Yesterday, President Donald Trump gave a speech outlining a number of plans to suppress the violent riots throughout the country. He had previously stated his intentions to “dominate the streets” in response to protests and riots. (In my mind and for the purposes of this blog, “protestors” and “rioters” stand out as two separate groups – the majority appear to be peaceful protestors, while the rioters only make things more difficult for the rest of them.) Immediately after this speech, tear gas was fired into the crowd in the street so that the president could walk across to St. John’s Episcopal Church. He used the church as a prop without permission and held up a Bible in a cheap campaign move I do not hesitate to call “blasphemous.”
It’s ridiculous for me to recount these events that you all watched live only yesterday… but it can’t be more ridiculous than the events themselves.
The last week or so has been overwhelming. It came to a point with the devastating news of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, back before the pandemic began. Then the nation watched George Floyd’s unjust death. The heartbreak of this injustice was emphasized with every Retweet of this “murder porn”, as it’s called in this moving speech. Further outrage was stoked as violent rioters made a bad name for peaceful protestors who are advocating for necessary systemic change. This was followed closely by horror with each recorded incident of the absolutely brutal responses to rioters – videos that are polarizing Twitter users against all police officers as a result of these examples (while remaining largely unseen by users limited to Facebook or stuck in the echo chamber of their content algorithm). These events should be outrageous to anyone with a glimmer of empathy in them – how much more so for those who claim to love like Christ?
After yesterday, I’ve found a new category for outrage, distinct from and parallel to this human rights issue. The reported threat to sic the army on American citizens, with its already questionable legality, was worrisome. The implicit defense of this violent threat, aligning it optically with the Word of God, was ludicrous. Maddening. Frustrating to the nth degree. Seeing this TV personality hoist the Bible awkwardly aloft in a ploy for approval inspired outrage like I’ve rarely felt it. But to know that the majority of his Christ-following fanbase will accept this? Even worse. (Acts 12:21-24, anyone?)
Most people can see through this act. I’d be more concerned about the way the president’s claims seem to represent Christ to nonbelievers if they couldn’t. One reporter remarked sarcastically, “So he’s the president of law and order and… godliness?” Whether or not this reporter has known the gospel, it’s obvious enough that this isn’t it.
The people that have believed the stunt should have been the least likely to ever do so. Trump’s Christian facade is indefensible, discrediting the faith just as bad cops discredit good ones and rioters discredit protestors. Because it is indefensible, many have elected to ignore it instead. Is it because the excuse of religion has been exposed for what it is? Or because that was never the point in the first place? My Facebook feed is full of posts advocating for more love, notably devoid of commentary on this latest display. (Or any of his previous displays, for that matter.) This representation of Christ has more destructive potential than any riot.
The kingdom of America is temporary and, as we’ve seen, fragile.
The kingdom and word of God are eternal and indestructible.
Which will you stand for? Which will you put your hope in?
The word of God revealed in Scripture is holy and set apart. This book contains the story of God’s desperate and enduring efforts to reconcile humanity to Himself; it is a love letter like no other. It’s true that the Almighty doesn’t need us to defend Him, but I can’t continue as one devoted to Him without saying something.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.” – James 1:22-25
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joint and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” – Hebrews 4:12-14
“‘Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise,’ says the Lord. ‘I will protect them from those who malign them.’ And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times. You, Lord, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked, who freely strut about when what is vile is honored by the human race.” – Psalm 12:5-7