I don’t want anything I write in the days, weeks, and months ahead to obscure the fact that I am horrified at what America has done. Electing a mentally unstable, incredibly ignorant, bald-faced liar to be Con Man in Chief is a shameful and inexcusable failure on the part of the American electorate.
And yet the three things that matter most to me right now, politically speaking are, first, that no one follow the example of the Republicans who have spent the last eight years standing for nothing more than obstructionism. trump, however despicable I may consider him to be, is my president and I must hope we all work to being out the best in him. Second, I will pray very frequently that God will work in and through trump to awaken a conscience in him and to show America the way forward. Third, I will work harder than ever to speak the truth in love, adding whatever little bit I can to the effort to educate America so that we never again sucker for a would-be leader whose only skill is manipulation.
At the moment, I am asking with most others, How did this happen? I believe the election of trump represents a variety of American failures.
One, our press has failed miserably. Nearly all our journalists showed that they have lost their understanding of the role of a free press in a democracy. They were the first segment of our society to sucker for the manipulations of trump.
Second, more deeply, it is clear that our educational system has failed. If nothing else, the failure of our schools to ground students in history has left us apparently helpless to defend ourselves against Santayana’s dictum that those who do not know history are bound to repeat it.
Third, and still more deeply, the general dismissal of the role of the church in America life and thought has left us with no foundation on which to build a sense of the moral responsibilities of life in a human community. We’ve dismissed the church while having nothing with which to replace the essential human accountability to the Righteous Judge of the Universe. We are proving for the billionth time in our history that we humans do a terrible job of being god for ourselves. We should have learned that lesson from Adam and Eve but instead keep trying to prove our own divinity without submission to our Creator.
Yes, yes, I am fully aware that we have chosen a secular government. I have no doubt that this is essential for democracy but having a secular government (and therefore religious freedom) do not mean we must be a secular society. the failure to distinguish between the two has cost us very dearly.
Thomas Jefferson, who could be considered a Christian only by the very broadest stretch of the imagination, wrote, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.”
Like most of the Founding Fathers, Jefferson had little use for the church but he never lost his belief in the reality of God as Creator and Judge. His fear of God was not strong enough to help him free his slaves — of which there were many– but he knew he was living a life of getting-away-with-things. Like an addict, he could not choose to do the right thing even though he knew he was accountable to God and would someday stand before the Judgment Seat.
It is time for the church in America to discover anew that we are the followers of the Living God, Sovereign of the Universe. We have long-since grown accustomed to being merely cultural Christians, drifting along with society and neglecting entirely our prophetic calling to remind people — all people — that we are each and all accountable to God for love, justice, and peace.
Had the church been doing its job 250 years ago, perhaps Jefferson and Franklin and Washington and the others would have been encouraged to live by what they knew to be true. And had the church been doing its job in the South, slavery would have been ended long before the Civil War and we wouldn’t be saddled with the awful racism which still haunts us.
Yes, I believe all Americans should be ashamed that we have chosen a scoundrel to lead us but the important thing is to identify the failures — especially of the church — which left us so badly unprepared to reject trump. Having identified those failures, we must proceed to correct them.
By the grace of God, where we are weak, there we can become strong.