taking the words of Jesus seriously

Remember the old fundamentalist bumper sticker, “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it!”? Just replace “the Bible” with the word “Trump” and you have the mindset of about 30 percent of the U.S. population.

Jesus came full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Trump came full of lies and BS. Sadly, a lot of white American Christians have decided to believe him, and a small portion of people of color as well. One man on national TV went so far as to say he would believe Trump over Jesus.

Scripture tells us, “The righteous hate what is false” (Proverbs 13:5). What does this suggest about the large proportion of people in white churches? Apparently, they don’t hate the lies that gush from President Trump. They either believe them or choose to ignore the lies, neither of which speaks well for their spiritual integrity. The lies of this president far exceed any previous occupant of the White House or member of the U.S. Senate.

Fact-checkers have worked overtime to keep up with Trump’s misleading statements, gross exaggerations, and blatant lies. As of the beginning of this August, the Washington Post has identified 4,229 false or misleading claims since he has been in office. Likewise, Politifact, FactCheck, Snopes, and other organizations have found an abundance of false and deceitful claims. But Trump’s true believers defensively dismiss the fact-checkers as biased.

A recent poll found 29 percent of the voting public believe Trump is trustworthy. In a CBS survey, 2,000 people were asked who they turn to for accurate information. A full 91 percent of strong Trump supporters answered that they trust the president, considerably more than they trust their family and friends. Given the vast number of verified falsehoods that have poured from the mouth of the president, this trust in Trump can justly be called blind faith.

Trump has attacked others who are far more reliable than himself, calling political opponents who are more honest than himself “liars” and labeling news outlets with the best international reputations “fake news.” He has helped lower trust in news media to a level not seen in many decades. While the media isn’t always right, the best of the bunch don’t hesitate to retract stories or make corrections when they are shown to be in error. The president does neither. When he is confronted about a falsehood he has stated, he simply doubles down, repeating the falsehood again and again with greater insistence.

“An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies” (Proverbs 14:5). Christians who support Trump aid and abet his lying behavior and further the harm that comes from his lies. Surely, some of his lies are self-serving and somewhat trivial, like his lie that his inauguration crowd was the largest ever. In fact, the crowd was smaller than most. What is notable is that he was willing to make a false claim at odds with easily available photographic evidence that undercut his assertion. His self-aggrandizing impulses overwhelmed good sense.

Trump seems to care little about whether his statements are truthful or not. What counts is whether they are useful or not. If his words get people to cheer for him or support his policies or hate those he sees as enemies, then they have served his purpose. It doesn’t matter whether what he says has any basis in reality. He doesn’t seem to hold truth-telling as a virtue at all. Nothing counts but furthering his aims.

The most destructive of Trump’s lies are those he uses to inspire hatred for groups of people. He has repeatedly lied about Muslims to inspire suspicion and fear. He falsely claimed that on 9/11, “I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey where thousands and thousands of [Muslim] people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.” He claimed he saw it on TV. Never happened. Some of his supporters bent over backwards trying to come up with some basis for his claim. The best they could come up with was a report about a small tailgate type party within eyeshot of the Twin Towers. Not thousands of people. Not on TV. Not Muslims. Trump maliciously lied.

To warn a crowd about the dangers of letting Muslim refugees into the U.S., Trump pointed to a terrorist attack in Sweden…that never actually happened. A lie. He also retweeted a series of anti-Muslim videos posted by a right-wing British group, Britain First, including one of a dark-haired teenager assaulting a blonde Dutch teenager on crutches labeled: “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” The perpetrator wasn’t a Muslim but a man born and raised in the Netherlands. Another vicious falsehood pushed by the President. And there are more.

Scripture repeatedly declares, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20). But Trump bears “false testimony” on a regular basis. His sweeping attacks on the character of those coming through the southern borders are deeply deceitful, clearly aimed at generating fear and hatred. Trump has repeatedly identified undocumented immigrants with dangerous gang members. In fact, immigrants — both document and undocumented — are less likely to commit murder than the general U.S. population.

A study earlier this year by the Cato Institute using crime statistics from Texas revealed that undocumented immigrants were 25 percent less likely to be convicted of homicide than native-born Americans, and legal immigrants were 87 percent less likely. Another study actually found as the number of immigrants living illegally in a community goes up, violent crime appears to fall, not increase. Trump has railed against sanctuary cities, claiming they are “crime infested.” But there is no evidence these cities have seen an increase in crime. Again. Trump lies.

Trump has promoted falsehoods, spread misinformation repeatedly, and propagated distortion so regularly that his words no longer deserve the same presumption of truth that we grant to most people. It is better to assume whatever he says is a lie unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.

Trump lied by claiming immigration has caused crime to spike in Germany. In fact, it is at a 30-year low.

Trump lied by saying the FBI was spying on his presidential campaign.

Trump lied by claiming his tax cut was the biggest in American history.

Trump lied in saying the tax cut wouldn’t go primarily to the rich or benefit him.

Trump lied by claiming there was “substantial evidence” of voter fraud during the presidential election.

Trump lied about signing more legislation than any President; not close.

Trump lied about the U.S. having the highest taxes in the developed world.

Trump lied in claiming the murder rate in the U.S. was at a 47-year high when he took office. It was near an historic low.

Trump lied about Obama wiretapping his campaign.

Many other lies, distortions, and misleading claims can easily be found.

Trump is not just lying. He is engaged in a war on the truth. Trump is engaging in an ongoing campaign to discredit the most reliable news media outfits with international reputations and get people to look instead to him as the very arbiter of truth. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” Trump declared recently at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention. No, instead just believe the most prolific liar on the world stage! Any who dare contradict him in print or broadcast are “enemies of the people.”

Some have accused Trump of putting targets on the backs of reporters. While that may be true, he is really putting a target on truth itself, and he’s doing his best to fatally wound it. Among the things scripture tells us the LORD hates are “a lying tongue… a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (Proverbs 6:16-19). Jesus calls us to be people of straightforward truthfulness: “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). If we are serious about being a people of the truth, there is no way we can be supporters of Trump.

About The Author

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Craig M. Watts is author of Bowing Toward Babylon: The Nationalistic Subversion of Christian Worship in America (Cascade Books 2017) and minister of Royal Palm Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Coral Springs, Florida.

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