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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.

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