What’s to be said that hasn’t already 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, after all. But all the same there is that feeling of impending sadness, like when a family member says something at the table you deeply disagree with but they mean well and you love them so much. Add to that the fact that you’re the guy who always has a problem. The one who “loves to argue.” I’ve literally sighed so much already inwardly as I’ve heard so many people say so many varying things, all of them painting this result negatively for some reason or another. It’s an extremely uncomfortable and tense place as I have good, close friends, spiritual brothers and sisters some of them, 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.
1. Stop Being Happy Donald Trump Got Elected
I voted for Donald Trump. And before you turn away now, give me a chance here. 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. I will get to that later, but for now, let it be said that I would not, if given another viable and morally appropriate option, vote for Trump. I actually did not vote for him in the primaries, instead voting for Ted Cruz. While he is my president, he is not the president I would prefer. Allow me to elaborate. 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 have ever (and, to be fair, probably has) said. 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? 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 do 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 despite our 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 and psychologically 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. However, even if he has had an outward reformation and does not manifest any outward signs of his sins or failures, 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 slowly and sometimes discouragingly 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 amindeed also worried about Islam. I think that those who would try to portray as it a religion primarily of peace would do well to listen to the life story of Nabeel Qureshi, whose life and formerly sympathetic view of a peaceful Islam adds some serious weight to his new revelation about Islam that entirely does away with that notion. After his study and view of the religion from being raised in it all of his life, in a denomination of Islam that stressed love and peace, 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 “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 tense one. Are there violent and real elements to contemporary Islam? From my research, yes. Do the vast majority of American Muslims ascribe to more peaceful and secular outworkings of their faith? Yes. Just like Christianity unfortunately is in the U.S., Islam is secularizing in the west more and more. A good friend of mine, since graduated, whom I met here at 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 has shown it to be, the way it truly is. They see it as pointing them to human brotherhood, and more New Age notions of pluralism and universalism. 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 intellectually complete worldview? No. Does it even sufficiently address questions of human meaning, human value, morality, 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 logically, 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 objective 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 they 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.” 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.
2. Be Happy Donald Trump Got Elected
I love paradoxes, if you haven’t already noticed. One such is the idea that we should be both unhappy and happy that Donald Trump got elected on Tuesday. This is largely a relative issue, relative in that relative to his opponent, Secretary Hillary Clinton, he actually was the superior option. Crazy, I know. While I stand by my former statements, there are realities that made this election one in which it needed to be Trump and not Clinton. While the pride of Trump’s blatant unrepentance, the moral ramifications of his former and current life and the long term damage they will do and the prospects for religious liberty and representative democracy under Trump’s policies are alarming, there are deeper (or perhaps, higher) human issues at play here.
First, the right of the unborn to not be terminated without medical necessity should not be infringed upon. A lot of cliches and a lot of very angry things can be said here, but perhaps walking through the logic of good pro-life thinking might clear up some things. Pro-life is not the notion that women do not have autonomy over their bodies. It’s the notion that no one has autonomy over their bodies. Autonomy is island-like, sovereign nation style control over one’s body that allows one to make decisions that may or may not aid or contradict the decisions of another’s. Anyone else is not considered. Autonomous literally means, from the Greek, “a law unto oneself.” This idea of biological autonomy does indeed appear to be true. After all, no one can make you eat healthy, or vice versa, right? Isn’t that your choice? Indeed, it is, and in that sense one is biologically autonomous.But, just because we have some measure of choice over our bodies, we do not have a choice over what we do with them. An example of this principle that I heard once went like this; it’s often said, “I can do whatever I want with my body.” I would like for a proponent of that statement to go riding down main street on a motorcycle stark naked. They would be arrested. It is not absolutely true that you can do whatever you want with your body. Also consider the notion of trying to wield autonomy over someone else’s body. In the past we’ve equated this with rape and domestic violence, to give one a sense of bearing as to what I mean. For the logical pro-lifer, the fetus is indeed a human being. This is actually a scientific viewpoint, since virtually any science textbook that is worth consideration in high schools or universities says that when a spermatozoa fertilizes an egg, that fertilized egg becomes a separate genetic and biological being at that point, with dna separate from that of both the mother’s and the father’s. In common discourse, when a homo sapien sperm fertilizes a female homosapien’s egg, the separate being becomes a separate homo sapien. This is generally called a person.
But, theologically as well the pro-life position is the most viable. The idea of a creator logically leads to the notion of intentionality in life. The bible reflects this notion when the prophet Jeremiah was told by Yahweh that “I formed you in your mother’s womb,” and when the psalmist David wrote that He had “knit me together in my mother’s womb.” But just in general, an all-powerful creator god, barring Deism, always implies divine intentionality, especially in human birth. Of course it is God’s will that some do not live, and I cannot answer as to why that is, but seeing as we do not know God’s will, for us to argue that we are justified in allowing this genocide because “it was always going to happen” is to say that we know for a fact, beyond any shadow of a doubt, what God’s will is. The only person who knows that is God himself, so to claim to know His will is make oneself out to be God, which the height of pride. So, barring those of us in the population who are morally perfect gods, we are responsible for our decisions on a moral level because of our simply not knowing God’s plan. Even if we do not ascribe to a theological worldview, however, abortion is a huge issue. If that fetus is indeed a separate human being, then killing it is ending the life of another human being without due cause, provocation, or legal reason. This is often referred to in legal terms as murder. I do not want to live in a country where murder is systemized, subsidized, and stream-lined. That society will never flourish no matter it appears to have, because it will be undermining what it means to be human.
Second, there is the issue of marriage. This is an even more hot button issue than abortion. Most likely because the interested parties can articulate their thoughts, but I digress. How, one might ask, is this a human issue? Marriage is the building block of any society. Humans make more humans by having sex. While that process works in or out of marriage, the best and safest place for sexual intimacy and the raising of children in the family. It is naturally and tailor-made for raising people. In every good family at least three out of the four ideas for the word “love” in the Greek are operating. Storge is the love of family or of kindred, shared across the home. Eros is sexually appropriate love, in the family between mother and father. Phileo is the love of brotherhood or camraderie, shared between siblings. In the minority of cases, as well, agape is active as well, as the love of the parents for the children is a mirror image of the great love of God for His children in Christ. Divorce has been running rampant in this country for far too long and has been doing much hard work at undermining and destroying that notion of family already discussed, but to further re-define marriage as between any two consenting adults regardless of gender is to put the final nail in the coffin of marriage as an institution. Already, many young nominally Christian people live and have sex together, justified by the fact that they are “going to get married.” Here in southern West Virginia, we say that if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. If you’re going to act, feel, and look married, why not get married? And if you can’t, then why do the former things? That notion is extremely deadly to the very delicate thing that is marriage, because it does away with any preciousness, any specialness, any momentousness. It simply becomes a sex driven, organic-feeling passion pit with vague levels of commitment more often understood than actually articulated. I mention divorce, pre-marital sex, and cohabitation because I am not ignorant to the many threats to marriage that exist. I am doing my best and praying that I can make a difference in these matters. But same sex marriage is one that has entered into the public sphere and the time is now to stop the bleeding and the damage that has been done to marriage. A lack of solid families leads to a lack of solid identity. A lack of solid identity leads to a lack of solid hold on reality. A lack of solid hold on reality could have as many devastating effects as there are people, both interpersonally and intrapersonally, in the hidden places of the psyche that is so damaged by the identity crises that seems to characterize my entire generation.
There are a lot of things on both sides that I didn’t mention here, but I think these few statements can help begin to shed light on why some people both desired to see Trump in the White House and why some hated, and hate, the idea vehemently. Ultimately, time will tell, and God will have His way. No one and nothing has been able to stop Him yet.