The patent absurdity of President Donald Trump’s accusation last week that former Vice President Joe Biden would “hurt the Bible” and “hurt God” ought to finally make clear to any real believer that the president's religious posturing is fraudulent.
Adding to a long list of examples in which he manipulates faith for political gain, the president’s rant in Ohio last Thursday also undermined yet another section of the Constitution.
Adding to a long list of examples in which he manipulates faith for political gain, the president’s rant in Ohio last Thursday also undermined yet another section of the Constitution — Article 6, Section 3 — which quite specifically states that there is no religious test for office. Even if Biden was an anti-religious superhero, the Constitution that the president swore to protect and defend reminds us that religious faith — or lack of it — should not qualify or disqualify any citizen for elected office.
“He’s following the radical left agenda: take away your guns, destroy your Second Amendment, no religion, no anything, hurt the Bible, hurt God,” Trump said. “He’s against God, he’s against guns.”
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Now, reiterating once more that personal faith should have no bearing over a person’s ability to hold public office, it’s worth mentioning that Biden is a practicing Roman Catholic who has talked about his faith openly and often over his decades in public office. "For President Trump to attack my faith is shameful. It's beneath the office he holds and it's beneath the dignity the American people so rightly expect and deserve from their leaders," he said in a statement on Thursday night.
The irony is that Trump has found a very supportive fanbase among religious Americans — especially white Evangelicals — who point to the president as an ardent defender of religious freedom. While his support has slipped since April, in June 59 percent of white evangelicals said they “very strongly” approve of Trump’s performance.
But it should now be crystal clear that their faith is not something Trump respects; rather, he sees it as transactional — something he can exploit for his political purposes, often by inventing an imaginary threat. Voters who claim that God and God’s word are the supreme power and authority in the United States — a conclusion I do not share — ought not be frightened into supporting or opposing any candidate based on a cynical manipulation of their faith.
No matter how much I may disagree with the theology or policy preferences of some of my fellow Americans of faith, I am offended on their behalf that Trump equates the integrity of the Bible to a piece of legislation, as if it were something that could be amended by executive order. I support the outrage of any believer insulted by the president’s suggestion that the being they worship as Holy God could be bested by Biden in some kind of political game of “horse.”
But I am especially disgusted by Trump’s estimation of the integrity of the faithful.
Here I would like to add that Trump’s blasphemy ought to have no impact on his ability to hold office. His calculated attempts to use religion to motivate voters and donors is also protected by Article 6. If someone finds him unqualified to continue serving as president, it will have to be for a reason other than his willingness to wave a Bible around as a prop or accuse an opponent of being the antichrist.
The pastors and parishioners who accept Trump’s casual relationship with the truth and with the righteous life they preach are coming up on a test. Come November, will they, like the object of their admiration, replace faith with partisanship. Do their allegiances lie with God or with Trump? Now is the time to stand up and say to him, “Mr. President, we accept your choice to play golf on Sunday morning and behave in uncharitable ways toward others, but we cannot accept your denigration of the Bible itself and Almighty God.” The very suggestion that any human being can damage Scripture and wound God is, to the faithful, blasphemous.
Perhaps that was not what Trump was implying when he said Biden “is going to do things that nobody ever would ever think even possible because he’s following the radical left agenda.” But for years, we have watched the president denigrate the faith of his rivals, demonstrate an abysmal knowledge of the Bible and use a photo op in front of a church as an excuse for violence. This latest attack on Biden suggests Trump is not a man of faith, nor is he a man of decency. But what about his supporters?