I believe that the colossal national failure that made the election of Donald Trump possible was a theological one. I mean, yeah, I realize that ignorance played a big role as well… And I understand that a lot of people were deceived–both by fear, and by propaganda posing as legitimate journalism, put out by media outlets that value ideology over the truth. But more than this problem of trying to figure out what we know and what we don’t know–more than the epistemological crisis that is caused when the people we are supposed to be able to trust LIE to us with such regularity, while simultaneously calling true things “fake news” when those facts don’t fit peoples’ power-hungry agenda–I believe that the real problem we are facing as a nation is due to the way we answer these questions: Who is God? And who are we? And who is our neighbor?
Am I the only one whose theology has been affected by the election of Donald Trump? This past election has profoundly affected my faith in humanity. And even more than the election, what has REALLY darkened my view of people has been the continued support so many still give him, even in the face of such a clear and present douchebaggery. And when my faith in humanity falls… Well… It hurts me. It continues to hurt me. It hurts the deepest (and I think maybe the most important) part of me: My hope. My hope is not built on anything as solid as “certainty.” Some days it’s not even a word as strong as “belief.” A lot of the time, my hope is nothing more than a suspicion. It’s a suspicion that humanity’s goodness is stronger than our selfishness. It’s a suspicion that the light is stronger than the darkness. It’s a suspicion that the moral arc of history–though very long–is bending toward justice. And, if I’m being honest, my suspicion–my HOPE–has never been more under a daily attack than it has been since the people of this country elected one of its worst citizens as its leader.
And again–if I’m being honest–A lot of what I thought was disappointment in humanity was really just me grieving over the feeling of becoming a minority. “Wait… You mean most people DON’T believe the same things that I do about right and wrong?” But as hard as it is for a white, straight, Christian man to come to the fragile realization that he is no longer in the majority, Trump’s election continues to affect me. I’m not even close to over it. Because how we perceive humanity directly affects how we perceive God to be. And likewise, what we believe about God directly affects what we believe about humanity. This is one of the main reasons so many people give up on church. And religion. And God in general… Because in most churches in America, the god they believe in is nothing less than a monster. They might be able to ignore that fact for a while, but at some point, most thinking people realize that the “good news” sounds like a horror story. “Hey–GOOD NEWS! God hates everyone who doesn’t believe what we believe! Yup, he hates them enough to have them all tortured forever!” And we’re all, “Wait… You’re calling that god ‘GOOD?!?’ That god sounds like a total dick.”
Made In The Image Of A Monster
And so, the failure that allowed for a person like Donald Trump to be elected as our president is clearly a moral failure, but it is specifically a theological failure. It is what happens when the majority of the people calling themselves “the church” believe they are made in the image of a monster. And when you believe you’re made in the image of a monster, it’s not a very far leap to find yourself VOTING for a monster. It’s easy…
- The god who is for “us” and against “them” is obviously the god who thinks we should be dropping bombs on those Muslims countries… And banning the ones who are running away from the wars from coming here for safety.
- The god who is going to send everyone to Hell who doesn’t believe the things WE believe makes it easy to vote for a person who promises to do “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
- The god who requires firm lines of orthodoxy would certainly endorse a candidate who promises to build a wall.
- The god who is–very soon–going to end the world in a fiery ball of judgment is not a god who thinks that taking care of the environment is a very high priority.
- The god who does miracles when people pray does NOT need a church community who is committed to working–right here and now–to build a more equitable society by changing laws and policies.
- The god who is in control of every little thing obviously WANTED those poor people to go without healthcare… and conversely, that same god WANTED those rich folks to have more than they could ever need.
Who is God? Is God a monster who eternally punishes everyone who doesn’t believe the same things that we believe? Does God only love the people inside of our boundaries… Both national and theological?
And who are we? Are we so utterly and hopelessly depraved that there is no bit of good in us? And if that’s what you believe about humanity, how easy is it to treat other people like a piece of shit?
And who is my neighbor? Are we built to love even the people who are different than us? Maybe even ESPECIALLY the people who are different than us? And might “loving” those different people mean more than just trying to convince them that 1) they are garbage, and 2) a monstrous god killed his own son so that a few people can avoid the eternal torture that he set as their punishment?
I swear… When I hear that 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump, it fills me with so many emotions: Pity. And anger. And frustration. And confusion. And mostly sadness… It is such a bastardization of what the Church is supposed to be. When people lose their moral compass, the Church SHOULD be the voice of conscience. When people forget that we are better when we take care of each other, the Church SHOULD be there to remind them. And when nearly half the country votes for an openly bigoted, misogynistic, narcissistic shyster of a megalomaniac of a fool, the Church SHOULD be the first one to say, “WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS!” Instead, the church is leading the way. And now Trump is talking about “totally destroying” the Johnson Amendment–the 60 year old law restricting Churches from openly endorsing political candidates… GAH! Churches who are allowed to openly criticize and preach against a political candidate SHOULD be the scariest thing in the world for Donald Trump… But then, that only applies to the Churches who are more interested in the Truth than they are interested in political power and nationalism.
So if you find yourself at a church that preaches the kind of “good news” that even allows for a rational theological case for supporting and voting for a person like Donald Trump–A person who demonizes immigrants, who demeans women, who lies on a daily basis, who defends torture, and who is opposite in every way to the words, life, spirit, and person of Jesus Christ–know this: That church has no business calling itself “Christian.” Christians follow Jesus, and the policies and tactics of this administration are wholly incompatible with the Jesus of the Bible. I can’t say that strongly enough. The ideology of Trump and the ideology of Jesus are completely and totally opposite. Though if you’re having trouble telling them apart, maybe TAKE THIS AWESOME QUIZ.
When followers of Jesus love the people outside of our belief system as much as Jesus seems to think God loves those people, then we’ll stop worrying about the borders of orthodoxy AND the borders of nations. And the thing is, most of the time the chances are good that it will not be your church that changes… It will be your heart. One day, things that used to make sense to you just won’t make sense anymore. You will embrace the mystery of a benevolent universe. You will look around and notice people’s brokenness, but you will also see their divinity. You will experience God as the thing pulling us all toward GOODNESS and LIGHT and LOVE. And like Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” You probably won’t feel Jesus leave your church–You’ll just wake up one day and realize Jesus left a long time ago… I suggest you follow him.
I have something to admit: I have been feeling hopeless. I have been feeling like the world’s problems are so huge that nothing I do or say or write matters. And that may be true–Maybe none of the stuff I write matters in the long run. But we don’t speak the truth because it’s going to change the world… We speak the truth because it’s true. I feel like this is true today, and even when the steady drumbeat of lunacy and depravity in the news breaks my heart and makes me feel like slipping into despair, I want you–the person who is reading this–to know that I love you. If you’re feeling any sense of the same despair that I have felt lately, I want you to know that you’re not alone. And there is hope. Also, if you are looking for a Church, here’s something I wrote. Anyway, thank you so much to my Patrons, who also give me hope. If you value this blog and want to support it, you can BECOME A PATRON or you can leave a TIP ON PAYPAL. Stay connected with me on Twitter and on Facebook.