible photo op., by Orli Matlow, https://www.someecards.com/life/lifestyle/donald-trump-bible-photo-op-photoshop-edits/
President Obama sings Amazing Grace (C-Span), 2015-06-26, https://youtu.be/IN05jVNBs64
Jimmy Carter, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Carter
Fact check: No, Donald Trump church photo op was not the same as Bill Clinton church photo, by Eric Litke, USA Today, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/06/09/fact-check-facebook-post-wrongly-compares-donald-trump-bill-clinton-photos/5322448002/
All the Absurd Details We’ve Learned About Trump’s Church Photo Op, By Adam K. Raymond, Intelligencer, NYMag, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/06/trumps-church-photo-op-all-the-absurd-details.html
‘He Did Not Pray’: Fallout Grows From Trump’s Photo-Op At St. John’s Church, by Bill Chappell, NPR, https://www.npr.org/2020/06/02/867705160/he-did-not-pray-fallout-grows-from-trump-s-photo-op-at-st-john-s-church
American Bible Society Responds to Trump Photo Op: Scripture Is ‘More than a Symbol’, by Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today, https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/june/american-bible-society-responds-president-trump-photo-op-sy.html
Surprise: No One Is Impressed by Trump’s Tough-Guy Church Photo Op, by Eric Lutz, Vanity Fair, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/06/no-one-is-impressed-by-trump-tough-guy-church-photo-op
Trump’s tear gas photo-op was ‘frightening’ to authoritarianism experts, who warn that his behavior will only get worse without ‘fierce opposition’, by John Haltiwanger, Business Insider, https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-teargas-photo-op-was-frightening-to-authoritarianism-experts-2020-6
Joe Bustillos, here…
Yes, I have a scratch on my forehead. I stood up and bumped my head on my mic. Speaking of clumsy… Trump’s recent awkward photo op, I’m not sure what message he thought he was projecting (some say that the pre-photo-op clearing of peaceful protesters by force was the real photo-op)… Anyway, as with many things, this business of public displays of “religious affiliation” is certainly not something new.
In fact, way back in 1976, when Jimmy Carter won the presidency, my hippy-dippy born-again Christian heart was delighted that a real Christian was going to be my nation’s president. It was a far different time, long before the Moral Majority reared it’s ugly head, when only (Thompson-Chain Reference™️) bible-thumpers, such as my self, would even have such thoughts. I got the sense that most others were fixated on Carter’s southern drawl and toothy smile. But, I could tell, or rather, my 18-year-old self, knew that this man was devoted to the truth found in the Bible. Sadly, that didn’t seem to help his presidency and he was replaced after one term by someone who I could tell was less of a believer, and more of a Hollywood-camera-ready-Christian.
Such a different time, I was also a very different person. Being raised Roman Catholic, I really didn’t know my Bible until I got swept up in the Jesus Movement in the mid-1970s and then I couldn’t get enough of the book (resulting in a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies from conservative Biola University and taking Masters classes at Fuller Seminary). Again, those were very different times, and I have to laugh at the memory of how much my little group of friends with our bibles were looked down on by our high school classmates (especially when I see how many of those who thought we were a bunch of weirdos… which we were… now post all about Jesus and how the nation needs to get back to Jesus on their Facebook streams… too funny).
So, being all about the born-again, personal faith experience, when I think about the presidents over the past 40-years I would have to say that good ol’ Jimmy Carter seemed to be the one with the most genuine witnesses of faith. Mind you, this isn’t an assessment claiming to determine the legitimacy of the professions of faith from these fellows. But I think the distinction comes down to how many of them practice or would practice their faith regardless of their station in life, or publicity, versus how many of them are more a part of the institutional/cultural tact that has less personal value. Interestingly that leads me to believe that Bush Jr. with his redemption from alcoholism and Clinton with his “predilections,” would tie in terms of the “personal nature” of their Christianity. Highly flawed persons, which connects them all the more to their faith. That said, I never once believed that the Christianity of Nixon, Reagan or Bush Sr. was anything more than the “cultural” noise they were raised with and the language they used as part of their jobs as presidents. By the time of Obama, my own journey was such that I was far less concerned about whether their faith was genuine and more interested in the genuine nature of their desire to help fix the system. Remember, Carter was the most genuine Christian by my former estimation, but his presidency felt largely like a brief buffer between the criminality of the Nixon years and PR of the Reagan years.
And that brings us to Lord Dampnuts and his blatant “Christianity as a prop” modis operandi. If I felt like Nixon, Reagan & Bush Sr. were “doing it for the cameras,” I cannot imagine any believer with an ounce of integrity (or “spiritual discernment”) thinking that this guy is the real deal. Seriously. I have a staunch anti-abortion cousin who resorts to the old, “they’re all crooks,” to justify her support. Really? He’s using you and your faith and expects you to keep him in power because… that’s it, “because.” For all his rhetoric and bluster, he’s so in favor of families and the sanctity of life that he’s still separating families and putting babies in cages. How does that square with your estimation of the quality of his Christianity? It just doesn’t pass the sniff test. I’m sorry, yes, we’re all flawed and imperfect but this guy doesn’t even try. Really. Forcefully removing peaceful protesters so that he can pose in front of a church should be proof that he’s never read the book he used as a prop. Hell, Princess Handbags had to give him the upside-down bible for him to hold up, like it’s a freaking trophy… in the middle of a pandemic! No.
Had I not left the church before the ascendency of this clown who would be king (in the name of Christianity) with the full throated support of the American Church, that would have been it. The idea that God is in control and that He wants the best for you, like he cares for the birds & the fields of grain, and then this atrocity of an administration happened… that would have caused me to doubt that any one or anything is in control. All along, it was just one big sad farce. Oh, by the way, that photo of Clinton holding up a Bible, it’s not the same. President Clinton was returning from a church service, and waved at the crowd with his bible in his hand. Just an image of an imperfect man practicing his faith, not a staged photo-op requiring the forceful removal of peaceful American citizens. If you can not see the difference you mustn’t be reading the same bible that I studied.
This is why the founding fathers included the “non-establishment” clause in the constitution, they had seen the endless European wars fought in the name of competing Christian sects and desired for that not to be part of the American experience. Truthfully, you cannot remove religion or cultural beliefs from the human experience, but you can restrict their role in the governing and decision making process of a diverse people. Personally, I don’t care what you might believe in, as long as you’re willing to help make our community and country a better place through your own hard work and our common values. Just don’t expect me to follow your faith as part of your willingness to work with me, it doesn’t work that way.
Now that I think about it, it was probably naive of me to think that my faith or the faith of the president had or has any relevance to the difficult job that a president has to do in the service of our country. When done properly, the president’s faith can be a sign of our common struggle and association, that we all have to deal with difficult and unanswered challenges. But that would require the president be willing to reveal some of his or her humanity and Lord Dampnuts has never allowed anything remotely negative to be said or hinted at in his presence. He’s just not self-aware enough to do that. So, it turns out that this has nothing to do with religion in the public square and everything to do with flawed humanity and how willing our leaders are willing to be their true-selves in public. That’s the real question. And it would seem that Lord Dampnuts is incapable of really being “one of us.”
After recording this podcast I found a video by the Washington Post, that reported on the timeline of events of June 1st, beginning with the action against protesters in the Lafayette Park area just before and during the president’s speech in the Rose Garden, leading up to his walk to and photo op in front of St. John’s Church. Please watch the full video, which I will link to and tell me that there is anything Christ-like or Christian in the behavior or attitude of this man. I don’t see it and I challenge you to show me where this behavior is promoted in the Bible. Please enlighten me. Where does it say that God’s man will have his troops fire weapons at peaceful protesters so that said leader can hold up a holy book, like it’s some kind of talisman, in front of a place of worship? Where is that part of the walk that Christ calls all men and women to follow?
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