Look, I have nothing but respect for faith, just as I have nothing but respect for, say, your ability to whip up a tasty dessert of calves brains and molasses, or my boss’s sexual adventures. Or your five-year-old’s terrific prowess with crayons. That is to say, good for all of you. But I just really don’t want to hear any more about it. I’ve heard enough about it. It has nothing to do with me.
I don’t think that Donald Trump’s horribleness as a president has anything whatsoever to do with his faith, or lack of it. He’s a mean guy, a careless administrator, a blowhard showman, an incompetent. Could a man believe in God, with all his heart, and still be all of those things? Does faith, for example, bring administrative competence? One might argue that the first three bullets in my list of Trump flaws might be cured by a good dose of sincere religion — but even there I would argue that Tomás de Torquemada (pictured above) was probably a sincere believer, and also a pretty mean guy — while the final point on the list, incompetence, would not. But even the first three points on the list are not unique to those with faith. And, again … Torquemada. A mean guy. Murderer. Good administrator.
Billy Graham’s granddaughter, Jerushah Duford, I think, got this point right, when she proclaimed, “I would rather have an agnostic in the White House than a president that claims my faith and yet demonstrates it to the world so poorly,” acknowledging that in fact the elements of her faith that she prizes — compassion, caring and, it seems, competence — are certainly not unique to those with faith. They are elements that we seek in our fellow humans, including, as Ms. Duford, stated so clearly, agnostics.
So it was especially disappointing to see her interview quoted, approvingly, by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times under this subtitle: “This president doesn’t represent our faith.”
Faith means a belief in a deity, especially belief with no evidence. Faith is belief without reason. There is something beautiful about it, but there is no reason why any president should represent your faith. And it’s not what Jerushah Duford wants. And it’s not what any of us should want.
Let’s all be a little less God-ish in public.
One other thing. When the Pope this week announced a recognition of same sex civil unions, it was viewed as a big step forward. The Church’s condemnation of marriage equality – among many other things – is really the reason why President Trump can define rank bigotry and homophobia as “religious liberty,” which has a nicer ring to it. So the Church’s decision to be a little less homophobic (no marriages, but civil unions, over which the Church has no real authority anyway) is being proclaimed as a terrific step forward.
But I look at it this way. Let’s imagine the Flat Earth Society decided that maybe the Earth is round. That would be good, right? Or if the KKK started admitting Blacks, as junior members? That is to say, when an organization that is devoted to lies, backward thinking and bigotry decides to back away from its lies, backward thinking and its bigotry, what is left for it? Maybe, next, the Church will decide to embrace science, and to reject medieval superstition. What would the Church even stand for, then?
Don’t forget to vote.