July 6, 2016 / David Fitch

Donald Trump as King David?: On Discerning God’s Work in the World

It’s Easy to Justify Political Agendas via Scripture

A couple weeks ago, Donald Trump had a meeting with ‘evangelical’ leaders to gain their support for his presidential candidacy. From this meeting, several evangelical leaders offered biblical justifications for Christians who wish to support Trump for president.

  • Franklin Graham compared Trump to King David saying God can use imperfect leaders.
  • A guy named Lance Wallnau offered a prophetic prayer likening Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign to God’s anointing of the pagan king Cyrus to restore Israel to its rightful place of leadership and flourishing in the world. Trump, he says “fears God as best he knows Him and he is the only Cyrus I see fulfilling Isaiah 45 for the 45th President.”
  • No less than James Dobson claimed Trump has been born again. Trump used the word ‘hell’ at least 4 or 5 times! He’s a baby Christian, Christians should “cut him some slack” and vote for him.

Strangely, in the process, the morality of Trump’s life has become either irrelevant or a reason for God to be able use him to save our country.

All of this reveals how easy it is to find Biblical justification for our own agendas in the world. Evangelical conservatives have developed immense skill at praying, reading a Scripture and then baptizing a governmental policy in the name of Christian Nation. From George Bush, who prayed to God before he bombed Iraq, believing the invasion was God’s mission, in the cause of ‘freedom,’ to John Piper blaming a destructive tornado in downtown Minneapolis on the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s stance on same sex sexuality at their national convention held in downtown Minneapolis, Evangelicals have become very good at discerning God at work in the world, (using Scripture) when it suits our national agendas.

Conservative Evangelicals are skilled at baptizing policy in the name of a Christian Nation. Share on X

But It’s Not Just the Evangelical Right

On Facebook the other day, I said that progressive Christians do the same thing when we develop the concept of justice or love, and then justify our support of a social justice cause via Scripture whenever something in the world lines up with our concept of justice or love.

For instance, I am convinced wholeheartedly there are social and personal injustices perpetrated by our society and churches against Black men and women, other ethnicities/minorities, against immigrants, against refugees, against peoples of alternative sexual identities, and against Muslims. Often progressive Christians go immediately to supporting various government/nation-state legislative solutions that work for justice in these issues. In the process, we conceptualize and gloss over the antagonisms and violence that lies at the core of these issues locally and nationally.

We join in on these social justice causes via the nation/state social apparatuses, baptizing these efforts in the name of God’s justice. We create more and more rights and separate more people from more people, upholding each other’s rights and further ensconcing the racism, hate, violence and antagonism into our social systems. We outlaw one Jim Crow (of course a worthy advance via legislation!), never dealing with the antagonisms that lie at the core of the racial oppressive power relationships. The old Jim Crow gets outlawed into new Civil rights legislation, and thus comes the new Jim Crow (Michele Alexander) more hideous than the one before. We gloss over the antagonisms between Muslims and Christians while we work for a new understanding of religious relations under a democratic tolerance for all, meanwhile the simmering hate and anger of Muslims from the US (and Christian) wars against Muslims of the past goes un-talked about.

Many progressive Christians, I contend, too often jump on board all these ways of working for justice, thinking God is at work while never discerning the issues locally, uncovering what God wishes to do at the social relational level in healing the world’s antagonisms. In fact, many times we ensconce into history the ongoing hatred into an ideology that enables us to live together unchanged and touched by one another.

We call this democracy.

We call this capitalism.

We call this progress.

Progressives tend to jump into justice before discerning what God is doing relationally. Share on X

On Going Local With Our Discernment

All of this reveals that the church in the USA needs better discernment practices! We need to examine how we discern God’s work in the world. I, for one, have been on the ‘missional’ bandwagon for a while now. This movement affirms God is at work in the world. God is a missionary God and is at work in the world for His mission (missio Dei). This mission is not the possession of the Church, rather the Church is called to join in with God in the world. But this takes discernment!!

Too often our discernment has turned into a bogus process of:

  1. Making an assessment of social political issues in society
  2. Making Jesus into a principle (‘Christian Nation’ for conservatives, ‘Social Justice’ for progressives) and then…
  3. …applying it to nation-state political decisions, with some Scripture thrown in. We end up supporting wars, political antagonisms and even racism in the process.

I propose we start locally, incarnationally, through God’s people, opening space between people(s), reconciling and renewing. Engage one’s context, through listening, through presence, through actual engagement in the struggles on the ground, in a neighborhood. Here, in an actual location, the church can give witness to what God is doing in the logic of forgiveness, reconciliation, and renewal of all things through Jesus Christ. It is hard to trust that God will move across the land via Grassroots church, through black men and white policemen talking over a table, through discerning economic injustice at local levels revealing systemic oppressions, through those who are without homes meeting with local people putting on meals and book clubs.

Sounds all “PortlandiaI am sure. But this is the way God has chosen to work in the world: through incarnation, through presence, through the practices of reconciliation, being with the poor, and the reorienting our lives to the coming in-breaking Kingdom of God. And God can change whole systems from here (see my article HERE). For God’s true justice and healing, the church must become present. Through governments (solely) we may be able to preserve the world from various injustices through government programs/laws, but the true justice of God will get lost if the church cedes its presence to the state.

Sounds all Portlandia, but PRESENCE this is the way God has chosen to work in the world. Share on X

It seems to me, therefore, the big Trump meeting with evangelical leaders a couple weeks ago is a wake up call to evangelicals and progressives alike to enter into the world’s injustices and become present for the reconciliation of all things in Christ. Let us go be among, discern his work among us, and participate in the reconciliation of all things in Christ.

What about you? Does the lack of Christian discernment in national politics push you to engage locally in the lives of people and the on-the-ground struggles for God’s justice?