DONALD TRUMP IS MY PRESIDENT
THOUGHTS ON POWER, POLITICS, AND FAITH.
Donald Trump is my president. That is not something I ever thought I would say. But I think it is something that needs to be said. We who opposed his presidency must admit that it is hypocrisy to be up in arms when he said he would not accept the results of the election if he lost, and then ourselves to not accept the results of the election when he won. The Bible teaches us to respect authority and to pray for our leaders. We as Americans have enshrined the peaceful transfer of power. Though people have the right to protest the hashtag # notmypresident does not respect the Bible’s call to respect authority nor the American respect for a peaceful transfer of power. Neither does the gun culture that turns to talk about rebellion and violence against the government far too quickly. Neither does a candidate who nonchalantly claims the election is rigged and then quietly forgets he ever said such thing. These words and acts do not respect our nation or the Christian Faith. If there is one positive thing that has come out of the past three elections it is that after the election of our first black president and the election of a true outsider in politics who many thought had no chance of winning, we can safely say that the election as a system is not rigged. We may not like the electoral college system but we cannot say that system is corrupt like voting in Russia. May such charges never again be raised against our Democratic Republic. It is beneath us as a nation.
So though I hate to say it, though I do not have respect for Mr. Trump as a person, I have respect for the office and our system so I must say Donald Trump is my president.
This election has caused me to think deeply about my faith, the way I see the world, and my own biases. The Lord has shown me a few things in the process.
- We live in a deeply divided nation. Through my time as a pastor in rural Indiana and my time working in the inner city I have seen this up close. We are two different countries. I can feel the division in my soul and I can feel the hurt. Just looking at my friends posts in Indiana and my friends post in Richmond, VA, the difference was laid bare for me. The rural/urban divide. The black/white divide are far more profound than I ever imagined. I have found that despite my best reasoned arguments against both candidates during this election season that neither Clinton nor Trump supporters were willing to give an inch of ground. I think this reflects what Julia Galief would call motivated reasoning . We are far more concerned about winning than we are about morals, values, or character. We see what we see in a bubble through rose colored glasses. The words of the book of Judges rings true. Each does what is right in his or her own eyes. Truth has been abandoned. Principles have been abandoned. Character has been abandoned. This has been happening for a while now. But the election of 2016 is the fruit of ignoring the foundations that Christ sets for us, which by my reading of the sermon of the mount is basic decency and character.
- Character is Destiny. What the Lord has been teaching me in my ministry and in this election is that character is destiny. Leadership is essential. And the essential foundation of leadership is character. How many times have we seen how an essential flaw in character has undermined powerful people? Saying that we are all sinners simply doesn’t cut it. The word hypocrite is a composite Greek word. The prefix hypo means “under” it is where we get the term hypodermic (under the skin) needle. Crite comes the Greek word for understanding. So what the hypocrite means is someone who lacks understand of oneself. Someone who does not see themselves in a true light and thus can not deal with their faults and sin. For Secretary Clinton it was her arrogance in ignoring battle ground states like Wisconsin and her lack of transparency epitomized in her email scandal that undermined her relationship with the public. For Donald Trump I believe his show of strength is actually a sign of very low self esteem and it has resulted in bullying behavior that is vile and demeaning to many groups. We constantly say we are voting for a platform and we ignore significant character flaws. What has that gotten us? It has gotten us scandal, major blunders that could have been avoided, and dysfunctional government. 81% of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. They will get control of the Supreme Court for a generation. But they will also lose any possibility of winning over younger more liberally minded youth to their positions on abortion, religious freedom, salvation in Christ alone, and traditional marriage, positions that I tend to agree with though many would think of me as a liberal in my views of the size and scope of government.
- Character and integrity are more important than winning. In Mark Chapter 8 Jesus tells his disciples he must suffer and die and rise again. Since this is not what he thought the Messiah should do Peter tells Jesus this must not be so. Jesus replies, “ Get behind, me Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Then he asks a question to the crowd surrounding them. “ For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Jesus had the power to preserve his own life and conquer the Romans. But it went against his mission. It went against his convictions. And he knew it wouldn’t be worth it. As Christianity Today argues something similar has happened with white evangelicals. Many commentators have made analogies with the imperfections of Ronald Reagan. But there certainly is a difference in degree and seriousness of the issues swirling around Donald Trump as a candidate such as sexual assault and fraud. Jesus teaches us to gain power and to be proved a hypocrite in doing so isn’t worth the price.
I was faced with my own choice in this regard. I certainly did not want Trump to win as you might be able to tell. And since I have been able to vote (two elections prior to this) I have voted for a democrat. And I tend to lean that way on issues of governance though not on social issues. But after living in Indiana for nearly two years and getting to know some conservative friends who I loved dearly, I came to see some critiques of Hillary Clinton to be valid. I even voiced publicly that I would abstain from voting for Hillary Clinton because I believed character was more important than winning. I made a very persistent argument online that the email scandal did show a profound lapse in judgment, endangered national security, and was something that Secretary Clinton should have been fired for, though thanks to legal precedent, and high powered lawyers, I think Comey had no choice but to not prosecute. And the argument that the Bush administration email scandal was far worse is just as bad as when Trump said of the access Hollywood tape that he may have said those things but Bill Clinton was far worse than he was, which by some twisted logic was supposed to exonerate him. This is grade school logic and we should reject it on both sides. Despite all my public statements I was very much tempted to vote for Hillary Clinton. Despite the polls, I knew in my gut that Trump had a shot at winning, because I had lived where his support was the strongest.But in the end I voted for Evan Mcmullin because I respected him and his principles. Afterwards, I felt a great sense of relief. In an election seasons that has made me feel dirty and defiled, I felt clean.
- Many minorities are hurt and afraid at the election of Donald Trump. This article explains the perspective of many people though not all minorities. Trump devalued many with his racist and misogynistic rhetoric and his election now validates such behavior and rhetoric. Now I know people who voted for Trump who did so holding their nose, who did not do so with hate in their hearts, who truly believed the fate of the nation depended upon him winning. And just because you voted for Trump does not mean you support his vile words or race batting. But for the longest time I have never voted on the issue of abortion though I am personally opposed to it. And by not making that a priority in my voting I do give permission for abortion to happen. I can argue that there are more important things, or better ways to prevent abortion, but I do give permission and I normalize the practice. Voting for Trump, too many minorities, says to them their lives do not matter. And it has given legitimacy to White Supremacist.
- We must repent of Lording it over one another. In Matthew 20:25 Jesus warns us not to be like the world. Not to Lord it over one another. I think this means when you have power don’t use it to get everything you want but respect those who do not have power. Recently, I was listening to a Republican Congressman from Illinois who focused on the importance of getting bi-partisan buy in and how this was not done with the Affordable Care Act. We now see that many of the predictions of Republicans have come true. Now I don’t think the solution is to repeal it and provide unproven solutions like selling insurance across state lines . Certainly, Republicans were not super open to working with Obama on much of his agenda. But by pushing through something that enraged the Republican base President Obama wasted a lot of social capital that in my opinion could have been used to pass things with common agreement. And now it appears Republicans are positioned to Lord it over Democrats. This cycle must stop. There are more important things than winning and passing your agenda like having a functioning government.
- There is a Liberal Spirit and a Conservative Spirit. Both Blind us to the Truth. What this election and my time in Urban and rural areas has shown me is that we all live in our own bubble and this blinds us to well reasoned arguments. I have often thought in the past few days how different the facebook feeds of my conservative Trump supporter friends must be. Believe it or not it never occurred to me that people who I am friends with on facebook might be seeing completely different stories on their facebook feeds. But it has become increasingly clear to me that this is the case. What we see depends upon what we are looking for. What we see depends upon our inherent disposition. And it has become clear to me that there is a Liberal Spirit and a Conservative Spirit. At its worst the Liberal Spirit is associated with intellectual elitism. People refuse to see things because they think they know better. I think this has been proven true with the mainline media’s failure to predict Trump’s rise. The Bible would call this the curse of worldly wisdom and being puffed up by knowledge.
On the other side the Conservative Spirit can blind one from knowing the difference between true strength and false strength. Respect for authority and tradition can lead to a lack of questioning and people looking the other way when they see character flaws if a person is powerful and authoritative. I am struck by Jesus’ questioning in Matthew 11. “ What did you come out in the wilderness to see ? A reed shaken in the wind? What then did you come out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing?” A “reed shaken in the wind” gives us the image of grass that blows in the direction that outside forces take it. This is symbolic of populism. This is symbolic of someone saying what you want to hear and riding a wave of emotion. Someone who wears soft clothing speak to the desire to be successful in the eyes of the world even though that success is not what it seems. The conservative spirit with its focus on power and authority can easily be deceived by these things.
- I See some hope in a Trump presidency: As Paul Ryan said this is one of the biggest political upsets he has ever seen. And I think it shows Donald Trump’s inherent skills as a salesman and a populist. I see the potential for Donald Trump to do a lot of good if he turns out to be more of a pragmatist. He certainly has disrupted the system and has a great opportunity to change things for better or worse.
- I see great peril . While I like President Obama want Trump to succeed I see great peril. And as I think of possibly outcomes many of them don’t seem good. In my mind here are a few possible outcomes to a Trump Presidency.
-Trump Does everything he says and Makes America Great Again. Though I don’t particularly agree with Trump’s vision of America or his plan to get there I didn’t think he would win either and I am eating crow now. So who knows. Maybe he will do everything he said he would do and there will be no negative consequences for the majority of Americans ( though there will be negative consequences for immigrants regardless).
–Trump Does Everything He Promises and things go poorly. Actively hunting down and deporting illegal immigrants, establishing Tariffs and starting trade wars, deregulating Wall Street, appeasing Russian aggression, passing tax cuts that will further drive the national debt, destabilizing the Middle East by locating the American embassy in Jerusalem, abandoning the nuclear deal and increasing hostilities with Iran, I don’t think it is too much to say that there is much risk in doing these things. And it is hard for me too see how such policies will not produce a great deal of suffering, economic recession, and injustice.
That being said I see the driving motivation to reestablish manufacturing in the midwest. It just doesn’t seem anti-trade policies will accomplish this goal. Instead, we really must grapple with the implications of automation Within twenty years 11 million truckers will be put out of work by self driving trucks. Is that something we want? Should we put limits on technology? Or do we accept that if we don’t we must restructure the way we do work and assign value to that work? Neither candidate has been honest about why people have been put out of work and what is to be done about it.
–Trump was acting and does not fulfill his promises: It may turn out that at his core Trump is a pragmatist who has no set principles or policies. He is willing to “make deals” that go against his campaign promises. This may relieve many who were concerned about his campaign. But it will further alienate his supporters and may give rise to even more extreme candidates.
–Trump gets co-opted by the establishment: Trump’s business record shows that he is a great salesman but not the best manager. And his lack of experience could easily cause him to be co-opted by the establishment. I think this would greatly upset his supporters and lead to similar results as the last point.
–A flaw in Trump’s character leads to his impeachment: I think this is a distinct possibility. We still do not have his tax returns. With so many bankruptcies in his past it is likely that no American banks will lend to him. So much of his investment may be from foreign nations, most likely Russia. This creates inherent conflicts of interest. Then there is his history of sexual harassment and assault. If such behavior got Bill Clinton impeached than it is a good possibility that Donald Trump might face a similar fate. Perhaps if Bill Clinton had run today he would be unelectable or should be unelectable .
- We should pray for our leader’s success. What struck me about Trump and Obama’s meeting this week is that Obama talked about wanting Trump to succeed. The Bible often commands us to pray for our leaders. But how often do we actually pray against our leaders or pray for God to deliver us from a particular leader, instead of praying for that leader’s success even if we don’t particularly like what that success would look like? In Indiana I was often angered when people prayed for President Obama that they were actually praying against President Obama. I certainly don’t want to do that for President Trump. I have expressed great reservation about President Trump. But as Obama and Clinton pointed out he deserves the chance to lead and I should not wish or pray for his failure in hopes of my beliefs being vindicated. The worst part of me wants his presidency to be a disaster so I can say I told you so. And as I have said I see great risk and am very concerned by the implications of his campaign. But I believe the Bible teaches us to respect authority and to pray for our leaders. I was inspired to see Obama show grace to a man who shamefully questioned his legitimacy to be President in the birther movement and then blamed the entire thing on Hillary Clinton. And I sensed that Trump sensed that grace and the responsibility of the office. Maybe he even feels sorry for some of the things he said and maybe we will see some form of repentance from him. I hope for the best and I have great fear for the worst. But in the end, despite all his faults, despite all the vile things he has said, Donald Trump is my President, and for all our sakes I hope he is able to bind the wounds of division and be successful as our commander in chief.