As Americans, and perhaps the world, we seem to have crossed over a threshold this weekend. Many believers looked to the inauguration of Donald Trump as the end of a terrible era of liberalism and the beginning of a new era of righteous conservatism.
(I have personally found that perspective irrational and wishful thinking at best when we consider the facts but my purpose is not to argue that point today.)
The inauguration event of President Trump collided with a spirit of protest only minutes after his speech. It was said that Washington D.C. was like a fortress this weekend in preparation for both the inauguration attendees and the protesters. As the new President and his entourage walked in the official inauguration parade, a few streets from him protesters were bashing out windows and setting fires. Police were setting off flash bangs and armed with shields and riot gear making mass arrests of protesters.
On Saturday, more than 1 million women marched on Washington D.C. to protest President Trump’s presidency. They were joined by similar protests taking shape around the country and the world.
Even as the protesters packed the streets of D.C. the new president lambasted the media in a speech at CIA headquarters. It was noted that this tirade took shape against a backdrop of the CIA memorial noting those who have given their lives in service to the country. The behavior in this first public address was cited as something the new leader of the free world should be “ashamed of himself” for by the former CIA Director. Meanwhile the president’s secretary ranted at and blasted the media in his first official encounter with them after the inauguration. The cause for all this vitriol? The media was accused of lying about the size of the crowds at his inauguration. It seemed petty, over the top and a bad portent for what is to come.
America has had contentious and divisive inaugurations before. The inauguration of Abraham Lincoln coincided with many southern states seceding from the union to protest his election. This was the beginning of the civil war. In 1969 and 1973 at Richard Nixon’s inaugurations anti-war protesters collided with the festivities in Washington D.C. to deride the election of a president that the majority of Americans had elected. In spite of these historical precedents, this one seems unique. The polarization of both sides is more entrenched, more organized, more immovable, and I dare say larger than ever before.
The mainstream media is dead set on proving President Trump as inadequate and a fraud. President Trump is dead set on lashing out toward anyone who questions his legitimacy and excellency. The most dominant voices within Christian media appear to be constantly rising up to the President’s defense but I suspect this can only continue at its current rate for a season. The celebrity industry is working the other side of the argument, constantly leveraging the mechanisms of pop culture to deride the President. We are saturated in the waste spilling out as this nation is torn apart.
Many of us hoped the inauguration, no matter who we supported, would finally bring an end to the divisive and inflamed rhetoric and politicizing on social media, in our workplaces, and even in our homes. The only thing that may surpass the degree of polarization in America right now, is the level of fatigue this has produced in us.
The distinction between light and darkness is going to become even more evident now. As believers we are going to have to resist the bait to join the arguments and contests over political issues to define what is right and wrong. This does not mean we cannot or should not have our own opinions and beliefs on these issues. But as the world around us is being sucked down into a quagmire of polarization justified by opinion and beliefs shouted at the loudest volumes and held to with the greatest tenacity, we must recognize this is the bait of a darkening system of life. It is a bait that when clung to will darken our own souls and hearts and homes with anxiety, distrust, and anger. The purposes of God are not built upon opinion and outrage. This is not the way of the Kingdom of God and it is not the way of those who walk in the light.
Philippians 4:4–8 (The Living Bible) — Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice! Let everyone see that you are unselfish and considerate in all you do. Remember that the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. And now, brothers, as I close this letter, let me say this one more thing: Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about.
This is NOT an exhortation to think happy thoughts while we blindly and ignorantly retreat from the world around us and call this Christ-like.
Pay attention to what is taking place in the world today. Learn, know, understand and grow…but this is not where we take our hope.
This is not what defines our life. No matter if you are on the side of Donald Trump or the protesters, neither of these parties or their rants and antics represent the ways and purposes of God. The management of our minds in the face of this growing darkness is essential to the preservation of our souls to the principles and values of light and life.
My encouragement to the readers at the End of History today is to resist the bait to dive in to this trap of divisiveness. We have a higher hope than either Donald Trump or the New York Times can grasp. We should be careful to manage our environments with wisdom and shrewdness but let us not mistake the politics, the opinions and the protests as issues on par with the standards and values of God.