"I am the Lord your God, […] you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them […]" Exodus 20:2-5a ESV
The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States' federal government has already caused many millions of words to be written in blogs, Tweets, postings, newspapers, texts, and all the various other means of communication of our modern world. I'm hesitant to add my words to the fray, but I've observed things over the last several days that I feel must be spoken to.
First, I want to recognize the fear and deep sadness presently experienced by many Americans and people all over the world. Since Tuesday I've seen my fair share of tears and witnessed people searching for hope in the face of true to them terror. What I write is not to diminish these feelings nor to ridicule those who experience them, but to reveal what I see as the lies that drive these false realities. I write with the hope that I can aid people in seeing the reality of things and awaken hearts to a renewed understanding of the lordship of Jesus Christ.
On Mount Sinai God revealed further to humankind the depth of his being and his holiness. God alone is Creator. We are made in his image and are only fully human so far as we are in relationship with and living in the likeness of God. This is made clear in the first chapters of Genesis and highlighted further in the commandments given by God through Moses.
In Exodus we are reminded that YHWH alone is God. As the first mover and creator of our entire reality there are no others. Anything we create or imagine as a source of sovereign power, holiness, love, justice, grace, mercy, or order pales in comparison to the Holy Immortal Creator God, YHWH. God is the First Mover and Creator of our entire reality. He is the source of our existence, the breath of life that sustains all of the created order. As the source, God is the one true eternally sovereign being. All other sovereignties are false and finite.
What does this have to do with the election of Donald Trump? As I saw people around me and across the nation and world over the last several days react to the election, I was shocked. The country is politically very divided, yes. Political discourse has all but collapsed into meanness and propaganda. Why, I had to ask myself, were people reacting so strongly? People were reacting not as if their candidate had lost, but as if a deep hidden truth about the world had suddenly been revealed to them. Many people's entire structuring of the world had been shaken or destroyed.
September 11th and its aftermath was a shock to the nation. In the rough years of fear, war, economic hardship, and the presidency of George II, Americans experienced the death of the post-WWII myth of America. Obama entered the stage bringing a message of hope and a narrative for a new American myth that many Americans bought into. The last eight years have seen a portion of Americans structure their worldview and the foundation of their being in the narrative of Obama's America myth. In sum, idols had been created.
As with most idols, the idols created from this new myth of America didn't look the same for everyone. For some the idol was the façade of racial equality. For others, the idol took the form of marriage equality. Others, still, built idols around religious plurality, socialized healthcare, the list goes on and on.
To be made an idol does not make something evil. Idolatry is in the improper use and adoration of an object, idea, or person. For example, universal healthcare is not an inherently evil idea. On its own it is a very noble and caring ideal. However, when one's hope becomes bound with the concept of universal healthcare and one gages the trajectory of the created order by this ideal's progress towards full implementation, we have a case of misplaced adoration. We have, in a very real sense, an idol.
This is what I think I've witnessed over the last several days. I have seen people grieving the death of their created idol gods. The gods they placed their hope for the future in. The gods they spent so much energy serving over the last eight years. In one single evening so many gods were proven to be false. They were not sovereign. They were not eternally progressing humankind forward. They were finite and in one evening all their sovereignty was nullified.
Trump rose to power because the myth of Obama's America didn't work for everyone. Many in this country didn't want to serve those gods. They needed idols of their own. In Trump, many Americans found the narrative they needed for a new mythology to build their pantheon around. Over the next four or — Lord have mercy! — eight years, another part of America will restructure their lives and worldview around idols who will eventually face death and defeat, just as the idols of progressives did this week. The madness must stop!
Jesus is Lord. This alone is our hope. Caesar is not lord. The federal government of the United States is not lord. Parties and politicians that promise unity or serve our preferred idols are not lord. Outside of the lordship of Jesus Christ everything is finite. There will be an end. There will be failure.
Yes, Christians must fight against the evil powers of division. Yes, we must work against oppression. We have renounced Satan and all the powers of this world by taking on Christ in the waters of baptism. But, if we have died and risen again in Christ, why would we then continue to look for hope from any other source? Why would Hillary bring unity? Why would Trump "return" American to "Christian" values?
As Christians we can pervert systems of oppression and violence to serve the goals of the Kingdom of God. — I go even further and say Christians have an obligation as servants of the One True God to subvert all systems of evil in the world. — We are in the world and our faith is to be lived out within and alongside this world to the glory of God.
I am not calling for a retreat from the political, but rather an examination of our orientation. Are we more oriented towards idols and the people who create them or YHWH? Do we place our hope for a world of peace, unity, and love in political movements or the movement of the Holy Spirit? Is our faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or the mythologies American political movements sell?
Wednesday I saw people witness the death of their idols. Wednesday I saw people rejoice before new idols. Today I hope I will see people lament and rejoice before the Eternal Living God of Life. If we focus on God alone for our hope, we will find allies and friends and we will find a peace that passes all understanding and never ends.
Through Caesars, presidents, political movements, death, destruction, progress, celebration, and all the movements of this created order, YHWH has been present. YHWH has been calling us into relationship with himself and guiding us to the New Creation he has been building since the fall. Let this election be a reorienting moment where we all turn to God, give him our all, and pledge to work ceaselessly for his kingdom alone. No other work will satisfy us or the world than the work of God. Soli Deo Gloria! Amen!