I hear it all the time: one of THE questions when it comes to Donald Trump, “How can Christians support him?” Well, if you’re asking about mainstream Christians like Methodists, Congregationalists, northern Baptists and other moderate to liberal branches of a tree one could call called “Christian:” good question. I suspect “not many” applies. But once we get into fundamentalists; especially the most extreme, the answer is easy. Trump is their Constantine.
Constantine was responsible for handing the Roman Empire over to those who were once considered just a heretical movement within Judaism, and were viewed as a threat to Roman rule because they preached a message Romans authorities thought meant a violent overthrow of the Empire. It was a serious misreading of his ministry and the movement called Christianity. The conversion to Christianity of the Empire was enabled by Edict of Milan which declared tolerance as the new policy. Constantine helped with that. But Constantine really deserves almost all the credit for the “handing over.” Yet for most of his life Constantine was no devoted follower of Jesus. Constantine was a pagan. Eventually he did ‘study,’ somewhat like an apprentice, the faith as what they called a “catechumen.” Constantine converted on his death bed.
So I understand my analogy here isn’t going to be perfect. No analogy ever is.
Like Trump, Constantine saw an opportunity. So much so he arranged the Council of Nicaea where the final decision was made as to what books went into the Bible and other basics of the faith. Imagine if Trump and his enablers got a chance to have a Constitutional convention and the comparison would somewhat similar, not that they aren’t trying to alter a lot of that without the bother: like the Emoluments Clause…
Constantine did see a movement that believed a human could be God; or at least have a direct pipeline to God. In the Bible as approved by the Council we have a lot more passages like rendering unto Caesar than say the Ebionites who taught Jesus thought good Christians had to follow Jewish law faithfully, exactly. Certainly far more than if the more Gnostic books had even been considered.
It’s not a long leap from leading the Empire unto Christianity that predictably gave Constantine a very powerful, devout, base: a base that as history rushed forth would drag humanity through the Inquisition, the Crusades, witch burning and the demonization of Judaism. We know where that last one led to.
When it comes to extreme fundamentalism the stance is either you serve evil or good, Satan or God. There is no between. But if you are a “true believer;” or an enabler like Constantine or Trump, God forgives you. It is a world of absolutes where we are puppets or marionettes of God… or Satan. Trump is trying to deliver on Pence-based policy for them. This is why Pence is there: I’m sure he’s considered Trump’s “catechumen.” That means, like Constantine, Trump is being guided into supposedly serving God, well: the extreme fundamentalist’s IDEA of serving God.
Is it all quite insanely narrow minded and warped? Yup. But that’s why extreme fundamentalism inspires bombers of gay clubs, murders of those near clinics, and those who fly into towers. Extreme Christian fundamentalist and extreme Islam have a lot more in common than not. They just hate the competition, not “the sin.”
Like Constantine consolidated power through Christianity, Donald Trump is doing his damnedest to consolidate his power through the worst special interest groups America has to offer. And if Bob Barr does for him what he did for the Iran Contra criminals Trump may just get the kind of support Constantine achieved, also helped by his eager band of Brownshirt-like followers who serve as enforcers, from beatings at his pep rallies to driving a car into a crowd of counter protesters.
”But he doesn’t ACT like a Christian,” you may say. Neither have those who committed murders at clinics, or shot up a pizza parlor, goosestep through Charlottesville chanting, “JEW will not replace us,” or shoot into a car filled with blacks because their music is too loud, or cutting down a black boy the neighborhood watch guy with anger issues was stalking, or… and neither does The Army of God, Christian Identity or many others groups and individuals who consider themselves Christian.
Trump’s un-Christian behavior simply doesn’t matter to his basket full of deplorables, anymore than Constantine’s paganism bothered those he empowered. They had, they have common ground: more power, more influence and to rid society of those who defy or dare to disagree. Nothing else matters. Not even the basics of faith, morals, ethics or human decency.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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