Donald Trump and Christians: What’s the Attraction?

I don’t receive snail mail often these days, but I received a letter from longtime listeners to our class that was most kind, but concerned and asking for clarification regarding things I have said in recent months.

From the letter:

You have, I believe, tried to be careful in not expressing support for any one political party or nominee, and yet: (Getting right to the point of this letter) — Much to our dismay, it “seems” to us that you are a Trump supporter. We may be wrong. Personally, we know the choice was infinitely hard last election, but to us it is blatantly obvious Trump uses the devil’s methods (to do God’s work???) and calls them “perfect,” “wonderful,” etc. But here is our moral and spiritual dilemma:

1. WHY do so many Christians support Trump, who has so openly lied, verbally abused, sexually manhandled women, (proven from his own lips), and laughed at others? WHY?

2. Isn’t Trump and his “I can do anything I want to” attitude heading us for big trouble? A one-man rule? He praises North Korea’s president, and Russia’s. Yet calls our own US Senators and lawmakers and service people or anyone who doesn’t agree with him, bad names. And yes, I realize there are good and bad folks on all sides. But his repeated verbal abuse is sickening to me. We TEACH freedom. Does that mean we back a president who thinks he has the right to do what he chooses?

The same day that I read this letter, I read an article in The Southern Tidings entitled A Beast Not a Lamb. The author noted that the beast arising out of the earth in Revelation 13 has “lamblike horns” but is not a lamb; it is a beast, meaning this power (a nation) will use the methods of earth’s beastly governments — coercion and force — to compel its way. The article identifies this nation as the USA and goes on to suggest that Christian Nationalism will make the country a beast power. The author writes, “Nationalism and Patriotism are not the same thing,” and goes on to state that patriots can love their country but don’t force their values on others. The article defines “Nationalism” as a movement that seeks to take control of government to force its politics, religion, or morals upon others; the author cites the Nazi party as an example of this.

Perhaps the listeners who wrote the letter above have the same concerns as the Southern Tidings article. And to be clear, I stand in solidarity with all parties that seek to protect our liberties — freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of religion — and political freedom. It is only in an atmosphere of liberty that love grows, that individuality can advance, that truth can spread, that people can develop their fullest potential and fulfill God’s purposes. So let’s be watchful to promote freedom and resist coercion and the erosion of our liberties — from whatever corner they appear.

A Closer Look

But one of the concerns I have with the Southern Tidings article is how it seems to consider any Nationalist movement today to be the same as the Nationalism of Nazi Germany. The author doesn’t seem to realize that words can change meaning over time — e.g., “gay” in the 1940s didn’t mean what it means today. Indeed, I don’t think the Major League Baseball team Washington Nationals and their fans are promoting some form of Nazism.

Nationalism in Nazi Germany was, in reality, Socialism that became Authoritarianism, just as Socialism has done in every instance (Soviet Union, North Korea, Vietnam, China, Cuba, etc.). And the Socialism of Nazi Germany advanced with specific methods, initially with powerful rhetoric and promises of power to the people, followed by young people (college-age students) becoming loyalists, such as the so-called “Brownshirts” who were organized to disrupt opposing political movements by crowd intimidation (shouting down opposition) and inciting riots — all in order to silence opposition voices. Today, we see similar methods being used not by the Christian right, but by the Socialist left in this country.

Therefore, we must recognize that many in the USA today who identify as “Nationalists” are not Socialists, but rather Constitutionalists. In other words, they are people who value liberty and want to protect the integrity of the U.S. Constitution. They see the freedoms established in the constitution as being under attack and seek to protect the fundamental principles that established this nation as unique among nations — thus, they identify as Nationalists; i.e., protecting the one nation ever established in history upon the principles written in the constitution.

So don’t get caught up in mere labels, but instead examine what people are actually doing and ask: Are their actions protecting freedoms or restricting them? This can be confusing when many groups employ the same labels, like racist groups using nationalist labels in their titles. This is why it is essential to look at function, not labels.

Throughout history, Satan, the enemy of freedom, has sought to destroy the image of God in humanity — destroy love, destroy goodness, destroy compassion, destroy intelligence; thus, his methods are beastly and always seek to control others and to bend humanity to his will through coercion. As we see these methods being employed, whether from the political right or left, we should resist them and instead promote the principles of truth, love, and freedom.

Some good-hearted Christians (as those who wrote the letter above) hear Trump’s rhetoric and don’t see Jesus being modeled. They don’t see godliness being practiced and, therefore, they get confused when they see other Christians supporting him. I think this confusion is due to forgetting a couple of key points.

First, they don’t recognize the difference between a man of God (i.e., godly person — such as Job, Daniel, Moses, the apostles) and ungodly people who are called by God for the fulfillment of His purposes (such as the kings Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar).

Therefore the LORD Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the LORD (Jeremiah 25:8, 9 NIV84).

Notice: ungodly, unconverted, worldly, prideful, and arrogant Nebuchadnezzar was called God’s “servant” and was used by God to accomplish a purpose.

This first point helps me, as a Christian, to not be disturbed by Trump because I recognize the difference between those who are God’s representatives (godly people) and those who are not godly people but are still being used by God to accomplish His purposes.

Second, I recognize the difference between the church and the state. While the Bible gives specific qualifications of mature character for church leaders, it gives no such qualifications for leaders of worldly governments.

With these two points in mind, I am able to differentiate the character qualities that would disqualify someone from being a pastor or church leader yet realize those same qualities don’t necessarily disqualify them from other professions — gardener, farmer, tailor, welder, pilot, surgeon, corporate lawyer, corporate leader, or politician. My point is that I don’t hold politicians to the same standard I would hold a church leader, and I think many Christians get confused when they try to merge the church and state in their thinking and decision-making.

This happens on questions such as marriage; while it is clear from the Bible that God’s design for marriage is one man and one woman, Christians forget that the state is not the church and isn’t concerned with unity of hearts and minds as God designed, but about legal rights (property ownership, next of kin rights, legal decision making in health care, tax breaks, etc.). I am not troubled by a state legalizing same-sex marriage because it’s dealing only with human-law social contracts; human laws cannot make something sacred.

Regarding President Trump — as a psychiatrist, I have been conditioned to look past mere presentation to actual function; many people don’t do this, but I have been trained to do so. I don’t look at mere style, demeanor, or verbiage, but to action, function, or accomplishment.

Take the husband who beats his wife while yelling, “I only do this because I love you.” I look past what he’s saying to what he is doing. Likewise, when I examine Trump, I look past what and how he says things to what he is actually accomplishing as president — not as a husband or Christian, but as president.

What do I find? What he appears to be doing is protecting the liberties established in our constitution.

Political Correctness and the Great Controversy

Ben Carson leapt onto the national stage when, at a presidential prayer breakfast, he described the problem with political correctness. He protested how the political correctness movement has slowly eroded our culture’s sense of liberty and put many people under a constrained sense in which they feel they are no longer free to speak their mind, lest the “politically correct” get their feelings hurt and label them a bigot.

Donald Trump has weaponized the outrage at the encroachment of free speech. He didn’t describe the problems with political correctness; instead, he behaved grossly politically incorrect and sometimes overtly offensive. By doing so, he functionally took back the space for freedom to speak openly and directly. I personally find much of what he says to be shocking, but I believe many times he speaks this way on purpose to stun and to get people to react. In other words, it is done strategically, not maliciously — one could say therapeutically — to get a specific outcome. The politically correct thought-police in society hate Trump for this and are aggressively opposing him. Their encroachment on our free speech is also seen in the “cancel culture” movement — to which many comedians are actively protesting. Agree or disagree with Trump, but recognize that his actions push back such encroachments on our freedom of speech.

Further, I find that Trump is just out there, in your face, and is “genuine” — meaning he isn’t smiling and saying one thing and then doing the opposite behind the scenes, like many other politicians. With Trump, you basically get what you see. And he presents as a flawed human being, but one who is open and real, which makes him someone with whom many people can identify — even if they don’t agree with what or how he says things.

In the context of the great controversy between good and evil, I see Trump being like Nebuchadnezzar — not a godly man, but being used by God to give us a few more years of true liberty before the socialists completely erode our freedoms and bring about a one-world government. Many Christians who study Revelation believe that our freedoms will be eroded by the right — evangelicals merging with government to pass Christians laws. The Southern Tidings article suggests this route, and it is certainly possible; and I wisely keep an eye out for it. But I personally am also watching the left, with its social justice warriors and the green movement, who are seeking to unite the world in a coalition that will, for instance, manage carbon output purported to save the planet but in reality is designed to become a new ruling conglomerate that subjugates the nations. (The pope has called a meeting of world leaders in May 2020 to discuss forming this new coalition — see my blog The Days of Noah & Today’s Climate Change.) Trump has interfered with this agenda and is being viciously attacked by social progressives who want to undermine our liberties and bring about a global coalition government.

This is why I support most of the policies of the Trump administration, even though I recognize that he is not presenting himself in a way that models after Jesus Christ — because I support liberty, equality, and want a government to restrain evil, not legislate righteousness.

But perhaps the real threat to our freedoms is the combined effect of both left and right. Rather than being the United States in which a wide range of views, beliefs, values and perspectives exist simultaneously standing upon the common respect for the principles of freedoms established in the constitution, the country has regressed into an ever-increasing divided nation in which two polar extremes view the other side as an existential threat to their rights, their freedoms and even the very survival of the nation or planet and thus seek to claim power to force its way. This is why the informed Christian must be disciplined to following God’s principles of love, truth, and freedom and not any political party — and we must remember the difference between the church and the state.

Finally, with President Trump, we must remember to take him seriously but not literally; the people who have problems with Trump tend to take him literally but not seriously. This means we must recognize that Trump exaggerates and overstates things a lot for effect, but not to be taken literally — rather, to be taken seriously in the overall point he is trying to make or the process he is trying to accomplish. Those who don’t recognize this often accuse Trump of lying because he uses hyperbole to make a point. But overstatement and hyperbole are common methods of communication, a literary style, a vehicle to emphasize, to draw attention to, and to move people off complacency by inciting reaction and getting engagement. The Bible does this in many places. Trump is a genius at doing this — at saying things in such a way that it moves people to act and react. Whether you support him or not, Trump is an agent of change, a person used to shake up the routine and is getting people on both sides engaged.

Thus, I am not distressed by President Trump. Under his administration, I experience greater security of the constitutional protections and want to use this time to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ, realizing that one day (perhaps soon) either from the right or the left (but I suspect the left), our liberties will be encroached upon and our ability to share the gospel will be restricted. As long as our freedoms remain, however, I want people to come to a knowledge of God. So my suggestion is that we focus on function, accomplishment, what is actually happening — and not on mere rhetoric or style.

Further Reading:

The Trauma Response and the Media” by Dr. Tim Jennings

Dr. Tim Jennings is an international speaker and author of Could It Be This Simple?, The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain. A board-certified, practicing psychiatrist, Dr. Jennings has brought his timely message of God’s healing and remedy to tens of thousands around the world. Learn more about his profound, life-changing message of God’s love at comeandreason.com, where this article first appeared (it is reprinted here with permission). He is also a featured speaker at the American Association of Christian Counselors.

Image credit: U.S. Department of State via Flickr.com / Public Domain

A Response to this Article:

"Donald Trump and Conservative Christians: A Fatal Attraction"

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10185
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Stunned that the left-dangling Spectrum would permit your article! Perhaps your title acted like a spoon of honey!

There is medicine in it-andfor some, bitter, perhaps even deadly to their monotype of hate. What I cannot easily resolve is how so many of my associates and colleagues feel an overt, continual, unbalanced (one sided) HATE towards the president.

Perhaps even more alarming to me is how some of these same learned men and women feel morally justified hating those of us who support a president who appears to be succeeding correcting some of the erosive losses of liberty and justice that our recent (bipartisan) political trajectory has brought us. Bush was really no republican-then our nation veered into dangerous territory when it was vociferated from our highest podiums that the greatest threat to America was conservativism and attendant capitalism.
Kristalnacht2.0? Seems we have observed this effect in our own borders, in our own cities, and without correction, will consume us, too.

Edit to add
(disclaimer: I did not vote for this candidate, but have never observed a more strident antipathy towards anyone-by so many who claim the name “christian”. Apparently congeniality is optional in that cohort. Look at all those fine fig leaves on full display…)

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Sad that Jennings, too, has drunk the Trumpian Kool-Aid.

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Your repeated use of the word “hate” seems quite slanted when writing in a Christian community. I would at least ask you which specific examples of “erosive losses of liberty and justice” you are referring to.

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It is a good thing that the Spectrum website gives a political voice to one our most prominent Sabbath School teachers.

But contrary to what Jennings says here, remember:

The Nazis (despite their name) were fascists, not socialists. Self-designated American “nationalists” are often white supremacists; in every case they disavow the universal values of Isaiah and Jesus. The biblical prophets do have standards when it comes to political leadership, and so do regularly attack political corruption. A person may be “genuine” in corruption and dishonesty, in which case being “genuine” is no virtue.

Chuck

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I am dismayed when people conflate revulsion and hatred.

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I support Trump’s control of our southern border, because my native country, South Africa, also has a totally porous border, allowing huge numbers of migrants to pour in from African countries to the north.
This has resulted in enormous resentment from native born South African blacks, due to an unemployment rate of fifty per cent.

Our Mexican / Central American migrants are prepared to undercut the wages / salaries of our working class poor. Exactly what is happening in South Africa .

Also when you are without a job, you have to steal to eat — so crime is rampant in my native land.

The Democrats are unconscionable in not supporting Trump’s border policies.

His wall will hopefully also reduce the flood of heroin / fentanyl / methamphetamine flooding our country, Not to mention the sex trafficking of underage girls! Mexico is a failed state run by criminal drug cartels. In undercutting Trump’s border policies, the Democrats aid and abet these thugs.

What is not to like, when unemployment rates for blacks, Hispanics, Asians, women, even high school drop outs, has reached HISTORIC LOWS
TRUMP’s OPPORTUNITY ZONES in impoverished Democratic run ghettoes is great for this minority group— not to mention their best employment rates in decades.

Plus anyone with an 401K /. IRA / Pension plan / investments is hugely better off thanks to the stellar growth in the stock market since Trump’s inauguration — multiple successive highs in the DOW and NASDAQ.

I am sure that our General Conference investment portfolio has hugely benefited. Our denomination should also experience an increase in tithe receipts due to everyone’s expanded employment opportunities !

His STATE OF THE UNION address will highlight these magnificent achievements!

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The same thing struck me. I feel no hatred toward 45 or any of his supporters. Rather it engenders a great sadness in me that they could be so blinded as to follow such a vulgar and dishonest man. So many of my Christian acquaintances seem to have fallen for the fallacy that the ends justifies the means, as if the ends in this case are even worthy of Christian support.

This I find also very troubling. Even if I look past 45 the person, and focus on “action, function, or accomplishment,” I am appalled. How could I support policies that aim to keep ALL asylum seekers out of our country, that has separated asylum seeking children from their parents and placed them in cages, that has cut off SNAP benefits from hundreds of thousands of needy people, that wants to criminalize abortion, that wants to deny equal rights to LGBTQ+ people, etc. So much of what this administration wants to do, and in some cases has accomplished, runs counter to clear Christian principles of social justice.

I am not opposed to this president JUST because he is a vile and dishonest person, but also because his policy goals run counter to basic human rights for so many people and ignore social justice in so many ways. Even his stances on climate change and war run counter to my Christian moral principles.

None of this drives me to hate, it drives me to great sadness. So many people are being hurt and the positive influence of my country has taken a serious hit.

There are those who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground.
. . . .
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,
for the times are evil.
Amos 5: 7, 12-13

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Thank you Brian for the eloquent expression of my sentiments…

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I have seen many people using the word “hate” criticizing those who point out DT’s insanity and destructive governing. As if hating the wrong, the bad, the destructive, the insane were un-natural and inadequate reactions to evil

Yes, I take it. I do hate what is happening to our country. I do hate that US Senators cannot honor their oath when acting as jurors. What is happening is shameful and unacceptable. But, still worse, is defending those individuals who are behaving that way. Christians are supposed to be on the side of the right and decency - one would think, isn’t it?.. :roll_eyes:

What I see baffles me, but this is just my opinion.

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Your insistence upon referring to President Trump as “Drumpf” is one example of the attitude that Dr. Jennings warns us against in this article. Whether you support him or not basic human courtesy seems to dictate not resorting to this type of juvenile naming calling; the same stuff that so many people on the political left condemn President Trump for practicing.

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Many seem to have missed the point of this article which was to answer a question from fellow believers and friends who are struggling to understand what they are observing. Some seem to think this is a political article, or that I am supporting a person, neither is true. The article discusses a politician because that was the focus of the question, but it is about how we can understand events, as Christians, and be at peace with those who see it differently than we do.

What I actually support are the principles of liberty, as I wrote in the article: “Throughout history, Satan, the enemy of freedom, has sought to destroy the image of God in humanity – destroy love, destroy goodness, destroy compassion, destroy intelligence; thus, his methods are beastly and always seek to control others and to bend humanity to his will through coercion. As we see these methods being employed, whether from the political right or left, we should resist them and, instead, promote the principles of truth, love, and freedom.”

And regarding the policies I support I wrote the following: “because I support liberty, equality, and want a government to restrain evil, not legislate righteousness.”

Many seem to have missed what I wrote and read in their own misconceptions. If you would like a specific list of policies then I would recommend you read my blog Why Satan Hates the US Constitution.

I support any person, right or left, who supports these principles or helps advance these principles. And I oppose practices that try to hinder these principles–from both sides right or left. It appears from reading the responses that many people have not seen these points in the blog and have become blinded by their biases or animus toward Trump and allowed that passion to overflow to the point they missed the principles I am supporting.

Another problem many have is differentiating appropriate boundaries. President Trump is the president of the USA, not the president of the world. While we as Christians seek to love and bless all peoples of the world, as President his responsibility is to US Citizens, not to all peoples of the world. Any person who has ever been in a position of authority in any organization should understand this. As much as we might love the employees of another company, we do not give them paychecks from the company we run. This is where many mix church (help all people of the world) and state (help primarily the citizens of one’s own nation) in their thinking and come up with confused ideas of what is healthy policy for a nation.

Can those who are uncomfortable with this article say, “Dr. J I agree with you that we should support the principles of liberty. But I disagree with you that this administration is doing so, because…” and then cite evidences of liberties of US Citizens being denied? It appears to me that many of the responses fail to recognize that they and I can both agree on the principles, but be standing in positions in which we don’t fully appreciate the evidences in the same way. Reasoned and evidenced-based discourse could then lead us to a place of harmony and unity. But some cannot tolerate ideas that are different then their own and instead seek merely to discount a divergent view with criticism, why? What insult was written in the article? What name was called? What attack was made? Only an explanation of why some Christians support Trump. And this explanation was given to help struggling Christian friends try and understand events in a way that brings some peace. I find it very sad that people cannot maturely reason through differences of how we see things, especially when we supposedly value the same principles of truth, love and liberty.

One other point to remember when voting for people is that we don’t “know” the person, only their public persona. As the Bible says, man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. In the history of every person there are sins and actions that are quite unlike Jesus. I know in my life if every sin I have committed were made public, people would form an opinion about me that is not who I am since Jesus has become my Savior and changed my heart. I think of Nebuchadnezzar, arrogant, prideful, pagan, womanizer --but his heart was reachable and God did reach him. So, with Trump it is very dangerous for us to judge his heart, in fact we are not supposed to do so. The article was designed to help people see past the flawed human personality to whether his actions are helpful for the nation or not—and whether God can use a person who is not revealing Christ in their public practices; and for me it is about protecting the constitution because the constitution lays out protection of our liberties and only in freedom does love grow and people thrive. This is what it is about—helping people thrive into the fulness of God’s ideal for each individual.

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The Nazis were most definitely socialist who practiced fascism. There is considerable lack of clarity on exactly what defines fascism among political and social scientist. There is far more agreement among economists regarding the definition of a socialist economy and Germany under the Third Reich met most of the criteria as it related to the control the government exercised in the economy.

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In his book “Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream” the forensic psychiatrist Dr. Simon illuminates the psychology of psychopaths, killers, rapists and all manner of evil that challenge our minds. He rejects the common belief that his clients are monsters who share nothing in common with those who are normal like us. He posits that if we deny to acknowledge our dark side, and all of us have a dark side, it can only contaminate how we understand violence and limit how we understand ourselves and how we control our unacceptable impulses. The same goes for Trump, if we deny that we are incapable of doing what he gets away with, it robs us of being objective.

Could the attraction of christians to DT be because we all share certain commonalities but only DT can get away with his antics?

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You may not know the reason for referring to 45 as Drumf. 45 was denigrating a celebrity who’s relatives had changed their surname (a common practice) on immigrating. It seems as though the “Trump” name was changed from Drumf.

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The article puzzles me in some ways. I was raised to believe, by the church and my parents, that what comes out of the mouth is a sign of what is on the inside. Just because it comes out of the mouth of a political person, I should ignore? When rhetoric divides peoples, how is that preserving liberty? When those that disagree with a persons words/views they should be derided, ridiculed, etc and then tells everyone it is all fake news, that is preserving freedom? Very puzzling, what type or form of freedom is being preserved?

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And liberty for who?

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I really do not understand this reasoning at all. Trump is actively wanting to allow prayer in public schools. I thought the church was all about separation of church and state. Am I wrong about this? And how is using the example of a man beating his wife supposed to promote your point that what you do is what matters more than what you say? Words matter. A great deal. Verbal abuse causes as much harm as physical abuse, which you seem to discount entirely. This is why people leave the church. It is why I left the church. I’ve been hurt by what people have said as much as by how they have acted. Trump says terrible things all the time, about race and about women (grabbing them no less) and is certainly no role model for anyone. I respectfully disagree with your premise. I’ve been badly hurt by words. I’m glad you have managed to escape such feelings. Trump is the polar opposite of what Jesus Christ exemplified, helping the poor and being kind to one another.

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The sheer level of your ignorance of history is palpable Dr. Jennings. Maybe take a refresher course of what the rise of the Nazi threat was actually enabled by. Socialist policies were in fact dangled in front of the populace to induce them to vote for the Nazi’s. But socialism was quickly discarded for Fascism by the Nazi government with the full throated support of Christians. Looking at you here. Because you and those like you remind me of the very “Christians” who enabled their rise. And yet here you are, once again giving full throated support to authoritarians because they “support liberty, and equality…” They do in fact not. “And restrain evil.” How anyone can look at this administration and claim they “restrain evil” is so laughble on its face, that I cannot fathom how anyone could write such a thing and expect to be taken seriously. Perhaps you thought you were writing an opinion piece for Fox news?

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Trump is a German surname derived from either the word for “drum” or for “trumpet”

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