I’m not very religious in the traditional sense. I rarely use sectarian phraseology or religious justification to press a point. I have an inclusive, not exclusive, religious worldview and have come to appreciate and use the phrase “faith-informed” instead of “faith-based” to describe like-minded colleagues. I have deep respect for expressions of faith beyond my own. I have always read Scripture alongside the morning newspaper. But, Donald Trump’s recent ploy to restart the economy on Easter was, for me, offensive beyond words.
With the number of infected persons in this country soaring exponentially, Trump had one eye focused on the stock market and the other on his reelection chances. And so, the Distractor-in-Chief floated a new idea: having the country “opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” “Wouldn’t it be great to have all the churches full?” Trump asked. “You’ll have packed churches all over our country … I think it’ll be a beautiful time.”
Damn the advice of health professionals! Pay no attention to the acute coronavirus cases overwhelming New York hospitals! Ignore the coming crisis in New Orleans and Florida! Let’s all go to Easter service and then to the mall. Just like it was before. We can make it that way again.
The implications for terminating stay-at-home measures, under which 179 million people in this country are urged or mandated to abide, are potentially disastrous. Virtually all health care professionals agree. It has been shown statistically that, lacking a vaccine or proven treatment regimen, the best way to slow the advance of the virus is by social distancing; and the most effective way to do that, especially in cities where density is high, is to stay at home.
This is all horrible, though not surprising. But for me, the truly offensive part of Trump’s idea is how it joins a grossly secular, self-seeking ploy with the most sacred day in my faith tradition. Who is this man? Where is his moral compass?
After weeks of denial and delay, Donald Trump is trying to conflate his partisan political strategy with the Easter story. He proclaimed to Fox News, “It’s such an important day for other reasons, but I’d love to make it an important day for this.” I am accustomed to the President trying to make every news headline about him—but inserting himself into Easter in this way is more than arrogant or offensive, it is repulsive.
Here is a man who, from the time he descended the gold escalator at Trump Tower, has overwhelmed us with hatred and division. Here is an administration that has wallowed in its own pettiness and incompetence and then distracted us with misdirection, exaggeration and lies. Here is a Commander-in-Chief who has abandoned relationships with allies and ducked leadership in slowing the rate of climate change. Here is a President even whose supporters do not want him to serve as a role model for their children.
And yet here is someone who says, “Easter is a very special day for me” (Evangelicals, are you listening? And don’t forget to vote!) and who, even on this most sacred of days, wants to inject himself into the holy glow of resurrection’s dawn. This is blasphemy of the highest order.
Next week, this post will feature something new: a dialogue with friend and colleague, Rev. Dr. Arthur Cribbs. Our topic will be on how to reach out in this time of sheltering in place. Art and I hope you’ll read the post and join in the conversation. Stay safe. Bob