I still remember the time I angrily stood up for myself in a TV newsroom in Chicago. I was in my twenties at the time and working as a newswriter. And a reporter with a reputation for being incompetent had blamed me for an error in her report. I wasn't responsible for the error; she was – and she knew it. But it was her modus operandi to blame others, so I wasn't surprised when I heard her complaining about me to the news director.
I had had enough. I walked across the newsroom and confronted her publicly. She angrily retorted and then so did I. After making my case, I returned to my seat, expecting to feel vindicated and relieved. Instead, I felt ashamed.
Everyone in that newsroom knew I was a Christian. And given her bad reputation, everyone also knew to disregard anything this reporter said. I hadn't put her in her place, I had simply stooped to her level and damaged my witness. I still remember the shocked look on several of my colleagues' faces. Though they didn't say anything, I knew I had just sunk a few degrees in their estimation.
Though that encounter occurred more than 25 years ago, it still makes me blush.
Proverbs 26:4 says, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him."
I had failed to heed that advice, and as a result, had made a fool of myself.
I couldn't help but think of that experience when considering the Twitter war raging between members of the media and President Trump. As usual, the media are acting like fools – and as usual, Trump is responding in kind or worse, showing himself to be an equal or even greater fool.
But what's particularly disconcerting is the way even Christians are not only excusing, but cheering Trump's reprehensible behavior. Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University and a Trump supporter, said Sunday during an interview on Fox: "It's incredible to watch how (the Left) still haven't gotten over how Donald Trump won and when he hits them back on Twitter, I actually appreciate that. We're finally getting back to a bold leader who's willing to speak his mind."
Someone on my Facebook page even compared Trump to Jesus. "Jesus, while a great loving teacher, also ha[d] some pretty harsh thing[s] to say to people who were in rebellion to God's authority," she wrote. "He called them hypocrites, fools, blind people, blind guides, whitewashed tombs, lawless, of their father the devil and liars. Are Trump's harsh words, the expressions of a strong masculine leader, any more harsh than the words of Jesus . . . ?"
Another wrote, "It's way way way way way past TIME that someone stand up to CNN. I support the president 100%. We NEED someone to stand up to MSM. . . . In fact I wish someone would barge in and turn over some tables!!!!"
I understand why Trump supporters are angry. The amount of hatred spewed by members of the press and celebrities towards President Trump tops anything I have ever seen. I can't fathom a Hollywood celebrity doing a photo shoot of a bloodied, severed head of any of Trump's predecessors, yet Trump has been subjected to that, and a steady barrage of insults and offensive jokes ever since his inauguration. About a week ago, three CNN journalists actually resigned after admitting they violated protocol and rushed to publish a report damaging to the Trump administration on the shoddy basis of just one anonymous source.
Trump has a right to be angry. He has a right to call out this miserable behavior on the part of his detractors and to implore them to stop. But insulting peoples' intelligence or trying to humiliate them by highlighting that they've had plastic surgery is not "bold," "masculine," or Christlike. It's mean and childish. Yet that's precisely the level to which Trump stooped, tweeting Thursday about MSNBC "Morning Joe" hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski:
"I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came.."
"...to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"
Then, when confronted for his un-Presidential behavior, Trump tweeted:
"My use of social media is not Presidential - it's MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!"
I have always believed, as many have famously quoted, "America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." As Christians, I thought we understood that. Apparently not.
During the presidential campaign, Pastor Robert Jeffress, a high-profile evangelical and Trump supporter, actually said he doesn't want a president who "embodies the teaching of Jesus." Instead, he said, "When I'm looking for somebody who's going to deal with ISIS, and exterminate ISIS, I don't care about that candidate's tone or vocabulary, I want the meanest, toughest, son of a you-know-what I can find — and I believe that's biblical."
That's stunning. In other words, Jeffress believes Jesus isn't fit to be president! To be a good president, one has to be mean and cruel – a little less Jesus and a little more Vladimir Putin. That's not biblical; it's diabolical.
As Christians, we believe Jesus will someday rule the world. He is the epitome of what a leader – political or otherwise – should look like. And we should call our leaders, especially ones who claim to be Christians, to conform to Jesus, not excuse them when they don't.
Jesus taught that greatness is inextricably tied goodness. He said, "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant." Greatness is not won by brutish domination; it is won by laying one's life down for the good of another. This doesn't mean one has to be a doormat. But it means that good leaders sacrifice themselves for the sake of others. They don't seek their own good – or lash out merely because someone insulted them; they seek the common good.
Similarly, masculinity is not the cowardly, thin-skinned, male bravado embodied by Trump. It is the strong, yet principled defense of the weak and the vulnerable Jesus epitomized. Jesus expressed anger at the money-changers because they were extorting money from God's people. He overturned tables in the temple because evil men had turned His father's house into "a den of thieves." He didn't demean human beings; He confronted their sin and called them to repentance.
At the same time, Jesus ignored insults. When hanging on the cross, He was silent as passers-by hurled insults at Him. He ignored fools and refused to stoop to their level. He kept His eyes focused on the prize and tuned out distractions.
That's precisely what President Trump needs to do too. He needs to follow the example of Christ, and Christian leaders need to hold him accountable when He doesn't. What Trump is doing is not making us greater; it is making us lesser. We aspire to be the "land of the free and the home of the brave," but if we condone and imitate Trump's behavior, we will quickly devolve into a nation of fools.