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Another Perspective

The Conflict between Donald Trump's Values and the Values of Christmas

One of the reasons Donald Trump has risen to a position of prominence is due to his being a successful businessman. He is good at making money and promises to use his skills to restore America to greatness. It doesn’t surprise me his rise coincides with the decline of religious belief. Polls indicate more and more people identify themselves as believing something different from what members of religious organizations believe.

Mr. Trump’s rise to power and the lack of religious belief are connected for me by the story found in Exodus 32. In this story, we learn Moses’ followers grew impatient waiting for him while he communed with God atop St. Sinai. When their restlessness overwhelmed them, they gave up on their religious leader and his teachings. They developed their own belief system, one that was more practical and efficient: God favored people with lots of money. The rich became the leaders of this movement and everyone else was expected to do what these wealthy men said. Their new image for God was a golden calf and they all worshipped it. To celebrate their new understanding of God, a dance party was held, complete with burnt offerings. When Moses descended the mountain, he chastised the partygoers for their apostate belief. Nevertheless, many secretly clung to the belief that wealth is an indication of God’s favor.

As in Moses’ time, there are people today who believe God favors the wealthy. One of them is Donald Trump. He’s a self-proclaimed worshipper of the golden calf and a zealot for its values. Mr. Trump repeatedly reminds us how rich he is, as if his wealth gave legitimacy to his leadership and to the wisdom of his views. Folks who find appealing the notion that God favors the wealthy find Donald Trump an attractive advocate for their beliefs and values.

Mr. Trump’s appointees apparently also worship the golden calf. Several of them are billionaires or individuals who oppose government regulations that interfere with making as much money as possible. Golden calf worshippers believe government functions best when it does two things: has a strong military to defend their lifestyles; and creates ways for them to make more money. They also want government kept small so it doesn’t cost them much to have government services. Golden Calf worshippers regard government assistance to the poor, the poorly educated, or those with poor health as a drag on the economy. Such assistance, therefore, should be kept to a minimum. After all, if God doesn’t regard the poor favorably, why should government?

This brings us to the values of Christmas— not the commercial Christmas celebrated by Mr. Trump and his people, but the Biblical one. Christmas offers us a different set of values and priorities than those promoted by the worshippers of the golden calf. Christmas is God’s gift of love to each of us. It makes clear God doesn’t favor the rich over the poor: the story of Christmas begins with Jesus being born in a stable, among the poorest of us, not among the richest, in a Trump-like resort. Christmas proclaims peace, goodwill toward others; all others, including immigrants (like Mary and Joseph were), and anyone else who isn’t like us. Christmas reminds us of the deeds of Saint Nicholas, the real person, not Santa Claus, the commercial caricature. St. Nicholas was a wealthy, holy man (a Bishop in Turkey), who gave his family fortune away to those in need. In short, the values of Christmas challenge us to respect the dignity of all people, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to help those in need.

Do we want our leaders of government to serve the values of the golden calf or those of Christmas? It appears the majority of our elected representatives, at least for the next few years, will serve the values of the golden calf. For me, this is the wrong choice.

What do you think?
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