According to a new Pew Research poll, the number of Republicans who say presidents could operate more effectively if they did not have to worry so much about Congress and the courts has increased 16 percentage points since last year, from 27% to 43%. Among only those classified as conservative Republicans, the number of those in favor of more presidential power has doubled in the past year. The fears that this president has promoted the idea of a totalitarian state to his followers seems to have been well founded. That should come as no surprise to those who noted the president’s open affection for dictators, including those as brutal as Sadam Hussein.
It appears a certain segment of the population, particularly conservative Republicans, essentially want a king of the United States. This was the state of affairs in ancient Israel, in the time of the prophet Samuel. The prophet warned the people against putting themselves under the yoke of a king. However, the Israelites had lost faith in God as deliverer and wanted a king to lead them to victory over the Philistines.
Samuel pleaded with his people to rethink looking for a king to rule them. They were persistent, though, and he brought their request to God.
The LORD answered Samuel, “Comply with the people’s request—everything they ask of you—because they haven’t rejected you. No, they’ve rejected me as king over them.” “They are doing to you only what they’ve been doing to me from the day I brought them out of Egypt to this very minute, abandoning me and worshipping other gods.” “So comply with their request, but give them a clear warning, telling them how the king will rule over them.” (1 Samuel 8:7-9, CEB)
I’m assuming that a fair amount of those who want to give unchecked power to the president are from a Judeo-Christian tradition. They, like the ancient Israelites, seemed to have lost their faith in God to protect them against their enemies, real and perceived. Many of the Christians who support the current president believe that a strongman with a desire to rule as a king is necessary to protect their religious traditions. On that subject, Alan Jacobs has this to say:
For instance: Stretch your mind and imagine a POTUS who supports religious liberty but who also pursues reckless, thoughtless, and inconsistent policies both domestically and abroad. Imagine that he is cruel to the helpless, treacherous to longstanding allies, cozy with authoritarian regimes, incapable of sticking with a plan, prone to judge everyone he meets strictly by their willingness to praise and defer to him. Imagine that he is colossally ignorant of domestic and foreign realities alike and yet convinced of his matchless wisdom.
You might, first, ask whether such a President is a reliable ally of religious freedom. Would he work to guarantee liberty of conscience for those who on religious grounds criticized his own policies? Don’t make me laugh.
Jacobs goes on to question whether self-preservation should be the strongest driver of choosing leaders and public policy. He asks whether Christians who so clearly prioritize their interests over those of others can be considered reliable witnesses for faith in Christ. The Christian faith explicitly condemns putting one’s own needs above their neighbors. When asked which is the greatest commandments, Jesus responds in clear terms.
He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind.” “ This is the first and greatest commandment.” “ And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39, CEB)
Much has been made of tribalism within the group of Christians who support the current president without reservation. It is evident, by the treatment we have seen of other populations, such as immigrants, that this administration is not concerned about our neighbors. The desire to strengthen the hand of such a leader, to that of a king, speaks of a lack of faith in anything other than despotism.