Religion, Faith and Sprituality

Friday, October 21, 2016

Recent Essays on Politics and Religion

Recent Essays on Politics and Religion

"Presidential Campaign 2016: Clinton, Trump, "Catholic Spring," NYC's Al Smith Dinner & the Lady Macbeth Factor " 10/19/16

"Cardinal Dolan's Year of Mercy Plan to Address Clergy Sex Abuse Crimes in NY Archdiocese" 10/6/16

"How Great Thou Already Art: Campaigning Against Trump in Pennsylvania" 10/4/16

"Jesus Is A Loser: the Gospel Truth About Trump and the Catholic Vote" 9/25/16

All essays on Indie Theology are by Michele Madigan Somerville, except where noted. Somerville is a poet, fiction writer, essayist, teacher, practicing Roman Catholic and mother of three. She lives in NYC.

Follow her on twitter @nypoet and @indietheology

Monday, September 26, 2016

Jesus is a Loser: The Gospel Truth About Trump and the Catholic Vote

I was wearing my "Gore for President" button the year I began to attend Roman Catholic mass regularly in 2000. One morning that fall I was accosted by a weekday morning regular. He was friendly about it, but wanted to know how I could be on the Communion line every morning while planning to vote a "pro abortion" (his words, not mine) ticket. No one at church has questioned me thus, since that day, but during every presidential election since, the United States Bishops have aimed to influence how Catholics vote by means of carefully worded public statements. That came to a halt with the Trump candidacy. So why aren't the U.S. Bishops urging Catholics to vote for the "pro-life" candidate? 
I recently asked a few priests whether there has been any pressure from the top to endorse the GOP candidate. One reported a little boostering in local races, but otherwise, it would seem that the United States Bishops are not interested in seeing their flock elect Trump. There are a few reasons for this. Pope Francis condemned the plan to "build a wall" in February 2016 and Trump called the pontiff "disgraceful." Not a smart move on Trump's part, perhaps. On the other hand many conservative Catholics don't like Francis I and have been calling the pontiff names on blogs since the day he was elevated. Trump's quarrel with the pope is probably just part of the explanation. 
Although the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy is (in my opinion) institutionally sexist and misogynistic, the church as a whole is not. Catholicism is an Abrahamic faith that has, since its start, recognized he intellectual and theological contributions of women. While it is true that the Vatican continues to strain to preserve an all-male priesthood, Roman Catholics of most stripes have been comfortable with many dramatic, post Vatican II changes which endow women religious, catechists, scholars, theologians and ministers with increased political and pastoral power within the church. In our theology we have, in a sense, enshrined motherhood. Five of our church doctors are women. Even in conservative parishes today, one sees women doing everything but celebrating mass. 
Despite our many differences, we Roman Catholics tend, on the whole, to harbor a high regard for the strength of women, the intellectual competence of women, and the spiritual gifts of women. Our understanding of the passion of Jesus requires that we notice that women remained at the foot of the cross when the apostles ran away in fear. A woman greeted the risen Christ. Mary, we are taught, is the lone human being to be born without sin. Catholics many be divided on abortion, artificial contraception, economics, gender and sexual identity issues, and ordination of women, but there's a pocket of reverence for what Rev. Daniel Berrigan called the "feminine face of God" which most Roman Catholics embrace at least somewhat in some form. It's not enlightened feminism, and it's hard to characterize. Perhaps it's where the code of chivalry got its start. Whatever that pocket of reverence is, it is sufficiently compelling and even loving to render a man who calls women "pigs" and "cows" looking too indecent to occupy the Oval Office. 
Why aren't the bishops subtly urging Roman Catholics to get out and vote for the man who disavows Roe v. Wade? Because the bishops know Trump doesn't care about Roe v. Wade. They know he's posturing. Trump has changed his position once, and will change it back if elected. He's not pro-life; he's pro-Trump.
Trump's disgust for women appears to encompass a deep distaste for motherhood itself, and that pertains. A candidate who appears to view maternity itself as disgusting and wives disposable can hardly be trusted to bear the "pro-life" banner. Even conservative, sexist Roman Catholics who care little for the achievements of women in general tend to hold the work of mothers in high regard. It's built into our formation. Trump has bragged about not changing diapers. He has allowed his children to grow up with a total of three mothers. One of his children barely knows him. It appears that his children have had to win his approval by excelling at the usury and avarice in which Trump excels. For Trump, a mother is a 'bleeding from her wherever' means to an end, a vessel through which heirs come, a necessary evil. 
I happen to be a believer who would welcome more separation between church and state. I liked Bernie Sanders' religious views best. I would be happy to have an atheist president. But many of my fellow Roman Catholics would not. That Trump has no religion is a problem for some. More disturbing to many religious folk however, than the eschewing of practice and faith, is the "bad faith" appropriation of religion.
Trump's favorite books are The Holy Bible, which he appears not to have read; and the Art of the Deal, an autobiography he appears not to have written. He does not read for pleasure. He is no seeker. He seizes the fact of his daughter's conversion to Judaism as an outward sign that he is not anti-Semitic. (I believe he is anti-Semitic.) He has darkened the door of black churches in an attempt to get black people to vote for him. He pretends to have some kind of shifting Protestant affiliation himself. People of most faiths tend to agree that God is for everyone, but most agree that using God for self-aggrandizement is disrespectful. 
The 1965 papal encyclical Nostra Aetate (In Our Time) exhorted Catholics to seek and recognize the light of divinity in other faiths. (Nostra Aetate imperfect document that required and has benefitted from tweaking since the time of its publication.) Nostra Aetate makes especially clear the obligation of Catholics to recognize the divine spark in Islam. While I certainly see too many Roman Catholics jumping on the anti-Muslim bandwagon, I continue to believe that most Roman Catholics believe that prejudice is sinful and that derision of the Muslim faith goes against God. Educated Catholics who embrace the essence of Nostra Aetate have little choice but to regard the Islamic faith with respect. I believe most Roman Catholics view the kind of blanket derision of Islam Trump promulgates as a sin. 
And there is Trump's view of immigrants and the poor. Notwithstanding the Roman Catholic hierarchy's failure to teach this by example, Catholics in the pews tend to agree that respecting the poor is at the heart Roman Catholic tradition. The Gospels tell us that Jesus was at various points, poor, homeless, a refugee, a prisoner, a torture victim and ultimately a victim of capital punishment. The only time we see Jesus throw a Trump-esque tantrum, it is in response to the kind of cheating, vulgarity and profaning of the temple Donald Trump most favors.
The bishops and progressive Roman Catholics have long agreed on the importance of welcoming immigrants into our nation. Welcoming immigrants is a bit of a theological no-brainer for any Catholic guided by the Gospels. I believe that it may be his contempt for the stranger, the refugee, the immigrant, that will cost Trump the Roman Catholic vote. According to Roman Catholic teaching, the poor are beloved by God. According to Trump, the poor are "losers." Were Trump to be fully candid about his religious feelings, he might characterize Jesus himself, the Jesus of the Beatitudes, as a "loser." 
That Catholics in the pews are not being urged to vote for the (so-called) "pro-life," Republican candidate means something. It's a blaring reticence. I hope every Roman Catholic is listening. To the gospel truth about Trump.
The Gospel reading for September 11th of this year concerned lost sheep, a lost son, lost coins, and the problem of breaking bread with tax collectors. On September 11th, every Catholic in the nation who made it to mass that day heard the same reading about the woman who searches everywhere in her home for one lost coin, the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep in his care to search for the lost one, the lousy son who had abandoned his father but later returned to feast at the head of the family's table. We heard Jesus explain his willingness to dine with a tax collector. The priest celebrating the mass I attended on September 11th brought his homily to a close with these words: "Everyone is welcome at God's table. We build a bridge to that table not a wall. A bridge, not a wall."


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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Child Victims Act, L'affaire Markey-DiMarzio: Opportunity For the Church to Do Better

 “'Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Mark 10:14

When the scope of the Vatican child sexual abuse scandal came to light, some Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States got sued. Some went bankrupt. Others managed to remain flush. Bishops disbursed hush and “go away” money. Payouts and payoffs ensued. Money changed hands in several directions .On June 7th the New York Daily News reported that Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Queens) had accused Brooklyn’s top Catholic bishop, Nicholas DiMarzio, of trying to buy her silencewith a $5000 bribe. DiMarzio denies it. No one paying attention to the current presidential race can ignore how flimsy, the perforated line between “campaign contribution” and “bribe” can sometimes be. A quid pro quo is rarely ever explicit. The $5000 figure sounds quite low. DiMarzio claims that a nun who is no longer employed by the Diocese of Brooklyn has provided the “diocesan attorney with a statement” supporting his recollections of the meetings between DiMarzio and Markey. The statute of limitations for reporting the bribe is up, so the nun will never testify. Maybe Markey is remembering wrong. Maybe the bishop is. No one but Markey and DiMarzio know what really happened in the meeting which the $5000 bribe was allegedly offered. We are left with a classic ‘he said/she said’ situation.

DiMarzio is a priest. His chief obligation, such, is to emulate Christ. He has now publicly defamed Markey, a Catholic who resides in his diocese. Under any conditions---even if Markey were lying---DiMarzio's conduct would be improper. (I think she's telling the truth.) Even if Marge Markey were slandering the bishop---DiMarzio’s moral obligation as a Roman Catholic priest and as the bishop of Markey’s diocese, be like Jesus. DiMarzio is supposed to be a shepherd. Marge Markey is one of his flock. A good shepherd does not slay his sheep to save his ass. 

The bishop owes Assemblywoman Marge Markey an apology. Had DiMarzio behaved like a good priest and not a skilled pol in this, had he refrained from comment, the story of the bribe would have gone away. $5000 is small potatoes for a man closing in on meeting a an $80 million capital campaign goalInstead, the bishop had his spokesperson make the following statement: “This is a very serious allegation against a clergyman with an impeccable reputation.” Bad move, Bishop. 

Yes and no. Yes, the allegation is serious. No, Nicholas DiMarzio does not have an impeccable reputation. Not by a longshot. 

Many Brooklyn Catholics wrote DiMarzio off as spiritual leader the day he compared marrying one’s same sex beloved to marrying one’s dog on the radio. The bishop has risked the diocese’s tax-exempt status by using his office to electioneer, often at the behest of his friend and favorite pol the now disgraced Vito Lopez. DiMarzio has lenting his voice to pre-election robocalling. In 2009, at one Brooklyn church, DiMarzio sent his dispatched his assistant, Monsignor Kieran Harrington, to lead New York City Council candidate Steve Levin down the aisle at a 12:00 mass. After mass, the monsignor helped himself to the pulpit, from whence he stumped for Levin, and drafted a few of the faithful to leaflet outside the church as mass let out. 

Although DiMarzio denies the exchange ever happened, some 20 witnesses were in the room to hear DiMarzio threaten to shutter parishes in districts whose political leaders refused to support his opposition to the Child Victims Act. DiMarzio appears to have made good on some of these threats. Some of the parishes he threatened to shutter---all poor, and located within a few miles of the cathedral, two under the pastoral care of activist priests---closed shortly after the threats were made. These closings occurred while DiMarzio was pumping more than a few million into the restoration of St. Joseph’s Church/“Co-cathedral” located about a mile away from DiMarzio's other cathedral, St. James. (DiMarzio believed the diocese needed a second cathedral; the cathedral he already had wasn’t large enough---about twice a year---for ordinations and Chrism masses.) Once St. James was open for business, the bishop installed his assistant, Monsignor Harrington as its pastor. DiMarzio’s muses in making the second “co-cathedral” dream a reality appear to have been the some of the same local politicians who championed the burgeoning assortment of luxury high-rises currently going up near Brooklyn’s Barclay Center Arena thanks to the kind of greed Francis I much laments and Eminent Doman. DiMarzio's "Generations of Faith" diocese-wide fund-raising campaign will probably meet their $80 million goal. $10 million has been, ironically enough, earmarked for "youth evangelization."   

There's no way to know, but I suspect that he film Spotlight catalyzed a fresh wave of Captain Queegish fear among the U.S. Bishops. Furthermore, in the last year, more and more accounts of a problem with pedophile priests in India and the developing world are dribbling forth. It won't be long before some reporter breaks the story of Vatican Sexual Abuse crisis in the developing world. The discoveries will not be pretty. 

I worship in DiMarzio’s diocese. About ten years ago, moved in part by the experience of a friend, I read the John Jay report on sexual abuse of minors by clergy, and began to research and write about the Child Victims Act and the United States Bishops’ response to it. I felt a moral obligation to probe. Experts tend to agree that children who are sexually abused by trusted adults (clergy, teachers, coaches) are more likely to struggle, in adulthood, with depression, intimacy problems and increased risk of addiction and suicide. They are more likely, also, to lose the very faith that supports those who have a religious practice, in times of tribulation. In New York City, the church hierarchy seems to oppose the Child Victims Act for one reason: fear of bankruptcy.

I believe DiMarzio’s opposition to the Child Victims Act in New York City is immoral, unethical and inconsistent with the teaching and character of Jesus of Nazareth. L'affaire Markey-DiMarzio, disheartening as it is, might be a blessing in disguise. It presents Bishop DiMarzio and his fellow bishops the opportunity to rethink their determination to put money before justice. The bill goes to the assembly during the week of June 13th.  Every bishop in charge of a diocese in the U.S.has an obligation to support a properly articulated Child Victims Act. Every bishop in charge of a diocese has an ethical and moral obligation to strain, in the name of Jesus, to provide every victim/survivor of the sexual abuse at the hands of a priest with full support in obtaining just outcomes in court. Every diocese in the nation must do all they can to help victims to become survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of predator priests---and the several bishops who served as accessories to these crimes. 

It is only through helping a just Child Victims Act become law that the U,S. Bishops will be absolved of the systematic sexual abuse of innocent children. It is only by helping victims to become survivors that church leaders might emerge from the pall of shame in this. Fighting legislation that would better enable victims to obtain justice, and serve as a deterrent to future sex offenders of children, is deeply sinful. Anything short of strenuously advocating for a Child Victims Act falls short. A bishop who withholds his full support for a just and fair Child Victims Act spits in the face of the man who said "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”

Friday, May 6, 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Little Lord Trump (Le Roi) and His MVP, Jesus

Jerry Fallwell, Jr. endorsed Donald Trump today. Anyone who watched the video footage of  Trump's speech at Liberty University last week saw this coming. What was especially harrowing about the Liberty speech was how it put Trump’s lack of spiritual development on full display. Liberty is a Christian University. Students were required to attend. Whatever one thinks of these students, one must concede that they take the Christian Bible seriously. News outlets had a great time with Trump's “Corinthians 2” moment, because Trump’s blunder, his manner of citing the pinch of biblical text he felt he needed to incorporate into his Martin Luther King Day address, revealed that Trump is not a churchgoer. Trump has called himself “an Evangelical,” identifies as Presbyterian, and has lied about being a regular worshipper at New York’s Marble Collegiate. He claims he has received the “cracker” (as he calls it) and the “wine” as part and parcel of his Presbyterian worship. For those who hold Holy Communion sacred, this characterization of Christ’s feast at the altar is (at least) some kind of low-grade desecration. 

Poking fun at one’s own religion is, in the view of most people, less disrespectful than lampooning one's neighbor’s religion. Yet Trump, who does not really have a religion, appeared before a large group of tuition-paying students who care enough about Jesus to matriculate at a Christian university and cracked wise, characterizing a verse of the Second Book of Corinthians as "the whole ball game."

The way Trump speaks tells us so much about him. He consistently exhibits an inability be precise, a penchant for reductive fallacy and a sophomoric approach to building a logical argument. He appears not to read for pleasure or edification, which, I suppose matters only to those of us who like the idea of a president who reads. Trump’s favorite book is one he appears not to have much read and his second favorite is one he claims to have written.  

Trump has no grasp of international relations. He has floated the idea that his attendance at an expensive Northeastern military school is a near substitute for military service. His over-reliance on puerile superlatives not only reveals him to be a weak statesman but also forces his audiences to wonder why a wealthy white man who managed to pick up a degree from an Ivy league school orates as if he were running for the captain of the prep school’s JV football team? 

I wouldn't call Trump stupid. He is an astute businessman and seems to be a facile grifter (if his Trump University scam is any indication)  and he has managed to go far in a presidential campaign without the advantage of rhetorical elan. The linguistic flair we are accustomed to seeing in “snake oil” peddlers is missing entirely. Does Trump believe his fan base too slow-witted to understand anything beyond “make this country great?” If “yes,” is Trump correct in that assessment? If “no,” why does he speak to his supporters as if they are children?

I think the problem is Trump his spirit and psyche, not his English language aptitude. Here's an illustration. When I taught Middle School and High School English I used to use a fast trick to ascertain where a student's education had stopped. I'd give the English student in question a math problem. I had taught 6th grade math. I knew there was a good chance a 10th grader who couldn't do a 5th grade math had stopped learning before or shortly after 5th grade. Trump is probably good at math. But his use of language strikes me as indicative of some kind of delayed development. 
Often linguistic development and psychological development are closely linked. My theory is that Trump stopped growing at some point. He stopped developing at an age at which greed, desire to have sex with hot girls, lack of empathy and lack of spiritual depth are perfectly normal and in high drive. What 13 year-old heterosexual boy wouldn’t look at very woman in his presence with an overarching concern for her degree of pulchritude? Who but a 13 year old boy would retaliate by calling her unattractive? What 13 year-old boy doesn’t want to win every contest, beat the best, dominate the game? 

I would be happy to have an atheist president. Indeed, I often think an atheist president, a leader untethered from the tyranny of organized religion would be very good for our nation. On the other hand, I am a Christian, and I find the promiscuous tossing about of God’s name for no purpose beyond getting votes repugnant. Donald Trump is ramping up his Christian status while dismissing most of what Jesus taught. “Two Corinthians, 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame” is a not even funny mockery made for political gain. Ironically, there's truth n that artless quip. To Trump the presidential race itself, as a game, and Jesus as a Most Valuable player.

Donald Trump is pimping out Jesus for props. Well-conceived blasphemy can be positive and I believe there's a place for even very irreverent jocularity in faith, belief and even ritual, but when I hear Trump, a man who so flagrantly embodies all that the Jesus of the New Testament is not, call Communion a "cracker," not I am offended. Not because I am sensitive to Holy Communion jokes--We make those at home-- but because it is clear that Trump has little use for Christianity beyond its potential to help him rack up votes. 

Back when I was in Catechism class, we called breaking the third commandment “using the Lord’s name in vain.” Trump, the rich man who can pass into Heaven as easily as a camel can pass through the eye of a needle, takes the name of Christ in vain when he plays at being a man of faith in exchange for votes. Trump has done the opposite of selling all he owns to follow Jesus. Trump has contempt for refugees. Trump is a warmonger and a scam artist. His acolytes may think he is the “Way” but even they know he is neither the “Truth” nor the “Light.” I don’t know whether Trump is a Christian--no one can know such a thing about another--but I can see that to Trump, that Jesus is his tool.

Catholic theology places much importance on the connection between words and creation, and holds as one of its truths that incarnation a is a culmination in which the word is made flesh. “In the beginning was the word and the word was made flesh.” (John, 1:1) As a Christian with a religious practice, I find the Donald's bible trumping appalling. As a writer, poet and educator who has taught students ages 5 through 83 to write, argue, and speak persuasively, I note that Trump’s puerile manner of speaking should alarm us. I fear Trump's struggle with rhetoric suggests the possibility of profound arrested development or something worse. 

Trump orates like a 12 year-old. He views women as a 12 year-old might---or perhaps as a slowly maturing Frat boy might.  His conception of God is like that a 12 year-old would be expected to have. He fears strangers ('the other') as a 12 year-old who hasn’t been taught to value differences does. Trump approaches religious faith like a 12 year-old forced to go to Hebrew school or Catechism class in order to get the big party and prizes that come with a Bar Mitzvah or First Holy Communion. 

I had the honor of sponsoring two of my nieces in Roman Catholic Confirmation not long ago. Each girl was about 14 years old at the time,  highly intelligent, uncommonly imaginative, healthfully oppositional in their challenging dogma and doctrine. Their religious director was a stickler for keeping some meaning in the preparation, so I was required to engage in a protracted dialogue with both girls leading up to the sacrament itself. These discussions of faith Baptismal vows, which they endured and in which I savored,  constituted some of the most affirming moments of my life. The developmental role of intelligent, independent adolescents is to push back against the conditioning of religious education, to be annoyed with God, to mistrust the whole thing, to recognize that religious conditioning has led them to the point of the Bat Mitzvah, or confirmation. There is fire and holiness in that struggle. 

I think Trump is like the 12 year-old who wants to sleep late on Sundays. He'll stay in Sunday School with Jesus because right now, Jesus is a winner and there are parties and big prizes at the end of the Liberty ball game.Trump's use of Christian text for use in the service of xenophobia, greed and bellicosity suggests that he is either spiritually tone deaf or has no clue at all about what Christians believe Jesus the rabbi of Nazareth is believed by so many to have said. There’s something sociopathic in this pandering.  

It is disturbing to see how disingenuous to see so many so-called "Christians" compromising their "Christian"values in order to follow the weirdly messianic Trump with his promises to make "America great again." Tea Party patriots who champion Trump now confirm what those of us on the left have always suspected. They don't care about Christ, or "pre-born" children, or keeping "Merry Christmas" in the retail lexicon. They care about keeping their money and guns, and the Good Lord Jesus was just a means to that end. 

And what does "make America great again" even mean? A grown man with some facility for language and even a scant grasp of American history would be telling us when it was that America was great. What is that New Jerusalem of the past Trump to which Trump in Pom-Pom girl booster mode alludes? Besides which, Donald Trump has racist contempt for much of the Americas. 

A grown man does not stand on stages and call military opponents “very bad people.” A grown man does not describe the mass murder and torture of Christians as "very bad things happening in Syria," especially while mangling texts from their sacred book as a means of getting votes. Often stunted psychological growth and arrested spiritual growth go hand in hand. I think we are seeing both in Donald Trump and we should be alarmed. If Donald Trump wins the GOP nomination, the GOP will be throwing down with a petulant and fickle child. 

I disagree with Cruz on almost every issue but I can almost imagine Ted Cruz functioning normally in a congregation, caring about the person beside him in the pew. In Trump’s case, I can not see this. I see him sizing up the guy next to him in the pew. If she is a woman, he is assessing her pulchritude and assigning her a number between 1 and 10. Donald Trump has no interest in the divine light in all  people. With the Donald, people are either "great," "losers," or "pigs."  

As a progressive Roman Catholic, I am surprised to find myself in relative solidarity, in this, with those ultra Orthodox Roman Catholics and Evangelical Christians who resist the Christian Right’s acceptance of Donald Trump. They are far less interested in whether “Christmas” returns to the Starbuck’s cup than they are in helping a thrice-married preppie grifter who, not so long ago supported “partial-birth abortion” hijack the  Republican party. They know a man who doesn't believe in anything but himself is likely to go rogue once in office. Most of them believe calling female colleagues “pigs,” cheating on one’s wife and children, bragging about one’s extramarital sexploits and divulging fantasies of dating one’s own daughter are not really compatible with Christian feeling and thinking. Many believe a tax-shelter “university” designed to relieve naïve working people of their 401Ks is both something upon which Jesus of Nazareth would frown. Most think the filthy rich should belong/tithe to a church make charitable donations. Many believe Trump should have used his clout to support efforts to obtain more help for 911 first responders.

It’s a stretch to call that the event at Liberty a worship service. On the other hand, it might be legitimate to call a multitude of Christians discussing Christianity an assembly of "two or more gathered in His name.” A crowd so record-breaking large had gathered at Liberty U to hear Trump speak on the day our nation chooses to honor Martin Luther King Jr., that Trump was moved to "dedicate the record" King (No further mention of King was made). But Trump wasn't there for justice. He was there, among those gathered in his name, to close a sale. To throw some money around, to hawk some doves. As I watched that video footage, I half expected to see some onward Christian soldier take a lash the Donald.

Like most progressives, I don’t much like Ted Cruz either. But I suspect Cruz may, in his personal and in his political life, try to allow his Christian feeling to inform his conduct. I have a hunch—there’s never any way to know—that Cruz is at least holds some conception of Christ in mind. 

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has put Jesus on his team because Jesus is a good guy. Jesus is a the best religious guy. Moses is good, but Moses can't won. Allah? Forget about it. Jesus is very big with the people. Jesus is the best for getting rid of the Muslims. Jesus is popular. Jesus is a real winner. Jesus is the Most valuable player. Trump’s fervent prayer is that Jesus might blow on his dice