Current (though not for long) Energy Secretary Rick Perry made headlines over the weekend after he stated in a Fox News interview that he believes President Donald Trump is ordained by God.
Perry explained in his comments that he believes every president, every leader on the face of this planet, was selected by God to lead — even former President Barack Obama.
“Barack Obama doesn’t get to be the President of the United States without being ordained by God. Neither did Donald Trump,” Perry said, per reporting from USA Today.
Perry made sure to qualify his words carefully — being picked to lead by God is far from saying someone is God-like. Rather, he believes God has picked individuals to lead “who aren’t perfect all through history,” and through them, the Lord’s plan gets completed.
Certainly, that excuses Trump’s noticeably un-Christianlike behavior.
Rick Perry, Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham and the Trump supporting white evangelicals are always willing to forgive and absolve the rich racist white guy in the White House but rarely extend that grace to the black and brown people he torments. #WWJDpic.twitter.com/6TMOErVx34
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) November 25, 2019
The Energy secretary isn’t the only person that thinks this way — indeed, although every sect of Christianity has different views on the topic, it’s rooted in the Bible itself, in Romans 13:1, which reads:
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”
It’s a nice sentiment, if you want your God to be considered all-powerful, but it’s a dangerous one, too. The very next verse, Romans 13:2, argues that anyone who “resisteth the power [of the leader], resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
Such an idea would have set back a number of positive outcomes in our nation’s history, including the end of slavery and the fight against Jim Crow laws, as well as allowing women to have the right to vote and the right to choose what’s best for their own autonomous bodies.
But the biblical view is precisely why you see headlines today showcasing conservative religious voices saying that they intend to pray for God to smite Democrats who are running the impeachment inquiry, or that the White House is holy ground because Trump is there.
Oddly enough, you didn’t see many of these same conservatives saying the same thing when Obama was in the White House, or saying that his leadership was ordained by God. In fact, just the opposite happened: the base of the religious wing of the Republican Party was denouncing Obama as the antichrist. One-in-four Republicans, according to polling in 2010, said definitively that Obama was that figure.
Perry has never gone that far, but he definitely wasn’t treating Obama with the same religious reverence he has given to the thrice-married, never-turn-the-cheek, loud, obnoxious, and spiteful president who’s in office currently. Indeed, a campaign ad for Perry, when he briefly ran for president hoping to unseat Obama in 2012, showed the Republican knocking the former president for allowing gays to “serve openly in the military” while “our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”
That sentiment is false, by the way: children can (and do) pray in public schools. But the semantics of what’s allowed and what’s not (school-led prayer) doesn’t get people to vote, I suppose, the way a false characterization like what Perry said in the ad does.
The “picking and choosing” of who is an ordained leader of God and who isn’t (or who is but doesn’t deserve our respect) is all hogwash anyway — our founders never wanted the presidency to be viewed in this manner. It’s one of the reasons why they didn’t make the leader of this nation a king. The idea of politicians also exercising religious command over the citizenry was opposed by most after the Revolution, as Americans didn’t want another King George III leading them.
When Republicans treat Trump like a “God-ordained” leader, it sets a dangerous tone to our politics. It’s a subtle way of saying opposition to this president goes against the wishes of God. Ergo, if you oppose Trump — if you are against his policies or if you’re in favor of impeaching him — you are an opponent to the Heavenly Father. And people tend to behave irrationally when they’re told to believe others in their social circles are acting against God’s wishes.
In our hypercharged political atmosphere, that vision of our government will only lead to the God-fearing trying to defend “His ordained” leader — and it will only be a matter of time before someone tries to do so in a violent way.