Let’s just admit it – we all have our favorites. It isn’t that difficult, then, to believe that God has favorites too. Consider, that one of the main narratives of the Bible as a whole, is preoccupied with the notion that the Israelites are God’s chosen people, God’s “favorites,” so to speak. Favoritism is sort of a harmless construct, but it can affect a lot, particularly when the stakes are high.
Over the last year or so, I’ve tried to limit my direct criticisms of the President and his administration. I have, generally, erred on the side of limiting my sound that would contribute to the raging noise on the subject that has seemingly overtaken all news media in the most exhausting way. But, for the moment, I must be vocal.
Over the course of the current presidency, and the election cycle that lead up to it, there have been a number of Christian leaders who have insisted directly, or passively implied, that Donald Trump was chosen by God to lead our nation. Even one of the pastors at my own church (the church I left a week after the election) went as far as to post to Facebook that Trump’s win, “was a total miracle of the Lord,” implying that God’s “favor” was upon him. These beliefs, while benign in and of themselves, can lead to malignant consequences – issues we are seeing played out currently.
This favoritism is not new, but has been a hallmark of the religious right since its inception in the 1970’s. In ‘73, two landmark decisions occurred that would shape the views and policy concerns of hegemonic Christians for decades to come, even today. In January, Roe v. Wade would be decided by the Supreme Court, granting women the legal right to an abortion. In the same year the American Psychiatric Association (APA) voted to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a huge victory for the Gay Right’s movement of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.
Favoritism is not always indicative of people, specifically. Sometimes favoritism comes into play with policy. Just like people, we all have policies that we care about more than others. Ever since these issues came to the forefront of pop culture and the media, religious zealots have deemed abortion and homosexuality to be immoral “sins” that undermine traditional gender norms, and disrupt the sanctity of the nuclear family. The purported “moral majority” have held great political influence by galvanizing churches and their members to vote, always, for the pro-life, anti-LGBT, Republican candidate under the guise of God’s favor. It never mattered who the individual was, as long as they supported the “right” policies.
So, here’s the thing about favoritism, it can either work for you, in your “favor”, or it can work against you as discriminatory. As an example, in the Bible, being God’s chosen people started out great for the Israelites, but how do you think the Canaanites felt when they were massacred through genocide? That’s something not enough Christians think about, because the Canaanites were the enemies of Israel, so why care about them, right? So, If God truly does favor some people or some policies over others, then what does that look like today? What are the present-day affects?
One affect appears to be blatant hypocrisy, for starters. I was nine-years-old when news broke about the Lewinsky-Clinton scandal. Still, I remember, quite vividly, sitting in the back of my mom’s ’93 Ford Escort and hearing the auditory clip come across the radio of Bill Clinton’s infamous lie, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” I remember the attitudes of my fellow Christians at the time, who felt that the actions and lies told by Clinton were morally repugnant and unbecoming of the office of President of the United States.
When news broke prior to the election about Donald Trump’s, now infamous, statement about grabbing women by the pussy, what was once considered morally repugnant by the religious right was now considered the misguided musings of a, “baby Christian,” to quote James Dobson. And in 1998, in response to the news about Clinton’s lies, Franklin Graham asked an important question, “if he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?” But when Graham was questioned earlier this year about Trump’s alleged affair with a porn star, he stated, “this thing with Stormy Daniels is nobody’s business.” Apparently when you’re God’s chosen president, you can get away with much more than when you’re not.
Another current affect to this perceived favoritism is the apathy and complacency of many Christians, even the ones who don’t insist that Trump was chosen by God. The favoritism of certain policies alone is coming at a huge cost to our integrity as Christians, and as a nation. The irony is the religious right have become so hyper vigilant about policies in support of traditional family values that they’ve become blind to the fact that actual families are currently being torn apart through hostile immigration policy practices. What’s worse is, there are those within the Trump administration, particularly Sarah Sanders and Jeff Sessions, who are using the Bible to support and justify these measures, and few to no one in the hegemonic Christian camp is breaking from their ranks. Speaking truth to power only applies when the power is someone we, apparently, don’t like.
Immigrant children are living in cages after being ripped from their families, but it’s okay, because American exceptionalism requires that our borders be secure – no matter what. LGBTQ individuals still face rampant discrimination, marginalization, and violence, but it’s okay, as long as Christian bigots can still refuse service to people that make them “uncomfortable.” Palestinians are being murdered in Gaza, but that’s okay too, because at least we got the embassy where we wanted it. This is what happens when favoritism is used at the expensive of the un-favored. This is what happens when we dehumanize the cultural or political “other” to push our own narratives and beliefs.
The selective outrage, and conversely the selective silence of these Christians shows an obvious display of partisanship. As angry as I am by these actions, I can’t tell who to blame when I, myself, was primed from birth to believe that, as a Christian, God valued my life over others. It was never quite articulated that way in Sunday School, but one thing that favoritism does is it sets you apart, and distinguishes you from another in an “us vs. them” type of way. When you’re in the “us” camp you have access to an abundant amount of grace, just as Trump has been given by a number of Christians, when you get relegated to the “them” camp however, Christians can’t wait to tear you to shreds, just as they did to Obama (assumedly for his pro-LGBT stances), and Clinton before him.
With all of this said, I want to ask my Trump-supporting, Christian friends some questions: do you believe God values the life of a Billionaire, playboy, President over the life of migrant children? Do you consider it ironic to call yourself pro-life and pro-family but then degrade migrants in search of better lives for their families? And how do you reconcile Christ’s call to love our neighbor, even our enemies, and to care for the homeless, the hungry, the immigrant, and others, with administrative policies and practices that degrade entire groups of people, that denigrate welfare recipients and the welfare system as a whole, and that demonizes immigrants and the working poor?
I would wager that when it comes to Christ, the one we supposedly are to base our faith upon, that He would favor grace, love, mercy, and peace, over laws, policies, and even people that seek to exploit the least of these for their own authoritarian aims. I don’t want to necessarily say that those favoring the law are in the wrong, but one must consider that the law, itself, does not always favor justice. “Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own.”– Barbara Brown Taylor