On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, This is the voice of a god, not of a man. Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. (Acts 12:21-23, NIV)
Its not much of an exaggeration to say that we are witnessing a display of public blasphemy rarely if ever seen in modern times.
Some of Donald Trumps supporters (and critics) have taken to – not just of the United States, but of the world.
We have a reflection of this possibility in the Bible and, as we might expect, it does not end well.
On a nearly daily basis, Donald Trump is compared to historic despots like Mao, Mussolini, Stalin or Hitler but even these dont do Mr. Trump Justice.
Adolph Hitler, for example, made a point of staying unmarried his true and final love was his country.
Mr. Trump has led a public even boastful life of betrayal and corruption that would shame any modern dictator.
He says he would run the country the way he runs his business; his multiple should give us pause.
But that wouldnt be the worst.
We can only hope he wouldnt treat our country the way he has treated his wives.
With his gleeful, almost childlike, eagerness to bomb, kill, torture and yes, use nuclear weapons, he holds the potential to be the kind of leader the world could regret for centuries.
With his (proud!) history of sexual exploitation, intimidation and violence, Trump is more like a weaponized 21st Century Caligula than any 20th Century, relatively humble though murderous dictators.
Trump has no vast all-encompassing vision for rebuilding society no Great Society or Great Leap Forward. He does have hordes of fevered, euphoric, near-intoxicated followers willing if not eager to follow every dog-whistle message cleverly (or clumsily) hidden in almost every speech.
Trumps contempt for women, veterans, reading books(!), immigrants, NATO, The Constitution, Gold Star families, his own political party, and our electoral political process as a whole, has been widely documented.
A reality TV show host, with aspirations for being Americas divinely ordained emperor for life, with a fertility goddess and pornographic high priestess at his side, the Trump dynasty is the ideal hosting royal family to guide their once-great kingdom into its final era of triumph, power, sensuality and, of course, winning.
Who, in a floundering economy, especially among those who see wealth, power and opportunity slipping away would not surge around such a leader?
Why would anyone imagine that he would run the country any differently than he runs his campaign or his businesses or his life?
His actions and statements have caused many of us to question his motives (is he really an operative for the Democratic Party?) his intentions (does he really want to be president?) his loyalty (to his own political party, for example) his decency and even his sanity.
Even his followers and supporters stumble over themselves as they attempt to interpret and decipher his (deliberately?) vague and nearly incoherent statements.
With his eagerness to nominate his children for , he seems more interested in establishing a family dynasty than anything else.
Donald Trumps campaign is insult to our political system, an affront to our cultural and moral sensibilities and, in a remarkable inversion only Mr. Trump could engineer, even in a political system with an emphasis on church/state separation, a level of public even secular heresy no one could have imagined possible.
Mr. Trump seems, more than anything, intent on re-establishing the Divine Right of Kings and his representatives seem eager to confirm instead of challenge these acts of presumption.
I have talked to many of Trumps followers who share his disinterest if not outright contempt for truth, history, rules, tradition and basic human decency.
And where is the appreciation for those abstractions like compassion, wisdom, mercy, humility and generosity?
A truism of business and the military is that leadership sets the tone.
One can only wonder what the tone of Mr. Trump expressed across a society would look like.
The Bible directly tells us to pray for our political leaders but not for their wisdom, safety or effectiveness. We are told to pray for our leaders so that we and all citizens can lead quiet and peaceful lives (1 Timothy 2:2).
To put it mildly, it is bit difficult to believe that a President Trump would lead any of us into a quiet and peaceful life.
I never thought Id hear what is to me perhaps the most chilling phrase in the New Testament We have no King but Caesar! (John 19:15).
To hear people of faith publicly proclaim their undying allegiance in a human being is truly frightening.
Ann Coulter, for example has a recent book with the title In Trump we trust. She that she gladly and blindly will follow Mr. Trump wherever he leads, even die for him.
Even in many Christian circles, Trump is the centerpiece of conversations of personal if not national destiny.
As Thomas Merton put it in his essay Letter to an innocent bystander (1964) For since man has decided to occupy the place of God he has shown himself to be by far the blindest cruelest, and pettiest and most ridiculous of all the false gods. We can call ourselves innocent only if we refuse to forget this
Most of the worlds monotheistic religions punished blasphemy as the highest sin, not because it violated theological rules or principles, but because it offended the deepest sense of what it was to be human.
The Bible warns us (Ecclesiastes 13-14) the beginning of his talking is folly and the end of it is wicked madness. yet the fool multiplies words.
We have seen too many times what people will do to others and to themselves as they violate justice, mercy, compassion and basic human decency in the name of their cause and their human Supreme Leader. I hope we never see it again.