Via BuzzFeed, I’m going to be bold and pronounce this the single Trumpiest thing he’s said since the campaign began. Really! Trumpier than him goofing on McCain for being taken prisoner in Vietnam, Trumpier than him goofing on his fans by claiming they’d stick with him even if he shot someone in broad daylight. I’m a lapsed Catholic turned nonbeliever so I’ll let the faithful among our readers correct me, but isn’t this … one of the worst possible answers that a Christian could give to this question? An “eye for an eye” does appear in the Bible, true, but it’s Old Testament; it was specifically repudiated by Jesus himself in the gospel of Matthew in favor of “turn the other cheek,” as John McCormack notes. The whole point of Christianity, I thought, is to resist vengeance and embrace forgiveness, and it’s captured nowhere more succinctly than in the rejection of “an eye for an eye.” So here’s Trump, who’s been half-heartedly pandering to evangelicals since last summer, deciding that the lesson from the Bible that sticks with him is the one about, um, revanchism, which Jesus instructed his disciplines to ignore. It’s like naming Baal your favorite member of the holy trinity.
Give him credit for being on-message, though. He’s being asked here for nothing more than a light pander to Christians in the audience, to show them that he takes his faith seriously, and instead he reaches for something archaic and defunct about taking revenge on people who have wronged you, which is the absolute core appeal of his campaign. Jesus may want you to love your enemies but the God of the Old Testament wants to make America great again, baby. This is the guy who cleaned Cruz’s clock among Bible-believing evangelicals in the south throughout February and March. Hoo boy. Still: I do honestly admire Trump’s refusal to pander to the GOP’s Christian base by even feigning an acquaintance with the basics of the faith. It’d be the easiest thing in the world for him to huddle with Jerry Falwell Jr or some paid advisor for a few days and nail down the basics of how to answer a question like this one, but he won’t do it. Or maybe he has done it and just can’t deliver the answer he knows he’s supposed to give? If he had said “Blessed are the poor” when asked what his favorite teaching was, would anyone have believed him?
The best is the very last line of his answer: “And we can learn a lot from the Bible, that I can tell you.” He sounds like Billy Madison wrapping up his answer about the industrial revolution because he doesn’t know what else to say.