Witness

Donald Trump: What’s A Christian to Do?

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?