I have been considering James Dobson’s recent announcement that Donald Trump is now a Christian. Certain segments of the evangelical right seem to think that this is a mark of his suitability for the Presidency. Leaving this aside for now, I find myself burdened with a thought. What if he really is? What if he really has given his life to Christ? This train of thought (certainly hypothetical, and I think an unlikely fact) led me to write the following letter.
You’ve never heard of me, and you likely never will. I am nobody; an unskilled factory worker from Ohio, with no credentials to my name, no accomplishments to speak of, and of little repute. I do not say what I am about to say because I think I have some special wisdom to offer, or some argument that will change your world. I doubt you will ever see this, and if you do, I have nothing but hope and faith to assure me that it will reach you. Nonetheless, on the millionth millionth chance this reaches you, and the millionth further chance that you are truly facing the decision I hope and pray you’re facing, I have chosen to write to you as though I am truly addressing you. Rest assured, I would say every single word to your face and quite a few more besides.
I speak not with my own authority (I have none), or my own wisdom (I have even less of that), but I present to you the Word of God. May I be forever accursed if I misrepresent even a single thing.
I am so glad to see you come to Christ, and I bitterly repent my initial scoffing. I rejoice along with the angels in Heaven if you have truly come to Him. Stranger things have happened, and He is wondrously strange. He can call anyone to follow Him, and in His wisdom, He can show anyone their need for His grace.
I have a warning for you, however. You. Must. Repent. You must be broken by the weight of your sins, and understand the horrific price He paid for YOU.
“But I have” I hear you protest.
No. You haven’t. You cling to worldly power and wealth, the things that made you who you are. Do you understand that you’re a caricature of the bad guy to most people? I can’t even take you seriously. And you think THAT is Christlike behavior? Your sin is on display before the entire world – you CANNOT simply claim the Name of Christ and imagine that the whole game is over.
Here’s where we get down to the nitty-gritty. There are two types of Christians out there – those who call themselves Christians, and those who are Christians. In a world where claiming to be a Christian is fairly normal, it costs nothing to claim you’re a Christian. Many of the “Christians” you hear people complaining about aren’t actually Christians at all. You cannot just say some prayer like an incantation and magically get to be a Christian. God changes you. He does it in both drastic and subtle ways, but He does not leave you the way you are when you come to Him. He destroys EVERYTHING that is not from Him. The Bible is quite clear on that. It is similarly clear on the merits of wealth and worldly power. They mean NOTHING, and they consume you. Your pursuit of worldly gain has turned you into a hollow shell, an automaton mouthing the most provocative thing he can think of for a momentary cheer from an audience of hollow automata. And you act like it has meaning. You act like it matters. Nothing. Matters. But. Christ. Not to the believer, it doesn’t.
He becomes your all in all, and replaces your heart of sin with a heart for Him. He renews you, and gives you new life, restoring you for a new role in His Kingdom.
This means Christ’s character becomes evident in you (and oh, what a glorious thing it is). Do what Christ did. Don’t just vaguely follow his teachings, and sorta-kinda tag along with some vague morality tales remembered from Saturday morning cartoons. Really look for yourself. Read the Bible. Start with Romans, or if that’s too dense (and it IS dense), Mark. Let the thirst for the Word carry you onward to new understanding and new depth of faith every day.
“Well, the Bible…”
No. Stop. If you claim to be a Christian, you accept the Bible as the Word of God. This does not mean slavish imitation of every various Old Testament story, or endorsing a literal 144-hour period of creation, or anything so silly, but it does mean trying to understand it. The Bible is a deep and complex document that does not submit to naive interpretations (such as the unfortunate literalism that is so often found in today’s churches), or to cursory skimming (such as the cherry-picking you find men like Creflo Dollar or Joel Osteen doing). It holds together remarkably well, however, when you read it like a grown-up. Read the Word for what it is, read it trying to understand what the author meant, rather than what it looks like he meant. It’s deeper than it looks (although the genealogies are generally fairly skippable), once you begin to let go of your own prejudices.
Understand this; you are wretched, Mr. Trump. Until you understand that, until you accept that your worldly power, your wealth and leverage, your cheering crowds mean less than nothing in the eyes of God and in the light of eternity, you cannot truly repent. Take heart, however – you’re not alone. We’re all wretched, we’re all worms, not ONE of us has the slightest good thing to hold up to God to say “Here, look at my righteousness.” He gives us goodness. He gives us righteousness. He covers over our sin and brokenness with His own blood, and brings us to rest in Him.
If you truly are my brother (and a lump rises in my throat and tears stand in my eyes at the thought that you might be), if you truly have become born again, then set aside your grasping, set aside your seeking after glory, and follow Him. Walk away from your treasures; sell all you have and give it to the poor. He will provide – your new family will provide. I don’t have much, but what I have is yours if you will only repent.
Your humble servant in the holy Name of Christ
Jesse L. Fennig