Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Trumpism Yanks More Than Politics


Yanking my chain.

Usually, I write about topics that yank my chain in some way.  

I've written about the super-cool packaging technology Nabisco uses to keep their Oreo cookies "fresh."  Of course, I use the term "fresh" lightly, since Oreos are so full of preservatives, there's no such thing as a "stale" Oreo!  But those plastic sheets coated with a film allowing you to both open and close them with ease - that really got my writing juices going.

Other topics that have yanked my chain over the years include the increasingly homogeneous design of American sedans, due in large part to draconian fuel efficiency standards being imposed by our government.  With all car manufacturers expected to match the same standards, vehicle designers are left with little room to be creative, since efficiency usually comes at the expense of individuality.

I've written about my favorite Norman Rockwell painting, "Lunch Break With a Knight."  The iconic Elizabeth Taylor.  Digital artist Christoph Niemann.  Divorce.  Illegal and legal immigration.  Scandals with pastors.  Good architecture.  And lots and lots of politics.

* sigh *

The thing about politics is that, despite there being a professional study of so-called "political science," there's not much actual science to politics, beyond all the studies people use to justify their fascination over how different peoples are governed.  

Hey; does it really matter if a political scientist can guess future political events accurately?  Who really cares if a political scientist can proffer a new theory for how a historical society elected somebody to office?  Most of politics comes down to averages, doesn't it?  When guessing, second-guessing, and hindsight pass for science, then a lot more people can be "experts" than folks in disciplines like molecular biology.  Right?

And that's part of the problem, isn't it?  Many voters consider Rush Limbaugh to be a political expert, even though he's never held elective office.  Barak Obama is considered by Rush Limbaugh's fans to be an abject failure, even though most of Obama's foes have never even run for their PTA board, let alone leader of the Free World.  But is it Limbaugh's fault that people believe him when he speaks?  It's the amateurish nature of politics that allows people like Limbaugh, his fans, and even Yours Truly to believe our opinions have some sort of merit.  Politics is one of the few areas in life where there are no experts - only people who can convince other people that they are experts!

As this year's political season has continued to disintegrate, I've hunted in vain for other stories that yank my chain more strongly than the depressing drumbeat of headlines from our presidential aspirants.

And as you can tell from the dearth of my blog postings lately, I haven't been very successful.  I've told you how confused I am that so many conservatives adore Donald Trump, despite Trump's obvious refutations of conservatism's traditional characteristics.  I've bemoaned the abject state of civility in this year's elections, from the candidates to their supporters to their detractors, most of whom display so much vitriol and vulgarity that televised debates now should carry parental warnings.

It's all so depressing, isn't it?  And this is supposed to be "the greatest country in the world?"

Despite his tawdry personal life and wild pontifications on the campaign trail, Trump is getting the green-light from GOP primary voters to present the world with a buffoonish caricature of Republicanism in general and Christianity in particular.  Especially ironic has been Trump's claims to being a Christian, and so many Christians seeming to enthusiastically support him.  

Some evangelical leaders have come out and questioned the media's penchant for labeling all of Trump's church-going fans as "evangelicals," but it's hard to question the media's over-characterization when people like the senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas, and the president of Liberty University, both issue dire warnings about the destruction of America if Trump isn't voted in as its savior.

I used to be like many evangelicals I know:  Unaware of any self-professing Christ-follower who supports Trump.  Then my blinders came off as I read people posting their personal views on Facebook, and as I discussed politics with fellow congregants at our proudly conservative Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas - a city many call "the buckle of the Bible Belt."  At least two elders at this church adamantly support Trump, and part of me is ashamed that I have to type this out.  These are men - both well-educated, highly-respected medical doctors - with a certain amount of religious training (after they're nominated to serve, all elder candidates at my church spend at least one year in a preparatory theology program for their upcoming duties).  And they're voting for Donald Trump!

And they're not Trump's only fans at Park Cities Presbyterian. 

It is incredibly bizarre to me.

Then I began to think.

About the only thing I can figure out is that some people are putting love of country in place of their love of Christ.  

Based on my strict, Bible-based, orthodox evangelical belief about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I do not see how a follower of His could be a follower of Trump.  I suspect many of us Christ-followers ascribe far more importance to politics than we should, assuming that politics helps explain the things we see as being wrong with America and the world.  And that mindset probably helps some Christ-followers feel entitled to ignore all of the non-Christ-honoring baggage Trump brings to the presidential race.  

It's easy to view sin on a sliding scale.  But God doesn't, does He?  For example, I may not replace my love of Christ with my love of America, yet I can see patterns where I do the same thing in my life - just not with politics.  I gossip instead of speaking lovingly - or not at all.  I gloss over truth (what God calls "lying").  I binge eat - often gluttonously.  I love comfort at the expense of venturing out of my comfort zone for the sake of Christ.  

And I mean - I really love comfort so much, I literally fear leaving my comfort zone!  Part of that is my chronic clinical depression, but part of it still is my raw desire for being able to control my environment, and the risks to which I'm exposed.  Some people love adventure; I loathe it.  Yet the Christ-centered walk of faith is just that - a walk of faith, not of comfort.

To the extent that many voters - both liberal and conservative - are deeply anxious about the direction in which our country appears to be headed, it makes sense that we want to align ourselves with the political candidates who best express the methods we believe will right our listing ship of state.  Yet, if there are certain core principles that we hold, particularly as followers of Christ, can we so arbitrarily abdicate from the patterns those principles dictate for our lives when it comes to endorsing somebody like Trump for president?

I don't think so.  But then again, people observing me would likely say the same about other areas in my life that have nothing to do with politics.  And guess what:  People could say the same thing about your life, too!  What takes Christ's place in your heart, and your brain, and your worldview?  How many discrepancies exist between the faith you profess and the things you hold near and dear?

So... what yanks your chain?  The claim that too many people are living off of your tax dollars?  The notion that people of a certain religion should be banned from our country?  Or that Christ only displayed His righteous indignation once - and that was in the temple, when money-changers were co-opting the worship of His almighty Father?

What are we worshipping?

I'm still agitated and embarrassed over the Trump phenomenon, but I'm coming to see how the Lord may be using The Donald to help true Christ-followers see other areas in our life where we're acting out of duplicity, and not duty.  The truth of the Gospel offers us incredible comfort, in that God offers us new hope and change.

Meanwhile, can Trump offer anybody that?  Remember, the man he's trying to replace offered hope and change, too, and look what we got instead...

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
  - Psalm 20:7



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