There are many of us who are heart-sick over the election.
I know I have never felt this much anger about an election, and fear about the future of our nation and our world. Underneath Donald Trump’s crass statements and actions lies the cause of my biggest fears: our new president’s lack of experience in government, his inconsistent statements, his lack of developed plans and his tendency to react emotionally. Trump is unpredictable and such an unknown — and I know this is a reason many supported him — but it is also the source of my greatest fear.
Since the election, I’ve found my thoughts returning to a book I read several years ago, “The Myth of a Christian Nation,” by Gregory Boyd. Yes, I know it is a provocative title and that many will assume they know exactly what the book is about without reading it, but Boyd’s point is really that no human nation can ever truly be called “Christian.” All human governments, by their very nature operate differently than Christianity does.
All governments want to make you behave — that’s their job. They will coerce you, threaten you, even force you, to follow the laws of the government. Whether the government is democratic or not; whether the laws were voted on by a majority or created by a dictator on a whim doesn’t really matter. All governments just want to make you follow the rules and couldn’t care less how you feel about the laws or what you think of them. The government may or may not care what you think and feel during the creation of the law, but once it is created all governments are about enforcement.
But Christianity (and I believe Judaism, for that matter) operates totally differently (well, it’s supposed to). Yes, the Church has rules and even has God’s law, but the main point of it all isn’t obedience; it isn’t to make people behave. The main point of it all is to transform us. The rules and laws are merely tools to help us grow and learn and become more like God, more like we have the potential to be. God doesn’t want our obedience so much as God wants us to become the kind of people who want to live a certain way.
And yet though Christianity (and again Judaism, I think) was never meant to be a purely inwardly focused religion. A lot of the transformation God hopes for us and works toward and created the law for, is to get us to think less about ourselves and more about others. “Love God ... and love your neighbor as yourself,” is how Christ and other Rabbis summarized the law. And everyone is your ‘neighbor,” even your enemy, according to Jesus.
And this goes beyond one-on-one relationships, too. God’s law is meant to help transform us in groups also; how groups of people treat other groups of people — especially how those with power treat those without much power. Many of the ancient Hebrew prophets were yelling at their societies, at how those with power and influence treated those without much power and influence: the widows, the orphans, the foreigners — who often practiced other religions — among others.
And this brings me back to my fears regarding this election. Yes, I don’t look to my government to operate as a “Christian government” — it’s after our obedience nor our transformation. But it can operate “more Christian” or “less Christian” and all of us Christians should work toward it being an extension of our Christian beliefs. And I’m not talking about the window dressing of Christianity: the speeches and the crosses. I’m back to God’s law: Loving God and our neighbors — all of them.
And I fear after this election our government will become less Christian; I fear those without much power and influence in our society will have less and less power and influence. The widows, the orphans, but probably more so in our contemporary times, minorities, all women and foreigners — today as back in ancient times.
But maybe I’m wrong about President-elect Trump and the movement that swept him into office. Maybe it will make our government “more Christian.” Maybe a variation of “What Would Jesus Do?” will rule the day; “How Would Jesus Govern?”
To President-elect Trump and all his supporters: Please prove me wrong.
Craig Rose is the pastor at Howard United Methodist Church.