The natural inclination when trying to sum up Trump as an economic participant in the Gospels is to think along the lines of how he fits into the stories.
Can you imagine him saying or doing the things mentioned, and perhaps, which participant does he most emulate. Different readers will see that very differently I suspect. Many of his followers will think he bears much in common with Jesus Himself. Others might choose Lazarus. Still others Pilate.
It seems though that Herod is perhaps the best choice along these lines, as well as “The Man” in the parables, meaning the boss or master. Most of the parables have such a figure and it’s easy to see Trump in those roles.
The economy we see in the Gospels, when broken down and analogized to today, seems familiar in many ways. Perhaps that is why the narrative, the stories, the people, the situations, the images seem relevant through the ages.
It’s easier in some ways to notice the things that aren’t there. But what we see is that much of what we take for granted was there, albeit in more simple states: Agriculture? Check. Housing? Check. Lawyers? Of course. We’ll get to a more robust discussion of Trump and Experts in the Law later.
What’s not in the Gospels? Well, take a look around and you’ll see that anything electronic or particularly mechanical is missing. Clocks, TVs, computers, phones, refrigerators, dishwashers, electric lights, plastics, synthetic fabrics, credit cards, toasters, microwaves, A/C, etc. Certainly, no Twitter accounts.
However, lamps, musical instruments, tables, chairs, curtains, garments, jars, spices, servants, linens, coins, plenty of bread, wine, etc. are mentioned. A pretty good starting point for the White House’s contents, and, presumably, Mar-a-Lago.
Go outside and you’ll be missing cars, planes, superhighways, skyscrapers, automated factories, modern hospitals, construction equipment, and a million other things.
What you would see if you had wandered around with Jesus would be a world with lots of housing, roads, boats, big buildings, crop filled fields, markets, vineyards, etc.
In the Gospels Jesus does not appear to have earned any kind of wage, so it would be hard to call him a worker. Real estate moguls and reality TY stars don’t get worker wages so to speak. Trump’s cash flow comes from his properties whether it be rent, property sales, debt financings, licensing fees, etc. But not wages exactly. Like Jesus he could perhaps be best described as a manager. To take it to an extreme, one could say Jesus managed a non-profit organization. Obviously, a stretch and nothing like Trump’s career. How about activist? Clergy? Given Jesus’ apparent disdain for the clergy of his day it’s not clear he would have approved. Much different is Trump in this respect who counts on Evangelical clergy and church members as a key column of support.
Unlike Trump Jesus and his disciples appear to have lived simply. One could go so far to say, from what is in the Gospels, that Jesus would have resembled a homeless person of today. From what we can read He lived on a diet of bread, fish, water and wine, with an occasional fig. Again, we likely don’t imagine Trump comfortably in these roles.
Like Jesus though, Trump was certainly not one to avoid a feast. As pigs and other livestock are mentioned we can extrapolate that there was meat in Jesus’ diet so, again, it’s not hard to place oneself in the time - and feeling right at home. Eggs are also mentioned so a breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast could well have been put together, a meal Trump would likely approve of Inside Donald Trump's breakfast routine - Business Insider.
Again, unlike Trump, Jesus and his crew apparently walked just about everywhere and took boats when a significant distance made it practicable. Hard to imagine it being any other way.
The widespread mention of the clergy and lawyers (Experts in the Law) jumps from the pages of the Gospel. Along with government work (tax collection, ruling, soldiering) one might conclude that they were primary professions – and closely tied together in the day. Servitude was also big. All of these things ring bells in Trump’s world. Lawyers? Check – oh, so many lawyers. Clergy? Check, especially those of the Evangelical, pro-life limb of the body of Christ. Servitude? The state of being subject to someone more powerful seems right on target for many in his orbit.
Jesus was an iconoclast and mistrusted the clergy and lawyers of his day. He loved to hang out with friends in low places. He did not appear to break the laws of the land unless we count turning over the tables at the temple.
As mentioned previously, He appeared to have no gainful employment and there is no record of him being paid a wage. There is also no record of him spending money nor lending or borrowing any. He was no businessman, and he appears to have had little use for money in any form. It is often said he was a carpenter though there appears to be no record of him actually building anything physical.
Trump lives in a different world when it comes to money. He spends and borrows freely and is most certainly a businessman at the core of his persona with money a core focus. And, again, un-like Jesus, Trump has a long history of building things in our physical world. Big things. Jesus was more concerned about the next life and the Kingdom of Heaven. Trump confesses little aware-ness, let alone regard, for this metaphysical creation.
Would Trump be comfortable in Jesus’ world? Most definitely. One can assume construction, both of homes and other structures, as being a large segment of the economy. The materials, the professionals, the goods manufacturers, the domestic labor, were all part of the economy. Along with agriculture it would be reasonable to conclude that these were primary economic drivers, and would make a world Trump might have thrived in especially with Roman norms, theologies, politics, etc. Oh yes, we can definitely see Trump as Herod or Pilate. Perhaps even Caesar, the guy on the coin.
Management and capital are also exhibited. There were definitely some very rich people about, and they tended to be mentioned as landowners. Property management skills are prized, as we see in the parables. Again, look to the parables for visions of Trump-like figures.
But don’t confuse these parable actors with Jesus. Trump and Jesus were on opposite sides of the spectrum when it came to lifestyles and participation in the economy.
Let’s just say Trump was more materialistic – a lot more.
But as managers they both have something in common. Charis-a. Jesus as a manager, we might be able to say, had the ultimate charismatic personality. He seemed to care less what people thought of him – and so too didn’t seem to care about making enemies. Like many good managers he was judgmental. He also encouraged virtuousness and generally seemed to look on the “sunny side” of life. One can identify many of these traits in Trump,
We can also see similarities in communication styles. That is, un-like what is generally taken for a good management style today, Jesus spoke in a confusing fashion. He was not particularly worried about being well understood.
Jesus was also enigmatic, and He would give you the coat off his back – if you hit him first.
Many Trump followers will also analogize Trump’s travails as being like Jesus and see them both as being treated very harshly. But unlike Trump Jesus never reciprocated. And Jesus died on a cross for our sins.
Can one imagine Trump putting himself on a cross for humanity?
Like many highly successful people of today, and certainly good salespeople, Christ liked to tell stories and was very good at it. Un-like highly successful salespeople like Trump Jesus didn’t even own a house, or much else that we can discern from Gospel accounts.
Our culture today shares with the Gospels a distrust of clergy, and somewhat paradoxically, a significant investment in its infrastructure. We have churches seemingly on every corner in some places. Our modern economy has invested heavily in churches and the like and continues to do so with tax break supported investment, even as attendance and trust of clergy are not particularly high. That being said, He hung out in the synagogues and was obviously very religious. Not a picture of Trump.
Jesus appears to have had more contempt for his clergy than he did for the Romans. Trump seems to have little contempt for the clergy of today, especially the Evangelical community. Like now, there appears to have been a very high amount of investment in Jewish infrastructure starting with the temple, then the synagogues, and on to the high priest’s housing and courtyards, and so on. In Trump’s case we see a strengthened Israel and Jerusalem with the movement of the U.S. Embassy and the defrosted relationships with several middle eastern countries. As an aside, Jesus appears to have spent little time on diplomacy.
Teaching appears to have been the profession Jesus most admired.
Many professions and jobs are mentioned in the Gospels, most all of which are still around today.
Fortunately, slavery is no longer with us though it was taken for granted in the Gospels’ day.
It is hard to imagine our modern economy being able to exist if we put all that is stated in the Gospels to practice. Being a banker makes it tough to live by the standards in the Gospel regarding lending. Trump would probably like to see the practice of forgiving debts for his business and personal empire as he reportedly owes vast sums. On the other hand, Jesus was exceedingly forgiving - though he spoke of conflict as being what he was put here for. Bankers can get behind the conflict part; less so the forgiveness, at least as it applies to debts owed their institutions. Trump lives in this world of banking, bankruptcy, fighting, conflict, etc. Forgiveness?
Jesus seemed to have no problem with the economic factors of production of his day. He just didn’t seem to think them particularly important, at least not as compared to the metaphysical realm he usually spoke of.
We can perhaps see the roots of our social safety net in the Gospels. Taking care of women and children especially were of the utmost importance to him. It is doubtful Trump will be known for this given the taking of children from mothers on the Mexican border under his watch.
Jesus repeatedly reassures the poor. Trump not so much.
Perhaps the two most obvious takeaways for a modern Capitalist is that the Gospels, and Jesus, try to warn rich people that chasing a buck is most definitely not to be encouraged. One should instead try to take care of one’s soul and live in a loving way. Many moderns would agree. Trump doesn’t appear to have inculcated these lessons.
Another takeaway one could construe, and probably the most important from a macroeconomic point of view: The Gospels would seem to argue for a “downsized" way of living. Jesus certainly in-corporates this way of thinking in his lifestyle and most of what he says, and the rest of the narrative seems to support this conclusion, with a few exceptions. Trump couldn’t be more counter to this.
But it’s really left to the reader to formulate their own “takeaways”.
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