Americans were warned that not electing the 2012 Republican presidential candidate would have consequences, but probably didn’t expect the Donald Trump phenomenon to be one of them.
Like begets like, but an extreme begets its opposite. Barack Obama was the anti-Bush, an airy highbrow of obscure minority origins, contrasting with the blunt Texan who came from a prominent American political dynasty. Trump is the anti-Obama, an excessively transparent, macho capitalist who doesn’t make Americans feel ashamed of wealth and fierce national security. Other candidates with similar sentiments bear the misfortune of having been in the political limelight with targets on their backs the past eight years. “Proven record” is election-speak repeated so often that now, rightly or wrongly, it sounds more disingenuous than whatever is said by a non-politician.
Trump outshines as independent, self-funded, and the commander to put shrewd businessmen in charge of international dealmaking. Invulnerable and beholden to no one, Trump represents abrupt change and sagacity that many Americans want immediately. The lukewarm, skim diet of political correctness leaves the country starved for a bold brew.
There are reasons to be disappointed as much as pleased with this situation. But there is no reason to hit the panic button and release some of the weakest manifestos and most inept analogies in modern literature, which frankly make me more concerned about the future of conservatism than anything Trump says.
In between comparing Trump to Gollum, the White Witch, Zod, and Barabbas, some conservative intellectuals demonstrated profound loss of authority by virtually petitioning against someone who commands their attention without ever having held elected office. They proudly took credit for Trump’s loss in Iowa, and now have pie on their faces. They would do better to express gratitude. By dethroning heir apparent Jeb Bush, Trump succeeded where they and the Tea Party failed: forcing conventional party leadership to realize they don’t own us in presidential politics.
The outsider force has taken the political arena into captivity. Some humiliated conservatives, who rival the children of Israel in grumbling, are quick to swear off voting in the general election for anyone who isn’t their favorite.
Judah had suffered under a series of evil kings by the time their destined captivity loomed. The existence of Daniel and his colleagues indicates that while broken, Judah was not without a variety of wise and godly people with leadership potential, if Yahweh so desired to empower them. Voices of the day said absolutely no way would the vain, prideful, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon ever become their superior. But God didn’t just allow that to happen, as He does in many political stories. God declared Nebuchadnezzar right for the job and was pleased to make him His servant (Jeremiah 27:5), and those who rejected this outlandish choice – especially in God’s name – didn’t fare well (Jeremiah 27:12-17).
Nebuchadnezzar was quite pleased with himself too, building one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and all, and he gushed about making Babylon “the great.” God interrupted this megalomania in a creatively simple way, and Nebuchadnezzar then wholeheartedly acknowledged that God was a greater power than he. Like in the case of the centurion with great faith, God demonstrated through Nebuchadnezzar that He can sometimes accomplish more through a theologically oblivious official who understands authority and respects results than through His own most principled followers. To hit the point home, God also let this pompous potentate write a chapter of the Bible (Daniel 4).
I don’t know Trump’s heart and soul, but he probably knows at least as much about the one true God as God’s chosen Nebuchadnezzar did at the outset.
God’s priority isn’t humbling the Nebuchadnezzars of the world, but rather humbling those who are called by His name, and Christian conservatives leave much humility to be desired while making a moral case for their presidential candidates. They borderline deify our beloved Ronald Reagan, who incidentally was a former Hollywood Democrat and the first U.S. president to have been divorced.
But by their own standards, these folks are only Christian conservatives on Election Day. Too many are living in unrepentant sin, who also turned their noses up at squeaky-clean, polite, honorable, cool tempered, proven record Mitt Romney (yes, I fact checked) because he was Mormon, yet now think they have credibility to oppose Trump – or even Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio – on moral grounds.
Thus, culture decays not because of a lack of good political candidates, but because of believers who preach values with no credibility, while the rest of us sinners habitually play Jonah instead of humbling ourselves to share God’s grace and righteousness.
Throughout American history we have elected to the White House all sorts of idiosyncratic, flawed individuals of questionable religious standing, privileged upbringing, who said crazy things, and still turned out to be decent presidents. Thus far we’ve drawn the line at potential indicted felons and those who think an economy can produce bricks without straw, which is all the Democratic Party has to offer at this time.
Vote for whomever you prefer in the primary. But remember that the presidency is only one key to government, and invoking God’s name is a serious thing.