Preparing for President Trump

Preparing for President Trump May 24, 2016
Used under the Creative Commons license. Author: Thierry Ehrman
Used under the Creative Commons license. Author: Thierry Ehrman

What I’m about write is not an exercise in partisan advocacy. I belong to neither of the dominant political parties in the United States, which I consider to be two dead ends in the same blind alley. Nor do I belong to any other party. Nor do I consider myself a member of the Right or the Left. Nor do I appropriate for myself meaningless labels like liberal and conservative.

No, this is not a partisan statement. But it is deeply political. The notion that any thinking, believing, and practicing Christian can avoid politics altogether is a fantasy. We are called to live out our faith in the concrete world of human persons, families, communities, cultures, and nations. This makes our involvement in politics inescapable, just as it did for the early Church. Every time we practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy we are making a political statement. To feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, or admonish sinners in high places is to pronounce judgment on the political regime under which we live and to act in defiance of it. These are not partisan acts because we give our hearts, minds, and bodies to Christ alone, but they are political.

Recently, there has been much alarm expressed over the prospect of Donald J. Trump’s election as President of the United States. This alarm is justified, in my view, because of Mr. Trump’s position on a number of key issues. If we take him at his word, Mr. Trump plans to create a new national police force that will scour every neighborhood, business, church, and school in order to locate, arrest, detain, and forcibly expel up to 11 million undocumented immigrants, many of whom have been here for decades. He also plans to systematically discriminate against the American Muslim community by pouring federal police into Muslim neighborhoods, forcing the closure of mosques, and barring Muslims – including the families of American citizens – from entering the United States.

Again, if we take Trump at his word, he also plans to resume the torture regime established under President Bush. In fact, he intends to “bring back a hell of a lot worse” than the worst done under Bush. Mr. Trump also pledges to make the deliberate murder of innocents an instrument of American policy. “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families,” Trump has said. “They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”

I could go on. Mr. Trump, a self-professed “strong Christian,” has taken positions that are directly at odds with the teaching of the Catholic Church and which ought to offend any Christian conscience. His likely opponent, Mrs. Clinton, is also beyond the pale in terms of Christian conscience. She is a tool of Wall Street and the National Security State, and she is a longtime advocate for every perverse product of the Sexual Revolution, beginning with the unlimited right to abortion.

But where Mrs. Clinton is just another in a long line of moral and political mediocrities, Mr. Trump is sui generis. His eagerness to tap into the violent strains of racism and nativism that undergird American culture is something we have not seen in a presidential candidate in a long, long time, if ever. Having said that, I agree with our friend John Medaille, a modern Cassandra if ever there was one, who is now predicting that Trump will win the presidency walking away.

“So what will the Trump Presidency look like?” asks John. “That’s hard to say, but the combination of super-ego and superpower is not promising. He has no reverence for the rule of law and no patience with the complexities of democratic institutions. He is used to calling the shots, and negotiating with big shots who only need to give their word to get a deal done. And he wants to be the biggest Big Shot of them all. He is used to the benign dictatorship of the personal firm, in which the fear of the big man who can say ‘you’re fired’ forms the basis of the corporate culture, a culture in which sycophancy is the key to success.”

I think John’s right about what a Trump presidency will look like, but the really important question for all of us is this: How will be respond?

Are we prepared to engage in civil disobedience? Are we prepared to shelter, in our own homes and churches, people he plans to round up and deport? Are we prepared to stand publicly with our Muslim friends and neighbors, perhaps even to the point of interposing our own bodies between them and the police charged with harassing them? Are we prepared to take to the streets to protest the resumption of torture, the murder of innocents, the spread of nuclear weapons, or war with Iran? Are we prepared to go to jail, to draw the scrutiny of the National Security State and the IRS? Are we prepared to stand witness against the forces aligning in favor of division and against peace?

It will not be enough, friends, to tut-tut our disapproval on Facebook or blogs like this one. Taking Mr. Trump at his word, only creative nonviolent resistance will do. Are we prepared to undertake that resistance as a penance for the many times we’ve failed to love our neighbor? Will we join our resistance to fervent prayers for our country, for those terrorized by police and military action, and even for Mr. Trump and his supporters? When our friends and family cheer him on and perhaps condemn or denounce us, are we prepared to lovingly explain that it is Christ who compels us, that it is He whom we serve.

Are we prepared?

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