Donald Trump and the Politics of Anger

trumpToday we’re going to talk about Donald Trump.

(Why?  Well, everybody else is talking about him right now, so hey, why not?)

Donald Trump is an idiot.

He has failed not one, but two businesses.  He says–and does–the most spectacularly inane things anytime the cameras are on him.

Yet he is insanely wealthy.  Whatever money he lost in the failure of his businesses is mere pocket change to him.  He has more than enough money to shield him from the real-world consequences that you or I would face if we said or did any of the things he has said or done.

Just try getting anything of substance out of him.  Imagine if he were called upon to broker a peace deal in the Middle East or craft substantive healthcare policy.  How well do you think that is going to go?  What’s he going to do, get all those Arab heads of state into a room and yell “YOU’RE FIRED!!!!!!!!!”?

Yet people love him for it.

Conservative evangelicals are eating this shit up.

Which completely and totally boggles the mind.  Trump favors a single-payer health care system–that’s essentially Medicare for all, something which is anathema to many conservatives.  He is not too keen on limited government.  He says the Bible is his favorite book, yet he also says he has never needed to ask God for forgiveness.  He has given money to both Democrats and Republicans alike–essentially buying influence from political officials.  He took a medical deferment from the draft, yet feels no qualms about mocking the service of POWs because they were captured.  He has been married multiple times.  He has zero political experience.  He is only recently pro-life, and there is good reason to doubt the sincerity of that commitment.

None of which fits with the expected profile of a Republican favorite.

Yet Trump has lapped the field multiple times and banished all other Republican hopefuls to the realm of complete and utter irrelevance.


One word:  Anger.

It seethes out of the mouths of political talk show hosts, over the radio airwaves, and into the waiting ears of millions of conservatives and evangelicals.  It preys upon the worst anxieties of conservatives and evangelicals concerning Obama, China, Russia, illegal immigrants, you name it.  And it has found its culmination in the person of Donald Trump.

And now, here we are.

So how did we get here?

Simple.  Political talk radio has been around for decades.  It is growing in influence–especially among conservative evangelicals.  The hosts are rude, brash, angry, bombastic, derisive, irreverent, unforgiving individuals.  They frequently attack and belittle other groups and other points of view.  They have stoked the flames of anger, fear, and hatred for decades.  Why?  Because in the alternate universe of political talk radio, that is what sells.  Now someone who models the exact same personality qualities which they routinely demonstrate in their broadcasts has come onto the political scene, and people are all over it like white on rice.  Because they have been primed for it.

So now we come to the real point of today’s post.  (I was lying about the Donald Trump thing.  I was just baiting you and stringing you along all this time.  Also I wanted the pageviews.)

The point is this:  What sort of people have we become as evangelicals?  What sort of people are we becoming?

The answer, I hate to say, is that we have been formed in the image of political talk radio, which is antithetical to the image of Christ.   As Christians we are called to let our gentleness be evident to all, yet gentleness is the last thing which is evident to all in the vast majority of political talk radio.  We are called to love our enemies and pray for our leaders.  Don’t see a whole lot of that happening in the world of political talk radio.  We are called to be kind to the unjust and the wicked, like our Father in heaven.  Not a lot of kindness on political talk radio.  We are called to put aside anger and wrath, yet anger and wrath exist in abundance in the alternate universe of political talk radio.

Whatever you listen to, that is what you become like.  Evangelicals listen to political talk radio in abundance.  Many have long commutes to work and turn to it to fill the time in the car.  Many justify it by saying they just want to be informed as to what’s going on in the world.  But as those days turn into years and years into decades, the influence of political talk radio begins to shape you; you become like what you listen to.

And that is how we got to where we are today.

So I urge you:  Think about what you are listening to and what it is transforming you into, slowly but surely.  Think about the qualities the political talk show hosts display during their broadcasts.  Are those qualities things you want to be known for?  Are those qualities things you are called to display as a Christian?

Think about it through the grid of “What does love require of me?”.  If you think you can make a compelling case that what love requires of you is the characteristics routinely seen in the political talk show hosts, that what love requires of you is to vote for someone like Donald Trump, then hey, go do it.  But somehow, I have a very hard time believing that that is what love requires of us.