A certain sometimes-Presbyterian WWE enthusiast and former game-show host from Queens, preternatural in the ancient American art of getting attention, has commanded the usual furor of late — but for reasons that, even by his own standard, count as unusual. While the handshake in Singapore with Kim the 3rd is startling enough (for good, we can yet hope), I don’t mean that. Instead, the President has made a bit of a show of his Constitutionally granted pardon power, and displeased more than a few people in the process.

Whenever the concept of “pardon” is discussed in public, we should take note — is there a more theologically-freighted term in all of American government?

Until March of this year, Trump had wielded this power on behalf of only two individuals — he commuted the sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, former CEO of a kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa (very near where this correspondent enjoyed his college years), and pardoned Joe Arpaiao, the former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona (where yours truly spent five years of his childhood). Both exercises attracted some criticism, though I find the geographical coincidence personally encouraging.

Then, in March, President Trump pardoned Kristian Saucier, a former US Navy sailor in trouble for photographing off-limits areas of a nuclear submarine. In April, he pardoned Scooter Libby, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. At the end of May, long-deceased heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson received a pardon, quickly followed by political commentator and the former King’s College president Dinesh D’Souza. Finally, just this past week, the President commuted the sentence of one Alice Johnson, who had served 21 years of a life sentence for her facilitating role in a cocaine trafficking operation, and whose cause was pled by none other than Kim (not the Korean one) Kardashian. Not all of the above have expressed remorse for their deeds, a fact which has not gone unnoticed. Even so, the greater controversy by far has attended a pardon that did not, and almost certainly will not, take place.

On Sunday morning (a great time to talk about pardon!), June 3, presidential surrogate and attorney Rudy Giuliani appeared on ABC’s This Week and, asked directly about the matter, declared that the President “probably does” have the power to pardon himself but won’t. Many hot takes and a day later, Trump himself tweeted as follows:

As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!

Facebook got…interesting (in the true Minnesotan sense of that word) for a couple of days. Avoiding slightly fewer of those conversations than a wise man would have, I found myself discussing whether or not such a thing as a Presidential self-pardon were possible. One response, not my own, stands out: “If he could do that, then he’d be above the law.” In some strict sense, this might not be true, inasmuch as the pardon is itself a legal instrument. It is, however, close enough to true to send shivers down one’s spine, and it opens the doors to a deeper speculation.

Imagine for a moment that Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, is actually blessed with the power to pardon whomever he might choose, for any reason he might choose. He could pardon the kind or the wicked, the unjustly accused and the justly locked away. The poor and wretched, the self-secure and the truly oppressed of this earth might stream to him to receive this unmerited favor, and he could do with it whatever he wanted. All, if he said the word, would be forgiven and beyond reach of the law forever.

Now imagine that he might start using this power willy-nilly, pardoning not five or six or a dozen but millions of Americans. Imagine that he might empty the prisons entirely. Never mind whether he really would do this; just imagine that he threatened to, that the pardon became his instrument of choice, exercised with enough abandon that people began to fear he really could go through with it. What to do about that man? He’d destroy America, you know. Sure, the pardoned would love him, in their own selfish ways. But law-abiding citizens would (rightly!) call for his head. It’d be the end of Trump.

This is all fantasy, of course. Nobody has that kind of power, they couldn’t possibly, because then they’d be above the law, wouldn’t they? And that’s too horrible to think about. If a person like that ever did show up, we’d probably have to kill him. But just for fun, let’s push the thought experiment further.

Imagine that Trump not only can exercise a legal pardon, but can place, with a word, anyone he likes beyond even eternal judgment. Let us imagine that God himself, inexplicably and unwisely, honored this pardon, indeed, bound himself to it as his own eternal promise. Let us suppose that Trump began to speak this pardon so recklessly that people began to believe him, and went home justified on account of it. Now, the trick — Donald Trump really does have exactly this power. Not as President, which is an office of the law of no small distinction, but not above it. No, Donald Trump is baptized, and as such (and in no other way) is well and truly above the law.

I suspect our President does not quite realize he has this particular authority. It may never have occurred to him, and in all likelihood few preachers have dared to tell him this. That, however, does not make it less true. Rather, it makes it more urgent that he hear about it. It is God’s merciful madness not only to forgive sins, freely, in the blood of his Son, but to authorize this insanity to spill from the mouths of people like you.

No, we cannot pardon ourselves, but that just drives us to seek one another out. I did not watch Giuliani’s appearance on This Week, because I was busy that morning, declaring pardon to a roomful of people who did not deserve it, and who most of the time, like me, have no inkling of the world-rending power that has been gifted to them. But God has granted this. We silly Christians shake in our boots at the political noise of the day, forgetting that we can set the cosmos to stunned silence with a single word. Try it sometime.