King David, Emperor Constantine, Saint Augustine, and Donald Trump?
For 3,000 years (or more), God has called unworthy men to advance His Kingdom on earth. Why, then, are some Christian conservatives so appalled by President Trump?
Specifically, I am thinking of people like Erick Erickson, an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church. Erickson never misses an opportunity to remind his readers and Twitter followers that Donald Trump has been divorced twice, uses foul language, insults people, boasts, and exaggerates. At the same time, Erickson recognizes that Trump is our last human defense against the children of darkness. It’s as if his daily reminders of Trump’s flaws were mere virtue signals to tell his followers, “I know better than you.”
No Christian would point to Donald Trump’s life and say, “Son, that’s the path to follow.” Simultaneously, it seems less than Christian to point out Mr. Trump’s flaws every day of the week. Is it possible that Mr. Erickson cannot admit that his evaluation of Trump in 2015 was wrong?
Another virulent anti-Trumper from 2015, Glenn Beck, recently posted a humble and thorough mea culpa. On August 27, Beck posted this thread on Twitter:
1). I am feeling so humbled this week. I feel truly horrible for the things I said and believed in 2016 about @realDonaldTrump . I believed the worst politically, which he proved me wrong at almost every turn. In the most dramatic cases (life/Israel/China/authoritarian) cont— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) August 28, 2020
2. I expected @realDonaldTrump to take control federally at the first opportunity. Here we are in a massive crisis. Bush ‘violated the free market to save the free market.’ Trump could have violated federalism to ‘save federalism’ yet he has stood firm through COVID. Con’t— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) August 28, 2020
3. But let me cut to the chase. I believed he actually didn’t care about people. When @realDonaldTrump called me after my fathers death, I assigned the motive to politics - AND SAID SO. What haunts me this week is how my words must have hit his children. How ... con’t— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) August 28, 2020
4. Did I miss, the sharpness of my ‘judgement’ without consideration of family. Me? A guy who has lived it from his side. I wanted to end my interview with @realDonaldTrump son this week w/ a personal apology, who had spent 20 minutes with me as if we were old friends. Con’t— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) August 28, 2020
5. I didn’t want to embarrass myself in the end and failed to do the right thing again. I don’t regret my doubts or expressing my concern in 16, but the fact that I missed his humanity and was blind to his family. I said at the time, ‘I hope I am wrong and will...’ con’t— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) August 28, 2020
6. Will be the first to admit it.’I did. On air and personally to the president himself.But it was all about politics. I knew he loved his children and they him. What I failed to see, is the reason I think they love him. @realDonaldTrump is a loud New Yorker with a private heart— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) August 28, 2020
I’m sure Mr. Beck realizes that President Trump remains a flawed man, just like the rest of us. Unlike Erickson, Beck understands that God uses the weak and inadequate just as effectively as He uses the pious and devout.
Isn’t it peculiar that a Mormon seems better to grasp God’s remarkable power than a Catholic Deacon?
Scripture and tradition contain many examples of God using very flawed characters to advance His kingdom on earth. There’s every reason to believe we are witnessing another such instance in the presidency of Donald Trump.
King David (about 1,000 BC)
King David slept with his neighbor’s wife, knocked her up, and had her husband killed to keep Bathsheba for himself. That’s a pretty bad series of sins:
- First Commandment: making sex a god before God.
- Fourth Commandment: dishonoring parenthood and the family.
- Fifth Commandment: murdered (indirectly) Uriah.
- Sixth Commandment: committed adultery.
- Night Commandment: coveting his neighbor’s wife.
And yet, King David went on to be a great king who authored most of the Psalms. God chose David’s lineage to produce our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Both Joseph and Mary were of the House of David.
If God can accomplish so much with an adulterous murderer like David, how much can he accomplish with a boastful playboy like Trump?
Emperor Constantine (272-337 AD)
Constantine was a pagan army officer who became Roman Emperor the way most did: naked ambition.
Constantine grew up during the greatest (or worst) of the Roman persecutions of Christians. Diocletian was his emperor. Yet, upon becoming emperor, Constantine ended the persecutions, made Christianity the official religion of Rome, and declared that God alone was responsible for his ascent to the throne.
Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and launched the universal growth of the Church. Many attribute Constantine’s conversion to his mother, St. Helena.
Saint Augustine of Hippo (died 430 AD)
St. Augustine grew up with a pagan father and a Christian mother (St. Monica). Augustine, while never anti-Christian, was a lot like Donald Trump, with one exception: Augustine liked the drink. (He’s the patron saint of brewers.)
Augustine lived a licentious life, partying, drinking, drugs, and women. He sired a child out of wedlock. He never married the child’s mother. His life tortured his mother, Monica, who never stopped praying that he would straighten up and fly right.
During his wild year, the brilliant and educated Augustine fell into a popular heretical religion, Manichaeism.
Augustine eventually found his way to Milan, where St. Ambrose was then bishop. The skeptical Augustine began listening to Ambrose’s sermons and was overwhelmed. Unlike the Manichaeans, whose philosophies left huge intellectual holes unfilled, Ambrose’s sermons seemed complete. Augustine could not pose a question that Ambrose could not answer to Augustine’s satisfaction.
Even under Ambrose’s tutelage, and with his mother now in Milan, Augustine’s womanizing continued. After refusing to marry the mother of his child, he became involved with another woman.
Still, Augustine became a great priest, bishop, and Doctor of the Church, writing some of Christendom’s most influential works.
Which brings us to President Trump.
Luckily, I don’t need to document all the reasons Trump seems unfit to be a great Christian world leader. You know his flaws. What you might not have thought about, though, is how much Trump has in common with some of the greatest names in history: David, Constantine, Augustine.
Salvation is not about where you begin but where you end up. Donald Trump is married, now, to a Catholic woman who seems somewhat devout. There is no doubt that Trump’s understanding of Christianity has improved just in the five years since he declared his candidacy for president.
Like Constantine, Trump has placed himself between Christians and those who would drive Christ from the public square, if not exterminate Christians altogether.
The history books are still being written, of course. So far, Trump is a more vigorous defender of the faith than the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
I will continue to pray for Donald Trump’s complete conversion. We would love to have him the Catholic pantheon of sinners whom God called into exceptional service. Please pray with me.