Living in God’s Image: Despotism or Republican Democracy?

My thoughts about the despotism that is infecting our virus-plagued lives have gained a new articulation in The Christian Citizen, an American Baptist journal stimulating reflection on the church’s involvement in public life. You can read the whole piece by CLICKING HERE.

In this brief essay I argue that Trump’s support by Evangelical Christians is not a blind contradiction of Jesus’s teachings but is actually an expression of their allegiance to an image of God they rehearse daily in prayer and weekly in worship. This is the God who creates reality out of His own words and will. It is a God of inexplicable vengeance as well as grace and pardon. It is a God of will more than reason, command rather than law, magic rather than wisdom. It is God as despot, the ancient Greek ruler of a submissive household of women, children, and slaves.

Moreover, this image is not merely an Evangelical fixation. It is found in the everyday piety of prayers for health and well-being as well as in Hallelujah choruses, creeds, and benedictions. That is, it is a problem for Christians across the boards. It creates the perennial gap between our images and accepted formulas for God, the source of all power and authority, and the republican, constitutional, and democratic convictions at the heart of the American Constitution.

Having laid out this tension and the way Evangelicals who support Trump have taken the despotic image of God to its logical political conclusion, I then point out that there are many other images in our ancient as well as recent traditions that offer other ways to imagine our source of authority and power. They include not only the radically suffering God embodied In Jesus’s self-giving, but the Trinitarian ideas of the “procession” of the “persons” of God, the visions of God in process theology, and the eco-feminist notions of the earth as God’s body. And there are others.

Thus, the scandal of Evangelical support for Trump is a theological problem for Christians across the spectrum. The perilous state in which we find ourselves is a deeply theological one that requires renewed commitment to the task of formulating an understanding of the Divine mystery in a way that revitalizes just governance. Moreover, it requires finding ways to express this fundamental conception of God in prayer, worship, and song. Let me know what you see from your vantage point. We need all the voices we can get.

1 thought on “Living in God’s Image: Despotism or Republican Democracy?”

  1. Due to earlier problems with this plug-in, I am posting a message from Sara JEnkins here:
    Bill, I hardly have words for how powerful, and how deeply welcome, I find this. It’s reassuring to know that Rohr et al. are writing along the same lines, but for me it’s a new vision. (Well, there is Randy Newman’s “God’s Song,” cynical, perhaps, but striking at the heart of the matter:
    Much gratitude and admiration, Bill —

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