Let’s practice the art of adulting, take responsibility for what has happened and find creative and morally sound ways to move forward. The more the church looks like Mr. Trump, i.e., white, older, exclusive, isolated, intolerant of differing views, the less it looks Christian.
I’ve not made any secret of my dislike for President Donald Trump, for who he is as a person, and for many of the decisions he has made as the most powerful person in the world.
I know, however, my reading and news consumption certainly reinforces my views, sometimes blinding me to other, equally legitimate opinions about the state of our nation and the world under his leadership.
Let’s take Mitt’s Romney’s semi praise of Mr. Trump:
It is not that all of the president’s policies have been misguided. He was right to align U.S. corporate taxes with those of global competitors, to strip out excessive regulations, to crack down on China’s unfair trade practices, to reform criminal justice and to appoint conservative judges. These are policies mainstream Republicans have promoted for years.
Frankly, if you look at this list, he seems a reasonably decent POTUS. The list does ignore Mr. Trump’s childish-looking wish for a virtually useless wall. Note: I am not saying we don’t need border security–I just affirm with others that concrete wall technologies or “aesthetically pleasing steel slats” are not the most cost-effective ways to bring it about. I admit, in my deep distrust of him on a personal level that I have not been able to get past, I wonder how many construction companies, expecting to be awarded lucrative bids for his beloved wall, have placed money in his pocket.
Senator Romney’s praise also ignores the concern over the abdication of world leadership roles with other democracies and Mr. Trump’s penchant for cozying up to dictators and other world leaders whose record on human rights show particular disregard for the idea that all share basic human dignity.
Romney’s praise also ignores what appears to be Mr. Trump’s real fear of people who are primarily brown-skinned or who don’t fit the white, “Christian” America demographic of his fantasy country.
Trump taught us the nature of adulting
But, having listed my many objections to this man, I find there is something else that needs consideration here: ways that having him as the public leader has been especially useful for the people of the US and even the world.
Mr. Trump has taught us what it means to be a responsible adult.
Adults do these things:
- Take full responsibility for their actions and recognize that they stand on the shoulders of others who have gone before them.
- Seek to find the basic commonalities of truth and facts when negotiating complex issues.
- Treat those who work for them with respect and calmly welcome criticisms of their decisions.
- Live faithfully to their marriage/partnership vows.
- Listen to spiritual advisors who encourage humility and discourage ideas of being God’s chosen person who can function without accountability.
- Engage in life-long learning practices and continually seek the expertise of others.
Now, careful readers know that Mr. Trump does not do any of the above and the result has been an unusually chaotic time for our nation. These are powerful lessons on the nature of adulting, people. Let’s learn from them.
He’s been good for Christianity as well
Not only has Mr. Trump taught us a great deal about responsible living, but he has also been a helpful force for US Christianity.
First, let us stay aware that the embrace of Trump by many Christians has exposed for all the white nationalism underlying much evangelical theology. We needed to see this.
Second, a clear corollary of the first point: the Exvangelical movement took off. This article should be read in full by those who ponder the nature of the church for the future. Here’s a revealing description of this growing demographic:
Exvangelicals, then, are by and large proponents of feminism, intersectionality, racial justice, and LGBTQ rights. We don’t seek a common metaphysics or (a)theology, but rather seek to build bridges between those of us who have left evangelicalism for no religion and those of us who have departed for healthy religion.
Third, Mr. Trump reminds us many “Bible-believing Christians” don’t bother to “believe in” the solidly biblical mandates concerning hospitality, welcome, or the care of the most vulnerable of society, i.e., today’s equivalence of “widows and sojourners”. In other words, he exposed the extent of the moral bankruptcy of much contemporary Christian thought.
The power of bankruptcy
Think of these so-far two years under Mr. Trump’s leadership as an extended period of Lent: It gave us a reason to take a fearless inventory of our souls. As we become more and more aware of that bankrupt state, we also discover a new starting place.
Note the financial parallel: by declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy (and Mr. Trump certainly can speak to this strategy), corporations can wipe out most of their debt to their various lenders and stay in business. With this newfound financial freedom, a corporation then, we hope, does a significant restructuring and emerges with a different, and, we sincerely hope, better-grounded strategy for the future.
And thus the biggest reason why I think that Trump has been good for Christianity: we can legitimately declare our bankruptcy and aim for a fresh start.
It’s time to realign Christianity with the overarching message of Jesus and recognize its own profound roots in Jewish moral theology.
None of us knows what Jesus would say, but we can guess
As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, we land ourselves in spiritual and intellectual dishonesty when we claim that the Bible, always read in translation and written in worlds so radically different from ours, can easily speak in specifics today’s world. But the Bible can and should guide us with the vital messages of grace, forgiveness, actions that lead to the healing of the world, and justice and freedom for the oppressed.
None of us knows what Jesus would say to the LGBTQI community. But we do have an idea what he said to lepers, to women, to others who were considered irredeemably dirty and outside the bounds of the “in-group” considered acceptable to the religious elite. He touched them; he welcomed them without words of condemnation or restriction as to their participation level; he offered them the fullness of the words of life.
None of us knows what Jesus would say to the mega-church leaders of today who publically preach morality but carry on privately with women not their wives, who amass great riches for themselves by defrauding the poor, who aid and abet those who routinely disempower the already oppressed, who compromise their souls for the sake of political power. But we can guess: and it is likely those words would not be supportive or appreciative or even “nice” at all.
Time to savor our wisdom and pass the torch
Do I think the Exvangelicals will themselves be able to create the ideal church for the future? How silly–they have their own baggage, their own flaws. I can remember my youthful zeal for saving the world for Jesus and all the mistakes I made in the process.
But I think we stand on the threshold of a newly powerful work of grace. I feel the breezes stirring. I observe the moments of longing for a real experience of God and goodness. I see the passion to bless our physical world with acts of healing and redemption.
What many in my generation, we massive numbers of Baby Boomers now entering “retirement” age (even as many are unable to actually retire) at the rate of 10,000/day, built in our understanding of Christianity will have to pass away.
We shall have to deal with a great sense of loss. We shall have to accept the grieving that will accompany those changes.
Yes, it hurts to pass the leadership torches to those 30, 40, 50 years younger than we. Our hard-earned scars have taught us much wisdom, and it would be lovely to have that wisdom heard and acted upon. But even if it is not, we must at least listen to these new voices, to their passionate call for an inclusive space that really does welcome all at the table.
Mr. Trump, in his rabid isolationist stances, in his fear of anything that challenges his view of himself, in his lack of moral clarity, shows us precisely what Biblical Christianity is not, even though the Christian world put him in power.
We must thank him for that, not condemn him. He is what he is, and this nation elected him to a place of very nearly unlimited power.
But we must see this truth: The more the church looks like Mr. Trump, i.e., white, older, exclusive, isolated, intolerant of differing views, the less it looks Christian.
Let’s practice the art of adulting and take responsibility for what has happened. Then let us find creative and morally sound ways to move forward.
Bankruptcy: ID 58329887 © Mikhail Primakov | Dreamstime.com