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Although I am confident that God agrees with me on just about every issue, I am very reluctant to offer that as persuasive evidence of the rightness of whatever profundity I happen to be offering at any given moment. It would be great if eternal salvation were determined only by the depth and sophistication of one’s political opinions but nothing worthwhile is ever that simple. Worse, declarations of one’s own piety and righteousness invariably lead to the discovery of hypocrisy on a significant scale.
Christians do not get much in the way of partisan guidance from the New Testament. The closest we get is the cryptic lesson from that time when some snarky MSM-type jerkweed thought he could trap Jesus into expressing a controversial opinion. Jesus would either have to back the nationalist struggle against Roman rule and get in big trouble with the authorities or go squish and endorse Rome and thus alienate many of his followers. Here is the version in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 20:
20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.
I estimate that in the two millennia since this incident that there have been about 20 to 22 billion sermons, homilies, meditations and exegeses on this event. I could also expound, of course, but let me just say that this passage means that in political matters (and all else) you must always consult (a well-formed) conscience, then do what you gotta do and make the best choices you can under the circumstances. Clear, universally agreed-upon, unambiguous answers are probably not going to be forthcoming most of the time. And you will sometimes find yourself in disagreement with people of goodwill.
For example, there has been a mini-revival on the Catholic left to express both criticisms of the social costs of capitalism and a fondness for political movements to compel a more ordered economy. While I have very smart friends who hold these opinions, I happen to regard these leanings as anachronistic (the tech innovation genie is never going back in the bottle), blind to the political distortion and potential abuse of power needed to stifle economic change and a distraction from a need to build support structures to deal with change instead of futilely fighting change.
While it is obvious that I am right about all this, it is by no means obvious that their misguided positions are immoral or inconsistent with the spirit and substance of Christianity. Similarly, we may ask whether is a war immoral because of death and damage or right and just because of the evils opposed. The war in Vietnam, the nuking of Hiroshima or war by drone strikes can be debated on moral terms by well-intentioned people of good conscience who reach opposing views.
But none of those great moral questions have the scope and centrality of the overriding theological issue before us today: Does God want us to support or oppose Donald Trump?
Trump is venal, often treats underlings badly, is given to subjective stylings when more disciplined deliberations would be preferable. Like Bill Clinton, Trump has a history of sexual infidelity but unlike Clinton, it has not carried over into his to time in office. (For the record, this comment should be regarded as a loving fraternal correction and not a judgment of either President.)
Even though I already know what God would prefer in this regard, as an exercise, let’s explore the possibilities:
God Wants Us to Support Mr. Trump. (“Favors”) Let us dispense with the pro forma notions of a prayerful wish for the well-being of all our elected leaders, rendering respect for the office, etc. and look to Mr. Trump specifically. In the Favors position, one knowingly supports a conspicuously flawed man because he has delivered policies and outcomes largely consistent with the preferences and interests of people who practice or allow their political outlook to be shaped by religious faith. This preference for the Favors position is further driven by the fact that the opposition party, while committed to a dialogue of compassion, acceptance, and community is also overtly hostile to all orthodox religious beliefs, practices, and institutions.
I should point out that defending religious values, traditions and institutions against assault and persecution is not prima facie evidence of a sanctifiable intent or action. A favorable secular outcome and a loathing of one’s avowed culture-war enemies is not necessarily proof of morally correct intentions. So the claim that to support Trump politically is to advance the cause of righteousness and is thus the morally superior position is not necessarily theologically correct, especially in light of traditional Christian indifference to adverse temporal outcomes where higher goals are sought.
God Wants Us to Oppose Mr. Trump. (“Opposes”) The opposition to Trump by the forces of perversion, servitude and socioeconomic rot that collectively go by the name “Democratic Party” is mere politics in a debased age. The more interesting theological question involves those who oppose both the tenets of the Democratic Party and the continuance in office by Donald Trump.
The Opposes position focuses on Mr. Trump’s past behavior, rude utterances, venal spontaneities, and ad hominem style. These are said to demean the highest political office in the land, threaten to produce dangerously inconsistent policies, lower the tone of American political discourse and forever tarnish the image of the party of Lincoln and Reagan. The rescue of what is good in the American system of governance and the preservation of the major conservative political party require the removal of Donald Trump. Moreover, it is simply wrong to tacitly or expressly condone such unacceptable behavior.
This is a nominally coherent moral position. (At this time, we will not explore the dangers inherent in a moral position founded on beliefs concerning someone else’s sins.) However, if the Favors position seems too dependent on positive secular outcomes for its justification, the Opposes position suffers from a strange indifference to the material consequences of its posture. The amelioration of evils attributed to the presidency of Donald Trump requires that he be replaced but someone who will not be similarly evil or worse. The notion that history will applaud a principled stand that actually ushered in le déluge seems oddly solipsistic.
Conclusion. God and I agree that the Favors position is way too presumptuous about its spiritual righteousness –one can be an atheist pervert and still loathe and oppose Marxism and its variants. Combatting temporal evils is not necessarily a sanctified undertaking. We also agree that the Opposes position too readily devolves into a kind of narcissism, a mere declaration of personal moral superiority to a particular sinner without regard for larger personal obligations and consequences of taking that position.
In short, God wants out of this debate. God does not want to be invoked when it is not about what God expressly wants. When we consider that the Highest Being in the universe can forgive even the likes of Pol Pot, Ted Bundy or Brian Stelter we should be humbled and strongly hesitant to think our partisan preferences carry divine endorsement. We are all equal on Ricochet, sinners all, required to address temporal matters on a temporal plane as best we can with mutual respect and humility. Thus endeth the sermon. Cheers.Published in