A “great man knows he is not God,” observed the great and greater G. K. Chesterton — “and the greater he is the better he knows it.” This came to mind when hearing something President Trump said recently — and brought to mind something Barack Obama said many years ago, something a bit odd.
“Our country needs a savior right now,” said Trump while preaching for Pastor Robert Jeffress at Dallas’s First Baptist Church the Sunday before last. “And our country has a savior,” he continued. “And it’s not me. It’s somebody much higher up than me. Much higher.”
Of course, such an admission doesn’t require a heck of a lot of humility. What do you have to be, after all, to not realize you’re not God?
Answer: Maybe a Barack Obama.
Consider: While running for the U.S. Senate from Illinois in 2004, Obama was interviewed by Chicago Sun-Times religion reporter Cathleen Falsani, and what he revealed was striking, indeed.
Obama spouted boilerplate leftist philoso-babble for much of the interview. One interesting point, however, was when Falsani asked him, "What is sin?" Obama’s answer?
"Being out of alignment with my values," he said.
Now, this is a bit like asking Dr. Anthony Fauci “What is pseudo-science?” and his answering, “Being out of alignment with my pronouncements” (which would be in character). But, of course, Obama’s is not the definition of sin. Sin is that which violates God's laws, or, to put it in more modernistic terms, that which is out of alignment with God's “values” (which are the Truth). And one could conclude that a person defining sin as being out of alignment with his values believes he is God.
An even more bizarre answer came earlier in the interview when Falsani asked Obama whether he prayed often. "Uh, yeah, I guess I do. It's not formal, me getting on my knees,” the ex-president replied. “I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. I think throughout the day, I'm constantly asking myself questions about what I'm doing, why am I doing it [emphasis added]."
Well, now we see why he doesn’t get on his knees. How, after all, do you kneel before yourself? Obviously, praying involves imploring God for aid and perhaps asking Him questions; He is the prayers’ recipient. Thus, again, Obama was instinctively putting himself in God’s place. Yet as I wrote in 2010, do “I say that Obama thinks he is a supreme being who created the Universe? Unless it's a universe of programs, laws, regulations, and debt, no. But I am certain...that Obama is a typical leftist: self-centered and solipsistic. He has deified himself, in the sense that he believes he is above everyone else.”
So who has the bigger ego, Trump or Obama? Some may claim that at First Baptist, 45 was speaking to (and perhaps playing to) an audience very different from 44’s. Fair enough. But for certain is that with Falsani, Obama revealed his true self as he so often would off teleprompter, just as he did when telling an audience in 2008 that people in middle America clung to “guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them….” His comments were in the nature of a Freudian slip.
As for Trump, very much the playboy, he certainly for most of his life could not be mistaken for a desert mystic, and they do say “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Yet I did sense (and I could have been wrong, of course) that he grew as a person as his presidency wore on. Given how he was assailed and maligned without reprieve, this wouldn’t be surprising. For “Pain is the megaphone God uses to get through to deaf ears,” as C.S. Lewis put it — trials and tribulations inspire us to grow.
But the deeper matter is that the self-deifying are dangerous because godlessness breeds the twin siblings of illusory human superiority and sinister superciliousness: Those who don’t look up at God with awe tend to look down on His children with ire.
That’s why any leader should ideally fit the description almost no leader does: Chesterton’s.
As he put it in The Everlasting Man (1925):
Divinity is great enough to be divine; it is great enough to call itself divine. But as humanity grows greater, it grows less and less likely to do so. God is God, as the Moslems say; but a great man knows he is not God, and the greater he is the better he knows it. That is the paradox; everything that is merely approaching to that point is merely receding from it.