- - Sunday, July 19, 2015

Donald Trump’s remarks about his piety and Presbyterianism, given at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa yesterday, amazed many people, but for all the wrong reasons. 

Given that his professed denominational affiliation is the Presbyterian Church (USA), I asked my colleague at the Presbyterian Lay Committee to respond to Trump’s offensive remarks yesterday (no, not his offensive remarks regarding John McCain not being a true hero…because Trump prefers heroes who don’t become prisoners of war).

Scott: What should Evangelical Christians think of Donald Trump’s recent comments about his piety? And, as one who has in the past been a part of the PC (USA) denomination, what do you think of his comments about being Presbyterian?

Carmen Fowler LaBerge: For a man who readily admits that he’s never asked God for forgiveness, considers wealth and national origin measures of a person’s worth, and disagrees with most of his denomination’s social witness positions, seeing Trump trumpet his Presbyterianism is a curious thing.

He repeated on Twitter what he said during a Q&A at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa on Saturday, “People are always amazed to find out that I am Protestant (Presbyterian).”

Some of those most surprised are Presbyterians themselves.

But when it comes to Presbyterian theology and social witness, Trump is an equal opportunity offender.

Evangelical Presbyterians will find themselves offended by Trump’s trivialization of the need to ask God for forgiveness.

During Saturday’s Q&A Trump was asked whether he has ever asked God for forgiveness. CNN reports that Trump answered, “I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

For the evangelical, there is no Christian faith without the understanding that in Jesus Christ God took the sins of humanity upon himself, creating the possibility of an individual’s salvation—which includes asking God to exchange the sinner’s sinfulness with Jesus’ perfect righteousness. 

Theologically orthodox Presbyterians, for whom the marks of the true church include the “right administration of the Lord’s supper,” are going to gag on Trump’s trivialization of the sacrament of communion.

Although Trump admitted having not asked God for forgiveness, he said he does participate in Holy Communion.

“When I drink my little wine—which is about the only wine I drink—and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed.”

For Christians, including every brand of Presbyterian, the wine to which Trump so casually refers is understood to be representative of the blood of Jesus Christ. And that “little cracker” is the body of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

First Corinthians 11:26-29 reads, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

But the most offended Presbyterians will be those of whom Trump claims to be affiliated, the more liberal Presbyterian Church (USA). The PCUSA is pro-choice while Trump is pro-life. The PCUSA is pro-amnesty on immigration, Trump is not. The PCUSA is pro-progressive tax reform, Trump is not. The PCUSA is pro-gay marriage, Trump is not. The PCUSA has plans to overhaul the U.S. financial and political sectors in ways that are contrary to Trump’s known business practices. The PCUSA advocates for the redistribution of wealth, Trump, well, he’s not.

One wonders what it is exactly that Trump “loves” about his church if it’s not the core theology, the sacramental practice nor its liberal social witness. With the PCUSA’s current CEO vacancy and its financial management woes, if the Presidency doesn’t work out for Trump maybe he could offer himself in service of his chosen church. That would amaze not only the average America but the Presbyterians as well.

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