The Trump victory
Having just written an editorial on the Donald Trump victory, for the magazine I help publish – The Christian Century – I’m reticent to preempt that piece with a reworking of its contents here. But since the election results are still so fresh, with even some down-ballot returns not yet counted after 40 hours since the polls closed, I need to say something.
Pundits and pollsters are still trying to figure out what they got wrong, or how all of them missed the mark so significantly. It seems odd, though – doesn’t it? – that the very same people who messed up with the predicting would be the ones to analyze the data and return to us with now trustworthy findings.
In any event, whether you are thrilled or appalled by Tuesday’s outcome, Donald Trump is to be our new president. You be may wondering whether it is realistically possible for him to serve as president to all the people whose fundamental human worth he has regularly insulted. How you answer that question depends on how you interpret Trump’s various serrated pronouncements of the past. As Salena Zito put it in an Atlantic magazine article in September, “The press takes [Trump] literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”
So which of his comments do you take literally? Will he actually appoint a special prosecutor “on day one” to get Hillary Clinton thrown into jail? Will the $15 billion dollar wall he has proposed ever get built? Will he out-brutalize terror suspects through the use of special torture, as he has promised? Will he actually stop watching NFL football, as he announced during the campaign, because the referees have become too soft and are throwing way too many flags (so their wives back home can admire them)?
We don’t really know the answer to any of these questions. But let’s give the man a chance. He has a lot to figure out. The presidency is a huge responsibility. And our wonderful constitutional system of checks and balances make it virtually impossible for authoritarian rule to ever be realized, which happens to be the fear of some who see fascist impulses in Trump.
Most important to me is how Christians behave in this time of transition and newness in Washington. We just need to be crystal clear about our convictions. We can “live the Beatitudes of Jesus,” which would mean that we’ll never be tempted to bully. We ought never tire of doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God. We must resist fear, especially when fed by conspiracy and rumor. Insisting on the extension of hope to others is a win-win. Weak and vulnerable people need our embrace, not our mockery. Let’s welcome the stranger and build bridges of hospitality. These are our callings.
I actually believe Donald Trump is capable of embodying any of these convictions, even if he is largely unfamiliar with basic Christian teachings. But in the long, hard road of getting there, he will have to remember what the rest of all need to recall: Namely, once a word leaves the mouth, there is no way to unspeak it and stuff it back into the mouth. Donald Trump will want to take greater care with his rhetoric, hopefully reinterpreting all kinds of things he never meant to be understood literally.
–Peter Marty, senior pastor