Note: I wrote this confession on the eve of the election. My worst fears were realized… but this is not the last word on what I am thinking. I will write something more conciliatory and more mature after my thoughts have gestated a bit more.
Personal confession. Watching the rise of Donald Trump has drastically impacted my peace of mind … negatively. As I think about it, two things weigh heavily on my heart.
First, I am experiencing the death of my own naiveté. I’ve been a guy who, when he says the Lord’s prayer, imagines a bright future that will solve the horrors and evils in our world. But I’ve always felt, deep inside, a present peace that was largely based on a positive and hopeful belief in the basic goodness of people, and the power of truth and love to conquer error and hate. The last several months have shaken that optimism in ways that leave me upset, disoriented, and deeply saddened.
It is as though my best friends, “Disarming Integrity” and “Accepting Communication”, had died a violent death while I watched. It leaves me fearful, like a Roman soldier who has lost his sword and his shield. My ENFP temperament wants to believe in 95% of the people I meet, trust their essential goodness, believe that reality will defeat their prejudices, and hope that even before that kingdom comes, we’ll all discover we are really on the same, winning team. My productivity during these months has suffered along with my sinking faith in the human race.
Second, my core belief in the essential goodness of most Christians has been even more violently assaulted. The ugliness of authoritarianism, the malaise of blindness both to the faults of one candidate and the virtues of another; the greed for increasing American exceptionalism, power, and privilege; and most important, the deplorable and in my view, utterly inexcusable tolerance of male dominance of women – including both verbal violence and physical objectification, has forced me to rethink my attitudes toward any person who dares invoke the name “Christian”.
I should be almost infinitely patient with that blind spot [unequal treatment of women] among Christians – after all, I misread the Bible for 40 years. Anyone can. But it’s one thing to mistakenly think that men have been given more power in a church or a marriage, as I did for far too long – and it is another thing entirely to ignore the actual bragging about sexual assault and the actual participation in rape culture.
For 40 years I’ve been willing to extend the olive branch of fellowship to folks who were convinced, because of things the Bible actually seems to say, that God is planning to send billions of people to hell. I have destroyed my reputation in the minds of many Christian brethren who believe as I do, because of my willingness to extend grace to those who have not yet seen a more loving and successful plan of God in the pages of the Bible. But rightly or wrongly, I confess that the rise of Trump, and his embrace by both Evangelicals who consider me a heretic, and by Bible Students who shock me with their authoritarian leanings, has forced me to reexamine my habit of tolerance.
Forgive me, but I cannot and will not call you a Christian any more if you are willing to accept Donald Trump as a spokesman or leader of anything. He doesn’t deserve to be President of your bowling league, let alone the most powerful person on the planet. And if he gets to that position on Tuesday, I guarantee you that Jesus’ permission or elevation of that charlatan to power is not because of Trump’s merit, but because of Jesus’ desire to expose the fraudulent nature of so-called Christian people. The vine of the Earth is about to be trampled by the suffering servant from Bozrah.
I have advocated the view that the differences of belief among Christians do not require us to be divided; that an honest heart and a love of Jesus is sufficient to help us gain the victorious kind of character that God calls us to. Watching Christian organizations turn themselves into moral pretzels to embrace an obviously immoral narcissist as their leader; and watching close Christian friends be, as nearly as I can see, willfully ignorant of the most obvious kinds of facts – all of this has, I confess, forced me to re-evaluate every relationship and every assumption I have ever had. It’s as though the very ground I walk on has turned to swamp, and I must pull myself out by finding vines and tree branches above the muck to propel myself forward.
I don’t care if I have known you for 50 years. I don’t know how to face this crevice as I would have done last year – tethered with you in the same ropes. If you jump for Trump, I hereby disconnect from your rope. You may pull the rest of your friends down that crack in the earth, but I’m not coming with you, and I’m sure as truth, sure as goodness NOT going to call you a Brother in Christ.*
*Again, this is not my final answer. But I’m willing to let everyone see how I felt on the eve of the election, and a few days afterward. Much as David did when he wrote Psalm 109 and 139.