Trump says Biden will ‘hurt God’. What can he mean by that?

I was particularly struck by Mr. Trump, who usually spends his Sunday mornings on the golf course, characterizing Mr. Biden, who carries his late son’s rosary beads with him, as being able to “hurt God.”

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks at Basler Flight Service in Oshkosh, Wisconsin (photo credit: TOM BRENNER/REUTERS)
US President Donald Trump delivers remarks at Basler Flight Service in Oshkosh, Wisconsin
(photo credit: TOM BRENNER/REUTERS)
During a campaign speech made from that tarmac at the Cleveland, Ohio airport last week, President Donald Trump said that his presumptive Democratic opponent in the November election, Joe Biden, will “Take away your guns, take away your Second Amendment. No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy.”
One could, of course, dismiss Mr. Trump’s syntactically incorrect statement as a stream-of-consciousness rant – a speech that was meant to convey passion rather than fully developed, concrete ideas. We are, however, talking about the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the United States, an individual who enjoys complete control over the US nuclear arsenal – so let’s give this campaign speech a little more thought.
I was particularly struck by Mr. Trump, who usually spends his Sunday mornings on the golf course, characterizing Mr. Biden, who carries his late son’s rosary beads with him, as being able to “hurt God.” A practicing Roman Catholic, Biden has a Jewish daughter-in-law and Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris has a Jewish husband, referred to her “faith blended family” in her acceptance speech, and says her stepchildren call her “Mamele.”

Hurt God
? Where did Trump get that idea? Perhaps he is citing Exodus 3:7?  Here we learn that God told Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, because I am aware of their sufferings.” Maybe – but there is little evidence that Mr. Trump was ever a dedicated student of the Bible, and, therefore, it is doubtful he was referencing this verse.
Can an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-just, all-merciful God be “hurt” by the behavior of a human? Surely many people of faith believe that God empathetically suffers with us. The idea, however, that divine injury will be induced by a political candidate’s campaign platform is ludicrous. Indeed, the entire theological concept of “injuring” God makes no sense. Can you injure Mount Sinai by punching it with your fist?
Stating that someone can “hurt God” was not the only ludicrous comment made by Mr. Trump in Cleveland. Since he must have missed civics class we will need to remind him that the president cannot delete parts of the US Constitution, such as the Second Amendment and its tenuous relationship to the right of an individual to possess a firearm. Also, it is a safe bet that as a physician I won’t be seeing any Bibles in the emergency room in the next few days because they were “hurt” by someone. And, of course, anyone who likes turning on the lights at home at night or use their microwave oven is not “against energy”.
Since it’s unlikely that Mr. Trump will be teaching systematic theology at a yeshiva anytime soon, why should we care about his remarks? First, we should care because dripping God on your political positions like syrup upon on your pancakes violates a part of the US Constitution. Mr. Trump never cites the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof... “
Second, we should care because politicians ought to be able to disagree without being disagreeable. Remember when someone tried to inject religious and race hatred during a previous presidential campaign? During an October 10, 2008, town hall event in Minnesota, a voter took hold of the microphone and told the audience and US Senator and Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain that she couldn’t trust former US president, then candidate Barack Obama because he was “an Arab.” This comment occurred at the height of a conspiracy movement claiming Obama, who was born in Hawaii, was not a natural-born American citizen and, therefore ineligible for the presidency, or that he was a Moslem. Mr. Trump was among the promoters of the first of these falsehoods.
McCain, a Navy veteran and longtime Vietnam War POW, reached back for the microphone.
“No ma’am, he’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”
The Associated Press called it a “reflection of [McCain’s] thinking that partisans should disagree without demonizing each other,” and The Washington Post named it one of McCain’s most courageous political moments. Perhaps it was that courage that makes Mr. Trump incapable of saying a kind word about the late Senator McCain? The appearance of Senator McCain’s widow at the Democratic National Convention made it clear that the feeling was mutual.
Rather than strive to demonize his opponent, I think it is more important that Mr. Trump remember that the Ten Commandments includes the admonition, “Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of the Lord Thy God in Vain.” In remembering that, he might be less likely to hurt our fundamental sense of decency.
The writer teaches medical history at New York Medical College, a part of the Touro College system, where he is also the chancellor and CEO.


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