On Donald Trump and the rule of law

So what happens is the judge, who happens to be, we believe Mexican, which is great. I think that is fine. You know what? I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump when I give all these jobs. I think they are going to love it. I think they are going to love me. . . .

.. No, this is called “authoritarianism.” It’s what Berlusconi sounded like, what Chávez sounded like and what Perón sounded like — for that matter, it’s what Sulla and Caesar and the others who helped destroy the world’s first great republic sounded like: I am bigger than the law, I AM THE LAW.

.. from a man being seriously considered to head one of the three branches of our government, it is a not-too-thinly-veiled attack on the notion of judicial independence and the rule of law. If the guy in charge of executing the laws thinks the system is “rigged” — against billionaires, I suppose he means — and a “total disgrace,” then . . . well, you can figure it out. Enforce the law against himself? Or against his pals? That’s for suckers.

.. if you are elected president and come back for your civil trial in November — it will be a disgraceful spectacle. Great for ratings, though — and that’s all that matters, right?

.. Our republic has survived some terrible presidents, with terrible ideas about how to run the country; but this is something different. We’ve never had a president who not only thinks the government will be a toy for him to play with and push people around — wow!! how wild is that!! — but who tells us, in advance, over and over again, that that is his game. If we vote him into office, I suppose we will deserve what comes.

.. Our form of government will not work if the executive branch does not respect the legitimacy of decisions made by the judicial branch, because our judicial branch is entirely without power to enforce its judgments without the assistance of the executive branch.  

.. While I don’t want to be accused of over-dramatization, it is not inappropriate to point out, on this day after Memorial Day, that many people actually gave their lives to defend this idea, and we dishonor them if we throw it away.

.. And it’s not like he is standing on some important point of constitutional principle; he’s speaking out of naked self-interest, complaining about a case in which he stands to lose many millions of dollars if the judgment goes against him.

.. It is far, far too easy to imagine President Trump on prime time TV tearing up any judgment against him with a big smile on his face: “Hey, Judge Curiel, you think I have to fork $22 million to defrauded customers?  Try and make me …”   After all, the system is rigged – and the judge, to make matters worse, is a Mexican**. President Trump is going to be pushing them around, remember? Not vice versa!

.. That a TV celebrity wants to be above the law and immune to its commands is no surprise; I suspect that lots of TV celebrities would like to act outside the law.But the president actually has the levers of the law in his/her hands.  And there is a name for a chief executive who believes he/she is above the law: tyrant.

N.T. Wright: Paul and Caesar: A New Reading of Romans

We have moved away quite rapidly in recent years from the old split, which was assumed by and built into the fabric of Western biblical studies, between ‘religion’ and ‘politics’. We have come to see that trying to separate the two in the ancient world, not least in the Middle East, is as futile as trying to do so in certain parts of the modern world.  There is a quantum leap now being made from the old way of reading the Bible, in which certain political ‘implications’ could be drawn here and there from texts which were (of course) about something else, and the occasional concentration on rather isolated texts — one thinks of the ‘Tribute question’ in the synoptic tradition, and of the notorious first paragraph of Romans 13 — as being the only places in the New Testament at least where real ‘political’ issues came to the fore.

.. Now, however, we have all been alerted to the fact that the kingdom of God was itself, and remained, a thoroughly political concept; that Jesus’ death was a thoroughly political event; that the existence and growth of the early church was a matter of community-building, in conflict, often enough, with other communities.

.. There is of course a danger, not always avoided in recent studies, of seeing the New Testament now simply the other way up but still within the Enlightenment paradigm: in other words, of declaring that it’s all ‘politics’ and that to read it as ‘religion’ or ‘theology’ is to domesticate or privatize it.

.. Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Pauline studies received a shot in the arm which still continues to invigorate — or, depending on your point of view, a deep wound from which it is still trying to recover.

.. Sanders’ main thesis, which I regard as securely established in outline if not in all its details, is that the picture of Judaism assumed in most Protestant readings of Paul is historically inaccurate and theologically misleading: first-century Jews were not proto-Pelagians, and Paul did not attack them as such.

.. it was in some ways a plea to see Christianity from a modernist comparative-religion perspective rather than a classic theological one.

.. In the Mediterranean world where Paul exercised his vocation as the apostle to the Gentiles, the pagans, the fastest growing religion was the Imperial cult, the worship of Caesar.

.. With a long tradition of ruler-cults going back at least to Alexander the Great, local cities and provinces were in many cases only too happy to demonstrate their loyalty to the emperor by establishing a cult in his honour, and in need by vying for the privilege of looking after his shrine.

.. you don’t need such a strong military presence to police an empire if the citizens are worshipping the emperor.

.. where Rome had brought peace to the world, giving salvation from chaos, creating a new sense of unity out of previously warring pluralities, there was a certain inevitability about Rome itself, and the emperor as its ruler, being seen as divine.  Rome had done — Augustus had done — the sort of thing that only gods can do.

.. where Rome had brought peace to the world, giving salvation from chaos, creating a new sense of unity out of previously warring pluralities, there was a certain inevitability about Rome itself, and the emperor as its ruler, being seen as divine.  Rome had done — Augustus had done — the sort of thing that only gods can do.

.. None that I know of (myself included) have suggested that it must have been heard in Rome, and that Paul must have intended it, as a parody of the imperial cult.

.. The root of Jesse shall appear, the one who rises up (ho anistamenos) to rule the nations; in him shall the nations hope.’ Jesus’ Davidic messiahship, once more, is confirmed by his resurrection, and means that he is the true ruler of the nations.  This cannot, I suggest, be other than a direct challenge to the present ruler of the nations, Caesar himself.

.. I now realize that this tendency also represents part of a depoliticizing of Paul, a desire to move his theology away from confrontation with the powers of the world and into the safer sphere of a faith, a religion, a theology in which the only thing one needs to say about the rulers of the world is that God has ordained them and that they must in principle be obeyed.

.. I have written elsewhere of how Philippians 2:5-11 and 3:19-21 can be seen to have explicit reference to the imperial cult and theme, with, once more, the main thrust that Jesus Christ is the true kyrios of the world, so that of course Caesar is not.

.. in 1 Thessalonians run the same way: when people say ‘peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them unawares (1 Thes. 5:3).  And ‘peace and security’, it has been argued, was part of the Roman propaganda of the first-century empire.[15]

.. Rather, I suggest that Paul’s anti-imperial stance is part of a wider strain in his thinking which has also been marginalized in many systematic treatments of his thought, but which should be acknowledged and rehabilitated: the confrontation between the gospel and the powers of the world, between the gospel and paganism in general.

.. Our struggles over the integration of faith and history, of church and society, of natural and supernatural, simply did not look like that in the first century.