The lesson of Aaron and the golden calf

Aaron Golden Calf

The religious leaders who support and provide cover for Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy – especially those associated with evangelical Christians – remind me of Aaron from the Bible’s Old Testament.

In case you need a refresher, Aaron was the older blood brother of Moses and a high priest of God during the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.

Most famously, when Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to talk with God and get the Ten Commandments he left Aaron in charge of the thousands of Israelites on the run from the Pharaoh.  (Nepotism in management has never been a particularly good idea.)

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

When Aaron saw this he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.”

The next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” Exodus 32: 1-6 (NIV)

Needless to say, Aaron had some ‘splainin’ to do when Moses got back:

“Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” – Exodus 32: 22-24 (NIV)

Neither Moses nor God thought much of Aaron’s excuses, and the incident did not end well for the calf-worshiping Israelites.  Maybe they should have said, “But the golden calf isn’t nearly as bad as the Egyptian gods!”

Yes, I’m equating Donald Trump with the golden calf, and I think it’s a fair analogy. In both, we see pretend deities; gaudy manifestations of material wealth that are totally devoid of spiritual value. Instead of holy grace, the intrinsic hollowness of the idols is imbued with fear, anger, resentment and desires from the mere humans who fashioned them. It is such faithless emotions that can still give malignant power to false gods.

This brings us to today’s Christian leaders who’ve thrown in with Donald Trump. No, they didn’t fashion the GOP candidate out of gold the way Aaron did (The Gilded Toad pretty much arrived ready-made). However, swayed by their alarmed flocks, men like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Pat Robertson seemed to have bought into the notion that God has abandoned us. And since no one knows where the Good Lord went, or if he’s coming back, they’re saying we may as well align with a greedy, lecherous, bigoted, unrepentant ego-maniac. (Hey, any god in a storm, right?) Let Trump go before us and give us the nation that we want!

I understand a lot of conservative Christians feel under siege by society and the government. They are afraid and desperate. Many will reluctantly vote for Trump as the lesser of two evils – as if anyone of us has a legitimate measuring stick. We should be fleeing evil, not quantifying it for comparison’s sake.

What these despairing people need is trustworthy guidance from their religious leaders, not permission to abandon basic standards of decency for the sake of political expediency. Christian leaders need to urge their congregations to have faith, and maybe remind us that sometimes God makes us wander in the wilderness.

We face a presidential election with no good choices, and certainly no Godly ones. I see voting for a third-party candidate, writing someone in, or leaving the top ballot blank as perfectly valid options. However, if Christian conservatives still feel a certain rooting interest for Trump, they need to put the real “binary choice” in perspective. We have a dark entity from of our opposition versus the vile god we chose for ourselves. Which would we, as Christians, be better able to resist?

Jim Carroll

Jim Carroll is a freelance writer and marketing consultant living in Eufaula, Alabama. During a communications career spanning nearly 30 years, Jim has worked as a radio deejay, producer and commercial copywriter; a newspaper journalist and editor; and a marketing communications manager and creative director for a major direct mail advertising company. A libertarian-leaning conservative, Jim’s first published work was a ‘letter to the editor’ of the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger- Enquirer at the age of 11 in support of President Richard Nixon. Apart from The Bible, he lists Milton Friedman’s "Free to Choose," and Stanley Milgram’s "Obedience to Authority" as the greatest literary influences in his life. Jim is a 1985 graduate of Auburn University.

  1. Why do you want a President Hillary Clinton??? (That should scare the sh*t out of you.)
    Because that is exactly what we get if Trump doesn’t win.
    You may be able to rest in your smugness while our nation swirls around the toilet but I will fight to the bitter end. And no I’m not a Trumper. I’m an anyone-but-clinton’er. Shillery will be the final nail in the coffin for our once great nation. But rest well in your smugness.
    If our founding fathers had been like you our nation would never have been founded.

  2. @Markt If all of us were to vote for your orange god (not golden) we would still have a nation under judgement. Just by you swearing in your post, you aren’t the intended audience.

  3. Wonderful analogy! Even with Aaron’s previous close relationship with God during the Pharaoh phase, he never once thought to communicate with God concerning this “uprising” and instead jumped right into using his own flawed human judgment. We’re seeing many evangelicals doing the same thing now… never suggesting that we pray for Divine guidance in this election, just spouting their own opinions. Amazing!!

  4. Sir, thank you for this outstanding essay. I don’t have a “but,” but I want to add an “and” to all you’ve said here. I think this is vital for all of us. In a word: repent. There is so much blame to go around for the mess we’ve created, including those of us who cannot abide Clinton or Trump. The discussion below is very wise and helpful I think, for Christians and citizens of any faith or none.

    A Christian’s Approach to Elections – Dr. Ken Schurb, 10 Oct 2016
    Direct link:

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