Donald Trump and the Hillsong Church

(I wrote this for the Urban News in December 2020.)

I’m exhausted. I’m physically and mentally spent. The past six months have been draining. Almost every minute of every day I spent wondering what bizarre, crazy, cockamamie, cruel tweet and/or policy was Donald Trump going to implement today.

Were we going to lock immigrant children in outdoor prisons in Alaska? Was the Supreme Court or any number of federal judges going to strike down Obamacare? Was it going to be okay to dump coal waste in my front yard or possibly in our national parks?

Then, just to prolong the pain and suffering, the election was not over on November 3. It took four more days for projections to declare a winner. I could’ve cried big, huge crocodile tears but I did not. I rolled up my sleeves and asked, “What’s next?”

Hillsong Church

I have only gone to a couple of alternative church services in my life. In my opinion, the services were short on sermons but there was a lot of singing and fellowship. I like more traditional church services. Hillsong Church is one of these mega-churches. It started in Australia and now has churches (branches) in six continents.

Celebrities like Kevin Durant and Selena Gomez have been seen at the church. Pastor Carl Lentz, the leader of the New York branch, had a personal relationship with Justin Bieber! Now, you have to say that’s cool—or at least TMZ thinks so. Lentz had been mentored by Brian Houston, the founder of Hillsong.

But then there seemed to be a loss of focus. There was lying, cheating, and infidelity. Early last month, Carl Lentz was fired from Hillsong Church. In an Instagram post, the pastor said, “I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship in my life.”

This statement is a little jarring coming from a pastor. Wouldn’t you figure that his most important relationship would be with God first, and his wife second? Maybe I’m wrong.

To me, there are a lot of similarities between Donald Trump, the Hillsong Church, and pastor Carl Lentz. Donald Trump and the Hillsong Church seem to focus on superficial appearances. Smiles and a good photo op are more important than sitting in any “stupid” policy meeting. Being friends with Justin Bieber seem to be more important than the tenets of Christianity— honesty, fidelity, and humility.

We all remember Donald Trump clearing the street so that he could walk across Lafayette Square, unimpeded by protesters, and wave a Bible in his hand (upside down) for a photo opportunity as he stood in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Trump has lied. He has lied about just about everything you and I can think of, and he is still lying.

Of course, I may be wrong about Carl Lentz. He may be a great guy and fantastic pastor who just lost his way. I know I’m not wrong about Donald Trump.

Trump

Trump and his incessant whining about the election are like that child who keeps asking if he can have a cookie after being told “NO!” three or four times. (Trump and the child both need to be sent to their room.)

Trump and his accomplices have come up with one conspiracy theory after another. He has filed one lawsuit after another and lost in court time after time, but he continues. Why lie and insist that he won the election which he lost by over 7 million votes?

Maybe he truly believes that former Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez (who died seven years ago) infiltrated Smartmatic (a company that supplied voting machines to only a single US county); released a computer virus that changed Trump votes to Biden votes; and covered its tracks so well that no Republican or Democrat noticed the problem—oh, and did this only in states where Trump lost.

Or maybe his whining has a purpose. Maybe Trump understands that he is in legal jeopardy. He is sending out email after email to his supporters begging for money. Maybe Trump can’t simply ask for money in a straightforward fashion. Maybe the only way that he can shake millions of dollars out of his flock—$207.5 million between Nov. 3 and Dec. 3—is with these stupid conspiracy theories.

Maybe Trump is ending his presidency as he began it, with a grift. Several federal agencies are looking into his inaugural committee which took in $107 million dollars but has not accounted for its spending. Now, as Trump exits the White House, he again is vacuuming up money from his followers.

At work a couple of weeks ago, one of the anesthesiologists was sitting across from me in the surgeons’ lounge. He wanted to know why I supported Joe Biden. He asked me to explain my support without mentioning Donald Trump. I just smiled and took a deep breath:

Joe Biden will take the coronavirus seriously. Joe Biden will restore the NATO alliance. Joe Biden will work toward universal healthcare and will strengthen Obamacare. Biden will help America rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and help you and me have cleaner air to breathe and have clean water to boat, fish, or drink. He will fight for social justice and help reform our justice system so that there are far fewer George Floyds. He will get our economy on track, and he will tax the wealthy. Biden will never call White supremacists “good people.” He will work to end corporate welfare. He will work with Democrats and Republicans and find some way to reform our immigration policy.

Not a bad list of reasons, after all.

Covid-19

All I can do is shake my head. The coronavirus started to hit the United States in late February and early March. As of this writing, we have over 16 million cases. Almost 230,000 Americans are diagnosed with a coronavirus infection every day. As of Dec. 15, we have had just over 300,000 deaths. Greensboro, NC; Pittsburgh, PA; Cincinnati, OH; St. Louis, MO. Each of these cities has a population of approximately 300,000.

It is a crime how we have let Americans die from Covid-19. It may be the greatest tragedy of my lifetime.

If we could have controlled the virus in March and April, we could be now back to our previous lives. We could walk around without masks. We could have Thanksgiving and Christmas with love ones and friends, and without fear. We could go to a football game. We could go to a movie, or out to dinner.

We could have implemented nationwide testing back in March, and put everyone who tested positive under mandatory isolation. We could have implemented contact tracing.

Compare the US with South Korea, another nation that was expected to be devastated from Covid-19. South Korea locked down. They implemented strict contact tracing and mandatory testing. Now, ten months into the pandemic, South Korea has had 37,000 cases and 540 deaths.

Look at Iceland, a small island country that’s isolated from the rest of the world. They closed their borders. Imposed mandatory testing and contact tracing. The result? 5,476 cases. 27 deaths.

I’m not saying that the United States could’ve had 27 deaths or even 500, but we could have had—should have had—significantly fewer than 300,000 dead Americans. Yes, we’re a lot larger than South Korea or Iceland, but we also have a lot more resources. Americans have died needlessly. All we had to do was attack this virus with laser focus and honesty.

And that, tragically, is exactly what Trump and his administration, and self-deluding governors around the country, did not do.

As I look toward 2021, I’m happy to say goodbye to 2020. Please stay safe!

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ABOUT AUTHOR
Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.

Books

A Letter to America

The Thirteeneth Juror

Where is The Outrage Topics
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