January 6 and a Tale of Two Losers
Updated: Jan 17
One of them is Donald Trump. I’m not saying he’s a loser because he lost. People lose elections all the time. More people lose elections than win elections. It sucks when you lose, but it happens. It doesn’t mean your opponent was the best person for the job. Just because Biden won the last presidential election doesn’t mean he was the best candidate. But Biden won, and Trump lost. Those are the facts. Facts supported by all 29 Republican secretaries of state who said there were no voting irregularities; facts supported by the courts; facts supported by Trump’s own FBI director and attorney general, and by both of the federal government election councils:
“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history . . . . There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised . . . While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections . . . we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too.” – Joint Statement by CISA, the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council (GCC), and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Council (SCC), November 12, 2020.
If these were normal times, such overwhelming evidence would settle any uncertainties about the integrity of the last presidential election. But these are not normal times, and they are not normal times because of Donald Trump. Donald Trump isn’t a loser because he lost. He’s not even a loser because he’s a sore loser. He’s a loser because he won’t, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, admit that he lost – and is willing to wreak havoc, divide our country, and torpedo our democracy rather than face the truth of what actually happened. He’s a loser because a year ago, on January 6, he refused pleas from his staff, Republican members of Congress, and his own family to tell his supporters who were attacking the Capitol building to stand down.
And none of this should surprise us. What’s surprising is the number of people, including Christians, in this country who believe Trump when he says he actually won – according to recent polls, a third of all voters and two thirds of Republicans.
But Donald Trump, can’t lose, you see.
“The first thing he calls someone who has wronged him is a loser,” said Jack O’Donnell, who ran an Atlantic City casino for Mr. Trump in the 1980s. “That’s his main attack word. The worst thing in his world would be to be a loser. To avoid being called a loser, he will do or say anything.”
What happened after the 2020 presidential election was déjà vu for what happened after the first Republican primary. When Ted Cruz won, his response was: “Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified.”
Remember what he said about Republican Senator and former POW John McCain? Trump told a conservative forum in Iowa in 2015 that his view of McCain changed when McCain lost the 2008 presidential election to Obama. “He lost, so I never liked him as much after that, ’cause I don’t like losers,” he said. Trump went on to dismiss McCain’s war service: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
So it was impossible for Trump to admit that he lost the 2020 presidential election. He had said in advance that he couldn’t lose, and that if he did lose, the election had to have been rigged. If these were normal times, people would have seen through Trump’s lack of logic. No one can know in advance, especially in a close race, whether or not they're going to win; or that if they lost, there had to have been foul play.
So why am I saying all this today? Because it’s January 6. January 6, 2021 is the day supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol Building – because he couldn’t admit that he lost the election, because he equated losing with being a loser, and for him being a loser was an existential impossibility.
January 6 is also Epiphany in the Christian calendar. It’s significance is the revelation of Christ to the nations. The word epiphany means revelation or manifestation. We often use the word more generally to refer to a discovery or realization. January 6, 2021 should have been an epiphany for this country of Donald Trump’s true colors. He waited three hours to tell the insurrectionists they needed to stop. That’s not debatable. That’s all we need to know about this man. In normal times he would have been impeached and found guilty, but these are not normal times. In normal times he would’ve lost all credibility among his Republican supporters, especially among Christians. Instead, little has tarnished his cult status within the party or among many evangelicals.
January 6. A tale of two epiphanies and two messiahs. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said that he had never done anything that required asking for forgiveness. He also said that if he’d been president, this country wouldn’t have its current problems. He made countless claims to be the greatest, the smartest, the healthiest, and the best. During that same campaign he said: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?” while mimicking firing a gun with his fingers. “It’s, like, incredible.”
Yes, incredible. And prophetic.
After Trump won the 2016 presidential election, an autistic young man in my congregation, a conservative Republican, walked up to me after a morning worship service and asked if Trump was the Antichrist. I told him I didn’t think so, but that he probably was an antichrist. I said the New Testament talks about there being many antichrists, and I could see Trump being one of them.
Jesus referred to himself as the good shepherd. The leaders of nations and empires in the ancient world were often referred to as shepherds. Jesus compared bad shepherds and leaders with thieves who come to “steal, kill and destroy.” What makes Jesus the good shepherd is that he laid down his life for the sheep.
Donald Trump is a thief. He's stolen from countless small business owners who didn’t get paid for work on his casinos but couldn’t afford to defend their claims in court. Instead of the last presidential election being stolen, all evidence points to Trump being the one attempting to steal a different outcome.
Donald Trump is, in Jesus’ words, someone who kills. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus compared people who hold a grudge and engage in name-calling to murderers. Trump is notorious for creating derogatory nicknames for his opponents. When asked what his favorite Bible verse was Trump said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
And he destroys. He destroys the lives and careers of any who oppose him or stand in his way. Given what happened last January 6 and his continuing popularity, I believe Trump is the most significant threat to our democracy... and maybe to the Christian church.
Finally, Trump is a liar. Lying is the devil’s MO. Trump doesn’t just lie but “practices falsehood,” to borrow a phrase from today’s epistle reading. Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Trump’s 1987 breakthrough memoir, The Art of the Deal, was appalled when it looked like Trump might win the 2016 election. He felt sickened by his own complicity in contributing to Trump’s notoriety: “I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “Lying is second nature to him.” And “More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”
And then there is the real Messiah, Jesus Christ, who stands in bold relief to the likes of Donald Trump and other demagogues. Unlike Trump, the real Messiah wasn’t afraid to identify with losers – the poor, the abused, prisoners, even sinners like Trump. Even in death he identified with the scum of the earth – the status of anyone who was crucified. This is the description of Jesus the apostle Paul proclaimed to the nations:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
I’m writing this in part because of two recent deaths. Phil Saviano, a clergy sexual abuse survivor and whistleblower who played a pivotal role in exposing decades of predatory assaults by Roman Catholic priests in the United States, died after a battle with gallbladder cancer. “My gift to the world was not being afraid to speak out,” Saviano said in an interview earlier this year. I believe Trump has exploited and abused all of us. Silence enables the abuser.
More well-known is South African’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a man whose gentle voice helped “slay apartheid.” He died on December 26 at the age of 90. This is one of his better known quotes: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” I entirely sympathize with pastors who find it difficult to navigate political minefields that can destroy careers and congregations. The gift of being able to “muse in the margins” is the relative freedom I have to be controversial. I may lose readers and potential future jobs, but my retirement check isn’t at risk.
Let me end with one more controversial statement – Donald Trump is made in God’s image and is loved by God. May that truth give me the courage not only to pray against him but for him, maybe with Jesus’ prayer from the cross, “Father forgive him , for he doesn’t know what he’s doing.” Like many of us, Donald is trapped by his own fears, fears I can identify with – the fear of being a loser, and of being an ordinary human being.
Lord, have mercy. Have mercy upon us all.