I’m writing this for my kids.
For humanities sake, my conscious, and because sometimes, at critical moments in history – silence is just not acceptable – and the burning in the pit of your chest screams at you that history will judge these moments, and you want to be found on the right side of it all.
So for the first time in my life, I’m getting political.
I’ve been self-proclaimed “the most apolitical person you know.” I think that was on my Facebook profile at one time. It may still be there. I just had no time for, or interest in, what appeared to me to be a never-ending stream of nonsensical bullshit, disagreements, and infighting. Truthfully, I was apathetic towards it all – choosing to dismiss the white noise and focus my attention and energies on things I: understood, cared about, affected me (like the outcome of TCU games).
Yeah, the first time I was old enough to vote I trudged down to the Ellis County (TX) courthouse with my girlfriend (now wife) and mindlessly cast my Republican straight-ticket ballot for the only name I knew or partially cared about – Bush – because everyone I knew in life that had any influence on me was Republican, and to vote otherwise was unthinkable. Other than the intrigue over the “hanging chads” of the Florida result, I mostly moved on with my life – college, getting married, career choices, etc.
I didn’t think about politics again until the 2004 elections, and then only for one day and night as I again faithfully did the “right thing” according to my conditioning and presuppositions and cast my vote for Bush (and any R’s) again against John Kerry. 2008 brought with it the Obama phenomena, and as a casual, continued mostly disinterested observer, I remember punting on the whole voting thing (because “my vote doesn’t really matter, especially in Texas”). With a toddler running around playing with her toys in the living room, and another girl on the way, I recall watching the results come in that night and mildly despairing at the end total – only because my thoughts and feelings were regurgitating what my more politically interested friends and mentors were telling me – that Obama would ruin America (in addition to other claims – “not really American,” “not Christian, maybe even a Muslim,” “liberal,” etc.).
While I’ve always been comfortable jumping into the fray of the other topic you “just don’t talk to your friends about,” religion, I have stayed out of the political discussion. I haven’t voted since 2004, including in 2016, either. Some will say this disqualifies me from having the opinion and making the declarations I am about to make. They may be right. But again, I’m saying this for me, for my kids, for legacy, for humanity. As I write this on MLK Day, I am encouraged by what he said about speaking truth to power at critical times.
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
I was raised, and have lived during the height of the Moral Majority, in the South, and in “church.” What this practically means, is that the paradigm I was conditioned within was Christian=Republican, and any other option was against “God’s will” (because SCOTUS, abortion, and guns). At the risk of simplifying, the narrative of my culture says that Christians are Republicans because they are the party of family values and morality, while the Dems are “libtards” and demonic because of “gays” and persecuting their religious freedom.
So it is no surprise that “white, born-again Evangelicals” overwhelmingly voted for the Republican candidates in all Presidential elections during the era I am discussing here – my adult, voting-eligible life. In 2016, they cast their ballot for Donald Trump at an 81% rate.
This by now well-known missive from Trump was released in October 2016 (before the election), from a recorded interview in 2005. Having been a “fan” of Trump because of his business mogul successes and regularly enjoying the Apprentice, this was the moment my opinion of him shifted. Not “politically,” mind you. I still wasn’t there, yet. I wasn’t going to vote anyway, but if I was a thoughtful voter with any moral compass or active conscience, I would be immediately out on this guy. Sure, there may not have been great alternative options, but for decency sake, Trump was not the choice. I remember casually being a part of a dialogue about the candidates that fall during a round of golf. I stepped outside of my political shelter for one instance and opined that of all of the candidates, Bernie felt like the one who cared the most about people. This was quickly teased with, “Oh, Brandon likes the Communist… ok, Comrade Chase.” But back to Trump specifically, my opinion of where he was as a human being changed in that pussy-grabbing moment. It was the first window I paid attention long enough to look into and signaled something ugly on the inside. Hey look, I know we all say things that are hurtful and uncaring in our lives, and I know that it was a conversation a decade prior – but this comment, for me, began to open my eyes to simply begin to pay more attention, to him and to all in the public forum. And in the light of that looking – revealed and confirmed the reality of what this man was – hateful. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks; and by the fruit can you make a judgment.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”
“Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.”
“If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’”
“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”
“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”
“I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
“My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, as are various other parts of my body.”
“Look at those hands, are they small hands? And, [Republican rival Marco Rubio] referred to my hands: ‘If they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”
“I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”
“The point is, you can never be too greedy.”
“My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”
“You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.”
I may be mistaken, but I believe most of these were said or revealed pre-election. That means that we knew, or at the very least, had a window into, who this man was. What his core was like. It was foul, demeaning, racist, sexist, misogynistic, narcissistic, greedy, deranged. He was a twice-divorced, multiple-affair-having, sixteen-time sexual assault accused person who claimed he was “born-again” and yet strangely didn’t feel he ever needed forgiveness of anything from his “god.” An obviously wounded, insecure person who was not equipped to deal with his pain, and thus compensated by braggadocio and excluding and hurting other people. He even routinely encouraged and incited violence, division or hate during campaign rallies. The concerns were clear. They were loud. The evidence overwhelming for anyone with half an eye open. He was not a good person, certainly not Presidential. And yet…
81% of Evangelicals dismissed it all away – presumably because he was not a black man with a Muslim sounding name, a woman (“Killary”), a “Dem;” and because like my story – so many are under the spell of Republican=God’s choice.
Election Night arrives and Trump shocks just about everyone by winning – and it was indeed white Evangelicals who put him over the top. By this point, I’m more engaged, at least on an educational and awareness front – far more than at any time in my life. The stakes feel very high, as are my eyebrows at the shocking support of Trump from a community that professes to follow Jesus – from high-profile “Christian leaders” like Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., James Dobson and Robert Jeffress; to people that I interact with every day.
If his history and actions were found in someone they knew in real life, that person would be soundly shunned, shamed, judged, and separated from. But oddly, their treatment was not the same for the President of the United States.
The disconnect is unnerving me, awakening me, springing me to action. I am finding myself becoming “political,” but not in the normal sense.
If “political” or “politics” is defined by the inherent dualisms of Republican vs Democrat – then I am still decidedly not political. Any system that is based on “two” is destined for conflict, discord, and ultimately, violence. It is a house divided that cannot stand, and is diseased from within its foundations. I have spent the last two and a half years of my life trying to learn how to see things contemplatively, removing these dualisms in order to see a unitive whole that incorporates the unique loving contributions of All towards the One that we inherently, originally are (and when I say “we,” I mean all humanity, not just Americans.). I have no interest in investing in a system that narrows to only Right/Left, Black/White, Right/Wrong, In/Out, Us/Them, America First to the exclusion of the rest of the world; and therefore do not claim either party and certainly will not see things along partisan lines of any kind.
In many ways, we as a society cannot think of the word political without the word partisan. This dualism keeps us in the dark at worst, or at best in a hamster wheel of argument while propping up the status quo (which only benefits the comfortable, and thus the comfortable resist critiquing the structure of their comfort). Our political system thrives on differentiation from the “other,” is thus fear-based in its orientation and consequently yields oppression and injustice in the midst of maintaining a power structure.
But Love requires us to be awake and engaged; to recognize what we are affirming, and what should be critiqued. Silence in the face of the status quo of today, in which a privileged few benefit (I am admittedly a beneficiary of this very privilege as a white male) – a status quo that is being expanded in its hurtfulness and exclusion under the current administration – is being complicit with the damage.
The world needs me, and so many others, to be moved from apathy; present to our affirmations and to what we need to thoughtfully and lovingly critique. The Left, by the way, is as hurtful, and should not be immune from this. As Richard Rohr said, “We must use the power of the Gospel to critique and affirm both the Left and the Right of most public positions, knowing that the Left normally does not represent the Gospel either, but is also another power-and-control position. Its primary advantage is that it has developed a critical mind-but, even there, it often becomes too negative and too critical. The Left often does not know how to both ‘transcend and include,’ which is true non-partisan and healthy politics and religion. In its idealism, it often becomes ideological, arrogant, dualistic, individualistic-problem-solver more than reconstructionist – and thus something other than Love.”
Part of the problem I had bought into, and that we find ourselves in right now is a departure from what it truly means to be “political” and to engage in “politics.”
The root of the word comes from the Greek politikas, which carries with it a meaning of “the life of the citizen.” It speaks to the way in which humans structure their shared life – together. It relates to the “policy” of what is most beneficial to all in how things are done. At its core, it is a very Holy concept – Politics: the collaborative agreements humans make in cooperation and co-creation with the Divine, and amongst themselves, in order to mutually thrive in shared Life.
The “politics” I have lived my life understanding, and the principalities and powers that we, especially as Americans, are bewitched by – is frankly antithetical to the redemptive and reclaimed original view of politikas. It is a system set up and constructed (really, thriving on), stopping the flow of humans getting things done in collaborative means which ultimately produce peace and prosperity for all. It is not motivated by common ground, impedes progress, lifts up a few on the backs of the many – and is toxic to its core.
Donald Trump knows nothing about politics in the redemptive way (and doesn’t really know politics in the toxic way, either, but is the stage 4 cancerous symptom of that very system). He doesn’t know how shared human thriving in Life works – and by his words and actions reveals that he doesn’t care, either.
Whether we recognize it consciously or even admit it, we all work through a lens of sorts, a guiding principle, and even a bias. We are products of our environments and have developed operating systems through which we see, think and act. Contemplation is starting to upgrade my operating system by changing the lens through which I view my awareness and understanding of “God,” of myself, of fellow humans, and all of creation. Much could be said about this, but that would be another essay. For this purpose, I’ll sum it up like this: “God” was best revealed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth; who lived in such a Way that included all (the outsider, the immigrant, the “sinner”), was peace-making and non-violent, forgave his enemies, and dismissed all power and privilege offered to him in favor of lifting up the least of these. He was God’s self-revelation, and at the same time revealed who we are too – human and divine – and that all along, we were always and already in Union. All are created in the Image of God. God is Love, and so are We. The work of becoming the Likeness of God is in realizing this in ourselves and then in seeing it in all others, too.
From this ethic, I am trying to live Life: as Loved, Loving, and resisting or actively opposing that which is unloving.
You can gain a decent sense of a person’s moral lens and maturity of consciousness by the fruit of what they say, how they act, and specifically how they engage fellow humans. “You’ll know them by their fruit.” As a politic, the “gathered assembly of people” should strive toward structuring the organizing and governing servants amongst them to be those who are yielding fruit that is mature, inclusive, forgiving, loving, non-violent, peacemaking, patient, kind, slow to anger, wise, etc…. Donald Trump’s fruit reveals a lens and level of consciousness and maturity that is on the far opposite end of the spectrum.
Trump is not loving. He is not joyful. He is not peace-making or peace-striving. He is not patient. He is not kind. He is not gentle. He is not for common good. He is not faithful. He is not generous. He does not have self-control.
Again, a partially discerning squinted eye can easily spot the evidence:
- Claims that his Inauguration was attended by the largest crowd ever.
- Travel bans from Syrian refugees and seven other countries.
- Missle and bomb strike’s on Syria and Afghanistan.
- Inciting war escalation with Kim Jong Un and North Korea.
- Withdraws the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord.
- Tells Boy Scouts about risque moments with his adult buddies.
- Argues that white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., (where Heather Heyer was murdered) included “some very fine people.”
- Pardons controversial former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been convicted of criminal contempt over his hard-line tactics on undocumented immigrants.
- Tells Houston Hurricane Harvey victims to “have a good time.”
- Ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama program that protected undocumented immigrants who came as children.
- Leaves the people of Puerto Rico without sufficient response or resources following Hurrican Maria, and even demeans their female Mayor.
- Attacks black NFL players silently and non-violently protesting unfair police brutality, dismissing their motivation and turning it into a Nationalism issue. Calls one a “son of a bitch.”
- Demeans and is insensitive toward the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was killed in an ambush in Niger, saying he “knew what he signed up for.”
- Endorses Roy Moore (AL) for Senate, who faces multiple allegations of sexual abuse of minor girls. After Moore loses, Trump claims he knew he would lose.
- Disrespected Native Americans during a recognition speech.
- Breaks with decades of U.S. and international policy by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and beginning the process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, a move that intentionally unsettles already fragile tensions in violent conditions.
- Claims to be a “very stable genius” with a high IQ. (If you have to publicly declare it, you are not).
- Calls Africa, Haiti, and El Salvador “shithole” countries while advocating for more people from Norway.
People of Color are routinely put down, and actively and quickly called out or talked down to; while white supremacist violent racists are emboldened as “very fine people.” Acts of violence by anyone “Muslim” is vehemently chastised, while mass killings committed by white men are not even mentioned. Peace and diplomacy are eschewed in favor of chaos and violence; which is encouraged and incited. Nationalism and militarism overwhelm world relations and de-escalation. Resources are not there for children, those who need healthcare or impoverished or hurting people – and yet trillions can be found in tax savings for corporations and the mega-wealthy in midnight Congressional tax reform votes. Refugees and immigrants cannot find a place to rest their head. Families are being literally ripped apart via mass deportations.
I haven’t even gotten into the mounting evidence of collusion with Russia during the election, the indictments by federal grand jury’s of Manafort and Gates, Michael Flynn being fired – then Trump asking Comey to “let this go” – then firing Comey (for the Clinton email investigation, but later saying it was because of the “Russia thing”) – then Flynn pleading guilty that he lied to FBI investigators as part of the Mueller Special Counsel.
I haven’t even mentioned the other hired-then-fired staff at the WH. A White House steeped in chaos continually – an environment Trump creates and stirs – the antithesis of order, peace trust, loyalty, and stability.
I haven’t even mentioned Truth, something that Trump seems allergic to. I realize that lies and half-truths are inherent in our version of American politics, and all are complicit. But this dude takes that to his own level. He has made over 2,000 false or misleading statements in his first year, 5.6 per day. In addition, he gladly takes credit for accomplishments that have little or nothing to do with him (stock market, lack of airline crashes, etc.).
You don’t have to be Democrat or Left-leaning or female or a POC or non-American to notice these flaws in character. They are wide open and plain for anyone looking. Donald Trump is a racist, sexist, misogynistic, abusive, unfaithful, selfish, lying, violent, chaos-producing manipulator – who is doing untold damage to humanity.
He must be actively critiqued, challenged, opposed, rejected, and possibly removed. Yes, #Resist.
“There is no such thing as being non-political. Everything we say or do either affirms or critiques the status quo. Even to say nothing is to say something.” – Richard Rohr
So my “politics” right now means triaging the damage – diagnosing the problem and working in every way that I can to reverse and remove the damage by the immediate cancer; being engaged in the long-term healing of the systemic illness; and recovering the healthy root of how the gathered Image Bearers of God thrive in Humanity – together – in America and around the world. I am seeking to engage the system, but with eyes toward transcending the system. Short term that may look like #Resist on many levels, removing the balance of corrupt GOP power, actually getting out to VOTE in the 2018 mid-terms, etc. I can start with me and my own biases and presuppositions – holding them in the light of introspective critique. I am teaching my kids to challenge the boxes handed to them. To be loving, inclusive and forgiving of all people. To be guided by and to trust following anything or anyone that is for the least of these.
In a reality where “Ultimate Truth” seems to be hard to find, and impossible to agree on, my litmus test has become this: Is it Loving? Does it make me feel more worthy and Loved? Does it cause me to understand, include and Love another more? Does it make “God” bigger, more inclusive, Loving, etc.? Does it look like Jesus? If so, it is to be trusted, and followed in. It is a step along The Way. If not, it is to be critiqued, challenged, or rejected. Long-term, whatever is beneficial, impeccable, loving, including, forgiving, peaceful, raises up all, cares for the poor, feeds the hungry, shelters the immigrant, looks like Jesus – this is my politic – my structuring policy of how I will participate alongside my fellow man/woman.
“Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics.” – Charles Péguy
The starting point of my engagement with politics will be rooted from within – myself and participation in the Trinitarian flow of Love. This is the only way to know what is most Real – and what is possible and right and good. The heart of all creation is sustained and embraced by the overflow of Love from the Ground of All Being. We are invited to participate and find the center of our way of life and actions.
We Christians are decidedly a people who should most understand this. We claim a Savior who said that as he was in this life, so were we – One with their Creator. One with Love. Yet the surveys show that a troubling majority of those who claim Christ are either actively or indifferently ignoring or contradicting the message and Life of who they claim to be Lord, via their continued support of an administration that rarely if ever acts like Jesus. (I fully acknowledge that there are many Christians whose Fruit reveal a Love and Life of Christ. Many of those may well have voted for Trump. This critique is not intended to be “broad-brushed” of the entire group, but at the same time is critiquing based on the statistical evidence of the majority of Evangelicals who support Trump and his policies – and of if that support reconciles with Christ.).
So here I am, having spent over four thousand words coming to this, my major genesis of angst, and my major point with this musing:
For those that claim Jesus and voted for Trump, are you still ok with this? Perhaps you felt trapped on Election Night, choosing between the lesser of evils. I hear you. But now more than a year hence, and with the evidence presented, are you still ok with this? Can you reconcile your Faith with your Politics (as represented by Trumpism)?
For me, I simply cannot.
I cannot be complicit in systems of power and narratives from the top that incite division, violence, and hate; and that lift up the few on the backs of the many. This is my stand – for myself, for my kids, for my lineage and for the entire universe and humanity created in the Imagio Dei. I love all and will do my best to listen and to seek to understand, but I am not ok with this; and more, I am heretofore actively against any supporting silence, justifications, or compromise of spiritual convictions in the name of the political power of Empire.
Jesus was born in a “shithole” country, too. A likely brown-skinned person who was an immigrant in a foreign land. He loved his enemies; responded to evil non-violently (the pinnacle being his profession of “Shalom” – Peace be With you – following his resurrection from being unjustly murdered by the religious and political powers of the day); embraced the marginalized; condemned the self-serving and religious hypocrites; had compassion for the poor; maintained zero boundaries of national, state or social exclusion or superiority; advocated for the economically repressed; treated all people, including women and children and those of differing races and religions with dignity and respect; and actively subverted the principalities and powers of religion and government.
If Jesus was alive in America today, I’m afraid that his message would be labeled liberal, socialist, pacifist, weak, tree-hugger and gay. He might even be deported or killed in the name of MAGA, border-control, Republican Nationalism, the military-industrial complex, and Evangelical extremism – or in other words, fear.
His Life embodied what God’s Love for the world intends – yet unhealthy politics and religion killed him then. They are attempting to kill him now.
What’s crazy, is that those liberals?… Those Democrats?… Those Mainline Protestants that I was warned about growing up… I hear more of “them” saying that Truth matters, that there should be accountability at the highest level of public service. All while many Christians argue that the political ends justify immoral means.
So yes, I’m Righteously angry with a Holy angst. I’m mad because I live in a nation in which so many (again, not all) white “Christians” enable a racist, sociopathic, narcissist, known sexual predator to MAGA.
If one wants to argue for actual policies that they like that makes Trump acceptable in their mind, fine. But don’t try and tell me that this is “God’s anointed” or “will” and we should just “let the man do his job, shut up and pray for the President.” You can’t serve two masters – and my conviction is that the ethic of Christ and the ethic of Trumpism cannot be reconciled.
That’s how I read the Sermon on the Mount.
These are days to choose for oneself whom they will serve. These are the days that will define us all in the record of history. I want to be found on the right side of Peace, Love, progress of Humanity; and in the flow of the Future of what the Kingdom will reveal.
One of the great opportunities for my growth in the coming days and years will be choosing to return to my belief that even Donald Trump, and those who continue to excuse hurtful behavior – are Image Bearers, too – loved and capable of Love, worthy of my patience and Grace. Human and Divine, with their own life experiences and on their own journey. But this will not remove the need for Love to be very active in this season of pushing back oppression, wherever it is found – be it in the President of the United States or a friend that I have a loving relationship within my own real life.
Ultimately, despite all that is unhealthy in our world and society, I remain hopeful. There are inflection points of history, and in human progress toward flourishing. Some call them “reformations.” I believe now is such a time, and what a pure gift of Grace to be alive and presented with the opportunity to participate and shape the story. Trump, as much as he is a “human being acting badly,” is not actually the major target here. Instead, he is revealing of a sickness that has been largely hidden and lurking in the dark, that is now being exposed, and must be healed. He is a symptom of fear and “othering” and idolized Nationalism that is thankfully being pushed out, but like a wounded animal sensing its demise is fighting like “hell” (pun intended) to survive. Real, new Life never happens without death. Progress never happens before trial. We are in a trial and experiencing a death as a gathered assembly that calls itself a nation, and as a humanity at large. But we will emerge into a new consciousness of human-kind, having hurt and healed from our self-inflicted damage and false idols of this age. The universe is unstoppably moving toward Unity in Love as our shared Life – our politikas. Love cannot fail, and Love always wins. This is our future and our path. We are headed there, no matter how long it stubbornly takes us to learn and to submit to it.
Today, as for me, for my kids, for our legacy, and for humanity – we choose to get political; to participate in the Flow of this inevitable River of Life, and to Love and be Loved with all people.