A lot is awry at the moment: political violence in America, white nationalists in the streets, and a general feeling of unease as 5783 kicks off with a renewed sense of dread and antisemitism. A recap of October.
011: Teshuvah and Trump: Practicing the Jewish & Being a Mensch
Evangelical Christian support for Donald Trump, the antithesis of a Mensch, explained: It has to do with Israel, core Christian tenets of forgiveness and redemption, and the apocalypse.
I have only touched upon by disdain for the Christian right, and I’ve mentioned my upbringing: primarily right-of-center Presbyterian in Corpus Christi, Texas.
I knew fairly early in high school that:
- I was gay
- I wasn’t buying what the church was selling
- I wasn’t buying what the GOP was selling, either, and supported Clinton’s reelection (his first term I was too young to have an opinion but I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t vote for him)
These are intricately tied together for me. To be gay is to be political; to be religious, or to have any convictions or morals of any sort, is to be political.
What I saw around me at school, on TV, in the homes of people I knew, was many blatantly bemoaning helping the poor while simultaneously going to church and condemning gay people. Added bonus, their socio-economic policies actively make people more poor, which kills people.
I developed PDQ a burning sense of injustice. I could write a novel about people I have personally witnessed loving Jesus but hating the poor, the sick, people of color, and the different; invoking the name of Jesus but generally behaving like foul-mouthed blowhards; worshipping Christ and thinking that’s enough, that that is the highest moral deed required.
Hating hypocrisy and injustice is in my DNA. My mother was beaten for helping a black girl in her class in North Carolina; her father called her a “n*gger-lover” after the girl brought her chocolates to thank her. “Of course a n*gger brought chocolates,” he said. Sadly I have some of him in my DNA, as well, but my mother taught me to stand up for myself and others.
My next entry is about Teshuvah and Rosh Hashanah, the time of year when Jews must hit reset (“return”) and make amends for any misdeeds. Traditionally you may use the words “atone” and “sin” here but I don’t find them actually encompassing enough; if you wrong another person, you must ask them for forgiveness, not God.
When we got to this portion in class I spoke up that it’s my favorite thing about Judaism thus far. Christians emphasize a belief first (redemption through Christ), Jews emphasize doing, character, and improvement of self and the world. I just adore that! It puts the focus on this world, the here and now, and not on the next, and it creates a structure in the community for accountability. Can you imagine if Christianity in America did this, too?
Teshuvah means you can’t just wrong someone and ask God for forgiveness. That makes the world a worse place. You must ask that person for forgiveness directly and then demonstrate to yourself that you won’t do the same deed again.
Teshuvah and Trump
Which brings me to Trump. He’s still supported because the far Christian right fawns over him as a vessel for what is essentially a modern death cult. They need a Republican in power no matter the character or the cost, and they need a strong Israel. In their twisted take on Revelations, Christ will only return if we start destroying the world ourselves; he’ll reappear in Israel, kill all the Jews, and rule.
I’m not making this up. At this point, they’re denying climate science consensus and locking kids up – for Jesus. And it matters not to them that Trump has all their own hallmarks of the antichrist. It’s a racist structure; these same evangelicals fought integration and civil rights and hated Obama.
The suffering this all creates is immeasurable and yet sometimes, chartable.
So here we are. An arrogant, classless, racist, sexist, rapist, ignorant, incompetent, vulgar, decidedly not Christian man who never laughs and doesn’t have a dog (two signs of psychopathy) is the secular savior of the hard Christian right.
These people are the hypocrites Christ warned of; the money-changers and the tax-collectors, often literally. They profit off the poor, the misery, the suffering of others. And they’re not even asking forgiveness for it, or at the least if they do, they’re asking God and assuming paradise awaits them. The opposite of Teshuvah. They’re polluting and destroying creation through their industry, harming and killing people, and calling it a day.
I really, really, really, really wish that Evangelicals would read their Bibles. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 describes the Man of Sin, who will deceive with signs and wonders (see Matthew 24:24) and proclaim himself God / King of the Jews / King of Israel. #Antichrist pic.twitter.com/Znv939Bcm6— Thomas Connor (@Thomas_Connor) August 21, 2019
So do I fully know Teshuvah means to me? Hardly. I’m just scratching the surface. But if my politics were to revel in the misery of others, to celebrate dragging people of color out of rallies and to walk past kids in cages and say everything looked up to snuff (VP Pence), I’d like to think I’d have the self-awareness to not call that God’s work.
A mensch is someone who holds certain ideals. A Yiddish word, it encompasses all the traits that Donald Trump lacks. I strive in my life and through this process of becoming Jewish to be a better person, be of service to my community, and to stand up to people both actively and passively harming others through their words, deeds, policies, and negligence. And of course to fix the messes I make, ask people to forgive me if I have wronged them, and stand up for the people who are not able to do so for themselves.
In the meantime having a good laugh about it all is the only way to stay sane for me. I thoroughly howled at this one (especially funny if you know and love the music).
Links in the post:
- Spiraling towards repentance: Teshuvah at My Jewish Learning
- Half of evangelicals support Israel because they believe it is important for fulfilling end-times prophecy Washington Post
- ‘Brought to Jesus’: the evangelical grip on the Trump administration Guardian
- This is why evangelicals love Trump’s Israel policy. Hint: It has to do with burning lakes of fire Vox
- Good People Don’t Defend A Bad Man by John Pavlovitz
- Exposing America’s Biggest Hypocrites: Evangelical Christians; It’s okay to prey as long as you pray. Huffington Post
- The Uncanny, Frightening Ways that Trump’s America Resemble’s Hitler’s Germany by Thom Hartmann
- ‘I am the chosen one’: Trump again plays on messianic claims as he embraces ‘King of Israel’ title Washington Post