Christianity under siege?

trump-christianity-under-siege“Less than two weeks into the presidency of Donald J. Trump, the center ground, to the extent it still existed, has collapsed. Trump’s presidency has done more than polarize the country; it has established terms of battle likely to persist indefinitely.” So wrote Dan Balz of the Washington Post in a story appearing in today’s Buffalo News.

Hardly anything I’ve read since Trump claimed victory in the November election illustrates more succinctly and starkly the diametrically opposed differences between the effects he is having on the nation and world and the effects we Christians believe to be the work of God. As St. Paul put it, “in Christ God was reconciling the world . . . and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us” (2 Cor. 5:19). No other commentary seems necessary.

“Christianity is under siege,” Trump said. Indeed it is, and Trump himself is leading the attack. We who claim the name “Christ” must find our voice and make it heard more effectively than we have done.

8 comments

  1. Ember Hilkert · · Reply

    I have struggled with this very issue since he announced his candidacy. How do we explain (and I’ve heard many theories on this) the number of Christians that are in support of him??

    1. There’s no simple way to answer your question, Ember, without appearing to be judgmental toward those whom John Wesley called “almost Christian,” that is, Christian in name but not in substance, and I want to avoid being judgmental. But we are called to exercise sound judgment and to discern between spirits. “Do not believe every spirit,” John wrote, “but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

      The best way I know to test a spirit is to assess its fruit. Does it bring about reconciliation and healing, particularly between enemies? Does it lead (with a full-body nod to Martin Buber) beyond I-it, you-me, or us-them relationships to an I-Thou relationship in which the other (every other) is recognized as a vessel of the divine? Do we say “Namaste” in word and in deed, the divine in me recognizing and bowing to the divine in you in a relationship in which we are no longer two but one? Does it bear the fruit of love, recognizing and acting toward the other as having an essential role to play in God’s unfolding creation – so essential that without the other person my own life and all of creation would be essentially diminished and incomplete?

      These are high standards. In my opinion, Trump and those who support him and follow his lead in these matters don’t make the cut.

  2. Bruce Wattle · · Reply

    Thank you for your answer and insight into this question. You’re right that it is difficult to stay away from being judgmental. Throughout the campaign and now after the election results and inauguration, I have been and continue to be bewildered by the support shown to him by Christians. I understand there may be issues that many find positive reinforcement from him, but his spiritual fruit appears sour and rotten I cannot see where any of his actions pass the spirit tests.

  3. The significant support shown to Trump by some Christians (noted by both Ember and Bruce above) bewilders me, too, and leaves me looking for comfort in Jesus’ parable in which he likens the kingdom of heaven to “someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away” (Matt. 13:24-30). In pulling up the weeds, he said, you might also uproot the wheat, so let them grow together until God finally sorts things out.

    That leaves me in a genuine dilemma. Do I sleep while someone sows weeds in the field and then passively tolerate the coexistence of weeds and wheat together, as Jesus seems to advise? Or do I “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves,” as I promised to do in my United Methodist membership vows (which I trust also reflect what Jesus says we are to do)?

    To that I don’t have an answer that’s good for everyone, only one that seems good for me. I will resist evil, injustice, and oppression; I will recognize the possibility that I have it exactly wrong; and I will trust God to sort it all out in the end, relying on my hope that in the final reconciliation, God won’t count my mistakes against me (2 Cor. 5:19).

  4. Ember Hilkert · · Reply

    And that, Rich, is where I have intentionally decided to land as well. There is a time to be silent and trust that all will be well, and there are times when mobilization is required in order to show support for what I believe is right. What I continually remind myself (as was told to me by Ken Dobbin) is not to attack the person/people who are supportive of Trump’s initiatives, only to attack the policies themselves.

    I will not allow myself to believe that all of Donald Trump’s supporters are misogynistic, hateful etc. I will not, because there are people that I love that support him. No one is all good or all bad. We can differ in our opinions and still coexist and love one another. It may not be an easy path to follow, but it is the one that I choose to follow each morning when I wake up to yet another mind-boggling decision.

  5. Ahh – see that? I knew we were kindred spirits.

  6. Leah Stuck · · Reply

    Reading these reflections has been helpful to me tonight. My emotions since the election have ranged from anger to fear to disbelief and it can be all consuming. I felt strongly that we had a moral imperative to reject what he stood for in the election and it has been so hard to reserve judgment. I used to reserve meditation for late nights and waiting in long lines and now I find my mindful breathing saving my sanity every day as I navigate the news and opinions with which I so strongly disagree. I believe though that life isn’t meant to be easy and though these times are surely trying they are also forcing us to really clarify our own values and be honest in our reflection of our own “goodness” (including where we need to grow), and the progress of our society. I’m imperfectly striving for non-judgmental compassion and it’s a work in progress.

    1. Thanks for your words, Leah. These days have certainly brought me to more regularity in my prayer and meditation. I think I’m becoming better at keeping the keel of my boat deeper in the water. And I remain confident that something I trust to be good is happening in that deeper place.

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