But first, let’s review the basic ground rules for how we think about politics as Bible believing Christians. On the one hand, Jesus rose from the dead and is now the rightful ruler of the whole universe (Mt. 28:18, Acts 17:30-31). And on the other hand, this means that every earthly ruler makes or breaks their authority on the Rock that is Jesus Christ. If they bow the knee they may be used by Jesus as His servant (Phil. 2:9-11, Rom. 13:1-7). But those rulers of the earth that conspire together against God’s Anointed by legislating abominations and repeatedly defending thugs who carry out iniquity will be shattered like pottery, and their arrogant idiocy will go down like a bad dream, whatever plausibility their mad ravings seemed to have on the evening news (Ps. 2).
Now to the clowns and acrobats and lion tamers: And to be clear, while I use these images quite whimsically, I also use them seriously. For it is undeniable that this is the category our political situation rightly conjures. This has actually been true for some time, but Donald Trump has helpfully dragged the Republican party out of the dressing room in the clownish skivvies its been wearing for the last number of decades for everyone to see. Some have fainted, some have cheered, and many of us are just sort of staring at the spectacle and wondering how long these elephants can teeter on top of each other in these indecorous bikinis. And not to leave anybody out, but we have the Democrats running their monkey and witch show on the left. They’ve been at the shenanigans for quite a bit longer, so their debates consist primarily of debating whether to go with the leopard or cheetah print donkey thong. But it’s every bit as unseemly, and meanwhile the media giggle and gobble it up like nine year old boys reading the Song of Solomon under the covers at night.
Ah, but how about that Donald Trump, eh? The first thing to note is that sometimes God has to yell at us with a megaphone because we are completely deaf, and then we still aren’t quite sure what He’s saying. So let’s just begin by asserting that God is now standing on a chair with a magic marker in His fist and writing furiously on our decadent Persian wall, and it’s not yet clear that we’re going to be able to sound out the letters because we’ve also gone as blind as the enormous blinking screens we’ve hung up in the trailers we can barely pay the lot rent on. And this leads us to the second point which is that to the extent that we cannot understand the Donald Trump phenomenon, we are the scribes and Pharisees of our day. Trump is certainly no Jesus (God help us!), but the kind of intense, widespread, popular appeal that Trump has and the simultaneous confusion most of us have about it really needs to be a punch in the gut of the Christian Church. Jesus said He came to seek and save the lost. He said blessed are the poor. True religion is to stop for the Jew beaten bloody on the side of the road, to care for the orphans and widows in their distress. Turns out we have millions of neighbors we don’t understand in the slightest. That’s a big fat F on the Church’s report card, though that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. A more engaged Church would have seen this coming from miles away. Lots of us conservative Pharisees saw the Obama phenomenon coming a little sooner, but we still had a similar problem at that time too — we knew our neighbors so poorly that we couldn’t imagine electing such an extreme leftist newbie. And God gave him to us twice, as if to underline this reality for our stubborn, foolish brains.
Finally, let’s be honest that Trump is so popular because he represents America well. He acts like the irresponsible frat boy we have been practicing so hard to be. We are a nation that demands Zoolander and Shrek, and now we are about to have it for real — only we’re about to find out that it isn’t nearly as funny in real life. There’s a great deal of discussion going on about the particular political policies of the Trump outrage machine — white identity politics, political correctness rebellion, immigrant greed, whatever. But clearly, he is the beer-drinking, porn-watching, shoot-the-bastards white trash neighbor we all have in every town in America. But — and this is really crucial: Trump is the shiny-faced idol of that lifestyle. As the Bible taught us centuries ago, the reason wealth is such a dangerous thing is because it is a kind of fortress. For the righteous man, it may be a fortress for accomplishing great good, but for those with the hook in their cheek, it’s a thick mud in their eyes that doesn’t allow them to see themselves for what they really are. When you can visit a prostitute and then spend a week on your yacht in the Caribbean, guilt seems like just a bit of indigestion. When you can shack up with your girlfriend and then pay for her abortion and take her for a weekend getaway, shame is just a bad vibe that is easily masked. The fact of the matter is that Trump is the white trash god. He is everything the godless lower class in America value but he’s done up up like last night’s hooker. If Obama was the idol of the upper class elites, Trump is the same thing from the other end of the spectrum which means that if we keep tipping like this, we’re going to capsize this ship any minute.
Lastly, the thing that I think should be at the forefront of our minds at this point is the mission before us as Christians. Yes, we most certainly should embrace our callings as citizens of this republic and fulfill those duties with honesty, integrity, and courage. But our first task is to love our neighbors and proclaim the Lordship of Jesus to them, for their good and healing. The last eight years have revealed a swath of neighbors who need Jesus, friends and relatives who are covering their guilt and shame with one kind of Mammon, and the current circus is revealing another swath of neighbors who are covering their guilt and shame with another version of Mammon. But Mammon is a cruel slave master, and the slaves are getting angry. Guilt and shame are the real, sharp ends of his bull whip, and it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or offering, when you walk into the room. The only thing that makes sense is somebody who’s just as mad as they are. The fact that Trump isn’t actually saying anything deep is one of his enormous attractions, and until we get that, we’re going to keep dressing up various poodles like the idiot elites that we are (can anyone say Mitt Romney?).
The answer in part is visiting the prisoners, loving the orphans, and befriending the prostitutes like Jesus did. And much to the chagrin of many conservative elites, this means getting over a certain amount of our cultural snobbery. Somehow we have to learn how to love true excellence and love the people right in front of us. But the bigger answer that is blasting on the heavenly bullhorn is that the answer isn’t a different political party or a different candidate. A Ted Cruz would certainly be a vast, undeserved reprieve, but it would also have a high likelihood of sending the Church right back to sleep. The great hope in a moment like this is the real helplessness of all the conservative elites. The fact that the Republican Party has collectively messed its pants is the most hopeful thing about this moment. Because you can’t fix this with politics. This is a deep, heart-breaking spiritual problem with massive social and political implications. This is the shame and blood guilt of fifty million (and counting) babies. This is the shame and blood guilt of sodomy and arrogant foreign policies. This is the shame and blood guilt of orphans and widows assigned to the government dole so we can get on with our comfortable and semi-respectable middle class idolatry. And the only answer to that is a straightforward proclamation of the wrath of God against all human sin, the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness and cleansing for all of that sin, and the resurrection of Jesus for the renewal of all things. And this gospel must be preached in a such a way as to make Republicans and Democrats alike wet their pants. Which means we need to realize that to our Pharisaical ears, this kind of blood-soaked gospel is probably going to sound a lot more Trump-ish than we’re comfortable with, which is why I happen to think that Cruz is the only shot the elephants have. So sure, I’ll vote for Cruz if he gets the nomination and I hope (against hope) that Trump gets slaughtered in Ohio and Florida today, but this really is a Hail Mary delay tactic and not what you might call a solution.
What I’m praying for is that God would do whatever it takes to turn us back to Him. And everyone of us ought to be praying that God would do whatever it takes to turn our hearts entirely to Him.