Hamilton, Trump, and Whitewashing

Like much of America’s history, in fiction and non-fiction, Donald Trump’s vision for America is whitewashed, that is, it seems to him and his followers that the white race is the only race that has mattered in the past and the only race that deserves to matter in the future.

A Trumpian vision for America is not only untrue to our past and a danger to our future in political terms, it is a faith crisis as well.

Of Mexican immigrants, Trump has actually said, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

For me, as a seminary student and person of faith, remarks like these must be interpreted in the light of the resources of Christian faith and especially from my theological commitments to the love of God and neighbor.

The Gospels consistently portray a Jesus of Nazareth whose theology exists for the “other.” Jesus of Nazareth’s vision for human community was the exact opposite of whitewashing.

Jesus literally reached out and touched the untouchables: the lepers (Matt 8:1-4), hemorrhaging women (Mark 5:25-34), and demon possessed (Matt 15:21-28).

Jesus ate with sinners (Mark 2:13-17).

Jesus commanded, “… invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” to dinner (Luke 14:13).

Jesus gave us the greatest commandments: love God and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 23:37-40).

Jesus called us to build community that extends beyond the borders of our culture, ethnicity, race, and ability.

Popular culture can also be useful in providing a critique of whitewashing. For example, the wildly popular musical Hamilton takes the whitewashed history of this nation’s founding and turns it upside down with a diverse cast representing the melting pot of America.

Alexander Hamilton was a brash, principled man desperate to “rise up” from poverty and make a difference. Aaron Burr, the opportunist, was just as ambitious as Hamilton, but lacked principles.

Trump is every bit as opportunistic as Burr and brash as Hamilton, yet lacks their earnestness. He has been heralded by some faith leaders as the Christian choice, but Trump has never been known for his faith.

My faith and my theology lead me to recognize Trump’s ideas for what they are. What they are is undeniably contrary to the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

Trump does not consider “the other,” is not compassionate, and is uninterested in social justice. Of the millions fleeing war-torn Syria, Trump would limit entrance to, “those who share our values and respect our people.” This is not just contrary to our Constitution; it is contrary to everything Jesus of Nazareth taught.

To me, as a follower of Jesus Christ, it seems inconceivable that a person like this has support. Polls indicate the race is tightening: a scary thought for peace-loving, compassionate people of faith who believe in respecting the dignity of every human being.

I urge other Christians to examine this race in light of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and vote not for themselves, but for God and neighbor.

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12 thoughts on “Hamilton, Trump, and Whitewashing

  1. Thank you for addressing Trump’s character flaws and not simply shouting about him. This is a fine, well-reasoned and theologically grounded critique. And yes, it is inconceivable that he could have gotten this far, calling to the xenophobe in all of us I suppose. However, God did give us frontal lobes….Sometimes I want to shout, “wake up, America, you’re scaring me here!” I’m grateful to you for couching it in terms of ‘whitewashing’ as well. I must definitely see “Hamilton.” Again, thank you for your timely, piercing critique.

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    1. Kathy, thanks for the comment. I haven’t actually seen Hamilton, sadly, BUT, I can’t get enough of everything Hamilton that doesn’t require me to be in NYC. Thankfully, I have tickets for the summer next year. I hope you will get a chance to listen to the soundtrack at some point. It’s quite brilliant.

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  2. Yes, Trump represents the arrogance of white privilege. It is appalling to consider that he has a chance at leading this country. Unlike Jesus, he does not have the ability to acknowledge the beauty that is in our diverse population and work to find strategies at bringing us together than apart. If we were to make America great, we would have to include all Americans!

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  3. Jessica,
    Thank you for your thoughtful analysis of what a true Christian understanding of Donald Trump and his behavior and policies must be. Peace-loving, compassionate people of faith can only come to the conclusion that Mr. Trump and what he stands for cannot be reconciled with the teachings of Jesus. To follow Jesus must mean to stand against Donald Trump, and to claim otherwise contradicts everything Jesus stood for. The Quiz at TrumpOrJesus.com is a quick and brilliant look at just how far apart they are. It is impossible to side with both, and anyone who claims to must work very hard to pretend one or the other isn’t what he is.

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  4. Excellent job Jessica. I too wonder how people of faith can support someone such as Trump who repeatedly goes out of his way to act in ways that are opposite of Jesus. Instead of pulling the marginalized closer and offering them refuge, he makes it known that they will not be welcome in his kingdom. Your work is well grounded in faith and I appreciate the comparisons between Trump and Hamilton. Trump lacks the sincerity of these early leaders and is truly driven purely on his own ego. Unlike Hamilton and Burr, Trump has already proven his unwillingness to die for the cause….because his foot hurt.

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    1. “Because his foot hurt.” Poor guy. I’ll admit that my first draft of this was a bit heavier on the frustration and some anger. I’m grateful to have editors willing to talk me down from that! I can’t understand how anyone taking seriously the call to follow Jesus could possibly take away from it that there’s any other Christian course to take than “pulling the marginalized closer.” Thanks for the comment!

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  5. Yes I like your post. And you are correct because it is a little scary that over 12 million other Americans actually voted for Trump’s candidacy because they share his same world views. When you realize that there are that many Americans who think like Trump, that’s when we as a country can clearly see that we have a lot of work to do toward healing and racial reconciliation. Thanks for the insightful post.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. I’ve been wondering about whether Trump is the problem or is it the people voting for him? I appreciate you taking the time to read.

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