President Trump talks about God a lot. Of course, when God’s son tried to enter the US, Trump wouldn’t let him in, what with him being brown and from the Middle East, but that’s not the bit Trump talks about. Trump wants God to lend his name to his ventures whilst letting him off the rules, a bit like he let Ivanka carry on manufacturing shoes in China when other industries doing the same were slapped with vast increases in import tariffs. Because if God says it’s ok, then it’s ok, regardless of all those pesky Governmental procedures and protocols. When Trump trumps (as he did at a National Day of Prayer event at the White House on 3rd May this year) that ‘Faith is more powerful than Government, and Nothing is more powerful than God,’ he’s co-opting God onto his own cheerleading squad. You can’t do that if you have any kind of reverence or respect for the ultimate authority whose endorsement you claim. What you have to do is create the authority for yourself, then work backwards.
You’re an older white man with a lot of power. So God needs to be a slightly bigger, marginally older white man with even more power. The blasting, smiting type of power. You can’t run the country all alone, so you appoint some more white men (some with beards, although God will obviously be even more beardly magnificent, because authority), then they will, in turn, endorse the required image. And if you say ‘God’ enough, and send thoughts and prayers every time another tranche of teenagers is shot down at school, then it’ll be hard to challenge you. Throw in a few ‘man of faith’ references, call abortionists murderers, Muslims terrorists and abused women liars, and you’re pretty much set.
But that God – the robed elder statesman on a cloud with groomed beard – is a patriarchal creation. That God does not exist. That God has been called upon in defence of slavery, of homophobia, of the subjection of women. Men created that God in their own image. That’s why they find him so easy to worship; that’s why they find it so easy to tell people who aren’t rich white men that they should subject themselves to him.
There is a difference between faith and subjection. Faith is active; subjection is passive. Faith calls upon us to listen to our hearts; subjection calls upon us to silence them. Faith calls us to follow through; subjection is a full stop. And the reason that I’m still here, still writing this, even though I need to pick my eldest up for his music exam and the kitchen’s a tip and I have to get to the pharmacy first and the news just gets worse and Christmas won’t stop coming and I’ve nothing ready, is that somewhere, the God that created mankind in his own image wants his creation back.
If you strip Trump of all his borrowed plumes and knock over the cardboard godprop of the patriarchy, you see a frightened child who doesn’t want to be where he is. He’s not fit for the power he has; that’s why he has to resort to claiming the endorsement of a bigger version of himself, with better hair. He knows it, but like a child caught out in a lie, he tries screaming louder, then sulking, then insulting his accuser.
God doesn’t sit on a cloud in imposing pose, to be interpreted by powerful men. God resides in every single creature of his creation. In every creature. We are marvellous in our variety, for we were created in his image, not the other way round. And if you stop for just a moment, and work out what it is you most value about yourself, your answer would have something to do with your innate humanity. I call that God; you may not, but whatever we choose to name it, this breaking world would begin to mend if we listened to it.