(ThyBlackMan.com) Early in the 2016 presidential election cycle, then-candidate Donald Trump was asked what his favorite book is: “the Bible” he replied. When pressed for his favorite verse in the Bible, he was unable to come up with even one. Of the 66 books of the Bible that have 1,189 chapters containing over 31,000 verses, Donald Trump cannot quote or even speak about one verse. Recognizing how that comes across, Trump later cites a principle that is contained in Exodus 21, Leviticus 24 and Deuteronomy 19 as his favorite Bible verse: “an eye for an eye.”
Interestingly, the point of the Leviticus passage is that the rules and laws from God apply to all the people equally, including the sojourner and the native. That is, the citizen and the immigrant live under the same standards. That is not a principle President Trump has embraced in his presidency. The Deuteronomy passage speaks of the necessity to not bear false witness but to speak truthfully when it comes to being a witness before a trial-like setting as someone brings accusations against another. In other words, tell the
Finally, Jesus had some words to say about the “eye for an eye” principle espoused in the Old Testament. During His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, and 7), Jesus clarifies how to apply the “eye for an eye” statement.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h]39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42, NIV).
Jesus was correcting how the religious leaders of the day were misusing the law for their own benefit; as does Donald Trump; consequently to combat that, Jesus redefines what “an eye for an eye” means. Rather than practicing vigilante justice and going after those who have hurt us, Jesus says that we should resist the temptation to sink down to their level. Instead, Jesus instructs us to turn the other cheek when we are slapped, to give our coat and our shirt when we are sued, and to walk two miles when someone compels us to walk one mile. If someone who is in need asks, we are not to turn them away.
The gospel understanding, the Jesus understanding, of an “eye for an eye” is to work hard to show love rather than seek retribution. Trump as a person and as a President, struggles with showing love and compassion as he holds to the tenet of “an eye for an eye.”
The lack of compassion is seen very clearly in President Trump’s policies. Most glaringly, Trump has worked to repeal and replace Obamacare with what is now being heralded as Trumpcare. In a one-vote margin, the House narrowly passed a Republican-sponsored repeal of the Affordable Care Act recently. After months of intraparty negotiations, Republicans finally delivered President Donald Trump his first legislative victory. Under taunting chants of “Na na na hey hey hey goodbye” by Democratic lawmakers, the final vote to approve the American Health Care Act was cast just as voting closed on the House floor. The final vote tally was 217 to 213, with no Democrats voting to repeal the landmark health care legislation.
Should the new legislation were to become law, the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency that provides budget and economic information to Congress, has estimated that 23 million fewer people will have health insurance coverage than under Obamacare, the current system. Plus, the CBO estimates that insurance premiums will increase at a faster rate under Trumpcare than Obamacare. Republicans were bused in from Capitol Hill for the victory lap upon passage by Congress, an unusually early celebration for the passage of a bill through just one house or Legislative body. The statute, which faces sharp Democratic opposition, now heads to the Senate where it faces an uncertain fate by virtue of the disdain by 70% of the American people; regardless of political or cultural identification.
Fewer people covered with higher premiums is exactly what Trump is about. He does not care about the poor and the disadvantaged in the United States. He does not care how many fewer people will have healthcare insurance coverage. He shows no compassion for those who are struggling to merely hang on and survive. “Eye for an eye” for Trump simply implies that poor people should not get sick. If they do, that’s their fault.
Trump has also released his proposed budget for 2018. In his budget, he cuts deeply into the programs for the poor, for students, and for the disabled. Trump’s budget shows no compassion for those who are overburdened with the difficulties of life with little resources to handle those difficulties. The programs affected are food stamps, student loans, disability payments and Medicaid.
In place of the spending to help those who are just trying to get by, Trump’s budget calls for a large increase in military spending, $2.6 billion for border security which includes a big portion of that going to begin building the wall between the United States and Mexico that Trump campaigned on, and massive tax cuts. Many of the cuts in taxes will benefit the wealthy.
The conclusion that can be reached is that Trump governs with an Old Testament “eye for an eye” mentality rather than a New Testament “give to the one who asks you” mentality. Instead of finding creative and cost effective ways to help those who reside on the lower end of the economic scale, Trump seems to find it easier to disregard them and work to benefit the wealthy in America while keeping all immigrants out of the United States. His priorities and his focus shift the burden of survival to the poor and disadvantaged among us.
What needs to change? The United States needs to be more concerned about providing much-needed health coverage to those who cannot afford it than to building a wall to keep people out. The ACA as crafted by the Obama Administration is more popular now than it was at its inception. Congress needs to take the positives from the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) and make changes to deal with the premium increases rather than throwing out the baby with the axiomatic bathwater and bringing in a plan that will greatly harm the poor by making insurance inaccessible for them. Congress needs to support programs that will help those falling through the cracks rather than pulling the rug out from under them. And, Donald Trump needs to learn some new Bible verses that show the grace and mercy of God rather than the “eye for an eye” concept that he is misconstruing for his own good. Here is a good verse to start with, Mr. President:
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God (Proverbs 14:31, NIV).
Staff Writer; Stanley G. Buford