I know what your first reaction is…”WTF?!?” “You’ve gone off your rocker Matthew.”
I get it, what could Donald Trump teach Christians? Well, some very important lessons actually.
Lesson 1 – Look how we react to Donald Trump. I can’t tell you how many posts, comments and other ways of expressing not only disagreement with Trump, but outright belittling, dehumanizing and whatnot over what he is expressing. I’ve been guilty of this too, labeling him a crackpot – probably not the best Christian response for a future pastor who is talks about reaching out to the “other.” It’s one thing to disagree with someone and confront their ideas. It’s quite another to start throwing labels on people. Donald Trump is a part of God’s creation. How should we speak about him/to him? Maybe show a little love. We can disagree with his policies without making a disagreement a personal attack on him. Otherwise, aren’t be just fallen hypocrites who claim that love is our central theme but then turn around and label someone we disagree with. Yes, as hard as it can be, those that seem the most unlovable should be shown love. Love doesn’t mean being a pushover or just accepting whatever the person is doing. Love is true care for a person – and sometimes that can be really difficult.
Lesson 2 – If you want to get attention and grow an audience, say/do something controversial. Trump is really good at this – it’s the main reason he is currently leading the Republican nomination. He’s doing something different and unique from all the other candidates. So often it seems like many churches want to follow this path too. So we hear some churches who spout off some very controversial stuff in order to draw attention to themselves – a great deal of it seems very hate filled. And then the rest of Christianity gets lumped in with these churches. But, as we saw with the ELCA youth gathering, there is a different way of using controversy in a positive way. I can imagine deciding to go to Detroit was a controversial decision – it’s a bankrupt city where there is great crime and has been corruption in city government. Hardly the idea spot for 30,000 to come to. Or so some thought. Yet, this controversial action drew attention because it was a way to do something controversial – accompany the people of Detroit for about a week and work with them to show love and care for the people and the city.
Lesson 3 – Trump is showcasing something about human nature – fear. He’s saying things that many people believe and agree with – many of these things have a foundation in fear.. We shouldn’t just dismiss this as a church. Fear is a powerful force and can get people to do things or say things. The church has an opportunity to address the fears that people have in a unique way – by talking about the spirituality of fear and how God accompanies us in our fear, that fear is real and that God helps us get through our fears. Think of all the stories in the Bible that deal with fear and the unknown – Abraham leaving his home to go until God said stop. Moses and the Israelites leaving Egypt and being backed up against the Red Sea about to be crushed. Mary and Joseph running to Egypt to escape Herod’s slaughter of the young. And that’s just the stories off the top of my head. In each of these stories, fear not only rears its ugly head, but tries to dominate the situation. Yet, God comes in, accompanies those who are fearful and guides them to safety.
So, while I’m not crazy about Donald Trump or what he stands for, and I won’t be voting for him, I hope we can