Trump – For Better or Worse

After a couple days of letting the election of Donald Trump soak in, here are a few of my thoughts (though there are many more.)

I am no political prophet of today or the future, but I do think seriously concerning the issues before us as a nation and as Christians. When I was a kid I delivered two (and sometimes three) different newspapers every day – but only after I had read them. And as I delivered them I listened to news programs on my little battery radio. Today I actually buy the local newspaper and read it every day – as well, I feed my news junkie status by surveying all varieties of news outlets on the web – from every political viewpoint. I consider it part of my pastoral call to understand the world and to be able to apply the wisdom and promises of scripture to the lives of my congregation. Not that I imagine anyone thinks much of it. We all have our “opinions” and long gone are the days when anyone considered a pastor’s voice anything more than one more in the wilderness.

So… for whatever infinitesimally small importance it is, here is my voice in the wilderness:

  1. The campaign and election of Mr. Trump has accentuated and defined the growing cultural, educational, and economic divisions in our nation. Looking at the electoral maps you have to ask “Why ARE the cities blue and the rural counties red? Why DID the establishment vote for Clinton and the dis-enfranchised working class vote Trump? Why DID most LCMS pastors vote Trump? Trump had “tremendous success” in tapping into our nation’s divisions and giving voice to many who felt they needed a champion. Obviously it is a good thing that all people have a voice… but it is tragic when the cacophony is so loud and obnoxious that we can’t hear or listen to each other.
  2. It is so ironic that this fabulously rich “insider” businessman, would be able to become the champion of the disenfranchised! (It is also mind blowing that the man that demonstrated a life almost thoroughly without reference to the Christian faith became the champion of so many Christians.) Why couldn’t any of the other dozen Republicans running for the nomination succeed in that better than Trump? Isn’t the Democratic Party supposed to be the champion of the disenfranchised? Perhaps it was a trick in the unconscious psyche of those left outside? “If I vote for Trump maybe he will make me successful too.” Everyone wants to be on the “inside”, don’t they? Now the question will be if President Trump will be able to fulfill his promises to those who voted for him.
  3. Key to Trump’s triumph was most certainly his ability to tap into the fears of a nation that is facing incredible demographic change. One thing is common to all human societies in general throughout history: We love to be homogenous and we distrust people who are different from us. No matter what we try to convince ourselves of here in America, our ideal of the melting pot really doesn’t work very well. The attractiveness of our ideals do not end well when the muslim refugee from Syria moves in next door to us. What are we to think about this as Christians? Even Christians are conflicted. We are all damnable sinners as we consider what it means to actually love our neighbor. There are no easy answers as loving our neighbors often brings trouble.

The choices in this election were not good. Neither candidate was worthy of the office of Presidency of the United States (that is why I wrote in a third party candidate). I truly believe that in reality, our leaders are a reflection of our nation as a whole. God only gives us the leaders that we deserve, and I see this whole election as God’s judgement on us. It is today as it was in the Old Testament when the people of Israel wanted a king to rule them. God warned His people what an earthly king would do to them, that a king would rule unjustly and subject them. They insisted anyway – and God finally gave them what they wanted. In this nation we do not have righteous leaders because we are not a righteous nation.

But now, dealing in the reality of that judgement, having elected Mr. Trump, I do believe all Americans need to support him as the President Elect and graciously give him a chance to lead. As President Obama stated, Trump’s success as President means the good success of this nation. Even he shook hands with Trump as they met in the White House and began the treasured tradition in this nation of an orderly change of government. As Christians we can be hopeful that good things might come from this election. We are to be hopeful people because we know that we have an amazing God who can make good come out of bad. Can we be hopeful that the efforts of President Trump would undergird and support our Christian values as basic to the moral fabric of this nation? Yes we can – in spite of his (and our own) failure to demonstrate those values in his (and our) own life. May it only be that in winning any battle we don’t lose the war.

Even as I truly do hope for the best and desire to support a President Trump, I am doubtful of his success. The character flaws that this President Elect owns opens the way to exceedingly dangerous situations – for our country and the world. Someone said to me that they hoped that the office of the presidency would make him a better man. It could be. I earnestly pray for it. But in Mr. Trump’s case, I am fearful that the position of power will make him a worse man, not better. I hope and pray that my judgement of his character is wrong.

I think there is one promise about the next four years that is sure: For better or worse, this nation is in for a wild ride. We asked for it. We got it. We had better be up for it. I am just praying that the Lord God would provide a cushion of saving grace at the end if Trump’s victory train ends up derailed.

The Pope Crashes the Reformation Party!

The major newspapers are picking up on the visitation of the Pope in Sweden, Oct. 31, 2016, as the Lutheran World Federation observed Reformation Day.  He joined the Lutherans in a special prayer service.  It was certainly quite the gesture by the Pope to take a day that has historically highlighted division in the church, and help change it into one which would move us toward healing and unity. “Such a refreshing thing to see!” we all want to say. Most certainly we all must believe and strive for Christian unity, as our disagreement and our division is sinful and stains the Gospel.

However, as much as it should be the goal of every Christian and Christian church to be united in our teaching and doctrine, there is reality we must contend with. Because of our sin, we find that we live in what might be seen as a variety of theological and sociological realities. True healing between Lutherans and Catholics is literally inconceivable (here on this earth.) The only way that there can be true unity is if Lutherans and/or Catholics renounce their teachings and doctrines… The Catholic Pope and Martin Luther knew that way back in days of the Reformation almost 500 years ago. Unfortunately it is still the same today.

There are those today who have hope that if we talk around the table long enough we can carefully craft a set of words that will somehow cover over the sins of division, as if the differences we have are not of substance, but only the result of misunderstanding and history. The ecumenical movement of today that attempts to bring churches together hinges not on coming to a consensus of Truth, but instead works to ignore or water down the teachings of scripture, counting truth as less important than “unity.” They will say “We agree on more things than we disagree, so lets just call us a happy family.” Sometimes that is good to do in our lives of of many varied opinions and values, but is that permissible when we deal in the currency of truth and the confession of faith?

Members of our churches should note that, although the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod regularly participates in theological dialogues with other church bodies, we do not consider Biblical Truth to be a price to pay for outward unity in the church. I know that most people caught up in their harried lives have little patience with what is viewed as silly arguments about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I understand that. However… the reason for this well meaning impatience is that many people also have only a very basic understanding of Christian doctrine, and even less of an understanding of the scripture and the issues that confront the church.

It is true that there is no perfect church, and the LCMS does not pretend to espouse a perfect understanding of Scripture. We will all be surprised when we get to heaven at what we got wrong or misunderstood here on earth. We must be humble about these things. But I do pray that I GET to heaven to be surprised. If we follow the delusion of the world and decide that truth does not matter, the very real danger is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will become so corrupted and diluted that it will not retain its power to save. The Gospel saves because it is True, and it must not be compromised.

Praise God that despite our outward disunity, Christians of every denomination can still express the very profound and mysterious unity of faith that extends back to Adam and Eve and forward to the end of time and heaven above. This unity comes from the work of the Holy Spirit beginning in Baptism.  Ultimately there is only ONE true (invisible) church: the the church in heaven and on earth whose Savior and Head is Jesus Christ. Someday we will be blessed to know it truly without our sin weighing it down and corrupting it. Praise God.