This article was first written in November of 2016 as an immediate response to the results of the election. It has been broken up into two sections, the “negative” and the “positive.” Beyond that, it has been slightly edited for grammar, but remains largely unchanged. The opinions and view expressed herein may have changed, altered, or been better informed since. I am leaving this article the way it is a matter of transparency. I hope to be open to any and all reasonable objections and criticism.
What’s to be said that hasn’t been said? That’s often the tension we all face when things like this election roll around. What can we really contribute, practically speaking? While I may not have anything entirely novel to say, I want to say something that I’m not hearing because I want to see something that I’m not seeing. Frankly, I can virtually feel the spiritual exhaustion of walking around my campus since the election. Perhaps my perceptions are incorrect, I’m not infallible and am quite sadly self-centered, but I feel this almost burdensome load of judgement from everyone around me. I’ve literally sighed so much already inwardly as I’ve heard the spectrum of opinions and views on the results of the election. It’s an extremely uncomfortable and tense place as I have close friends, spiritual brothers and sisters, colleagues and superiors who espouse two depressing viewpoints on what’s happened recently and I can’t find a safe place to land, honestly. So, if for no other reason, allow me to make one myself.
Stop Being Happy Donald Trump Got Elected
I voted for Donald Trump.
Some of you need to put the torches and pitchforks down. Some of you, however, need to calm down in an entirely different way. I did note vote for or support Donald Trump enthusiastically. I now support him as much as I would anyone who has the office of President, with the addition that (as opposed to recent years) I’m more in line with what the president-elect wants to do and believes in. That being said, I am not “happy” he got elected. That may seem contradictory to most, but I voted for him out of principle and on platform.
First of all, Donald Trump is an unrepentant sinner. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sinner too. But as someone who hopes in Christ and his death for his righteousness, I have been made new and made to repent of my sins and hate them; slowly, day by day, more and more. Donald Trump on the other hand has literally questioned and rejected the notion that he even needs forgiveness. Nevermind that that statement is literally the most prideful thing anyone could say (and, to be fair, probably has said), he holds this view because he believes in “making it right.” Mr. Trump feels that he’s going to “make it right?” How are you going to make it right to the people whose bankruptcy and financial collapse you facilitated by being a casino mogul, the names and lives of which you do not know? How will you make up for this if they died in their obscurity? Can you replace them? Even further, what about the little white lies you (and I, and all of us) have told all throughout your life? What about the big obvious ones? Are you going to go back in time and unsay them? What about the secret and blatant lust that you’ve given yourself to? It’s one thing to be imperfect; if I only voted for perfect people, I would never vote. It’s another thing altogether to be utterly and totally depraved and spiritually dead inside, to admit that, and then to act as if there is something you can about it. Before Christ’s forgiveness is at work, one is dead. Dead people don’t make things right. Dead people don’t “pick themselves up by the bootstraps.” Dead people don’t do anything because they can’t because they’re dead. To know that and to shun the way to life is the utmost hubris.
Secondly, we shouldn’t be so happy about Trump’s being elected because these things have consequences. I’m not saying that Donald Trump is going to get struck by lightning and God has just been waiting for the right time to do it. That’s not Christ. But what I am saying is that sin, even after being totally and entirely forgiven of it, still leaves marks on us. The old adage goes, when teaching kids about the principle of consequences, that “if you jump in the lake, you get wet.” That’s how this thing called life works. There are no exceptions. Gravity and water will always work the same and that will always be the outcome. Even though Christ is happy to towel you off after jumping the lake spiritually speaking, that is a long and arduous process. But President Trump isn’t even wanting to be dried off. He is thrashing in the lake but refusing the life preserver thrown to him. And I say this while actually being confident that Mr. Trump won’t fall back to where he was. I feel that he’s surrounding himself with good people and that he will feel the eyes on him and not slip up too harshly. I could be wrong, however, for that matter. But even if he has had an outward reformation and does not manifest any outward signs of his past sins, he will have the effects inwardly. As someone who has lived as hard as he could in unrepentant and blatant sins, I know what it’s like to subtly have your sin weigh on the way you think, feel, and behave despite wanting nothing more than for it not to. Temptation are always strongest in the areas where I was once weakest. And that’s after the miracle of Christ’s salvation. How much more are those effects going to have sway over someone whose only hope is being a good president? That’s a huge responsibility and a huge undertaking, but it’s not eternal and it’s not God. It can’t hold, sustain, heal, and satisfy someone the way He can. Mr. Trump carries scars with him into the Oval Office this January. I am frightened at the subtle ways they will affect his thinking and policies.
Thirdly, I am unenthusiastic about Trump because of his comments about Islam. I am indeed also worried about Islam. I think that those who would try to portray it as a religion of peace would do well to listen to the life story of Nabeel Qureshi. His formerly sympathetic view of a peaceful expression of Islam adds some serious weight to his new revelation about Islam. Nabeel came to Christ in the early 2000’s after being respectfully asked by some of his Christian peers in undergrad how he could maintain his view of a peaceful Islam after the horrors of 9/11. He went through a serious crisis of faith, genuinely asking “who hijacked my faith?” Nabeel dug back into the Quran and the historical context and found that acts like 9/11 is actually a coherent way of working out Islam. His conclusion, was that it was not a hijacking. Furthermore, he said that knowing now what he knows about the broader context of Islam and what Muhammed left us with, he himself said he would “if I were still a muslim, I would have a hard time not going to Syria right now.” It seems, at least in the opinion of one former muslim and critical scholar of Islam, that they are working it out the most coherently with the Quran and the Hadith. That being said, he also stressed that Muslims who believe Islam is a religion of peace actually, genuinely do believe this. They are genuine when they say that because they were brought up believing that were a fact. I say all this to say that the issue of Islam in America is a complex and tense one. Are there violent and real elements to contemporary Islam? Yes. At the same time, however, do the vast majority of American Muslims ascribe to more peaceful and secular outworkings of their faith? Yes. Just like Christianity in the U.S., Islam is secularizing in the west more and more. A friend of mine, who has since graduated from Concord was actually a Muslim and a Universalist, believing that everyone will go to heaven if they are “good.” This is why Trump’s rhetoric about Islam is so very concerning. Most Muslims do not view their faith the way Nabeel found it to be. They see it as pointing them to human brotherhood, and more New Age notions of pluralism and universalism based on coded moralism. To target them and begin to systematically question them as to whether or not they are “safe” may make sense on a quick, thoughtless evaluation, but is very dangerous in the precedent it sets for the future.
It would be the same danger as not allowing people who practice voodoo in the deep south to slaughter chickens for good crops. Are voodoos following a philosophically and logically viable, or true, worldview? No. Does it even sufficiently address questions of human meaning, human value, morality, and/or purpose? No. But, if they are not allowed to practice their faith, as incoherent and insufficient it is, where does that end? Sure, to keep people from sacrificing chickens for good crops may seem like a good idea. Its cruel to the animal, and it’s unsanitary (Santeria practitioners in southern Florida were infamous for leaving chicken carcasses around the streets after their rituals which sparked a lengthy court battle in the 80’s and 90’s), and banning such practices has a lot of very pragmatic support. To try to do that today is to make the slope just a little steeper towards things like questioning whether or not the dangerous nature of snake handling should be allowed, which every state but West Virginia has done and illegalized it. While I find the practice to be biblically incoherent and poorly supported, I will defend the rights of people to practice snake handling because if they cannot do that, perhaps someone will object to the practice of street preaching one day because it disturbs the peace and could be violent? Then some may object, like the mayor of Dallas did, to our preaching about biblical sexual morality and categorize it as “hate speech.” Maybe, as attempted in California, it could become illegal for Christian colleges to exclude non-Christian professors in the process of evaluation for hiring and tenure because this is “discriminatory.” Perhaps, furthermore, as is the case in Boston City Public Transportation, it will become illegal to hand out gospel tracts because it is “divisive.” Essentially, if people cannot sacrifice chickens, handle snakes, or gather in mosques and peacefully pray to Allah, my freedom to share with them the true, life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ is in serious trouble. All it will take is someone no longer sympathetic to the Christian worldview to use as precedent all the things levied against others in the past for the tables to turn.
America is supposed to be the place where you are free to, completely equally, believe or disbelieve to the fullest extent in matters of religion. If one cannot disbelieve in Christ, Christ is such a person that one couldn’t really believe in Him, either; He does not take forced or obligatory worship. Donald Trump poses a problem for this notion that I’m afraid too many evangelicals overlook or, worse yet, do not anticipate. The word around the street is that the nation would do better if it were more godly. This is indeed true, but we have to realize that a godly nation is a free nation. Let us not forget that it was not called the “Catholic Inquisition,” but the “Spanish Inquisition.” The separation of church and state is an idea which sprang originally from the Protestant Reformation, not 18th century Liberal Enlightenment Humanism. When the church and the state are one, the church always, invariably and throughout time, suffers greatly in secularization, corruption, and laziness. The river of life is downstream towards sin, and the river of politics is the same. All we can hope to do is ensure that people are as free as possible and put in enough checks to mitigate any one person’s evil inclinations to hold too much power at any given time. I fear that this balance will be disrupted in the weeks and months to come.