Secretary of Energy Rick Perry kicked off a Twitter storm Monday when he suggested Donald Trump has been appointed by God. The biblical nature of his comments, part of an interview with Fox News’ Ed Henry, prompted critics to claim that supporting President Trump is like being in a cult.
This hullaballoo is mostly media distortion with a thinly veiled contempt for Christianity. Unfortunately, many Christians contribute to this distortion by placing too much emphasis on American politics. Followers of Jesus are called to submit to earthly authority and to hold it accountable, but not to worship it. As America becomes more polarized by its leaders, Christians must remember which King we really serve.
Did Perry Really Say Trump Was God’s ‘Chosen One’?
News outlets are pushing the narrative that Perry called Trump God’s “chosen one” and compared him to the biblical kings of Israel. But Perry’s comments were a bit more nuanced than that:
God’s used imperfect people all through history — King David wasn’t perfect. Saul wasn’t perfect. Solomon wasn’t perfect. And I actually gave the president a little one-pager on those Old Testament kings about a month ago. And I shared with him, I said, ‘Mr. President, I know there are people that say you said you were the chosen one. … You were.’ If you’re a believing Christian, you understand God’s plan for the people who rule and judge over us on this planet and in our government.
Perry was referring to Trump’s comments in August that he was the “chosen one” to make trade agreements with China — the “chosen one” possibly being a comparison to Jesus Christ. The president has said his remarks were sarcastic.
Frustratingly, most clips do not show the secretary’s full remarks, eliminating his comment that God ordained Barack Obama’s presidential election, too: “I’m a big believer that the God of our universe is still very active in the details of the day-to-day lives of government. … You know, Barack Obama doesn’t get to be the president of the United States without being ordained by God. Neither did Donald Trump.”
What Does the Bible Say About God and Earthly Leaders?
Perry’s claims that God ordained the presidencies of both Obama and Trump come from several Bible passages. Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Daniel 4:17 makes a similar point. “[T]he Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.”
In other words, Christians do not have the option of choosing which governing authorities to obey. Proverbs 21:1-2 testifies, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” Obeying leaders, even those with whom we disagree, shows faith in the God who controls the hearts of kings.
Both good leaders and bad serve only at the pleasure of the God of the universe. Unless our leaders command us to defy the laws of God, submitting to them is an act of trust and submission to God’s sovereign plan.
You Cannot Serve Both an Earthly and a Heavenly King
What the media — and many Christians — fail to realize is that comparing Trump to King Saul, King David, and King Solomon is as damning as it is encouraging. Saul and David were murderers. David and Solomon were egregious adulterers. All three expressly defied God at different points in their reigns, and God humbled them for their disobedience. The only reason any of them came to power was that the Israelites preferred an earthly king to their heavenly one. Woe to President Trump — and woe to the nation — if Perry is right in that sense.
Just like all of us, Trump is a human being made in the image of God, sinful from the moment he was conceived. Like all of us, the precise line between his own free will and God’s sovereign plan will remain a mystery on this side of heaven.
What we do know is that neither Trump, nor any other man on Earth, is capable of thwarting God’s purposes. God can use even the most sinful and broken among us to bring about his plans; he can use a crooked stick to draw a straight line.
Like you and me, in a few short years, Trump will return to the dust from which all men come. His good or evil deeds will not survive him long. Even the nation and people he serves will someday be swept into the dustbin of history. But long after America, Trump, and you and I are forgotten, the King of Kings will still reign on his throne. Love Trump or hate him, all Christians would do well to remember that.