Did I hear Jesse Jackson correctly? Did the founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition really tell the hosts of “With All Due Respect” that Donald Trump needs to apologize for fueling the obviously racist “birther” movement against our president?
Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve heard this demand. The same proposal has been echoed by such prominent voices as Secretary Hillary Clinton, Congressman John Conyers, Governor John Kasich, and even Trump surrogate, Dr. Ben Carson!
“Low Bar” Definition
In light of the untold number of people who have been hurt by Mr. Trump’s words and actions, several questions flood my mind when I hear this flippant piece of advice. Really? Apologize? Do those who offer this easy off ramp really know the contextual meaning of ”apology” as it relates to Mr. Trump’s past [and present] behavior?
As they endorse this “low bar” definition of a potentially powerful term, do they realize that they are embracing the same attitude as the media soft-ballers who hold the presidential hopeful to an unbelievably low standard? Mr. Trump’s consistent transgressions do not call for a “late to a meeting” or “accidentally broke your vase” kind of “apology.”
If all apologies were this easy, we could drastically reduce our prison population overnight. We could mandate that juries double as parole boards and exonerate all violent offenders before sentencing if they simply mouthed the words, “I’m sorry.” Child molesters would only have to utter those magic words and they will be free to frequent children play areas again. Spouse abusers will only have to say they won’t offend again and the restraining orders would be instantly nullified.
Beyond “Lip Service”
Surely, this couldn’t be what these esteemed officials have in mind when they call for this renowned serial offender to “apologize.” Surely, they realize that the type of “apology” required from Mr. Trump can only originate from an individual’s sincere “regret, remorse, or sorrow” for causing injury to others.
Surely, they know that a genuine apology is a spoken utterance that derives from heartfelt pain and a desire to make restitution. Surely, neither our politicians nor our society have evolved to such a state of flimsy pretense that the mere mouthing of choice words from a school yard dictionary is sufficient to absolve people from their transgressions.
The type of apology demanded from Mr. Trump cannot be restricted to mere words. A “lip service” type of apology that is only uttered to appease public sentiment is no different than the type of shallow promise that provides “comfort to a fool.” Those who assert that his media staged apologies will magically erase all of his past statements and actions only contribute to the shameful naïveté that has infected too many in our society.
The “oops” category of apology would be perfectly fine if a person did something accidentally, but if it is known that the damage was premeditated, the culprit cannot be let off lightly. He or she must take responsibility and be willing to live with the consequences.
A “Baby Christian”
With this in mind, I have some advice for Brother Trump, upon whom Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson conferred the “baby Christian” mantle. Judging from his recent infomercial-like appearance before an African-American congregation at the Greater Faith Ministries Church in Detroit, he appears to be more biblically literate than he was when he first addressed an evangelical group at Liberty University (as is evidenced by his quoting a text from “First John” rather than “One John”).
If this “baby Christian” really wants to know the spiritual mechanics behind an apology from a biblical perspective, I would recommend that he read the story of Zaccheus in the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. For those who may not know the plot, Zaccheus was a wealthy socialite who upon being “born again” vowed to make restitution to everyone he had defrauded.
Steps to Repentance
After reading about Zaccheus, if Brother Trump is truly sorry for his words and actions, the first thing he should do is pull out of the presidential race. Genuine conviction will demand no less. Only then can he begin to practically demonstrate the substance behind his apologies, as—in the spirit of Zaccheus—he makes every effort to rectify past wrongs.
I am even willing to share ways in which his repentance can be tangibly demonstrated, This is where he can start:
He should honor the contracts of all the companies he has allegedly ripped off.
He should voluntarily pay compensatory damages to all who have been denied leases to his property because of the color of their skin.
He should reimburse with interest the victims of his Trump University scam and provide academic scholarships for them to receive their desired qualification from accredited institutions.
He should move his overseas manufacturing operations into economically depressed areas and pay his workers at a rate that is at least twice as much as the current minimum wage.
He should devote at least 25 percent of his wealth to the establishment of a sizable academic endowment in honor of the Central Park Five and the families of Blacks who have been unjustly gunned down by the police.
If Mr. Trump is willing to start the path of repentance by addressing these past wrongs, I may just believe his apology. Unfortunately, his habitual actions indicate that he has little in common with Zaccheus and is much more akin to the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew’s gospel, who loved power and wealth more than people. If he proves me wrong, I will be the first to apologize—the “oops” type of apology, of course!