In Bob Woodward's revealing new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, there's not a lot of talk about matters related to religion and faith.
But there is one passage that describes a conversation between now-resigned presidential adviser Steve Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and it contains a view of God that strikes me as a fault line between those who hold that view and the rest of the country.
Here's the way Woodward tells the story:
"Bannon turned to what was perhaps the fondest memory of their political lives -- when Trump had won the presidency on November 9. Victory was as sweet as it got.
"'Is there any doubt in your mind on the 9th, when it was called, that it was the hand?' Bannon asked, dipping into a shared religious belief system. 'That divine providence that worked through Trump to win this?'
"'No,' Sessions said.
"'You mean that?'
"Sessions said he did.
"'It was the hand of God, right? You and I were there. We know there's no other way it could've happened than the hand of God.'
So in this kind of theology, God directly intervenes in American politics -- and in who-knows-what else. And God not only directly intervenes in a presidential race, but God works to deny the wishes of a majority of the voters by using the Electoral College to pick Trump over Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote. In effect, God rebukes human freedom and choice.
Clearly Bannon and Sessions believe in such a God. Clearly they think such a God agrees with them that Trump should be president.
But this view of God raises the disturbing possibility that God may not be intervening in other matters you'd think would be important to the sovereign of the cosmos. For instance, why didn't God intervene to prevent the deaths of 20 people in a limousine crash near Albany, N.Y., this week? Was God taking a day off? Did not God love those people? Or did they die because God was punishing each of them for something?
The old theodicy question of why there's evil and suffering in the world is made even more difficult to answer if God is the kind of God described in the Bannon-Sessions conversation. And, of course, we know that no matter what view you hold of God, the theodicy question is really hard to answer -- so much so that no one has found a fully satisfying answer to it.
The other thing a Bannon-Sessions view of God seems to do is to remove or at least limit human freedom. If God was determined to make Trump president, it means that no matter what American voters did, God would fix the results. Humans, in this view, become mere marionettes on a string attached to God's puppet-master hand -- the very hand Bannon mentioned.
Theology matters. If God made Trump president, wouldn't the people who work in his administration now also conclude that whatever they are doing to advance the Trump agenda equals doing the will of God?
And isn't that, ultimately, how some people make decisions to fly airplanes into skyscrapers and to bomb abortion clinics?
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TAKING AN INDEPENDENT PATH
Speaking of religion and politics, leaders of two predominantly black Christian denominations announced this week that they weren't going to be led by either white liberals or white conservatives but would chart their own course. Good. Before you can be a partner with others you need to know who you are and whose you are. That seems to be what's happening here.