God Bless America: Donald Trump, Presbyterian, Vs. Hillary Clinton, Methodist
|Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump addresses|
supporters on the campus of the University of Colorado on
July 29, 2016 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Photo by
Joe Mahoney/Getty Images on Forbes.com)
While almost ignored it is a telling and, perhaps, a defining aspect of the 2016 election. In his imperfect but authentic way, Donald Trump is reflecting certain of the Calvinist values underlying his beautiful Presbyterian faith. Hillary Clinton is reflecting, in her own imperfect but authentic way, the values of her beautiful Methodist faith.
Not being a Christian I have a slightly different perspective on the social and political forest, a view of the forest that is perhaps not so obscured by the trees. America has nominated two presidential candidates from a mainline, rather than nondenominational, Protestant faith tradition. One way to interpret this is that America is attempting to decide whether it wishes to define itself, culturally if not theologically, as more in line with Presbyterian or Methodist world views.
It is of some interest that America chose representatives of two of the smaller mainline Protestant denominations. Presbyterians claim 5,844,000 members, Methodists 5,473,000. By comparison, Baptists represent 38,662,000, Pentecostalists 13,673,000, and Lutherans 7,860,000 souls. That said per Wikipedia, “Theologically conservative critics accuse the mainline churches of ‘the substitution of leftist social action for Christian evangelizing, and the disappearance of biblical theology,’ and maintain that 'All the Mainline churches have become essentially the same church: their histories, their theologies, and even much of their practice lost to a uniform vision of social progress.’”
Tom Gjelten, of NPR, recently noted the sectarian factor in two important companion pieces: How Positive Thinking, Prosperity Gospel Define Donald Trump’s Faith Outlook and Clinton, Kaine Driven By Their Faith In The ‘Social Gospel’.
Gjelton gets Clinton somewhat better than Trump. On Clinton:
The Presbyterian world view is, in part, stated by René Fülöp-Miller in Leaders, Dreamers and Rebels:
Clinton, far more introspective than Trump, spoke of her Methodist world view in a rare (and striking) public confession of Faith recently reported by the New York Times:
While appreciating her laudable compassion my opposition to Hillary Clinton derives from my belief that a certain road to a certain notorious destination really is paved with good intentions. I ran her inspiring nomination acceptance speech through my Secret Political Decoder Ring.
It interpreted what Clinton said as “I shall tax the American lemon until the pips squeak.” This is a recipe for continued economic stagnation and protracted misery. I myself believe that leaning toward growth, at this moment, is the better path to national and world happiness.
But I’m just one vote.
In 2016 America has chosen two distinguished paladins from two competing, legitimate, admirable aspects of Protestant culture. Old school Presbyterianism emphasizes success. Methodism emphasizes social justice. Both perspectives are legitimate. Furthermore, they are complementary.
We soon shall find out which of the two perspectives the majority of American voters wish to emphasize in the next phase of our maturation as a nation. The American Dream requires both the achievement of success and social justice. Both Trump and Clinton bring important values to the fore of the national discourse.
Let's give thanks that they both stood for office.
Let's take pride that we nominated them.
God bless America.
Ralph Benko is senior advisor, economics, to American Principles in Action's Gold Standard 2012 Initiative, and a contributor to the ARRA News Service. Founder of The Prosperity Caucus, he was a member of the Jack Kemp supply-side team, served in an unrelated area as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House. The article which first appeared in Forbes.
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