Will Trump allow waterboarding? “We’re going to have a president who will never say what we’ll never do,” says Gov. Mike Pence. pic.twitter.com/GuFaQPXM8q
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) November 20, 2016
The controversial nature of president-elect Donald Trump’s campaign and the tone of his leadership have provoked me to do some thinking about the nature of power and how Christian’s should seek to exercise it.
Over the last few weeks, I have had several conversations with Christian friends conflicted over voting for President Trump for various reasons. Evangelical commitment to the pro-life movement and a strong desire to secure conservative supreme court justices are two common reasons I encounter. As someone committed to pro-life values I certainly share their struggle. However, I could not bring myself to pull the lever in his direction for a host of reasons. But I think the above video exposes the deeper level issues at stake. Chiefly, that evangelicals have developed an idolatrous lust for forms of power that take on a predominately anti-christ(ian) character and we will compromise any and all integrity to secure said power.
The overwhelming witness of the New Testament is largely silent toward Christian participation in earthly power structures and calls Christians to a discipleship dominated by the lordship (a political title in the 1st century) of Jesus. We are called to pray for our leaders and to honor authority, but we are not called to “participate” or “vote” no matter what. Nor are we taught that we are obligated to “secure” Christian interests through legislation of morality. Now general wisdom would say that we should advocate for justice and “seek the welfare of the city” where possible. Christians should be advocates for the common good but no where are we commanded to “sell our birth rights” for a bowl of lesser of two evil stew. We are called to submit to the lordship of Christ, which–at the very least–demands us to filter our choices through the character of leadership not simply isolated policies (i.e. abortion, supreme court).
Revelation 4-5 gives the Church a unique window into the throne room of heaven–the symbol and source of God’s sovereign rule. New Testament scholar Michael Gorman quotes commentator Mitchel Reddish, “‘The throne represents the power and rule of God. By emphasizing the throne, John is pulling back the curtain and showing his reader the true locus of the world’s power’–and who is really ‘Lord and God'”.
But what is found in the throne room is not what people would expect. It is not someone exercising “military might” or prepared to “do what it takes” to secure personal interests domestic or abroad–it’s a slaughtered lamb seated on the throne. It is not even the biblical “Lion of Judah”! Gorman continues…
“It is the vision of a slaughtered Lamb, not a ferocious Lion. ‘The shock of this reversal’ writes Richard Hays, ‘discloses the central mystery of the Apocalypse: God overcomes the world not through a show of force but through the suffering and death of Jesus, ‘the faithful witness'” – Michael Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness, Following the Lamb into New Creation, 108.
The character of God’s power, and thus, the character for Christian engagement with the world, is the Slaughtered Lamb.
I don’t hear this kind of tone coming from Trump’s camp or friends that are willing to align with him to “preserve/secure their interests”. Do the ends justify the means if we are willing to exercise anti-Christian power to leverage “God’s purposes” in our nation and abroad? Furthermore, does the rhetoric of torture and death square with a consistent “pro-life” ethic? I find it incredibly disturbing that the confessing evangelical Christian in Trump’s campaign does not even attempt to address the heinous nature of torture and instead tries to sooth our concerns with the statement that, “We’re going to have a president who will never say what we’ll never do”. America has already proven that we will stop at nothing to “secure our interests” as made evident in recent CIA Torture Report and the last 15 years of un-sanctioned drone warfare waged in the Middle East without congressional approval or public oversight.
The Lamb’s power, his “conquering”, has been manifested, not in the raw power associated with a lion, but in the power of faithfulness to death, a violent death that resulted in “ransoming”, or redeeming, a royal and priestly people for God. – Gorman, 109.
It is the nature and character of this power that should give Christians extreme pause before aligning ourselves with a person willing to “never say what we’ll never do”. I personally do not think Trump is pro-life nor will a supreme court justice secure pro-life interests for the generation to come. I fear that we have developed a idolatrous relationship with political power in such a powerful way that we’ve lost all ability to reason outside of defaulting to a person with extremely questionable character and horrific policy plans simply because he “checks the boxes” on a few narrow issues. Again, this is also not mentioning that the above video is not “pro-life”.
“Babylon” is the primary object of critique throughout Revelation. It is the representative “city of man” hell bent on appearing to be “lamb like” and imitate the “city of God”. Bruce Metzger goes on to say,
Babylon is allegorical of the idolatry that any nation commits when it elevates material abundance, military prowess, technological sophistication, imperial grandeur, racial pride, and any other glorification of creature over the Creator….The message of the book of Revelation concerns… God’s judgements not only of persons, but also of the nations and, in fact, of all principalities and powers–which is to say, all authorities, corporations, institutions, structures, bureaucracies, and the like.
The task of the Church in Revelation is to be faithful witnesses to Lamb-like-power. This is the great sin of the Church of Laodicea–they do not provide witness to Christ’s lordship. We are to be imitators of Christ’s slaughtered Lamb character. This is the central motivation of Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians in chapter 2 of his letter. He says,
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
To be sure, as American citizens, we can vote as our conscience dictates, but to align ourselves with a troubled campaign such as Donald Trumps… is the opposite of Lamb-power… even if we are trying to make our ends justify the means.