Bernie Diaz, January 15, 2018
Did he or didn’t he? The timing couldn’t be worse for President Donald Trump, accused last week on the dawn of MLK day of having made disparaging if not “racist” comments according to news reports, in describing African countries during an Oval Office meeting with a bipartisan group of senators discussing the DACA immigration policy.
Allegedly, the president also questioned the need to admit more Haitians to the U.S., according to people who were briefed on the conversation, using a vulgarity in reference to the conditions there. Trump reportedly also said in the meeting that he would prefer immigrants from Anglo-white countries like Norway instead.
Regardless of what was actually said or not (Trump and White House officials have denied using the profanity in question, though they have not disclosed what was said), already existing racial tensions have been brought to the forefront of American conscience once again on the 50th anniversary year of Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination.
A Christian can pray that this will not be a year that would approximate in any way, that horrific year of violence and division which so marred this nation in 1968. Racial concerns notwithstanding, two more issues deserving thoughts held captive to Christ and a worldview analysis bear our attention in the aftermath of this latest Trumpian verbal misstep.
A Culture of Profanity
I am frequently amazed by the voluminous level of profanity heard in modern American media and culture today. Crude words that I never thought imaginable are heard or read routinely in public and will now likely become even more commonplace as the result of the President’s alleged comments.
Already mainstream newspaper and magazine editors (e.g. Time, Newsweek) have justified publishing the remark attributed to the President (“s______ hole”) since it was alleged to have been uttered directly by Trump himself. That rationale seems to be more an attempt to embarrass the White House than to justify journalistic standards.
The influence of profanity on this ‘millennial’ generation has never been greater, as my wife and I noticed while waiting in line to make a purchase in the midst of a group of college age females dropping the ‘f- bomb’ as causally and frequently as the use of any word, like ‘the’ or ‘and.’
Cursing has fast become mainstreamed in America. Swear words of all kinds have undergone a radical surge in popularity, largely fueled by popular movies and music, which was once a no-go zone for the slightest whiff of profanity– particularly on the radio—which has become so open to colorful language that according to one pop critic, “four-letter words now grace band names.”
In fairness, Donald Trump is not the first politician to utter profane language in Washington. Several U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents from the 1960’s onward were known for their casual and regular use of profanity, including icons like John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, for instance. And who can forget Vice President Joe Biden’s use of the f-bomb (caught on the microphone) when he quietly congratulated President Obama for signing into law the Affordable Healthcare Act.
To be sure, the problem of unwholesome speech is nothing new. It’s always been around – since the fall of man. But the extensive, wide-ranging and more normative use of it is a new phenomena in our culture. Even some high-profile hipster pastors have foolishly used salty language from the pulpit, seeking to connect with their younger listeners as ‘hip, hot and happening’ speakers.
As Christian believers, profanity is unacceptable in any form and disciples of Christ must be decidedly countercultural when it comes to speech. Paul’s teaching concerning our speech is so relevant it could have been written last week:
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).
Later he adds, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Eph. 5:4).
The Greek word in Eph. 4 could be translated as rotten, corrupt, or putrid. It is the same word that Jesus uses in Luke 6:43 when referring to “bad fruit.” The point is: The words of Christ’s followers should never read or sound rotten or obscene.
May we strive to recover, cultivate, and model godly speech in our homes, schools, neighborhoods, communities, and churches, as those who seek to be a cultural preservative like salt (Matt.5), rather than as a polluter.
Next Celebrity President?
Leave it to a feminist inspiring, televised Golden Globes speech to do what only modern culture can do today – create a presidential race where there was none, only one year into the current Presidential administration, with none other than Oprah Winfrey, actress and television personality extraordinaire.
Crowned in a social and news media coronation, the woman known simply by the brand name, Oprah, preached a message last week to millions of empowerment, in the context of the victims of Hollywood sexual misconduct and told America that, “… What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”
A classic post-modern and relativistic thought if there ever was one- ‘let your truth be your truth and my truth be mine’, the only truth that sets us free be damned.
If Oprah Winfrey runs for president in 2020 — as some are clamoring for her to do, she would be the latest non-politically experienced celebrity to run for office, perhaps a dangerous precedent set by the ‘Donald’ himself.
Somewhat self-consciously, both Trump and Oprah share a religious message. It’s been said that both Winfrey and Trump preach a prosperity type gospel of wealth, health, and self-determination, seeming to say that God wants people to be wealthy and healthy and that followers are responsible for their own destiny here on Earth if they would just dream it.
Winfrey according to observers, sees herself as both a Christian and a critic of Christianity. She was raised in the Baptist church, describes herself as a consistent reader of the Bible, and through her television show, basically built the church that she wanted.
“She has found deep and sustaining power in the New Testament, in the Bible, and in the theological interpretation that the good that you receive is a representation of the good you bring into the world,” a Yale University religion professor said of Winfrey.
May we have to thank or blame President Trump, influenced by long-time “pastor” and televangelist Paula White among other TBN favorites, as being the catalyst for a future ‘President Oprah’ campaign? Will it be time should the Lord tarry in his return, that we move from a celebrity president like a Rockefeller claiming Christ, to one who is a black and female Joel Osteen without Christ?
This could actually happen. God help us.