Today on CNN’s State of the Nation, Jake Tapper revisited an old question with Donald Trump. He asked him about his faith and specifically about if he had ever asked forgiveness. By my count this is the third time that Trump has been asked the question.
At he Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, back in June:
Trump, who told CNN earlier that he is both anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage, said people are surprised to learn about his Christian faith.
“People are so shocked when they find … out I am Protestant. I am Presbyterian. And I go to church and I love God and I love my church,” he said.
Moderator Frank Luntz asked Trump whether he has ever asked God for forgiveness for his actions.
“I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”
Trump said that while he hasn’t asked God for forgiveness, he does participate in Holy Communion.
“When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed,” he said. “I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.'”
“I try and lead a life where I don’t have to ask God for forgiveness,” Trump said. “Why do I have to ask for forgiveness if you’re not making mistakes? I work hard, I’m an honorable person.” Trump added that while he thinks “repenting is terrific,” he described asking for forgiveness in the holy Christian sacrament of communion. “When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness,” Trump said.
This is what Trump had to say today:
TAPPER: Do you regret making that remark (about not asking God for forgiveness)?
TRUMP: No. I have a great relationship with God. I have a great relationship with the Evangelicals. In fact, nationwide, I’m up by a lot, I’m leading everybody. But I like to be good. I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad. I try to do nothing that is bad. I live a very different life than probably a lot of people would think. And I have…
TAPPER: Always? Or just now?
TRUMP: …a very great relationship with God and I have a very great relationship with Evangelicals. I think that’s why I’m doing so well with Iowa.
TAPPER: The life you have now, when you say you try to do good, that sounds very different from decades of tabloid, media coverage, in New York, in which some of your wilder escapades were…
TRUMP: I’m talking about over the last number of years. I’m leading a very good life. I try to lead a good life. And I have. And, frankly, the reason I’m doing so well in Iowa, and leading the polls, including the CNN poll where I’m 33 to 20 in Iowa….
I really don’t even know how to address this.
Up front, I’m not an Evangelical Protestant. I’m Roman Catholic who started life as a low church Baptist. So I’m not going to make pronouncements on what Evangelical Protestants should or should not believe. I’m just going to address faith and Christianity in very general terms that I think will be recognizable to most Christians.
The basic essence of the Crucifixion is the death of Christ in expiation for the sins of Man. It clearly doesn’t relieve us of the need to seek forgiveness (and the mechanisms for this vary by denomination but, generally speaking, there must be an recognition that you have done wrong, an atonement for that wrong, and a resolve to not commit the offense again) because without the Grace of forgiveness we are mired in sin and we cannot extricate ourselves from it. The first step, though, is actually admitting wrong… which, if you are perfect and holy is not necessary. But our own actions (as the Confiteor says, “in my thoughts and in my words, in what I’ve done and what I’ve failed to do”) are inherently fraught with sin and it is beyond the ability of man to conduct himself in a manner that is so sinless as to be free of the need of Divine forgiveness.
While I think I understand Trump’s position on forgiveness by God, because it doesn’t differ very much at all from his position on forgiveness by man, there is a second part of the equation I don’t understand. Though Trump uses his polls as a reason for why he doesn’t need to ask forgiveness — I’m not sure how theologically compelling that argument is and I certainly wouldn’t want to try it on for size a my Particular Judgment — he is correct. He is killing it with self-identified Evangelical Christians, in fact, he may hold as much as a 2:1 lead there over his closest competitor, Ted Cruz.
Just as Trump is manifestly NOT a conservative, so, too, he is much more a typical neo-pagan than a Christian and is not evenly vaguely conversant with of observant of Evangelical theology. His God is quite clearly himself. His sacraments are the polls and his bankbook. Belief in God in his view, as evidenced by his dismissal of forgiveness and contempt for the Rites of his own denomination, is ridiculous.