High school students know how to play the game. The ones I taught knew what to say and when to say it. In class, I’d listen to a student give a heart warming articulation of the Christian faith, only to hear through back channels that in the hallway, they’re saying extremely racist, hateful, things. The times when public and private comments intersected were few and far between. Occasionally, I’d hear something and have a conversation. But not too often. Which is why I’m thankful for President Trump.

Recently, President Obama wondered if his presidency came too early. The hatred and vitriol during his time in office was a foreshadowing of what came later. The 2016 election ripped the top off, unleashing what was latently there, bringing it out into the open. It’s ugly, evil, sinful—use whatever language you want, but at least it’s out in the open. Like a good wizard, the Obama presidency arrived precisely when it needed to. In Hegelian terms (or, if you prefer, Marxist terms) the Obama presidency gave rise to its antithesis—the backlash of the Trump campaign, followed by the anti-Obama policies of the current administration. American Christianity’s aversion to all things Marx means we fail to recognize the Christian roots of his thought as a materialized Christian eschatology—death and suffering leads to resurrection and new creation, the blood of the martyrs (Revelation) brings the New Jerusalem, and the suffering of the proletariat brings a communist utopia. The Obama presidency has given rise to that which tries to negate it, which opens the possibility that something new is waiting on the other side.

The Trump presidency opens the door for a post-ideological church. For too long American politics has allowed the church to be lazy. Both conservatives and liberals think salvation is found in nominations to the supreme court or legislation that forces people to have insurance. Conservative or liberal ideology traps us in an abstract, hyper-spiritualized, wasteland. Christian conservatives make women have babies without having to worry about feeding, clothing, or educating them, while Christian liberals insist on government health care, immigration reform, and programs for the poor from the comfort of their Apple TV and bourgeois lifestyle. The Trump presidency means the church no longer gets a free ride. Conservatives need to respond to Trump’s anti-family immigration policies that separated children at the border, and if they insist on being pro-life then it’s time to articulate a more robust version of pro-life. Liberals can’t rely on government policy to take care of health care, DACA recipients, and the poor. None of us—conservative, liberal, or independent—get to sit back and let others deal with these problems; it’s time to get our hands dirty, put up or shut up, or (insert whatever cliche you want). It’s time to find common ground, move past the ideological barriers that divide us, and follow Jesus to the margins.

The call to discipleship is a call to follow the crucified Christ. It’s the call to follow Jesus into particularity, not “the poor”, “immigrants”, or “refugees”, but real people with particular problems. So thank God for President Obama, and thank God for President Trump. I’m glad the Kingdom of God doesn’t depend on either one.

 

10 Comments

  • Marty Wondaal says:

    Amen!

    Wait…

    Your essay is like sausage to me: I found so much of the reasoning you put into it distasteful, but I found your final paragraph completely satisfying!

    Amen!

    • Jason Lief says:

      I wouldn’t expect you to see it any other way.

    • George E says:

      But as good as (most of) the concluding paragraph sounds, when you consider the wrongheadedness that the final para assumes, be careful about going along with any plans Mr. Lief might have for his ideas about “following” Christ.

  • Well said. Caveat though. We have had plenty of opportunities with national leaders to be reminded that Christians cannot leapfrog to the top to participate in God’s kingdom, the idol with the feet of clay, I suppose.

  • Tom Eggebeen says:

    I suppose for the sake of “balance,” you’re a wee bit hard on liberals, with your description: sitting by our Apple computers [on which this being typed – ha!] waiting for the government to take care of everyone. Hardly fair, as much of the social progress this nation has enjoyed in the last 100 years has been due to a liberal or progressive vision of government’s role in the welfare of this nation. Your characterization of the conservative strikes me as accurate, but your critique of the liberal feels overstated.

    What I am expecting of government is to be a government for the people, whereas the conversative vision seems to be pretty much “everyone on their own,” except when it comes to helping big biz have the playing field all to itself, and for the theocrats, big gov is just fine when it comes to telling women how to behave and funding the bottomless pit of our bloated military.

    As for the overall point, that tRump has exposed the festering rot in the American soul, I quite agree; under Obama, many of us liberals were lulled into thinking that we were really getting somewhere. Even under previous GOP administrations, progress was made. But now, we’re in a period of radical antithesis, deconstruction, the reshaping of America into an Oligarchy, with a little theocracy thrown to keep the religious right in line, ruled by an exceedingly corrupt family. If Marx is right, and let’s hope so, there might be a better day a-coming – not likely a “great gettin’ up morning,” but at least a general repudiation of the current administration and the hatred unleashed by its language of permission.

    Sadly, real damage is being done, and it’ll take a long time to recover. While it’s good to know, I suppose, the evil lucking in our soul, it might have been better to have never entered into this miserable time, but plowed on with a progressive agenda.While you and I might not suffer a great deal in these days, millions here, and around the world, are suffering because of America’s floundering, and while we might expatiate on the antithesis, with a certain degree of detachment, the antithesis is violent, ugly, and real.

  • James Schaap says:

    Okay, this time the priestly is outweighing the prophetic, but it’s going to take me a couple hours to give thanks for someone who, just last night, made fun of rape victims and a 94-year old ex-President. Give me time, Jason. . .

    • George E says:

      Fake news, James. I googled Trump mock rape victims and got a handful of current headlines asserting what you claim. But the stories reported Trump simply referenced the need to speak gently about Warren in this #MeToo era.

      • Tom Ackerman says:

        George, here is the direct quote: “We will take that little kit and say, but we have to do it gently. Because we’re in the ‘#MeToo’ generation so I have to be very gentle. And we will very gently take that kit and we will slowly toss it, hoping it doesn’t hit her and injure her arm even though it only weighs probably two ounces.” Mockery is defined as “teasing and contemptuous language or behavior directed at a particular person or thing”.

        The words and tone of this statement are contemptuous, at least to my ears, and make light of sexual harassment that occurs with disturbing frequency within our society. So, two questions for you. How do you understand these words? If they are not meant as mockery, then what are they meant to convey? Certainly, they do not reflect any tendency of Trump to speak or treat anyone with whom he has a difference of opinion “gently”, so how should we understand their meaning. And, why do you use the term “fake news”? The words were indeed spoken and a reasonable person could, and would, take them precisely as Professor Schaap did. There is nothing “fake” about them. You seem to be taking the position that if you don’t agree with something, it must be “fake”.

        One of the significant problems that we have with current dialogue in our country is intense tribalism and an unwillingness to think critically. If you are unwilling to even entertain the thought that some of your fellow citizens might legitimately construe this statement as mocking victims of rape and harassment, then we have no way forward to have a discussion.

        • George E says:

          Trump’s words were directed at Warren, not a rape victims. Which I’m sure you read. Warren is not a rape victim. She is an impersonator, appropriating an ethnicity for personal gain. This is why she was mocked by Trump. I use the words fake news because to claim, as you do, that Trump was speaking about rape victims is in fact fake news. As you say, “One of the significant problems that we have with current dialogue in our country is intense tribalism and an unwillingness to think critically.” I acknowledge that you feel that Trump was talking about other people, but, no, there is not a legitimate way for you to have reached that belief. You simply went along with your Trump-hating tribe and agreed that Trump must have meant something he did not say. And you are again right to say that there is no way to have a discussion because I won’t accept your false imputation. The discussion that should be had is why you and Mr Lief choose to distort Trump’s words. But until you’re willing to entertain the observation that you have done so, there’s no way forward with that.

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