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You Have Heard That It Was Said, But I Tweet to You . . .

Donald Trump began his presidential campaign by declaring, “I know more than the generals.” That has been his mantra: claiming that he knows more than anyone else about war, law and order, healthcare and other critical issues facing Americans. Then along came the Coronavirus, presenting a grave health threat to the United States and the world. Trump has not said about the Coronavirus pandemic, “I know more than the doctors.” Such megalomania would be rejected out of hand by most Americans, who see doctors, not politicians, when they are sick.

Nevertheless, the self-proclaimed “very stable genius” asserted his unique understanding of the coronavirus. Wearing his “Keep America Great” 2020 political campaign hat, President Trump visited doctors and scientists at the Disease Control and Prevention Center, who are on the frontline in the fight to contain the deadly coronavirus. During his tour of the DCPC, “Trump boasted to reporters . . . ‘I like this stuff. I really get it.’” He “professed that it must run in the family genes . . . citing a ‘great, super-genius uncle’ who taught at MIT.” Then his megalomania completely took over: “‘People are really surprised I understand this stuff,’ he said. ‘Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.’” (“’Maybe l have a natural ability’: Trump plays medical expert on coronavirus by second-guessing the professionals,” By David Nakamura, The Washington Post, March 6, 2020; “Top Trump officials adopt more urgent tone as coronavirus spreads,” By Brett Samuels, The Hill, March 11, 2020)

“Dr.” Trump’s “natural ability” requires a reality check. As reported, “Mr. Trump had no explanation for why his White House shut down the Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense established at the National Security Council in 2018 by President Barack Obama after the 2014 Ebola outbreak, stammering to suggest the coronavirus had been a surprise.” Elizabeth Cameron, who organized the Directorate for President Obama, lamented that “it would have made a difference’ in ‘preparing for exactly this kind of situation.’” (“For Trump, Coronavirus Proves to Be an Enemy He Can’t Tweet Away,” By Peter Baker, The New York Times, March 8, 2020)

At a news conference in the Rose Garden, a reporter asked President Trump why he “dismantled” the global health directorate. He responded by “claim[ing] to have no knowledge of why the administration, in 2018, dismantled a pandemic response team that was once part of the Security Council.” He then snapped at the reporter, “’It’s a nasty question. . . . You say we did that. I don’t know anything about it.’” And, “when pressed about whether he was responsible for delays in testing,” he replied, “‘I don’t take responsibility at all.’” (“Trump Won’t Be Getting a Coronavirus Test, His Doctor Says,” By Anne Karni, The New York Times, March 13, 2020) So much for Trump’s “natural ability” to “understand this stuff.”

Testing for the coronavirus is key to identifying it, treating affected citizens and containing its deadly spreading. After a reported visited to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, President Trump was asked the availability of the tests. He replied, “The tests are beautiful. . . . Anybody who right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test.” (“’Anybody who wants a test can get a test’: Donald Trump plunges coronavirus testing into chaos with impossible promise as he visits CDC—while Apple shuts its HQ and South By Southwest is canceled over virus fears,” By Geoff Earle and Rachel Sharpe, DAILYMAIL.COM, March 8, 2020)

New York Times reporter Farah Stockman tells a different story. She writes, “Many who fear they have the virus have faced one roadblock after another as they try to get tested, according to interviews with dozens of people across the country. Some have been rejected because they have no symptoms,” Ms. Stockman states, “even though they had been in proximity to someone who tested positive. Others,” she continues, “were told no because they had not traveled to a hot spot abroad, even though they had fevers and hacking coughs and lived in cities with growing outbreaks.” And “others were told a bitter truth: There simply were not enough tests to go around.” These realities led the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci to admit, “The system is not really geared to what we need right now, what you are asking for. That is a failing.” (“Sick People Across the U.S. Say They Are Being Denied the Coronavirus Test,” March 12, 2020)

The “failing” of the testing to determine the seriousness of the coronavirus would appear to accommodate President Trump’s attempts to minimize the extent and threat of the virus in the United States — to protect his 2020 presidential bid. Trump gives his narcissism away in suggesting that coronavirus-affected Americans should not disembark from the Golden Princess cruise ship in California, as setting foot in their own country’s land would increase the number of coronavirus cases in the United States — which would not look good politically for Trump. He is quoted as saying that he’d rather American passengers stay on board the ship, “because I like the numbers being where they are – I don’t need to have numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.” (“Coronavirus: Grand Princess Cruise Ship Docks Off California Coast,” By Bill Chappell and Vanessa Romo, NPR, March 9, 2020)

His “numbers” game reveals that he doesn’t really care for the good of Americans, but only for what makes him look good. For show, he makes a big deal about hugging the American flag, but Americans, in a crisis he has mismanaged and minimized, not so much. His failure to prepare Americans to deal effectively with the coronavirus virus, including their critical need for testing, has put countless citizens at risk of contracting the virus and dying.

With his “natural ability,” President Trump has repeatedly downplayed the danger to Americans presented by the coronavirus. As reported, he said, “It goes away. . . . We have it totally under control. It will all work out. . . . We have the best experts anywhere in the world, and they are on top of it 24/7.” Also, “We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment – five. And these people are all recuperating successfully.” Two weeks later: “We have a very small number of people in this country, right now, with it. It’s like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we’re in very good shape.” His semi faith-baked prediction: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle. It will disappear.”(“’It will go away’: A timetable of Trump playing down the coronavirus threat,” By Aaron Blake, The Washington Post. March 12, 2020)

More of “Dr.” Trump’s observations: “Some people will have this at a very light level and won’t even go to a doctor or hospital, and they’ll get better. There are many people like that.” Yes, “And it hit the world. And we’re prepared. And we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” Besides, “When we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of virus.” All is well because, “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock market starting to look very good to me!” Our self-promoting president’s bottom line: “It is going to go away. . . . The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point . . . when you look at the kind of numbers that you see coming out of other countries, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it.” (ibid)

Nor is President Trump without his acolytes. Chief among them is Vice President, Mike Pence, who said at a Rose Garden news conference: “Mr. President, from early on, you took decisive action. You suspended all travel from China. You created travel advisories – South Korea and Italy. . . . Throughout this process, Mr. President, you’ve put the health of Americans first, but you brought the best of America to address it.” (“Remarks by President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Members of the Coronavirus Task Force in Press Conference,” www.whitwhouse.gov, March 13, 2020)

“From early on” President Trump’s “decisive action” involved blaming the “Fake News Media and their partner, the Democratic Party,” for “doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant.” He added, “Surgeon General, ‘The risk is low to the average American.’” (“Trump: ‘Fake News Media,’ Democrats working to ‘inflame CoronaVirus situation,’” By Rebecca Klar, The Hill, March 9, 2020)

So why are sporting events being postponed, schools shutting down, theaters and restaurants closing, worship services being suspended, restaurants and bars facing restrictions, and other large gatherings being curtailed?” “From early on,” what Trump called a “hoax” he has now declared “a national emergency. ”Trump’s tweets could no longer chirp his falsehoods. Reality caught up with him. Or has it?

When a reporter asked Trump how “he would grade himself” in handling the coronavirus, he replied “’10 on a scale of one to 10.” (“Trump gives himself a perfect 10 out of 10 score on his coronavirus response,” By Eliza Relman, Business Insider, March 16, 2020) His denial is also seen is him now saying to reporters, “This is a Pandemic. . . . I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” (“Trump Now Claims He Always Knew the Coronavirus Would Be a Pandemic,” By Katie Rogers, The New York Times, March 17, 2020)

There is another virus plaguing America. A virus coming from the White House. A virus offering power over others in exchange for fidelity to the president. A virus that is co-opting and corrupting the faith of many white evangelical Christians especially. They are selling their souls for a mess of political power, with the aim of imposing their will on others, legitimized by selective authoritarian biblical beliefs. President Trump ‘s prostituting virus is pervasive.

You have heard that it was said by Jesus, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me. . . . Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25: 35-40) But President Trump tweets the very opposite to us. Such as: “A very big caravan of over 20,000 people started up through Mexico. It has been reduced in size by Mexico but is still coming,” he continues. “Mexico must apprehend the remainder or we will be forced to close that section of the border & call up the military.” His final words: “The Coyotes and Cartels have weapons.” (“Trump renews threat of border closure. Citing new caravan of immigrants,” By Zack Budryk, The Hill, April 24, 2019)

You have heard that it was said by the disciples, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And Jesus put a child in their midst and stated, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” and he added, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18: 1-5) But President Trump tweets to us that America should not welcome poverty- and violence-fleeing Central American children at the Mexican-United States border. His policy is to separate children from their parents and puts them in cages, with the separation of countless children from their parents indeterminable.

You have heard that it was said, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves shall be exalted, (Matthew 23: 12) But President Trumps tweets to us are not only filled with self-exaltation, but with derogatory nicknames to humble and thus dehumanize countless others. For example, Trump called Washington governor Jay Inslee a “snake” because Inslee, whose state has been hit hard by the coronavirus, tweeted to Vice President Mike Pence that “our work would be more successful if the Trump administration stuck to science and told the truth.” (“Donald Trump calls Washington Gov. Jay Inslee a ‘snake’ for criticizing federal coronavirus response,” By Douglas Perry, www.oregonlive.com, March 7, 2020)

President Trump’s pattern of seeking to humble others with derogatory nicknames is endless. Like attacking leading impeachment proponent Rep. Adam Schiff as “little Adam Shitt.” Also, “Crazy Maxine Waters,” “Crazy Bernie Sanders.” “Nervous Nancy Pelosi.” “Crooked Hillary.” “Pocahontas.” The news media are “the enemy of the people.” And on and on. (See “List of nicknames used by Donald Trump,” Wikipedia)

You have heard that it was said, “Love your enemies,” but I tweet to you, “When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives – don’t kid yourself.” (“’Why did you wait?’: Trump reportedly asked the CIA why it paused for target to walk away from his family before striking,” By Michael Kranz, Business Insider, April 6, 2018)

I also tweet to you that we will “target major cultural sites in Iran if the country retaliates after . . . the killing of a top Iranian military leader by drone strike. . . . The US, “will hit important cultural sites in Iran ‘very fast and very hard’ should the Iranians kill any Americans or attack American assets.” Such a threatening war crime was condemned by “cultural figures and scholars around the world.”, (“President Trump’s Threat to Bomb Iranian Cultural Sites ‘Must be Condemned,’ Say Outraged Museum Directors, Politicians, and Scholars” By Naomi Rea, news.artnet.com, Jan 6, 2020)

Along with President Trump’s threat to bomb Iran’s cultural sites, is the sight of Iranian people, whose suffering from the coronavirus is worsened by the U.S.’s “maximum pressure” of sanctions, which, CODEPINK reports, “are causing a shortage of medical supplies, products and equipment for diagnosis, prevention and treatment of the coronavirus.” CODEPINK encourages people to add their name to its letter “demanding that the U. S. Treasury Department immediately lift the sanctions on Iran.” (See CODEPINK)

There is a destructive white nationalistic evangelical Christian virus being nurtured by the White House – a virus just as dangerous as the coronavirus. A virus that favors some at the expense of others, a virus that divides, rather than unites. A virus that prostitutes Christianity itself. This virus emanates from The Sermon in the Rose Garden.

You have heard that it was said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5: 4) But I tweet you, “Blessed are those who mourn their lack of power, for prolife laws to control women’s bodies and ‘religious freedom’ to discriminate against LGBTQ persons that will comfort them.”

You have heard that it was said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5: 5) But I tweet to you, “Blessed are the powerful, for they will ban the weak and inherit the earth.”

You have heard that it was said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5: 6) But I tweet to you, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after power, for they will be filled with the righteousness needed to divide and dominate.”

You have heard that it was said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5: 9) But I tweet to you: “Blessed are the powerbrokers, for they will determine who shall be called the children of God.”

You have heard that it was said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for there is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew: 5: 10) But I tweet to you: “Blessed are you when Fake News, which is the enemy of the people, says all manner of evil against you on my account.”

President Trump’s latest distraction, to cover his incompetence, was to call for a National Day of Prayer on Sunday, March 15. “No matter where you may be,” he said, “I encourage you to turn towards prayer in an act of faith. Together, we will easily PREVAIL!,” he tweeted. (“Trump calls for a National Day of Prayer, to monitor online service,” By Aris Folley, The Hill, March 15, 2020

Americans do not need a National Day of Prayer led by a manipulative narcissist. To stem the coronavirus pandemic, what Americans need is for President Trump to lead his Republican acolytes and his power-pursuing evangelical Christian base in a National Day of Confession. To follow Trump is to betray the Sermon on the Mount itself.

President Trump has called the coronavirus a “foreign virus”– blaming China, which claim is racist. The coronavirus is a human virus that transcends barriers, crosses national borders and engulfs the world. As it threatens everyone, it also reminds us that our survival depends on our solidarity. A solidarity that helps, rather than hoards, that leads us to look out for each other and not just for ourselves. A solidarity that transcends divisions, and enables us to realize that we are all equally human and in it together, that no one is lesser. A solidarity that enables us to recognize that we need each other for our mutual wellbeing.

You have heard that it was tweeted, “America first.” But the prophet Jesus says to us, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7: 12)

More articles by:

Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D., a former hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center is both a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist minister. His newly published book, The Minister who Could Not Be “preyed” Away is available Amazon.com. Alberts is also author of The Counterpunching Minister and of A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, which “demonstrates what top-notch pastoral care looks like, feels like, maybe even smells like,” states the review of the book in the Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling. His e-mail address is wm.alberts@gmail.com.  

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