". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


The Once and Future King: The Danger of Idolizing Trump

January 28, 2024

With the New Hampshire primary over, Donald Trump is the clear Republican favorite and will almost certainly be the Republican presidential nominee again. Of course, Trump and his brazen, pugilistic, unorthodox rhetoric garnered overwhelming support from conservatives in both 2016 and 2020, effectively establishing himself as the GOP’s once and future king.

With America presently facing existential threats on seemingly every front — from the lawlessness of rampant illegal immigration to the hypocritical tyranny of Democratic Party lawfare to the soul-slaughtering perversions of pornography and the LGBT agenda to the baby-slaughtering practice of child sacrifice called abortion — and Trump at least leading the charge against these evils, it’s only natural for conservatives to view the mogul-turned-president as a hero — and it’s certainly true that Trump’s campaign against the evil infesting America’s political, cultural, and financial elites is a heroic one: at the age when most wealthy men would be enjoying retirement, playing golf, spending time with the grandkids, and going to bed early every night, Trump is facing numerous criminal charges leveled by corrupt prosecutors and a corrupt Justice Department, hosting rallies across the nation, and facing a degree of vitriol and animosity not seen perhaps by any U.S. president since Lincoln.

There’s no doubt that Trump is fighting for the soul of America, and not only making tremendous sacrifices to do so but having no small degree of success. It was thanks to Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court picks that the disastrous Roe v. Wade was finally overturned in 2022. He restored the Mexico City Policy, barring federal funding for abortions abroad, blocked domestic abortion facilities from receiving federal funding, cut taxes for American citizens, withdrew the U.S. from the climate-hysteric Paris Agreement, and emphasized the threat posed by illegal immigration, as well as implementing numerous other pro-America, pro-family policies. There’s nothing wrong with calling the 77-year-old’s crusade against corruption heroic.

But it is crucial that Trump not be (in the literal sense of the term) idolized. The former (and, possibly, future) president is fighting for America’s soul, but he will not save America’s soul: Christ alone can do that. Trump may serve as an instrument for that salvation in Christ’s pierced hands, but it is imperative that Christian conservatives not, in their enthusiasm for righteousness and desperation for reprieve, mistake the instrument for its Wielder. When God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, the first commandment He gave was, “I am the Lord your God… You shall not have other gods beside me” (Exodus 20:2-3, Deuteronomy 5:6-7). This commandment is intimately and immediately linked to the next:

“You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or serve them. For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their ancestors’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation…” (Exodus 20:4-5, Deuteronomy 5:8-9).

While God was delivering this message to Moses, the Hebrews at the foot of the mountain were busy fashioning a golden calf to worship, after having just witnessed God, through Moses, part the Red Sea and deliver them from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 32:1-6). The most striking aspect of this episode, of course, is the haste with which the Hebrews abandoned God and turned to idols, so quickly after their temporal salvation was achieved. What is perhaps less obvious but certainly equally striking is that the Hebrews knew how to fashion a golden idol. Moses’s brother Aaron collected the golden earrings of his people and, “fashioning it with a tool, made a molten calf” (Exodus 32:4).

This may be explained by examining God’s earlier words to Moses, to be delivered to the Hebrews while they were still enslaved: “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God; and you will know that I, the Lord, am your God who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians…” (Exodus 6:7). The Egyptians, of course, worshipped idols, carved images to represent their false gods. The Hebrews had been living in Egypt for at least four generations (Exodus 6) and had, more than likely, fallen into the idol-worshipping practices of their hosts and eventual slavers.

Even more telling is when Pharaoh tells Moses and the Hebrews, “Go sacrifice to your God within the land.” But Moses says to him, “It is not right to do so, for what we sacrifice to the Lord, our God, is abhorrent to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice what is abhorrent to the Egyptians before their very eyes, will they not stone us?” (Exodus 8:21-22). The Hebrew method of worshipping God could not be practiced within Egypt. Finally, the first plagues that God inflicts upon Egypt impact both Egyptians and Hebrews. It is not until God send swarms of flies upon the land that He says to Pharaoh, “I will make a distinction between my people and your people” (Exodus 8:19). This distinction reaches a climax when God strikes down the firstborn of the Egyptians: this time, the distinction between the Egyptians and the Hebrews is made manifest by the latter strictly following God’s Passover prescriptions (Exodus 12).

Up until the swarms of flies come forth, the Hebrews suffer the same fate as those whose worship they imitate — perhaps in punishment for abandoning their God, perhaps as a means of chastising or purifying them of the idolatry they had committed. It is for this reason (idolatry) that God allowed them to become enslaved in the first place: having surrendered their spiritual freedom in God, they were deprived of their temporal and political freedom also. In order to bring them back to His bosom, He first allows them to suffer His own wrath, and then gradually calls them to once again obey Him. That the suffering of the Hebrews is a result of their idolatry is also seen when God says that he will not only strike down the firstborn of the Egyptians but will also “execut[e] judgment on all the gods of Egypt…” (Exodus 12:12).

Ours is a jealous God, and the Old Testament is rife with examples of this fact. Once the Hebrews abandoned God for the Egyptian gods, He allowed them to become enslaved. When they betrayed Him after He led them out of Egypt, He barred them from entering the Promised Land for generations. When the Hebrews bowed before the gods of the Persians and the Assyrians, God once again allowed them to become enslaved. It’s one of the oldest yet most-forgotten principles of the Christian tradition: surrendering spiritual freedom and fidelity to God inevitably leads to the loss of financial, political, and even corporeal freedom.

Once again, Trump has proven himself a heroic figure: his crusade against the rampant corruption in the Republican Party and the Marxist-leaning regime of the Democrats is more than merely admirable and ought to inspire every red-blooded American Christian. But it is crucial that Christians not idolize Trump. We can expect him to fight for us — and indeed we ought to follow him into the fight for our nation’s soul — but we cannot expect him to save us. It is Christ alone who can and will save America’s soul and we must intensify and amplify our fidelity to Him. Prayer in particular is a necessity: praying to God for deliverance, crying out to Him as the captive Hebrews did in Egypt, not praying to a politician (no matter how courageous) in the voting booth.

Our hope is in Christ alone. We may follow Trump as soldiers follow a captain, but we must never forget that unless we march under the banner of Christ, our campaign is doomed from the start.

S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.