Acton Institute Powerblog

Trump and Celebrities: A Beautiful Moment for the Natural Law

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Last night I watched the latest episode of The Apprentice: Celebrity Edition. I have been pulled into the series this year largely because of the compelling finishes where The Donald lectures celebrities about their work habits and managerial ineptness. Dennis Rodman has been a draw because of his incredibly bad behavior.

This was Dennis’ week. His teammates chose him to be the project manager because they hoped he would rise to the challenge if he was running things. It worked, for a short while, then he drank enough to go past caring. First, he got angry. Then, he absented himself from the project he was supposed to direct.

The men’s team lost, which gave rise to the beautiful moment. Motorcycle entrepeneur and reality star Jesse James confronted Dennis Rodman with his drinking problem. The others readily agreed with the diagnosis. Rodman got angry and defensive, mostly offering support of his own worthiness by adverting to his NBA career which has been over for some time now. Finally, getting nowhere, Rodman said in frustration, “I . . . I could kick all y’all’s a**es. Everyone one here.”

Now, I’m not sure that is actually true. Jesse James, for example, was a professional bodyguard at one point. But James didn’t respond to Rodman’s provocation with a physical challenge. His actual reply was devastating:

Then why don’t you kick our a**es at being a good person?

Rodman sat silent.

I called this a beautiful moment for the natural law because Jesse James put the idea out there for millions of people whether he or they realized it. We know what a good person is. We expect people to aspire to that AND to achieve it.

At a minimum, we expect people to be honest, to keep their promises, to be reliable, and to moderate their own behavior out of respect for others. These are things Thomas Aquinas would say we can reason to from the premise of the social nature of man. Rodman did none of that. And he was kicked out.

Hunter Baker Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D. serves as contributing editor to The City and to Salvo Magazine. In addition, he has written for The American Spectator, American Outlook, National Review Online, Christianity Today, Human, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and a number of other outlets. His scholarly work has appeared in the Journal of Law and Religion (“Competing Orthodoxies in the Public Square: Postmodernism’s Effect on Church-State Separation”), the Regent University Law Review (“Storming the Gates of a Massive Cultural Investment: Reconsidering Roe in Light of its Flawed Foundation and Undesirable Consequences”), and the Journal of Church and State. In 2007, he contributed a chapter “The Struggle for Baylor’s Soul” to the edited collection The Baylor Project, published by St. Augustine’s Press. He has also been a guest on a variety of television and radio programs, including Prime Time America and Kresta in the Afternoon. As a law student in the late 1990s, Hunter Baker worked for The Rutherford Institute and Prison Fellowship Ministries where he focused primarily on defending the constitutional principle of religious liberty. Prior to beginning doctoral studies in religion and politics at Baylor University in 2003, he served as director of public policy for the Georgia Family Council. While at Baylor, Baker served as a graduate assistant to the philosopher Francis Beckwith and the historian Barry Hankins. He assisted Beckwith in the editing of his landmark book Defending Life which has now been published by Cambridge University Press. He also provided research assistance to Hankins in his forthcoming biography of Francis Schaeffer. Baker currently serves on the political science faculty at Union University and is an associate dean in the college of arts and sciences. He is married to Ruth Elaine Baker, M.D. They have a son, Andrew, and a daughter, Grace.


  • I saw that segment last night also. Jesse James’ comments and his responses to Dennis were a testament to Jesse’s character and the truth of his words. I’m so glad that Acton’s Blog mentioned this incident The entire exchange made a very strong impression on me and the reply from James: “Then why don’t you kick our a**es at being a good person?” made me cheer and applaud him. I had not considered how powerful his comments were vis-a-vis the millions of viewers out there. Talk about a positive role model! Thanks Acton for sharing this with your readers. This message needs to be shared with others.

  • Deep moral lessons from reality TeeVee as one Jesse James tosses off a one-liner to a self-indulgent symbol of the excesses of professional athletes and Black gangsta’ counter-culture as brought to you by a Christian front organization pretending to be a forum for contemporary ideas ?

    Amazing gracelessness !


  • Hunter Baker

    Euhumerus, you seem to have your own facility with one liners. But I thought Jesse James’ was more profound than yours.

    What exactly would make Acton a front? They are pretty plain about their goals and interests.

  • Valerie

    My liberal, Democrat husband calls Celebrity Apprentice “pornography.” I usually don’t watch these types of shows, but I have been drawn into this one. It has been very interesting watching how these “super-personalities” have had to learn to work with one another(or not, in some cases). I, too, was hoping Dennis Rodman would prove us wrong, but, alas, he is what he is. Herschel Walker, on the other hand, is a true gentleman. The contrast that Jesse James pointed out was right on! Trump or no Trump, it is a good show.

  • Tracy

    In general, Dennis Rodman has decided to live his life with no moral compass that He chose to ignore the right thing to do.