A Christian’s Response to the Election of Donald Trump, and Our Role In It
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?
MAY IT NEVER BE.
David, the second king of Israel, a man chosen by God to rule His people, is perhaps most famous for the story David and Goliath, a story in which a scrappy underdog defeats a powerful enemy. In my house, though, the David story recounted most was that of Nathan and David. Repeatedly when I was a child, my mother would sit me down and tell me about Nathan, the prophet of God who boldly confronted David’s sin. David impregnated Bathsheba and then killed her husband in an attempt to cover up the resulting pregnancy. One day, Nathan the prophet comes to David and tells David a story. It’s an allegorical story, about an obscenely wealthy man who cheats a poor man out of all that poor man has. David’s blood stirs, his fury rises, and he asks Nathan, “Who would do such a thing? Who is this man?”
Nathan turns to him and says, “Thou art the man.”
“Thou art the man.” I’m an English teacher, and the structure of this sentence — short, declarative — echoes in my ear constantly. No rationalization, no complex clauses, no possibility for crossed signals, just condemnation in four words. I don’t feel glee when I hear it; I don’t chortle to think of David getting caught up in his own fury; instead, I feel the dread that most of my fellow Christians have felt when we realize we have failed God.
Since I was little, then, I have believed that a person willing to speak the truth is the greatest effecter of change. Nathan and David’s confrontation ends well. The truth was received. David repented. Telling the truth worked. In fact, in the Bible, telling the truth often works. Esther appealed to Ahasuerus and her people were protected. Jonah finally dragged his feet to Ninevah, and the people received the Word of God. In literary tradition, prophets (Cassandra, Tiresias) were doomed to death because people would not hear the voice of truth, but Scripture always provides a more positive view. Even at the cost of the messenger’s life — at the cost of Jeremiah’s life, for example — truth prevailed.
Prevailing truth is the hope I have grasped for the last eighteen hours, over the last seventeen months of pure Godlessness that has dominated the American political cycle. The God of the Bible, who created each person in His Image, who loves each one of us enough that He died for us: this God has provided no justification for moral degradation. He has commanded us to love and to speak truth. Christians had an opportunity to do both of those things in this election and we failed.
We had a responsibility to speak truth to power, to tell Donald Trump “thou art the man.” We had a responsibility to cherish the innate worth and dignity of black brothers, brown sisters, disabled fathers, abused mothers; but, we gloated over the oppression of their voices. We had an opportunity to take a simple stand against rampant unrighteousness: a line from a pen, a handwritten name. We suffused ourselves on speculation, ignoring credible repudiation of such falseness. We wrote social media statuses discussing our agonizing decisions regarding the election, but we forgot that our decision-making principle should have been, “How can I keep myself unspotted before the world?” and not, “How can I rationalize a vote for a wicked man?” On Facebook, we published giddy updates celebrating the rise of a man who in every way represents the Biblical example of a cruel and dangerous leader, forgetting that only a few days ago, it had been so difficult to make the choice to vote for him. We had the chance to prove to the world that we trust in the sovereignty of God no matter the cost, and instead we sold our souls for pottage of lentils. We may not have wanted the rejection of a political affinity to be the way we demonstrated fidelity to our principles, but this was the choice before us. We had the opportunity, at little or no cost to our own personal safety (not that this would be a consideration for a Christian), to protect the name of Christ from desecration, and today we find ourselves with an overwhelmingly lost testimony before God and the world.
We have failed the test. God’s truth prevails still, God’s redemptive work on the cross is still the most powerful message the world contains, yet our complicity is no less vile. If we had preserved our integrity, in the face of either political party’s success, we would have been able to stand spotless and undefiled before the world. That is not the choice we made, and that is our deep shame.
But God is the God of grace and mercy. We will have tests in the future. More tempting ones, now that we have aligned ourselves publicly with evil, and that evil has taken power. We can continue to find this path seductive. We can continue to find it pragmatic. But let’s not create a false binary again; let us choose another path.
Instead of allying ourselves with our chosen leader, let us speak with the authority of Nathan.
Instead of wallowing in moral destitution, let us be like trees, planted by rivers of water, prospering.
Instead of trying to create a political coalition, let us soberly set our hope on the grace of Jesus Christ.
Instead of heeding the false echo chamber of our limited environments, let us exemplify the grace of this beautiful verse, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!”
I look forward to serving the God of the universe by your side.