Apparently, in their own peculiar numerology, some evangelicals have decided that Donald Trump—the 45th president—enjoys cosmic parallel with Cyrus the Great, who is mentioned in Isaiah 45. Cyrus is the Persian emperor who returned the Israelites from Babylonian exile and allowed them to start rebuilding the Temple of Jerusalem. Israel’s own Benjamin Netanyahu drew the parallel after Trump moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And since then, the comparison has picked up so much momentum that, last October, Christianity Today published “Is Trump Our Cyrus? The Old Testament Case for Yes and No.”
Honestly, I don’t know what scares me more: The hubris that makes evangelicals yearn so much to place themselves in the center of cosmic events, or the fact that they misunderstand their own history. I don’t know much about Cyrus the Great, except that, for ending the Babylonian exile, Isaiah refers to him as a messiah (or anointed one). Cyrus commands great respect from a variety of peoples (including Iran, who adopted Cyrus’s clay cylinders as one of their symbols). He has a reputation for being savvy in battle, where among other feats, he conquered Babylon. He is best known for deftly managing the largest empire in history, as it stretched from Asia Minor to India. And he eventually managed a collection of quasi-independent states, where he exercised tremendous religious tolerance. Oh. And he released a lot of people from captivity. The Babylonians—the very people he conquered—called him The Liberator.
So… I’m squinting here, and I still don’t see a lot of Trump. Let’s start with “Military hero.” Well, with Mr. T we’ve got bone spurs, and secret leaking, and suggestions to invade Venezuela.
How about “respect from many peoples, including Iran?” Well, if we look past the trade wars, and the insults to NATO, and the Baby Blimp, we can focus on last July, when Tehran threatened Trump with the Mother of All Wars. And Trump got out his ALL CAPS tweeter to brandish consequences “few in history have ever seen.”
Right. So, let’s look at “deftly managing a vast empire.” You’re kidding. Moving on…
Next, we have “tremendous religious tolerance.” Oh boy. I bet the refugees from the banned Muslim countries don’t think so. I bet Jewish people take exception to Trump’s refusal to to condemn the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. In fact, some of them reject him so much that they requested he not travel to the Pittsburgh synagogue after it suffered an attack—a request, by the way, that Trump ignored.
So finally, that leaves us with “he released a lot of people from captivity.” Dear dear. Since the start of the child detainments, two of them have died in ICE captivity. In total, 22 immigrants have died in detention during the past 2 years. And then there’s the flip side, where in 2018, Trump deported 98 Mauritanians (compared to 12 deportations, a year ago), where these immigrants will almost certainly return to modern-day slavery.
And… that’s what I’ve got. I mean, what am I missing? Trump is Cyrus because Trump moved the embassy to Jerusalem? That’s it? That and the number 45?
Oh, wait. This took some digging, and the evangelicals will have to bend a little, because it’s from the Quran. But according to this book, Cyrus the Great finds embodiment in somebody named Dhul-Qarnayn. And this guy’s claim to fame is that he… builds a wall.
There. It all makes sense.
EDIT: After some thinking, I’ve decided that maybe the evangelicals pair Trump with Cyrus, because Cyrus was a pagan who nonetheless became God’s instrument when he restored the Jews from their exile. The Old Testament is lovely in how it’s full of gentiles who do godly things. I mean, there’s the sailors who throw Jonah overboard; there’s Moses’ pop-in-law, Jethro. But the exception is that these guys did God’s will out of decency, or at least outright piety. I don’t see that with Trump—I don’t see it at all. I mean, I suppose that the evangelicals hope that Trump will have a Damascus moment, in the manner of its namesake, Paul. But let’s be honest. Trump probably thinks “epiphany” is the name of a lady he once rented.