Donald Trump: God’s Flawed Instrument?
On The Pulpit and Politics: Negotiating the Fine Line
During the last election here in Canada, I often stated from the pulpit that it was not my place to take a party line and tell people how to vote. Rather, as a spiritual leader, it was my job to remind the congregation of the basic tenets that should form our world view, our decisions and our actions as Christ-followers. In other words, if Christianity is based on what Jesus walked around showing us, then we should choose our political candidates in terms of who’s supporting those tenets.
So what are the things that were most important to the one we say that we follow? It’s quite simple, really; caring generously for the vulnerable, the weak, the poor, the sick, the anxious, the mentally ill, the victims of natural disasters, war, famine, political prisoners and children, peace rather than violence, and the radical inclusion of all people of all races and cultures. Jesus taught us to live as if everyone else in the world is just as important as we are. Quite simply, everyone belongs – every created being deserves to have life’s basic needs met, and they deserve dignity and respect.
But what is an authentic relationship between religion and politics? In the early part of the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine made a ruling for tolerance of Christianity, a moment in history which many have considered a disaster for Christianity. Religion and politics got into bed together in a relationship that would become complex and corrupt. The Church gained power on the playing field, at a great cost to its basic teachings. Just watch The Borgias to get an entertaining look at how that worked. But all through the centuries, there were always Christians who spoke up from the edges of society against both systems to call for a return to the heart of Christianity. The monastic communities set themselves apart from society in order to remain true to their faith, and to be a voice calling out to mainstream Christian leaders and to the political leaders, constantly challenging them to remember the vulnerable.
Over the centuries, the Church has gradually lost its public status and power, as we’re now living in an age we call “post-Christendom”. This is partly a very good thing, when one thinks of some of the atrocities carried out in the name of God and the Church, not to mention the way in which some (not all by any means) Christian missionaries have bullied various cultures, thinking they were civilizing them.
But this loss of power has not stopped certain evangelical leaders from publicly endorsing conservative political candidates who make a lot of noise about being Christians; regardless of what they stand for. During George W. Bush’s time, Christian author Jim Wallis wrote God’s Politics (2006) wherein he challenged evangelicals for blindly jumping on the Bush train simply because he claimed to be a Christian, when his policies were so far removed from basic Christian teaching that it was hard to make the connection.
And now, my neighbours to the South, you have Trump. And so far, the evangelical right has flocked to the Trump Tower to genuflect in awe and wonder. The constant flow of information about how he has stiffed many of his own workers, is currently involved in over 3,500 lawsuits (some involving accusations of sexual assault) the many lies in which he’s been caught red-handed – none of this seems to deter them from blindly following the one who will punish women for having abortions, and keep to their conservative agenda.
But today I was encouraged by an article in the famous magazine of the Bible Belt called Christianity Today (October 10, 2016) wherein Executive Editor Andy Crouch, in response to the lewd tape of Trump in an Access Hollywood bus, hit evangelical America with a bang in his article, Speak Truth to Trump. (See link below) Crouch says, “Evangelicals, of all people, should not be silent about Donald Trump’s blatant immorality.” Crouch was surprised at how long it took evangelicals to use the “…same critical judgment when it [came] to the Republican nominee…” that they’d used on Hillary Clinton.
He went on to describe the ways in which Trump was a blatant example of the kind of lifestyle the Bible warns us about; “…sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). Crouch ended with a challenge for every evangelical, warning of the folly of allying themselves “…with someone who violates all that is sacred to us.” Trump’s hope for the continuing support of the evangelicals is clearly compromised since this latest display of lewd behavior.
I’m not an evangelical in the general identifying sense of the word – I’m a mainline Anglican. I would not express things in a way that would please Christianity Today. But I applaud Andy Couch for having the courage to ask the vast membership of the Bible Belt to think clearly and critically about what kind of leadership they want, and to take care in their decisions for this election.
As a spiritual leader, I will never tell people what party they should support, or who they should vote for. But I would be falling down on the job if I failed to join those desert fathers and monastic communities in reminding both the church and the political arena of what the Christ followers are looking for in a political leader – someone who will commit to caring for the weakest members of our society – someone who will work for peace instead of war – someone who will take a stand for justice – someone who will agree that everyone belongs, regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion or economic position.
What good is it if we gather on Sunday to hear these teachings and sing about them, if they don’t influence the decisions and actions we undertake? If Jesus modeled radical inclusion, justice and peace, then that’s what we should seek in candidates at election time.
October 16, 2016
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