Along with much of the world, I watched this morning as Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. We watched with baited breath, wondering what he would say and how he would act after such a divisive and vitriolic election. We wondered if he would seek to unite America and be a harbinger of peace to the world or if he would continue to spew rhetoric that created division. After watching and re-watching his inauguration speech, yet I'm not sure exactly which we got.
Doubtless, there were some inspirational ideas in President Trump's speech. He called us to think big and to dream bigger. He challenged us to put aside prejudice and fear and to heal our divisions. All these are laudable endeavors. All these are moves in the right direction for a nation that is hurting and deeply divided.
But there was a side of Trump's speech that was, for me, much darker and troubling. He said:
We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones -- and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth... When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear -- we are protected, and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God.
These words perpetuate the myth that the United States is somehow God's elect nation in the world. These words bolster the horrendous theology--which is in no way orthodox Christianity--that "We the people" are nothing short of God's chosen people in a world of those who must not be his. These words invoke the promised protection and blessing of God as though our national interests and our military actions are unquestionably the will of God for the world. Most frighteningly, these words, as I read them, are nothing short of a call to holy war--to a bastardized American civic "Christian" jihad--against radical Islam.
These words are frightening from a foreign policy perspective, but from a Christian perspective they are horrendous!
Let me be very clear:
- there is no suggestion in Scripture or history that God has any special plan for the United States of America
- there is no hint in the Bible or church history that we, as Americans, are God's chosen people
- there should be no thinking that the policy or actions of America can be seen or understood in the least bit as inherently Christian or righteous
- there is no call in Scripture for a physical war against any race, nation, or group...even a terrorist group
These thoughts laid out by President Trump, and endorsed by Evangelical and heretic alike as they participated in today's ceremony, are quite simply NOT orthodox Christian ideals by any stretch of the imagination. Sadly, these thoughts are not new. For my whole life, conservative Christianity has been allied with the unholy bedfellow of the political right.
Unfortunately, having drunk from this well for so long, I fear that Evangelicals will stay on the Trump train, enthusiastically and unquestioningly following wherever he leads. We must not—lest we forever weaken our Christian witness to the rest of the world. We cannot—lest we forever sacrifice our faith on the altar of American politics.
The Christian faith is not a political faith, for Christ's kingdom is not of this world. The Christian faith is not an American faith, for the good news of Jesus is for the whole world. The Christian faith is not a faith that seeks to kill and destroy, for our prince is the Prince of Peace.