Friday, July 24, 2015

Donald Trump, Presbyterian

"Oh dear Lord no."

That was my thought, when it was revealed in one of the recent interviews with billionaire gadfly and political candidate Donald Trump that he considers himself a Presbyterian.  Our "brand" has enough troubles as it is, and here The Donald proudly proclaims himself to be one of the Frozen Chosen.

It's not that he's a Republican candidate, honestly.  I disagree with but harbor no animus towards most of the Republican slate.  Jeb Bush is a genuine moderate, Rand Paul a principled libertarian, and Ben Carson seems a decent human being.  Disagree with 'em on many things, but hey, so it goes.

But Trump?  Jesus Mary and Joseph, Trump?  Trump's political rise baffles me almost as much as the idea that he's somehow part of the tradition of Calvin and Knox.  He's so transparently a showman, a carny bamboozler, that the idea that any human being would be stupid enough to willingly support his candidacy boggles my mind.  And yet they're clearly out there, if the polls are to be believed.

What makes him a Presbyterian, I wondered.  I mean, sure, he says he is, and ten billion dollars apparently lets you say you're a lot of things.  Like a presidential candidate, for example.

But really, Presbyterian?  Where does that come from?

I did a little digging about, out of curiosity.  What flavor of Presbyterian is he?

He's not PC(USA), I quickly determined, thank the Maker.  But neither is he the more conservative won't-ordain-wimmen Presbyterian Church in America, or the kind-of-in-between Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  There are other, more fundamentalist/conservative Presbyterian denominations, but he is not part of any of them, either.

The church in which he claims membership is the Marble Collegiate Church in the heart of Manhattan, which is technically kinda sorta Dutch Reformed, or was that way when it was founded.  Meaning, while it's more accurately described as Reformed, it does have an elder-led presbyterian governance structure.  So, technically, "Presbyterian."   Sure.  Fine.

Only, to be honest, that makes things even more baffling.  Because I know Marble Collegiate by reputation, and it is a very, very progressive church, the kind of church that has LGBT support gatherings and art shows celebrating diversity.  It's open, thoughtful, and tolerant...and this is the church of which The Donald is a member?

Here, a candidate makes his name by stoking the fires of lumpenrepublican xenophobia and ignorance, and he openly claims membership in a church that fundamentally opposes every aspect of his bizarre candidacy.  He did say he only goes twice a year, so I guess that might explain it, but still.

It's so odd, yet another incongruity in the brazenly incoherent public identity of this flagrant confidence man.