Donald Trump might be the apt president for the selfie age. This is not a good thing.
In this series we have been asking: To whom shall we liken Trump? The primary character is Nimrod, revealed in the Bible as the founder of Babylon, and the father of tower-building. We have explored comparisons of Trump with presidents embracing populist-progressivism and judgment-impairing presumptuousness.
In this installment we have to consider which of the current candidates would be most likely to get snared in the dangerous trap of selfie-solipsism. A "solipsist" in its extreme form is an individual who thinks he or she is the only existent being in the universe. The really sick solipsist believes all else is sheer delusion produced by the solipsist's own mind.
Selfie-solipsists know better, but think and act as if he or she were the only game in the universe. They recognize the existence of others, but see them as existing only for the needs of the solipsist.
Monarchs are the living and breathing manifestations of selfie-solipsism. This gave Patrick Henry nightmares as he thought about the proposed American Constitution. It has "deformities" that are "horribly frightening," declared Henry, the anti-federalist, on June 5, 1788, at the Virginia ratifying convention.
Among the "deformities" was "awful squinting ... towards monarchy." "Your president may easily become king," Patrick Henry warned.
Thus, prime among questions the American electorate must ask in 2016 is: Which candidates would be more likely to get intoxicated with being a king — or queen?
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both come quickly to mind. Michael Barone believes we already have in Barack Obama a president who suffers from "solipsistic narcissism." Should Obama's successor be another solipsist?
All solipsists are self-focused, but not all are self-loving. Some are consumed with self-hate, and their solipsism is misery. They are trapped in a self from which there is no escape. The purely narcissistic solipsist is perfectly content without others, self-adulation being sufficient. The selfie-solipsist ironically needs others to meet his or her needs.
Still, a solipsist is a solipsist, and the question remains: Does the country need another monarchical solipsist in the White House? Solipsist chief executives end-run Congress, seat themselves as law-givers, and delight in the edict mentality that drives executive orders.
It is a dangerous thing for a solipsist to be alone in the palace. Recall that dusk-time when aging King David walks out on his balcony and spots Bathsheba bathing. David, at that moment, is a selfie-solipsist if ever there was one. He dreams and envisions in solitude, devises schemes in solitude, and executes plans in solitude. But it affects everyone else.
Scary. One thinks of selfie-solipsist Bill Clinton exploring the hidden annexes of the Oval Office environs in search of trysting nests.
To run for the presidency requires a hefty ego, and those who seek it must have reality about themselves. The only way we get a truly accurate view of ourselves is in relation to God. "Coram Deo" — "in the presence of God "— we grasp the positive personal understanding of ourselves in the highest form imaginable: the very image of God. But perceiving ourselves in relation to God also gives us the frank and ugly truth that we have all sinned and come short of that glorious image. Thus we need redemption from the selfism that distorts God's glory in and through us.
This is where Donald Trump's selfie-solipsism is of such concern. He identifies as a Presbyterian who loves God and his church. However, it appears he does not need to think much about asking God's forgiveness, and is not sure he has ever done that, according to an interview with Frank Luntz at Iowa's Family Leadership Summit.
"I think if I do something wrong ... I just try to make it right," said Trump. "I don't bring God into that picture."
This is the essence of babelism. Nimrod couldn't have said it better.
Timothy George, writing in First Things, was struck by Trump's words. Something is missing, said George, because "the call to confession and the need for forgiveness are so central to the entire Christian tradition, and particularly to the Reformed and Presbyterian versions of it, that it is hard to see how it could have made so little impression."
That is, of course, between Donald Trump and God. But it is important to the nation if he becomes president. Even Richard Nixon, in the deepest of his agonies, found a place for repentance.
Once, while I was an aide in the Nixon White House, I was assigned to sit in on an Oval Office meeting between evangelist Oral Roberts and the President. At the conclusion, Roberts said he wanted to pray for the President, and then, to my shock, wanted Nixon to pray for him. Nixon prayed as one might on a ceremonial occasion. Later, though, as Nixon passed through the deepest darkness of the Watergate and his resignation, those who were with him, like Henry Kissinger, report that Nixon went to his knees weeping before God.
The nation and the president would have been spared much travail if he had learned to pray that way daily through his nearly two terms in office.
Because in the end, "The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower." (Psalm 18:2)
We need, not a tower-builder for president, but one who himself or herself resides under that "high tower" of the transcendent God.