Stephen D’Evelyn on Ash Wednesday and Trumpism

Last night i had the misfortune to wake up with the radio still on and Donald Trump’s address to Congress wafting through the darkness.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a time of prayer, penitence, and charity which prepares Christians for Easter. So our thoughts may be turned towards the gret events of the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection.
Trump referred to Jesus’ words at the Last Supper No greater love has any man than this that he lay down his life for his friends’. He applied Jesus’ words to a slain Navy SEAL as he recognised that man’s widow.
Trump ignored–or was ignorant of–the contexts of Jesus’ words; friendship in that world meant equality of status, a radical cahange from the relationship of slaves and master–and Jesus characteristically used that image to portray the analogical distance and relationship of human and divine. Yet Trump’s speech tries to subsume this distance under the figure of the master-President.
Unfortunately it seems Congress and many media pundits went along with it.
To me this helps explain the raptuoprous applause and praise for Trump’s many promises–the rhetorical largesse was a counterfeit of the generosity of the source of reality, without the recognition of the difference between a political leader and athe ontological origin, a difference that should make us sit up and ask what this political generosity would cost, since its bounds are finite. But Trump could promise many benfits without cost because he was portraying teh counterfeit of divine bounty, grace.
The perspective of disability helps us confirm this interpretation. The social model of disability helps us see how societal power and organisation excludes people who do not conform to ideals of normalcy. We may recall Trump’s mockery of a disabled New York Times reporter during the eledcdtion campaign. His world-view could not or would not admit difference that is crucial to Jesus’ message.
To me this helps us understand the feedback loop of uproarious applause that echoed periodically throughout Trump’s speech: Congress was caught up an an immanentised counterfeit double of divine grace’s power. So it is all the more important to keep our eye on the distinctions between human adn divine and to take part in each for the service of friendship and justice.


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