The Next Reformation?

Trump Luther

I’m going to go out on a limb here.  What if Donald Trump is like a modern day Martin Luther?  What if the message he is putting in the world (mistrust, fear, isolation, dispassionate individualism) is the dawn of an entirely new era in Western civilization?  What if the social convulsions he has prompted ultimately have as much impact as the the resistance initiated by the father of Protestantism.  What if Trump is symbolic of the dawn of a new “religion?”  For many liberal Christians thinking like this is akin to blasphemy.  For the unchurched or the non-religiously engaged it may amount to a “so-what?”  I would ask both groups to put aside their reactions or biases momentarily and indulge the following reflection.

In 1517, when an obscure academic monk named Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, he began a chain of events that are still playing out today regardless of one’s connection to Christianity or religion of any kind.  Some broad strokes of explanation may clarify this point.  Martin Luther had been compelled to post this document to open up the debate among clergy about the sale of “indulgences” (favors of grace) by the Pope (Leo X) to fund the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  In highly simplified terms, the Pope was “selling” the best seats in the afterlife and Martin Luther, among others, was not having it.  Although first printed in Latin, the 95 Theses spread quickly among the clergy and educated classes.  The result was stern rebuke from the Catholic establishment which was followed by Martin Luther’s master stroke of resistance: publishing a simplified “sermon on indulgences” in the common people’s language, German.  This pamphlet went, what we would call today “viral.”

Although Martin Luther was excommunicated in 1521, his actions led to the eventual formation of an entire branch of Christianity in “protest” against Catholic authoritarianism (aka: Protestantism).  This religious shift, in turn resulted in the rethinking of the meaning of commodities, investment and the entire concept of “capital” (Capitalism) as well as affirming the effectiveness of the printed word in communicating and influencing the masses (Media).  From these basic elements it is not difficult to see the path to everything from the Atlantic slave trade and the Industrial Revolution to modern education, the internet and the entire United States Government.

Donald Trump is a conundrum.  As President of the United States he is Commander in Chief, yet he has continually portrayed himself as being above the law.  His “style” of “governing” can be characterized at best as whim driven and at worst as intentionally divisive, racist and patronizing.  In addition, by raising the surprisingly existential question “what is truth?” Trump has completely destabilized the foundation of the information economy in the midst of the information age.  A real danger in Trump is his ability to appeal to an unseen mass discontent, just like Martin Luther.  Trump has given a focal point to a social stance that while deeply unpopular with the liberal establishment, has a powerful resonance with a surprisingly large though somewhat invisible population that liberal elites are quick to dismiss.  What’s more, this man who has only ever been part of the 1%, has managed to affect his message in the language of “common” people and he has spoken directly to them.  He has galvanized public ideological supporters under the guise of political affiliation while courting a disturbing number of a-political and even politically opposed people who privately agree with his agenda, even though they might decry his more offensive rhetoric in public.  The most threatening aspect of Trump that mirrors the power of Martin Luther is his ability to champion a message of personal agency and independent responsibility that too many are willing to accept as a hallmark of “American-ness”…even if it is wearing a white hood and a swastika.  But where Martin Luther points toward a personal relationship and responsibility with God, Donald Trump glorifies a personal relationship and responsibility with money as power.  Any entity that attempts to interfere with, bleed off of or mediate this relationship, is portrayed as an impostor, alien, illegal or sacrilegious.  And so we get walls, bans, cancellations, tariffs, restrictions and limitations all designed to keep the relationship with the Trumpian deity pure.

I’m convinced that Donald Trump is not a President whose term will simply end in a few years.  There is no solution to Donald Trump because like the fire ignited by Martin Luther, Trump is the symptom of a deeper social trouble and not the trouble itself.  To be clear, by comparing Donald Trump and Martin Luther, I am not attempting to paint the 16th century monk as a villain or to take Protestantism or religion of any kind to task (although there are many who would point to the total history of religion as villainy.) Nor am I trying to paint #45 as ANY kind of saint or prophet.  I am only trying to raise awareness to the potentially far reaching impact of what Donald Trump represents.  It did not take a genius to write the 95 Theses, but Martin Luther’s ability to leverage his words broadly achieved maximum and lasting effect.  Donald Trump is no genius (‘very stable’ or otherwise), but he is singularly focused on leveraging public sentiment to maximum effect.  To paraphrase comedian and writer Jennifer Saunders, trying to deal with the ultimate impact of Donald Trump may be a bit like trying to get toothpaste back in the tube.

A message for @SenateDems & @HouseDemocrats

I hope y’all read this because its 4:30am and frankly, I’d rather be asleep right now…

I woke up in the middle of the night burning with the following thought: Donald Trump is personally violating my constitutional rights. It came to me as I thought back to his petulant, bratty and terrifying (see the rise of Nazi Germany) performance in Phoenix this week. Call me biased, but start with looking at this list CNN put together of the 57 most outrageous quotes from that speech: Donald Trump’s 57 Most Outrageous Quotes…

Here’s another bit worth considering. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution where the office of President of the United States is defined and outlined in its scope of power and obligations reads:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:-“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” [1]

My sleepless night comes from how this oath, as sworn to by the 45th president and when considered alongside at least 50 of those 57 most outrageous quotes from CNN, doesn’t quite match up with this little gem from the most talked about element of the Constitution today (see bold):


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. [2]

The first thing to note here is that the First Amendment is entirely the jurisdiction of Congress. It is Congress’ obligation to protect and define the laws established in the Constitution and that includes the First Amendment. In fact, any casual student of the Constitution (I would qualify as one) can see that the founding fathers gave most of the power to Congress because the House and Senate actually represent the people. The Executive, cannot and DOES not function without the power of Congress…that was the whole point of the legislative structure. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have failed the American people in maintaining this essential balance of power in our government as the majority party leaders of both houses…but that’s another blog post.

My primary point is that Donald Trump has leveraged his “celebrity” and his power as president to completely undermine our constitutional right to freedom of the press. Every time he speaks of “fake news” or “fake media” he takes his office and actively uses it to damage the integrity of something that is very clearly protected in the US Constitution.

We do not live in a dictatorship, where the government controls our access to information. Despite the influence of wealthy individuals and power hungry corporations, one of the basic premises of US government is the free flow of information and even Rupert Murdoch understands that. Donald Trump, overriding the power of Congress, is actively and intentionally blockading that flow of information from the press by creating an atmosphere of doubt and suspicion and he has managed to master the art of curtailing, perverting and twisting the information generated by the free press into a sickening, poisonous and judging by Charlottesville, lethal brew.

If we are to have any hope at all of eradicating this disastrous virus of lies from our highest elected office, I say we need to look at and actually use the Constitution that is meant to serve as both his job description and his watchdog. I am calling on you, our elected officials to demand that Trump either end his war on the press (which, if it could be defined as a war would be full on treason…see Article III section 3) or to seek his removal from office for not adhering to his sworn oath. If you who we have put in office are not willing to do so, than folks, the People of the United States must to bring suit against Donald J. Trump for being denied free speech and access to a free press, and yes, we have the tools in the Constitution to do that as well.

See you in court.

Ways to Sue if Your Constutional Rights are Violated

[1] –

[2] – Ibid.