Mendenhall: A Bible story perfect for a baby Christian


Doug Mendenhall, Columnist
7:18 p.m. CST November 11, 2016

OK, so the 70-year-old president-elect is a baby Christian.

James Dobson of Focus on the Family laid that label on Donald Trump a couple of months ago as evangelical Christians were being encouraged to throw their political support around him.

Let’s take the label at face value, which is probably the best way to proceed in these days of national uncertainty.

If Trump is a baby Christian, he has a lot of catching up to do, and that will take a lot of coaching.

Of course, Trump has lots on his plate now, what with having to box up stuff at Trump Tower and get ready to assume leadership of the world’s most powerful nation.

For that reason it’s probably best to respect his time and stick with simple Bible stories that have obvious applications. Tweetable lessons would be best, of course, but I’m not sure the principles of Christ can be condensed into 140 characters. We’ll see.

As an example, a good Bible story to explain to Trump would be the one about a rich, powerful figure who used his position to take as much money as possible from everyone within his grasp, no matter how much they howled.

This character’s name was Zacchaeus. He was a tax collector, which probably isn’t a positive attribute in Trump’s book, but he was also a rich entrepreneur, which probably is.

One day Zacchaeus met Jesus and became a baby Christian, too, more or less. Lots of people muttered about this, because they thought he was a crook and a sinner. Trump probably can identify with that, because lots of people are muttering across the United States these days.

Zacchaeus stopped the muttering when he stood before Jesus and announced: “Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

I am not joking here or being snarky.

The spirit of Zacchaeus is an absolute must if the president-elect wishes to accept the label of baby Christian and begin to grow beyond it.

Throughout his business career, many, many people have cried out that he has cheated them in ways large and small. The trail of accusations and lawsuits is still there, like toilet paper stuck to his shoe as he tries to stride forward into a role that demands courage and humility.

Trump cannot unite the nation without the spirit of Zacchaeus. Making speeches about how he wants to be the president of all Americans will not be enough. A bold plan for the first 100 days will not be enough. Even proving himself a competent leader will not be enough.

None of that will be enough to quiet the muttering.

Making amends in the spirit of Zacchaeus will.

It can be a powerful thing to watch a baby Christian grow up, whether at age 10 or age 70. That fresh, clean exuberance can lift your soul … or maybe even the soul of a nation.

By the way, without the quote marks, that statement by Zacchaeus is 141 characters long. It just misses being tweetable, but I think we can all agree that this situation calls for a little extra character.

Dr. Doug Mendenhall teaches journalism at Abilene Christian University. Email him at doug.mendenhall@acu.edu. 

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