Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Donald Trump, allowing himself to be an idol: playing with the Führer Principle

I am troubled by a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, as I have never been troubled before. I am a Democrat who almost always votes Republican because of my concern for the unborn. Now there are other moral concerns, religious freedom being one of them.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote and spoke about the authoritarian leader just as Hitler became the “democratically elected chancellor of Germany.” As Eric Metaxas points out Bonhoeffer had not planned his radio speech as a confrontation. It was written earlier.[1] Speaking of a leader reaching beyond the authority of the office, Bonhoeffer stated:

“If he understands his function in any other way than as rooted in fact, if he does not continually tell his followers quite clearly of the limited nature of his task and of their responsibility if he allows himself to surrender to the wishes of his followers, who would always make him their idol—than the image of the Leader will pass over into the image of the mis-leader, and he will be acting in a criminal way not only towards those he leads, but also towards himself.”

It follows, according to Bonhoeffer, that the leader must, “lead his following away from the authority of his person to the recognition of the real authority of orders and offices. … He must radically refuse to become the appeal, the idol, i.e. the ultimate authority of those whom he leads.”

Now it is true that many of those seeking office, both Republican and Democrat, need to be reminded of who they really are, in the presence of God, simply office holders chosen to serve the people. But in Trump, one finds a need to be the ultimate authority mingled with immorality and dishonesty. Those who follow him, follow a lie. And those who desire to follow truth shudder because of those who follow the lie.

Still, there is a beautiful, biblical picture of a leader who has all authority but who is truly goodness incarnate. The leader is found in Psalm 72. A Psalm that was either written by Solomon or his father David. Scholars are uncertain.[2] It is a king’s prayer to be a righteous yet gracious ruler, something that neither man, although they were great men, were able to accomplish. And in this Psalm one clearly sees the beauty of the ultimate, King, the messiah.

The prayer is that the king will judge his people with righteousness “and the afflicted with justice.” He will save the children and still crush the oppressor. He is like rain is to mown grass and “like showers that water the earth.” Everything flourishes because of his reign. There will be peace and those who are righteous will flourish.  

“His rule is from sea to sea.” It is to the ends of the earth and all kings (and presidents) will in the end bow down to him. His compassion is perfect:

For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help, the afflicted also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy, and the lives of the needy he will save. He will rescue their life from oppression and violence, and their blood will be precious in his sight. ..”

The Psalm goes on to praise God for his wonders and glory.

Many years ago, in a sociology class, the professor asked us to take a quiz to help him with a project he and some other professors were conducting. The quiz consisted of choosing between two different actions we would take, at first a good action or a bad one. But as we went further into the test both actions to choose from became bad. Finally I returned the quiz to the professor, telling him I could not finish because I could not choose either action. This election is the same.

I hope and pray that many of us, who are Christians, if we must, will not vote, but will instead cling to that One who will and does reign in righteousness.

[1] Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson 2010) see chapter 9, “The Führer Principle”.
[2] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity 1973).


Jodie said...


Trump is playing to an anarchist base that does not usually vote. He is adapting his entertainment persona and shark tank style business model to politics. He is selling a completely new product to an untapped market, a new kind of president to an untapped and disenfranchised electorate. He is selling to the folks who never vote. With a small additional percentage of the folks who do normally vote he will win the election.

Ted Cruz and the GOP are reaping the whirlwind on this one. Rubio says he wants a Constitutional Convention! The only sensible person in the GOP running was Jeb Bush.

To refuse to vote because the GOP has lost its mind would be to give in to the anarchy and let one of them, God forbid it be Trump, to become the President of the United States. When the people of Germany elected Hitler as Chancellor, they never thought it would get as bad as it did. He was elected by the disenfranchised who were fed up with the status quo. He promised to fix things. He promised a better future for Germany's children. He didn't mince any words about his opponents and who he blamed for Germany's disastrous conditions, and folks who thought he was crazy just sat back and figured cooler heads would eventually prevail. Trump says "Bring back water boarding because it's effective" and his popularity goes up.

Cooler heads are not going to prevail by sitting on the sidelines.

Not voting this time round will be a vote for chaos and anarchy.

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles, CA

Anonymous said...

If a political party puts forward a candidate known for their corruption, sense of entitlement, disregard for the rule of law, support for abortion, attempted destruction of those who stand in their way and history of lying, they won't be getting my vote.

The fact that both parties appear to be on track to do so changes nothing.

Moloch or Baal?

Nope. Staying home.

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

Viola Larson said...

Great description Bruce. Moloch or Baal.

Jodie said...

More like Mussolini or FDR


Craig said...

As a part of a bible study on David we talked about what made David qualified to be king. There was one answer (aside from God said so) that just nailed it. The answer was "character". What we have is a situation where too many people with poor character are running.

Mussolini and Stalin

Anonymous said...

Wait, did Jodie compare Hillary Clinton with FDR? That's like saying Richard Nixon is like Lincoln, just because they were both members of the same party.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Jodie said...

Actually Bernie Sanders is more like FDR. Hillary is much more like LBJ. Either one is a much better choice than Donald Mussolini. I only chose FDR for the historical juxtaposition. Good point about Lincoln and Nixon. Who could have imagined how much further away from Lincoln the GOP was going to drift. I'm in Europe right now. They look at Trump's popularity with the sad apoplexy or someone who is watching an old friend fighting a loosing battle with cancer.

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles, CA

Viola Larson said...

I wrote this with the understanding that I would not vote for Trump, Hilary or Sanders. I certainly don't equate Hilary with FDR or LBJ. And Sanders, who I think is probably the only honest one of the three, is as you know a socialist, so I would not vote for him either. You seem to have ignored my first statement about abortion, religious freedom and other moral issues.

But Trump is the big problem we can both agree on.

Andy Vloedman said...

This campaign may be remembered for painting a clear picture of where we are as a nation. At least 2 observers have quoted Yeats "things fall apart. the centre cannot hold" Citizens have disengaged from each other and splintered into extremist groups. Trump's solution is all problems will be solved by becoming richer and more powerful. In response Jesus might say "what does it profit a nation, if it shall dominate the whole world and lose it's own soul?"

Jodie said...

Viola, I did not ignore your first statement at all. Trump is the logical conclusion of a voting system that votes for candidates not on the basis of their leadership skills but on the basis of what they say or promise about narrow issues. It has lead to a near absence of leadership skills in Washington, which is now in danger of being filled with chaos. Imagine that the GOP would have a president only preside for 3 out of 4 years, and that it would leave the Supreme Court with only 8 justices for over a year. And now both Cruz an Rubio have said they would support Trump if he were the last man standing for the GOP. All three of them are criminally insane.

(Imagine who Trump might put on the Supreme Court.)

I said that to refuse to vote is to invite the chaos in. Trump's strategy to win is to get sensible voters to stay away from the voting booths. Let the inmates run the place and vote him in.

Meanwhile, all over the world, folks are looking at what is happening in America and they are getting really alarmed. If we walk away from our form of government, and we have one step out the door already, it will walk away from us.

It will be a sad day for the entire human race.

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles Ca