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What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus in the Age of Trump?

Racism. Xenophobia. Misogyny. Calls for violence and bullying behavior. A rejection of the international rule of law and of the most basic protections for those who fall outside the bounds of white America. None of this is new. This has been the undercurrent of American culture and government since colonial times.

We’ve been taught to aspire to the American Dream, but we rarely speak of the nightmarish cocktail of blind hatred and self-satisfied privilege that exists alongside it. Most of us have wanted to pretend it wasn’t there. We wanted to believe that our nation, our culture was basically good – and getting better. We told ourselves that all of the bigotry and violence were merely wrinkles to be ironed out of the garment of “American exceptionalism” – our nation’s unique role in human history.

The rise of Trump reveals this to be wishful thinking. The age of Trump is one apocalyptic revelation. For anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear, the veil of denial has been torn away. Trump has come to personify the hatred and selfishness that has always simmered beneath the surface of American society, ready to burst forth in mob violence, lynchings, calls for war, and suppression of dissent.

It would be easy to focus our rejection on Donald Trump and his immediate supporters. It would be easy to name them as everything that is wrong with this country. It would be easy, and it would be a terrible mistake. Trumpism is a presenting symptom of our condition as a nation, but the disease runs much deeper. The spiritual reality that Trump’s candidacy is tapping into includes every single one of us, especially for those of us who are part of white America.

In a way, we should almost be thankful for Donald Trump. He has made visible that which was once hidden to many of us. While you and I have spoken only in polite euphemisms, Trump spews his vile hatred openly. We’ve hidden our bigotry in the shadows, but Trump has dragged white supremacy out into the light of day. It’s amazing how God uses twisted, evil people to accomplish his purposes.

The rise of Trump is an invitation to repentance. It’s a moment to take stock of our own racism, greed, childish entitlement, and easiness with state violence. We have an opportunity to see our own complicity in systems of injustice that oppress black Americans, native Americans, the poor, women, and so many others. Ultimately, we are all enslaved by these principalities and powers, and only Jesus Christ can free us from their grip.

I have seen some snark on social media that “Donald Trump is the candidate of the apocalypse.” I don’t think it’s a joke. The Greek word “apocalypse” means to unveil, or reveal. The Trump candidacy is a great revealing for us as a nation, and a moment of decision for those of us who seek to follow Jesus. Will we walk in the way of the slaughtered lamb, or will we join forces with the raging Beast who seeks to conquer the people of God?

Let’s not kid ourselves. Undocumented families in the United States – they’re the people of God. African Americans, who have been and continue to be so brutalized by white America’s criminal justice system – they are the people of God. You and I can be the people of God, too – but not if we refuse to bear the cross of Jesus in times of trouble.

It’s not enough to resist the hateful movement that Donald Trump represents. It’s time to go deeper than that. For centuries, we’ve tried to solve this country’s problems by pointing to enemies outside of ourselves, insisting that if only we could purge them from our midst, we would have peace, freedom, prosperity. It’s a lie. The kingdom of God will be among us only when we ourselves are changed, and all our hidden hatred is brought out, and transformed.

This is a call to action. It’s an invitation to transformation. Will you and I embrace the chaos of this moment to embrace our calling as peacemakers, earth-shakers, little children in the way of Jesus?

There’s no such thing as neutrality in the face of evil. Even inaction is a decision. The good news is that Jesus offers us a path of active love that overcomes hatred. He has defeated the powers of death and division, and we can participate in his victory. We can become part of a transformed world, the kingdom of God.

Are you ready to confess Jesus as Lord in the midst of this chaotic world? Will you walk in his way, even if it gets you into trouble? Are you ready to hear where the Spirit of truth is calling us in these dark days? If so, I want to walk with you. Together, we can become the light.

Related Posts:

If Donald Trump Wins

Now is the Time to Say: Black Lives Matter

  • Olivia

    Thanks for this post, Micah. I too have been wondering if Trump’s making it this far could lead us to a national reckoning on par with what happened in South Carolina when people read Dylann Roof’s treatise. People who had never been kind about looking at African American history and valuing that as much as their own suddenly seemed to look at their confederate flags and look at Roof’s crime and say “wait…this feels icky”. And the confederate flag was no longer popular once it was “out of the closet” — especially when a few leaders with heart in the republican party could lead the way. So…I’m grateful that people are having to take sides on this very moral question of who to vote for — and that so many are already UNwilling to support him and more willing to work with the other party… This ability to work together is MUCH needed.

    • We live in “apocalyptic” times, for sure. May we have eyes to see!

      • Rainer Moeller

        This is a matter of age. If people are very young they are completely shattered by the experience that the public opinion which has been hegemonial over their lifetime (and as such has appeared self-evident), can be questioned or can change.
        If you become older you have seen public opinion changing so often that you understand every public opinion can be questioned and no public opinion is self-evident.

  • Yes. It is essential to understand that Trump is a symptom, not the problem. We have to deal with the underlying disease.

    • It’s easy to get self-righteous, but the way of the Lamb is humility and self-sacrifice.

  • Randy Oftedahl

    All that you have said is so, but it is much bigger than just one person. The other candidate represents this same system, but in the shadows, in ‘polite euphemisms’, but it is the same Caesar, with the same imperialistic longings, the same lust for domination, the same ultimate worship of violence. Yes, there is no neutrality in the face of evil, but neither is there partisanship.

    • I largely agree with you, Randy. I do believe, however, that Trump represents a unique threat to our society. I wouldn’t want to make a false equivalency between him and other candidates this season.

      • Rainer Moeller

        “Trump represents a unique threat to our society.”
        Isn’t there some “selfishness” in this perspective? For example, a lot of Clinton advisors want to wage a war against Russia, whereas Trump tries to prevent a war against Russia. Now, from a Micah Bales point of view this may not be much of a problem because it doesn’t concern “our (i.e. the American) society”. But i am a german and, believe me, for us a war against Russia is no small matter; and it is rather Clinton who represents a unique threat.

  • Laurent Delobel

    Thank you Micah. The Trump’s symptom is very present too in France. We call it “Le Pen” (and so many Le Pen “light” among all the other parties.) We have the politicians we deserve. It’s our responsability to build a more fraternal world.

    • Thanks, Laurent. I’ve been reading about the National Front’s rise in France. Very disturbing, this wave of nationalism rising in so many nations.

  • Rainer Moeller

    Some problems here.
    1. Racializing politics and theology.
    Even if the Civil Rights Movement believed to deracialize the United States, its outcome is a definite racializing of politics which is even transferred to theology here: politics is a conflict between races, theology has to distinguish between the races of god and the non-godly race.
    2. Essentialism, not trusting your lying eyes.
    When Latinos disrupt a Trump rally and beat its participants, it’s nevertheless the Trumpists who are the “real” perpetrators and the Latinos who are the “real” victims. Actual human activities are unimportant – this makes it impossible to understand that the Trump voters may have reasonable grievances, too. Any reconciliation of the two parties under a common rule becomes impossible.