Back when Donald Trump first emerged on the campaign trail I, like many others, couldn’t imagine him getting the nomination let alone being elected. Then, when I heard so many Christians trying to tell me that this lying, cheating, womanizing, self-obsessed misogynist was God’s choice for President of the United States and therefore the de facto “Leader of the Free World” I shuddered at the very thought of it.
There was no part of me that could accept the idea that when God looked out over the landscape seeking a suitable occupant for the White House he saw Donald J. Trump, paper billionaire and paper human being, and said, “There’s my man!”
But now, six years later, on the eve of Joe Biden’s inauguration, I’m not so sure.
One phrase that we’ve heard more than any other the last few weeks, especially since the attack on the Capital in Washington is, “That’s not who we are.” However, the fact remains that this would not be happening if that statement were true.
The occupant of the White House, whoever they are, is very much a reflection of who America is as a people, as a society, as a nation; and for the last four years we have been forced to take a good long look in the mirror and the face staring back at us has been Donald Trump.
“For now we see in a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face.”
For some time now the heat of political correctness has been steaming up that mirror preventing us from seeing all the imperfections. Donald Trump’s presidency wiped away the fog and forced us, and the world at large, to take a hard look at who we really are. The real us, with no make-up, no fashionable outfit, no perfectly coifed hairpiece; just the unadorned true face of North America.
It happened because Trump gave Hilary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” free reign to prove just how deplorable they could be. People who had formerly concealed their hate behind a mask of political correctness were empowered to voice their hatred in the name of patriotism. We also learned that the basket was much bigger than we thought it was.
And the white, evangelical Christian church, desperate for a Martin Luther King Jr. of it’s own, had finally found him. We took down the cross from our sanctuaries and raised the Confederate battle flag in its place along with the Stars and Stripes. We worshipped a westernized version of Jesus that put the modern church in the role of God’s chosen people and convinced ourselves that we could do no wrong.
But we were wrong. We just couldn’t see it, mostly because we didn’t look, or didn’t want to admit what was there. Oh, we heard the cry of the disadvantaged, the poor, the black, the Asian, the native Nations, the LBGTQ, just to name a few; but how many of us went out of our way to lift them up out of their disadvantage? How many of us, while genuinely sympathizing with their plight, continued living a guilt free life secure in the bosom of our white privilege?
“There is no one righteous, not even one.”
The more astute (or the more defensive) of you will notice my use the the collective pronoun “we”. You are likely wondering why a Canadian would lump himself in with the deplorables to the south, or you are defensively protesting that “we aren’t like that, that is not us.” But is there as much difference as we think? The church in Canada cannot rest on it’s laurels any more than can the church in the U.S., or the church in Europe, or in Africa, or anywhere else for that matter. The church everywhere has much to answer for.
Because Donald Trump didn’t make things the way they are anymore than my bathroom mirror is responsible for the face looking back at me. I’m not sure where it started, but it didn’t start with him; he just gave the ugly truth a higher profile. It didn’t even start with the Republican Party, or the American church. It started long before that as the church in all it’s various incarnations has sought to influence politics and dictate the way in which all people should live whether they believe or not. It might even have started with Constantine making Christianity the state religion of Rome for reasons that some consider likely more political than religious.
But wherever or whenever it started it continues as long as we ignore the one who said “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s“
So yeah, maybe Donald Trump was indeed God’s choice for president. Maybe God looked at America, and the church in particular, and decided we needed a wake up call. Does that mean I owe the 45th president a vote of thanks? Hardly; no more than I should give Judas a pat on the back for his betrayal of Jesus, even though it ultimately led to the the hope of salvation.
But I do owe God my gratitude for the lesson I think I’ve learned. I thank God that issues of racism and privilege are getting attention more in keeping with what they deserve rather than just lip-service from “woke” policy-makers. I thank God that though I never desired to own another human being myself, I now better understand how my life in the 1% is founded on the actions of those who did. I thank God that I am reminded that I need to examine my own beliefs and how I follow the teachings of Jesus in my day to day walk and hold myself accountable to His words. I thank God that the church can no longer take its privilege for granted and must also examine itself to see where it went astray. And I thank God that the instrument of His instruction didn’t get a second term.
One question remains: Now that we have seen the face in the mirror, what are we going to do about it?