By Sue Hagan
I’ll begin with a correction to my column on hog hunting published two weeks ago. I received a call from a reader criticizing me for “not getting the facts straight.” I try to be accurate, but this time I was wrong in one detail. I had mentioned a “pay-to-hunt hogs” ranch; even though I had not named the ranch, my caller knew it was his. He said he averages 300 hog kills a year, not 100 in 3 years as I reported. He broke his average kill rate down to 100 by trapping and 200 by shooting per year. My much lower number (100/3 years) was taken from the Mountain Echo’s front-page story published the week before; technically the caller should have called them as well.
I apologized and certainly did not mean to disparage his business: 200 hog shootings a year is not insignificant. Likewise, the recent 57 boars and sows eliminated on private lands in Iron and Reynolds counties in a 48-hour hunt involving 32 shooters is great! Killing hogs on private lands is essential to eliminating hogs everywhere. Public lands managers, with the new ban, are now better able to utilize intensive killing methods (copter shoots and fall-down nettings).
My caller disputed numbers given me for hog kills by MDC, insisting I had fallen for a lie because MDC “lies all the time.” I asked why I should trust his kill numbers more than those provided by government agencies: he answered, “Because I’m a Christian. I don’t lie.”
Which leads me to the heart of this column: is a claim of Christianity proof of honesty? I hasten to add I absolutely do not doubt the hog-ranch proprietor’s numbers and I trust him when he says he is a Christian. Who am I to doubt anyone’s claim to faith?
But think about this: President Trump claims to be a Christian yet he lies frequently, more than 11,000 times since his inauguration according to several reliable fact-checkers. And there’s the lengthy history of his lying before his presidency. Trump said Obama was born in Kenya and is not a Christian. He claimed Trump University would teach enrollees how to get rich but ended up having to pay a $25 million settlement for fraud. As a Presidential candidate, he accused the esteemed Clinton Foundation of fraud but it is the Trump Foundation that had to shut down after a judge found numerous instances of fraudulent use of funds. Trump said Ted Cruz’s father helped kill JFK. He lied about his bankruptcies, and falsely said he would release his taxes. He promised his tax plan would benefit lower and middle classes the most and take money out of his own pocket: 83% instead went to the upper 1%. He promised a better alternative to the ACA; he’s still promising that, only now he won’t release his proposal until he gets a second term. He promised Mexico would pay for a border wall.
The list of lies and broken promises goes on and on, but to his supporters it makes no difference. Many Trump supporters are Evangelicals, people who generally disdain lying, extra marital affairs, corruption– yet they simply shrug off Trump’s behavior: “That’s just Trump being Trump”. Sometimes they say, “All politicians lie!” True, but no politician has been so prolific, so brazen and so unapologetic with lying. Trump’s lies have become entertainment for many—they cheer his political incorrectness, his boastful vanity, his daringness to openly lie.
A recent USA TODAY editorial, written by Brendan Clarey, an evangelical Christian, opined that Trump’s lying is glossed over by Christians not realizing that the particular brand of Christianity to which Trump ascribes is the Prosperity branch. Clarey calls Prosperity religion a “false doctrine that claims those who give financial support for pastors and churches will become wealthy and healthy.” Granting indulgences in exchange for donations was Martin Luther’s main grievance and the basis for the rise of Protestantism!
Prosperity religion proposes that a good test of one’s relationship with God is the amount of wealth one has, whereas poverty is God’s punishment for being unwilling to work hard. When the tape recording with Trump boasting about inappropriately grabbing women came to light, he turned to a Prosperity minister. She assured him that his past no longer mattered and he is truly graced by God as his (supposed) billions prove!
I doubt most Christians today believe God opens the Pearly Gates wider for the very rich liars and sinners. Though predestination is an interesting theological debating point, do people believe that Trump was born into wealth and able to lead a prodigal lifestyle because he was God’s “chosen one” to become the USA President? Trump has plans for cutting food stamps, reducing public housing, gutting Medicaid, and closing the border to all poor immigrants—has Jesus changed his mind about helping the less fortunate among us?
So excuse me, if a salesman appears at my door and says, “Trust me; I’m a Christian” I’m not going to buy it. I highly recommend reading the classic, ELMER GANTRY for a fun exploration of what loud, boisterous religious charlatans do: they lie. Author Sinclair Lewis writes of his hero, “He had, in fact, got everything from the church and Sunday School, except, perhaps, any longing whatever for decency and kindness and reason”