I’ll be honest: I do not like Mr. Trump. I don’t like his policies. I can’t stand the boasting, the belittling, the bullying, and the addiction to ratings. I’m appalled by the rhetoric that sounds (to me) racist, sexist and chauvinistic. It’s outrageous how this kind of talk has empowered white supremacism in all its guises, and disgraceful how all the fear mongering about borders, walls and immigrant criminals breezes over the fact that children are dying in custody. My view is we should speak up, stand up, march, resist, vote and act—and I am trying to do that wherever I can. That’s my own personal perspective. You may not see it that way, and I am not asking you to. But as followers of Jesus, we are compelled to stand against injustice wherever we see it, regardless of our political affiliations.
But as a follower of Jesus, I am also conflicted about this. After Mr. Trump is long gone we will still be faced with racism, sexism, fear, hatred and all the darkness of the human condition that has plagued us for millennia. It feels cathartic for me to pin all my anger and judgment on such a worthy (in my opinion), scapegoat, but it does not get to the real issue of our collective human darkness. It feels liberating to blame my political enemies for all the problems, but that does not address the hatred, judgment, prejudice and self-righteousness in my own heart. The truth is, despite all Jesus taught about love, and how only love can really heal our world, I don’t want to love my enemies—especially the unloving ones! And so I continue to be part of the very problem I am trying to solve.
Jesus once told a parable about a tax collector and a Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14). Tax collectors were powerful bullies, authorized by the mighty Roman Empire to extort taxes from the people using force as necessary, and taking extra as their own commission. In today’s political climate the tax-collector might be analogous to a thug-like, government-authorized, bounty hunter, granted exemption from the law, sent to flush out undocumented immigrants. The Pharisee, on the other hand, could be seen as protesting this kind of character. The text says he thanked God he was not like “robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” What if by “robbers” the Pharisee meant systems that steal from the poor, or tax systems that favor the rich? What if by “evildoers” the Pharisee meant those peddling racism, prejudice, violence and injustice? What if by “adulterers” the Pharisee meant sexism and the patriarchal system that justifies the abuse of women? What if by “tax-collector” the Pharisee meant someone who is in cahoots with a government, regardless of its use of violence to protect the interests of the elite at great expense to the poor? If this is the case, then I am the Pharisee. And yet Jesus seemed to side with the tax collector.
Jesus told parables like this to help us think again. That’s what repenting means: to think again, to open our minds, to open the eyes of our heart to a higher consciousness. This parable challenges us to change our minds about our self-righteousness and the way we see our enemies. It challenges us to see ourselves as part of the problem rather than separate from it. Jesus did not come to usher in a better political system, or even a better religion—that’s not where the hope lies. Jesus comes to wake us up to the forgotten reality that God is Love: Love is the currency of the universe; the very fabric and nature of our reality. Jesus’ vision was that if we could begin to open our hearts and minds to this love, if we could begin to absorb and live in this reality, then we could love others too—even our enemies. Relationships would be healed, societies would be healed, humanity could be healed.
None of this means we shouldn’t disagree with others. It doesn’t mean we should not protest and work hard for a more just political system and society. In fact, if love becomes our reality, we will be compelled to act because we will be driven by compassion. But if we speak or act out of self-righteousness, hatred, or a judgment that fails to see ourselves as part of the problem, we will not walk the pathway to deeper healing of the human condition. As Dr. Martin Luther King said: “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” This is our challenge. This is the hope that we can nurture in our own lives and share with the world.