Home/Rod Dreher/Trump, Jesus, & Our Culturally Illiterate Elite

Trump, Jesus, & Our Culturally Illiterate Elite

The crown of the King of Kings. It would mess up Trump's hair (kalavati/Shutterstock)

Of all the stupid controversies, this one is special. And liberals aren’t the only ones guilty of causing it.

GOP chief Reince Priebus sent out an anodyne Christmas greeting from the party that included this inelegantly worded bit:

Over two millennia ago, a new hope was born into the world, a Savior who would offer the promise of salvation to all mankind. Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King.

That could have been phrased more clearly, but you have to be deep inside the Blue Bubble to fail to understand that Christians consider Jesus to be, in the words of Revelation 19:16 (most memorably quoted in the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah), “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords”. It’s a messianic title. Christians join themselves with the Three Wise Men to celebrate the birth of that King. This is not some obscure theological doctrine. I mean, you only have to have heard Christmas carols. What do the “herald angels sing” of? “Glory to the newborn King.” Noël, Noël, “born is the King of Israel.” And so forth.

The Christian belief is that the King of Kings came into the world in the humblest manner, and died in ignominy. And yet, he was the Ruler of the Universe. This tells us something about the nature of God, and the nature of humanity. You don’t have to believe it, obviously, but to be ignorant of this in our culture is to evidence cultural illiteracy.



But it wasn’t only liberals. Here’s a top Republican Party strategist:

Liberal writer James Fallows tries to save people from making fools of themselves:

To no avail:

Is this Trump Derangement Syndrome manifesting itself? That’s no doubt part of it. But mostly it’s theological ignorance. Again, you have to be a cultural illiterate to jump to the conclusion that Priebus was comparing Trump to Jesus Christ. An academic friend texted to me this morning:

The ignorance is staggering. I mean, these are well educated guys, and they have never (clearly) had a serious conversation about Christianity or with a Christian. Incredible. It’s clear that the expulsion of theology in any way from the academy has had DEEP consequences that I only now appreciate. For our secular friends, we are all dumb illiterate snake handlers. Some of us just wear sh!t from J Crew. But in the end, we are all Hillbillys.

UPDATE: Orthodox reader Old West adds an interesting perspective:

The distinct liturgical separation of the Nativity of Christ from the visit of the wise men/kings is a feature of Western Christianity, where Epiphany commemorates the arrival of the wise men from afar. In the Orthodox Church, they are considered part of the same story — in fact the Gospel read at the Divine Liturgy of Nativity is the account in St. Matthew of the arrival of the wise men. All of the other stories of Christmas — the accounts from St. Luke and the earlier passage in St. Matthew — are read at other, earlier services. And with regard to the many Biblical stories surrounding the Nativity of Christ, the troparion (the central hymn of a feast in the Orthodox Church) mentions only the wise men (“those who worshipped the stars were taught by a star to adore Thee”).

Since Priebus is an Orthodox Christian, it shouldn’t be surprising to have him go straight to the Magi in giving a Christmas greeting.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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