Bible Culture Life

N.T. Wright on why “demigods” like Donald Trump are destined to disappoint

When the world is a mess of chaotic contradictions, we look for strong, decisive leaders; leaders who aren’t afraid of going against the grain to make needed change in the world. We get excited when a new leader enters the stage who offers hope and solutions to our complicated problems.

Just think of how much hype came with the election of Barack Obama as President in America, and similarly, how excited people are about the newly elected Prime Minister of Canada—the charismatic “heart-throb,” Justin Trudeau. When things are really bad, people are looking for a hero who can solve the world’s problems—a predictable human reaction that has been recorded in history over and over again.

New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright, sheds light on why humans respond this way. In his book, Simply Jesus, he states:

We treat political leaders as heroes and demigods; they carry our dreams, our fantasies of how things should be. When we find out that they are only human after all, we turn on them, blaming them for the intractable problems that they, like their predecessors, haven’t been able to solve.

Many political leaders throughout history who swept their way into power upon the winds of fantastical hype have turned out to be egomaniacs (i.e. Adolf Hitler, Robert Mugabe) or at the very least, they drastically fell short of the hype surrounding their election to office (i.e. Barack Obama, Tony Blair).

And yet human beings still place their hope and trust in human heroes and demigods like Donald Trump.

With all Trump’s promises and plans to “protect” Americans from Islamic jihadist terrorism, he will probably never be able to “Make America Great Again” in ways that people are looking for. Sorry to say. Donald Trump isn’t America’s “saviour,” even though he and his supporters see him as such. He can never be America’s saviour because he is a human being. If we place our hope in demigods like Donald Trump we are destined for disappointment.

But who can blame us for looking to human heroes and secular leaders when the world is such a mess? Isn’t that where we place our trust when the world is falling apart all around us? That’s what the Enlightenment teaches, but not so much the Bible.

The long story of Israel had its high points, but if you add up everything that had happened over the previous thousand years, the sequence of disappointments is so long, so repetitive, and so dispiriting that you might forgive them for giving up hope altogether, remarks Wright. Some did. Most didn’t. And the reasons why they didn’t give up hope tell us a great deal about what they thought would happen if and when their God finally took charge.

When Jesus entered the scene, preaching, healing, offering forgiveness from sin, and announcing the good news of God’s coming—and already present—Kingdom, Wright says that Jesus was announcing to the world that God was taking charge of the world.

It’s been 2000+ years since Christ, and yet, the world is still a harsh, unjust, chaotic mess! So why do we hope in Christ, the Saviour of souls and the Redeemer of the earth? Well, because Christians trust that when Jesus returns, or when we die and go to be with Him,  all will be well, set right, renewed, healed—because God will be fully and finally in charge for good. Jesus announced the coming Kingdom of God and revealed a foretaste of what this will look like. In Jesus, God is taking charge of a world of contradictions; a world where human beings experience pain and joy, hurt and healing, terror and peace, death and life.

God’s Kingdom hasn’t been fully realized yet, but that’s no reason to forsake God for political demigods, is it? So why do we put our hope in Jesus and not Donald Trump or other demigods? Because Christ alone, has and will, solve the chaotic contradictions that are part and parcel of human reality.  We have hope because we know that when God finally and fully takes charge, we will be safe, free from terror, death, pain and sadness.

Who needs Donald Trump when you have Jesus; who needs a demigod when you have the real thing.

 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev 21:4).


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