Friday, December 30, 2016

Trump and the "Malevolent Spirit" of the Nation

Donald Trump himself isn’t the problem.

Please don’t jump to any conclusions about what I mean by that. Jumping to conclusions about what other people mean is actually one of the symptoms of the problem. So please refrain from doing so.

Donald Trump himself isn’t the problem. But Donald Trump sure enough unleashed it.

Kathleen Parker said it as well as anyone, which doesn’t surprise me, since they don’t give Pulitzer Prizes to just any schmuck. In her December 29, 2016 column, she said that “Donald Trump’s election has released a malevolent spirit upon the land.” I’ve been rolling that phrase around in my noodle all morning.

Now, Donald Trump has revealed enough about himself at this point that there can be very little doubt as to the content of his character. Me expressing my opinions about these revelations will do little to advance the conversation. Rather, the larger point I am trying to make is that, in and of himself, Donald Trump is not the problem. To say as much is to give him far too much credit.

This election “has released a malevolent spirit upon the land.” The more I think about it, the more sense that makes. Thank you, Kathleen Parker, for so deftly putting words around my thoughts!

This election has turned people against one another in a way that has rarely been seen. The hateful actions and public tirades that have been recorded and shared online speak for themselves. I’d actually like to mention a different manifestation of the malevolence that Donald Trump has released.

It is a malevolence among friends and within families. And I thought for a while about whether “malevolence” was too strong of a word, but decided to stick with it.  This malevolent spirit is a huge part of “the problem,” at least as I see it. Families avoid speaking, friends argue bitterly, social media explodes with vitriol and antagonism.

It breaks my heart to hear from friends who have been compelled to break off long-held relationships. I grieve when people share with me how they have made to feel devalued by people they love. I get angry when some of the people who voted for Trump cannot seem to honor the anger, pain, and fear of those who are expressing it in response to his election. I lament when unfair assumptions are made about people one has known for a long time, assumptions that frequently lead to poor communication, unhelpful arguments, and hurt feelings.

But even if, somehow or other, Donald Trump poofed out of existence this very moment, this malevolence would be present still. I believe it is out of his control. I don’t even know if he wants to control it, as long as he is the beneficiary. Malevolence has been unleashed, and no small effort will be required to confront it.

And make no mistake, my faith encourages ... no actually my faith REQUIRES me to do so. I am a follower of Jesus, whose work was centered on announcing the presence of the Kingdom of God, confronting evil in the world, healing and feeding, and offering an alternative way to live.

I believe that Jesus was born to embody the love of God in the world, and I believe that good news is intended for everyone. All the people. No exceptions or exclusions. Yes my Democratic friends, Jesus was born to demonstrate just how much God loves Donald Trump and Steve Bannon and all of everyone everywhere.Yes my Republican friends, Jesus was born to demonstrate how much God loves Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and all of everyone everywhere. Yes, even me. Yes, even us.

And so as disciples of Jesus, as Christians, as people who desire to live as God intends us to live, we have to confront the malevolent spirit permeating our world. We have name it, draw it up to the light, and annihilate it. And then we have to offer an alternative way of being, a replacement for the malevolence that will solidify its destruction once and for all.

That alternative way is called “love,” by the way. Love, and everything that comes along with it. Things like hope. And forgiveness. And justice, and peace, and grace, and compassion.

It may well be that we are a divided nation. But it isn’t “right” and “left” anymore. It is those who are feeding the malevolent spirit present in our nation and those who are working to defeat it. Donald Trump fed it throughout the campaign, and has continued to do so even after winning the electoral college. It remains to be seen if he will continue to feed the malevolent spirit that he released even after his inauguration. Frankly, I will not be surprised if he does.

As for me, I pledge to do all that I can to defeat it. As a follower of Jesus, I don’t see how I can do anything less.

1 comment:

Russell Brown said...

Amen, brother. You have put your finger so soundly on the real adversary. I'm with you.