aNewDomain – White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the world this week that US Pres. Donald Trump won the presidency because God chose him for the job.
It’s a nutty pronouncement, sure. But even if she were right, it wouldn’t necessarily be something to crow about.
God’s selection of a greedy, arrogant, lustful and unmerciful man for president, after all, might just as well mean that:
Trump will go down bigly taking so much tired old baggage with him that a new era may begin just as has happened so many times in the past when a tired old cause is led by an arrogant fool.
God moves through history using as many fools as faithful. Foolish rulers seem to be a favorite. Rulers who claim they have some kind of divine right are frequently upended (and dramatically so) by unforeseen events (aka “the hand of God”).
Trump has never been faithful to anything but his own desires in his entire life. If God uses the faithful and the foolish in equal measure, then the conclusion is obvious.
If you ask me, if God really did choose Trump, our 45th president and his followers might want to watch their collective backs for the hand of God.
Last year, after former US attorney general Jeff Sessions used Paul’s epistle to justify family separation, Harvard professor David Armitage argued in a New York Times op-ed that what Trump and cronies really are doing is bringing back the idea of rule by divine right.
That’s the claim, in case you don’t know your history, a ruler makes when he announces he’s above the law and answers only to the Man Upstairs.
This always ends badly.
Take King Louie XVI of France. He ruled by divine right. He was guillotined by his subjects on 21 January 1793.
And then there’s King Charles I of England, who also ruled by divine right. At his trial for treason in 1649, he cockily argued that “no earthly power” had the power to question his authority. The court didn’t agree. King Charles I was convicted and executed that same year.
Charles’ son, King James II, fared better, it’s true — but not by much. His so-called divine elevation to king crashed down in no time. Interestingly, it was largely his demise that triggered the creation of the English Bill of Rights, a document that has ensured the liberty of the British people for 350 years now and counting. It’s served as a model for other governments around the world, including that of the United States.
Perhaps God uses one arrogant fool after another to catalyze fundamental changes in the human situation, e.g. Moses plus one arrogant pharaoh, and the Israelites are on their way.
Of course, it wasn’t just those kings who labored under the delusion that they were appointed by God. At the time, it was generally accepted that all kings ruled by God’s will and might even be gods themselves.
Charles I, remember, lost his head during the English civil wars, a revolution fought essentially over the notion of whether a king had limits. And after the Oliver Cromwell period, England turned to the late king’s son to rule as Charles II. But he died without an heir, which is how the crown passed to his arrogant brother James II.
If you ask me, James II was probably correct: God really did choose him to be king of England. But I’m sure God didn’t do it because God wanted to promote James’ agenda of divine rights of kings but instead to bring about the liberty of all the English people.
By allowing an idiot to become king of England, God ensured a small step in the progress of human rights. James ineptly continued his family’s belief in the divine right of kings. He appointed his favorites to run the military and the navy. He ignored parliament.
He was God’s pawn. Just like Trump. But hold that thought for a second.
James, you see, jailed huge numbers of the English clergy. According to historians, he was out to drive a wedge between the clergy’s conscience and the clergy’s duty to the king. But even James’ father (also an idiot) couldn’t have been that stupid. There was now no philosophical or moral justification for James to remain king.
So English leaders allied themselves with the Dutch king William who was married to James’ daughter Mary, culminating in a Dutch invasion of England known as the Glorious Revolution.
To become king and queen William and Mary had to agree to a Bill of Rights for English citizens and a limited monarchy, the agreement read to them before they could don the crown, an act captured in a painting that resides outside Parliament even today.
And because I know you’re wondering, the Declaration of Right was enacted in an Act of Parliament as the Bill of Rights 1689, which received the Royal Assent in December 1689. The Act asserted “certain ancient rights and liberties” by declaring that:
- the pretended power of suspending the laws and dispensing with laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal;
- the commission for ecclesiastical causes is illegal;
- levying taxes without grant of Parliament is illegal;
- it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal;
- keeping a standing army in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law;
- Protestants may have arms for their defense suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law;
- election of members of Parliament ought to be free;
- the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament;
- excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;
- jurors in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders;
- promises of fines and forfeitures before conviction are illegal and void;
- for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently.
The parallels here are too extreme to ignore. So Sanders, despite her apparent lack of historical knowledge, might have intuited correctly: God might have ordained Trump’s victory. And he did it because he needed an idiot to fall “bigly”, a fall whose receovery will ensure a more rational, intelligent and merciful US government afterward.
And amen to that.
For aNewDomain, I’m Tom Ewing.
Want to know more about the Glorious Revolution? Here’s a terrific video from the BBC.
James II by Peter Lely, courtesy Wikimedia Commons; Pandemonium by John Martin, courtesy the Louvre; William and Mary, courtesy of the UK Parliament.