Witness

Donald Trump: What’s A Christian to Do?

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Daily, on Facebook or Twitter, more and more Christians express outrage at the rise of Donald Trump. How could ‘the Donald’ be supported so magnanimously by so many Americans to be the next President of the USA? How could Christians (like Jerry Falwell Jr.) support such a man? We keep trying to find a rationale for why this is happening. What could people be thinking that support Trump and how can I convince them otherwise?!

“The People” Have Had Enough

Like the unleashing of a fierce anger from a mild demeanored soul who has remained quiet for months and years, there is no sound rationale for what has just erupted. The Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with a sound rationale for what is best for the country. Donald Trump is an “eruption of the Real” on the field of the American political order revealing what has become of America and its politics. It is a reveal for what lies at the empty core of the American system of politics.

Trump reveals what lies at the empty core of the American system of politics. @Fitchest Click To Tweet

For decades our governmental processes have been run on antagonisms. Elections work by routinely dividing and conquering, lining up one side against another, playing off fear and greed, all to get the votes out and win the right to control others and the dollars that drive them. It appears however at long last that this illusory bubble has been pricked. After years of cronyism, payoffs, and false promises, the neoliberal ideology has run out of credibility. The government of the people, for the people, and by the people has a problem: the people no longer believe. They simply want to lash out and reject this entire mess. People have had enough. The result is Trump.

People have had enough. The result is Trump. Click To Tweet

Confronting Ideology

Naturally, the first temptation is to take Trump head-on. We see this almost every day. You know, let us rally the forces, make speeches, counter attack his anti-immigrant, misogynist, substantive-less campaign and convince people to change their opinion of Trump. Let us talk sense to Christians everywhere. But has anyone noticed? The more you do that, the more you inflame the antagonism, and the more ensconced the people get.

If Trump proves anything, it is Zizek’s dictum that you cannot confront an ideology head on. It only makes it worse. (This is why some of us Anabaptists question the wisdom of voting at times like this. Sometimes it is the means to throw fuel on the flames on division and violence).

In a recent Washington Post editorial, Harvard political theorist Danielle Allen proposes a reset for the Republican party. She compared the rise of Trump to Hitler, the culture of 21st century USA to that if pre WW2 Germany. She observed the passivity of the average German during those times who thought that Hitler’s rise was a terrible thing. They chose “internal exile” staying invisible and out of the way as their strategy. As a result, she issued a call to action of sorts. She called for several Republican candidates to drop out of the race and unite the party against Trump.

I have no trouble talking about Nazi Germany. I think the so-called Godwin’s Rule keeps way too many important discussions from happening, especially about how the Church must resist the state in the midst of tyranny. But in my opinion, you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. You can’t ask the Republican party to stop being itself. Dividing, fear mongering, vicious attacking of each other as the means to win, has become the modus operandi of all American politics (not just the the Republican party). Trump is the true end of the Republican party (and yes, the Democratic party as well).

Trump is the true end of the Republican party (and yes, the Democratic party as well). Click To Tweet

So what’s a Christian to do?

It seems then we need another political option. I suggest this option is the Church. Yes! I said the Church is a political option.

Let Christians gather as a people that lives a certain way to witness to God’s coming Kingdom as a counter politic to ‘Trump.’ Let us do this as a political reality not merely as a bunch of individuals living holy lives (although that’s important) vocing our disapproval of Trump. In so doing we refuse to participate in a few things (and announce our commitments).

We Refuse To Build Walls

Trump says he will build a wall. Let Christians gather across all denominational lines and as a people refuse to physically, politically, or socially build walls that separate one group or ethnicity from another.

Let us refuse to support with our taxes building walls, and instead welcome refugees and people of all nations into our homes, our churches as sanctuaries. We remember how Hitler played into the racism, bigotry and resentment towards Jews in pre-WW2 Germany. He blamed the Jews for the German economic problems. Many Confessing Church Christians refused by taking in Jews into their homes and providing the means of escape. But of course much of that was too late. What if 90% of pre-WW2 German Lutheran pastors and Catholic priests had refused to comply with the famous Aryan paragraph of 1933? Let us therefore not repeat those mistakes. Let us gather our churches to witness to God’s work of reconciliation in the world and refuse to build walls.

Let us gather our churches in witness to reconciliation and refuse to build walls. Click To Tweet

We Refuse To Worship the Nation

Trump says he will make American great again. Let Christians gather across denominational lines and refuse as a people to worship our nation as privileged or exceptional. Let us reject taking back America or making America great as a goal unto itself that privileges one power group over another. Let us put our government and our nation in its proper place, a history with many faults and some accomplishments, a history of historic slavery, racism, yet a place where the civil rights movement began. We remember how Hitler extolled the virtue of a Volk, a nation of people who were superior in race and culture to all other peoples of the world.

What if 90% of the pre-WW2 German Lutheran pastors and Catholic priests had refused the temptation of exceptionalism? Let us therefore not repeat those mistakes. Let us gather our churches to refuse the worship of this nation and call its government to humility and service to the peoples of the world.

Let us gather our churches to and call the government to humility. Click To Tweet

We Will Refuse To Go to War

Trump appears to be a bully. Trump appears to play force against force (Syria, Russia, N. Korea) in managing conflict. Trump appears to be for a strong military. I suggest in regard to Trump, Christians gather across denominational lines and refuse as a people to go to war.

Jesus is the way of peace. At the very least let us begin by refusing to kill innocent people with bombs no matter what the supposed positive military achievement might be. What if 90% of the pre-WW2 German Lutheran pastors and Catholic priests had refused to kill other Christians, never mind innocent people, in war as a statement of who we are? Let us therefore not repeat those mistakes. Let us gather our churches to respectfully decline going to war and be willing to go to prison for our refusal.

Let us respectfully decline going to war & be willing to go to prison for our refusal. Click To Tweet

Summary

The ascendancy of Trump in the US reminds us of what’s at stake in being the Church in our time. Reminiscent of the ‘Two Kingdoms Theology’ of pre-WW2 Germany (often associated with the perversion of Luther’s Two Kingdoms theology), we are reminded of the German church’s passivity towards Hitler, the looking the other way on Nazi racism, the deification of Volk religion, and the eventual madness that took over Nazi Germany and led them to war. In a misinterpretation of Romans ch. 13 ( I recommend chapter 10 of Yoder’s Politics of Jesus on this) the Church slid into passivity towards its government. In this time of Trump, is this not also an occasion for the churches to learn its lessons from the past and begin now to be a politic of Jesus witnessing to His Kingdom and where Christ is taking the world?

How do we stop Trump? Relax. Take a deep breath. Affirm that Jesus is Lord and the US government is not. Be the Church. Commit to a new faithfulness to living in His Kingdom for these times.

What do you think?

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17 responses to “Donald Trump: What’s A Christian to Do?

  1. How about we let the citizens of America express their right to vote for whomever they choose, and have the church pay more attention to it’s mission……….making deciples, not choosing leaders.

  2. You’ve expressed exactly what I have been thinking for a long time. There is TOO MUCH division, animosity and resentment (as purposefully inflamed by Trump and similar political candidates).

    As a personal Lenten discipline, I am asking individuals for their personal definition of peace. I write it down, and ask them whether I may include it on my daily blog, https://matterofprayerblog.wordpress.com/. I find asking about people’s personal definition of peace is a compassionate way to go right to the heart of a person. Everyone is searching for peace (in one way or another). I want to continue the conversation about peace, reconciliation, dialogue, and managing conflict. @chaplaineliza #PursuePEACE

  3. So, since it is the system that is utterly broken and needs replacing, why are you attacking Trump as the problem? At least he wants to implement some fundamental change. Do you actually prefer the continued outright lies, division and hollow man rot that Hilary would continue with…?

    1. If you read it closely, I am actually arguing for Trump as the symptom of the problem… a sign of the issues that lie within the American way of politics.

      1. Yes, you did say Trump is the symptom – but then you seemed to go back to fighting him rather than the broken system? And the Nazi comparison is ridiculous and offensive.

        1. Mark,
          I reject Godwin’s rule, which says we can never invoke the example of Hitler in a dialogue. Instead I believe, we must examine again and again why the church failed to resist Hitler in post Weimer Germany so that it might not happen again. I tend not to think that Trump is setting up as another Hitlerian demagogue … the democratic systems seem to suggest it’s not possible anyway? But nonetheless, I’m going to press and press again for the kind of eccelsiological faithfulness we need as a Christian presence in USA. And many people (maybe you?) won’t be able to tell the difference between asking good questions about the Trump administration as it relates to Hitler, and actually accusing him of being another Hitler. But that’s a cost I think I should be willing to bear for asking the questions.

  4. What people want in supporting Trump, he can’t deliver. The President cannot act like a CEO who bullies people around in order to get what they want. Politics doesn’t work that way. Neither does diplomacy in dealing with other nations. We need a president who is far more mature than a Donald Trump. He can’t even function as a decent human much less the leader of a great nation. It’s understandable that after 8 years of Obama the nation is ready for someone who seems as angry as they are, but that doesn’t mean he’s a good choice.

  5. If Mr. Trump is elected, this might well be publish as a Manifesto, perhaps in a format similar to the Barmen Declaration. I like just about everything you’ve said here, but it will be hard to get 90% of the churches to go along. (There are some, even in the church I attend, who would not agree with one or more of these provisions. I despair sometimes, but we must teach our members well, and accept the reality that our churches fall short of the ideal.

  6. I know that this post is old now, but I felt the need to add a comment on the eve of my states primary election (OH). I deeply respect brother Soong-Chan Rah, his book Next Evangelicalism has been deeply impactful in my life multiple different times. I however, am confused about his comment that the approach advocated here by brother David Fitch is “a bit passive”. Actively resisting the ethnocentrism, natioanalism, and militarism of our country by witnessing to a radical alternative does not seem passive to me. To me it sounds like the very active new testament model of Jesus, Paul, and the Apostles. If you read this, I am genuinely asking you what actions would you advocate as being more “active” than what David describes, and how will those recommended actions not fall into what Yoder would call Constantinianism? I think David is right on when he uses Zizek’s idea that ideology cannot be confronted head on. If the body of Christ in America would only realize that they add fuel to the never-ending fire by fighting back rather than witnessing to an alternative then maybe the church will begin to be a real political presence in this country. We need to “give up the handle to history” as Yoder talks about in chapter 10 of PoJ. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (KJV, emphasis mine).

  7. Dr Fitch – the answer is not in being passive – its in being strong: CONSTITUTIONAL Conservatism is the answer: The people are mistaking Trump as an answer to barak Obama: he is not, for he paid for Obama’s ways and groups before he became Republican…The answer is in going to our roots as a COVENANT PEOPLE: The Constitution. Obama has wreaked havoc on the Constitution and the GOP leadership is taken up with cronied earmarks that benefit themselves, refusing to take up opposition to Obama – THAT’S why people are upset: Obama’s creating a vacuum with ISIS coming up from within that vaccuum and REFUSING TO FIGHT ISIS – THAT”S what people are upset over – there has been no OPPOSITION…You are swerving TOWARDS obama when we must Defeat Obama by PRINCIPLED conservatism and Free-market basics!!

  8. This article is SILLY. And yes, I am a Christian. Look, when the writer says, “Trump seems to be a bully”, the problem is even as we speak so-called Christians have been supporting zionism that abuses Palestinians – including Palestinian Christians. And I suspect if I searched this blog, I’d find articles in support of that foolishness. And please tell me, Mr. Writer, what this Christian group’s perspective would be on policing, protecting Wall Street thieves, etc. There has not been a unified Christian movement in this country because Christians supported some of the country’s worst evils – slavery, black codes, and jim crow. When I hear white Christians come to terms with those issues, I will read articles like that with a sense of hope. Until then, I believe there are some fundamental evils that are deeply ingrained in Christendom. Heck, start with rejecting the white Jesus lie and let’s go from there. Start with Christians rejecting the idea that Founders who were slaveowners don’t deserve the title [Founding] “Fathers” – I wish I would. If the church itself were not so filled with evil, maybe we would be the salt. I can only imagine what such a party would be with people like Hagee, whom millions support, talking about nuclear attacks on Iran. I think what Randy Myers (on this thread) says is true. Before forming a party, how about a confessing church. Whites have the numbers, resources, and history. And to be clear, whites have dragged blacks into this foolishness about abortion, homosexual marriage, etc. So to whom much is given, much is required. Get busy.

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