Ugh. I’m doing the thing. I’m talking about politics.
I hate politics a lot. I’ve talked before on this site about how the internet is a terrible place to argue and how people of faith often invalidate their point by presenting it in a way that is less than loving, and talking about politics online in any way, shape, or form tends to go against both of those ideas. But it’s been a weird year, it’s been a weird election, and as the aftermath shakes out I find myself increasingly frustrated with the rhetoric being used by people of faith to support our new president-elect.
A great many well-reasoned people, people I love and respect, have expressed their support for Donald Trump along the lines of “We get it, he’s a divisive and disagreeable human being, but his policies make more sense to me than Clinton’s policies.” I may not agree with their conclusions, but I can respect that reasoning.
This is not about those people. This is about the people who are loudly complaining about any form of resistance whatsoever to our president-elect, who are suggesting that all ought to fall in line without any sort of dissent, and are using their faith in God as justification for such a position. That justification takes a lot of forms, from the “God is in control, do you fear Trump more than you trust God?” all the way up to the lunatic-fringe “If Trump won, God obviously WANTED him to be President of the United States and YOU DON’T WANT TO ARGUE WITH GOD, DO YOU????” Some cite Scriptures such as Romans 13, which is a really convenient Scripture to recite as long as the people you backed are in a position of power.
But here’s the thing I keep coming back to–let’s pretend, just for the sake of argument, that we are absolutely certain that God backed Donald Trump. God, for his own sovereign and inscrutable reasons, decided to place America under the governance of a man who has repeatedly demonstrated an irascible temper and seems so far to be struggling with the transition into leadership.
Even if we believe that is 100% true, that does not mean that Donald Trump’s leadership is going to be a good thing.
My Bible is filled with the stories of people who were, directly and uncontroversially, placed into leadership by God Himself. In several of those instances, their leadership was filled with disaster and pain for the people of God.
For example, there is no doubt in my mind or in the words of Scripture that God placed into leadership Israel’s first king, a man known as Saul. He did it in response to an evil request by the people of Israel, who demanded a king instead of submitting to the theocratic rule that God had desired for their nation. Saul’s leadership included such highlights as the time he almost killed his own son because of a rash oath he had taken in order to gain more glory for himself, and was only stopped because his entire army intervened. There was also the time that he got impatient waiting for God’s appointed judge, Samuel, and didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of his people, so he offered a sacrifice that he had no right to offer. He famously kept for himself the spoils of war with the Amalekites, after God explicitly commanded him not to, and then tried to “spin” it positively as sacrifices reserved for the Lord. He spent the majority of his final years trying to murder a young man that God had chosen to be his successor.
There is no doubt in my mind or in the words of Scripture that God placed into leadership the king of the Babylonians, a man known as Nebuchadnezzar. He became the ruler of the Israelites as God responded to the continual evil of the people of Israel, who had rejected God’s teachings about caring for the poor and downtrodden and had spent years in self-serving luxury while committing such vile sins as child sacrifice. Nebuchadnezzar’s interactions with the Israelites included kidnapping young nobility and forcing them to serve in his court. He once constructed a gigantic golden idol and forced everyone to bow down and worship it, and those who resisted he attempted to burn alive. God eventually humbled him by giving him a psychotic break, causing him to live as a savage animal until he acknowledged God’s supremacy.
Another Babylonian ruler, chosen and used by God, was Darius. He issued a decree, egged on by status-hungry advisors, requiring all people to pray only to Him. When his trusted advisor Daniel resisted, he had no choice but to honor his own law even though he realized its foolishness, and threw Daniel into a pit of hungry lions.
I could go on and talk about the rulers of Persia that God used, or the Roman rule under which Paul was writing Romans 13–the very same rule that was torturing and killing Christians and would lay siege to Jerusalem. I could even talk about good kings like David, whose self-serving sins caused plague and death and military devastation for the people of Israel. But I hope the trend of this discussion is very clear at this point.
In Scripture, God’s sovereign decisions work in tandem with human free will and decisions–even when those decisions are stupid, even when they run against God’s desires for the very best for his people. In those instances, God raises up faithful people to challenge the ruling powers and to remain faithful to the core tenets of His covenant–holiness, love, and care for those who cannot care for themselves.
Does good come even in the darkest places? Of course. Does God continue to work even through the sorrow? Without a doubt. But these truths do not erase the darkness and the sorrow completely, and people still suffer and even die because of the sinful and arrogant decisions of human beings.
Whether or not it was or is “God’s will” for Donald Trump to be President-elect, his governance will be determined by his own decisions, whether they are wise or foolish. The witness of Scripture is that the faithful will obediently submit to the rule of law–insofar as it does not violate the call to love and serve God in all things. The witness of Scripture is that the faithful will resist those decisions that would put God’s people in danger. The witness of Scripture is that the faithful will challenge the leadership to do better, to BE better. They will protect the suffering and call sin what it is. They will recognize that the decisions that lead to this point, even if they are decisions made by the people of God, do not necessarily reflect the best intentions of God. They will recognize that our forefathers recognized a responsibility to stand up against governance they saw was unjust–and several of them did so while serving the same God who produced Romans 13.
My challenge to myself is to be a voice for the voiceless–those who feel that Mr. Trump does not hold their best interests at heart. God cares about those people too. And I can obediently submit to the laws of my nation while resisting policies and positions that will do harm.
I hope desperately that all people of faith–whether they support Mr. Trump’s leadership or not–will do the same.