Recently, I received an email stating that if Christians don’t support Donald Trump for president we can “kiss our country goodbye.” It said something to the effect of, “Sure he isn’t all that decent, but if that’s what it takes for our economy to be strong, our borders to be secure, and our nation to be great, then so be it.” It suggested God sent us Trump to preserve our capitalism, our patriotism, and general way of life; that perhaps Trump is God’s tool to save our country.
I’m not going to comment on whether any of that is accurate or not, but the email did get me thinking...
What if God doesn’t want to Make America Great Again? Or maybe, what if God’s definition of great looks a lot different than what many of us are hoping for? What if saving our country (whatever is meant by that) is not really what God has in mind?
I’m not saying that God wants to see America destroyed, but I’m wondering if we make some false assumptions when we think God wants us rich and safe or whatever other things people mean when they say they want America to be great again.
Set aside the fact that many of us will disagree on what actually makes our country great and consider why we think God wants us wealthy, secure and politically free. Jesus was none of the above. Nor were his first disciples or the early church or many Christians around the world today. None of those things are promised to us. None of those things are necessary to live a faithful life.
Have we become so attached to our stuff that we are certain God wants us to keep it? Have we become so accustomed to having a vote that we assume that’s how God orders the world? Are we so desperate for security that we are willing to compromise our most basic values to achieve it? And so opposed to our enemies that we are confident God hates them as much as we do?
If so, we are misguided. These things do not line up with the Gospels where I learn of a Jesus who says to welcome the stranger, forgive extravagantly, give radically, and do not resist an evil person (and love them instead). A Jesus who erases cultural and political and religious divisions.
Jesus who flat out says, “Whoever wants to be great needs to become a servant of everybody else.”
But we have little time for that sort of greatness. “Be A Servant” isn’t an attractive campaign slogan. Not when we have elections to win and businesses to boycott and borders to secure. Jesus says his Kingdom is not of this world, but we would say our kingdom certainly is and, well, all that loving and forgiving stuff works in church, but this here is the real world.
And so we declare our allegiance. We choose earthly greatness and power and success and security over the way of the cross. We justify our lack of loving our neighbors because we have to protect our version of the American dream. We cling to political liberty at all costs and find ourselves chained to platforms and politicians.
I’m not anti-American. I’m not an anarchist. I plan to vote in the coming election. I’m just not going to assume that God’s deepest desire for us is something as fleeting as prosperity or political freedom. I’m not convinced God is hoping we elect the proper candidate so he can finally get to work in our country.
While I strongly believe in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and want those things for all people (literally, all the people), I am not dependent on them. Nor do I think those are the highest things a person can achieve.
Not when our Savior started life as a refugee, lived under the military occupation of his enemies, spent his ministry years homeless, and was persecuted to the point of execution.
Not when the majority of our Scriptures were written to or about people with no freedom, no security, and no wealth. People who often neglected their faith whenever they had actually attained those very things.
And not when many of us are willing to ignore the teachings of Christ in order to make a nation great. If I can’t make America great by living the way of Christ, then I want no part in that greatness. And I don’t think God does either.
If we live and love like Jesus of Nazareth at the expense of privilege or safety, I believe America (and the rest of the world) will be greater because of it. Not because we have accumulated all the power and all the wealth, but because we have been faithful. Because being faithful to the way of Jesus is the only way to be truly great.
So inform yourself and vote if you feel so led. But long before and long after your ballot is cast, consider what things you are grasping for, what things motivate and excite you, and what things you assume God wants for you. And then compare them to the life of Jesus.
I imagine we will find we have spent a lot of time and money and energy and yard signs on a greatness that is at best temporary and at worst idolatry. We’ve been invited to something better than anything a politician can offer and we’ve been charged to live in such a way that it doesn’t ultimately matter where we reside or what we possess.
May we be faithful first. Even when the alternative sounds safer and more comfortable. May we choose Jesus and his cross today and every day. Even when it costs us elections and political position. And may we see the world become as great as it’s ever been.