For Christians, the gospel is the ultimate Good News. But it is only “good news” if we recognize how desperately we need it.
I’ve been a member of a Presbyterian church for many years. A core premise of traditional Presbyterianism is TULIP, where the “T” stands for “total depravity.” Total depravity presumes that sin saturates every level of human activity: law, government, economics, and individual behavior.
I’ve never liked that belief. I’ve always wanted to believe that most of us — at our core humanity — long for truth, justice, and goodness. But the election of Donald Trump has made me question that belief.
Donald Trump, if nothing else, has rescued us from presumed, comfortable, cliché-ridden Christianity.
Before Trump, we might have focused more on personal sin and the need for individual salvation. But now there are more social manifestations of sin such as distrust, divisiveness, and despair.
We also have far more existential threats than we can keep track of: Constitutional crises, environmental collapse, climate upheavals, racial animosity, destabilizing economic inequality, nuclear posturing, and famine on a scale the world has perhaps never seen before.
America has chosen another gospel.
We have chosen recklessness over patience, threats over compassion, and violence — at home and abroad — over peace. It’s as if we have taken every Christian virtue, inverted it, encoded it into law or policy and now sit proudly in a sea of destruction with blood on our hands and a triumphant Cain-like grin that tells the world — and God — that we could not be more proud of what we have done.
Looking back, future generations will marvel that any among us could have supported such a philosophy, such an agenda, such a person.
Not only did many Christian leaders support Donald Trump, several have made the case that God will curse any who do not.
This is the ultimate marriage of church and state, where salvation and eternal condemnation are in the hands of the government.
But this is far from any biblical faith.
The darkness that Trump — and we — have cultivated seems to settle between and within each one of us. We are reminded that “The Fall” is an active verb, or a continuing process infecting us all.
“We have no king but Caesar” is the cry of those who put their faith in human solutions. But we need a solution beyond slogans and formulas. We need, and will always need, God’s intervention.
The only “good news” worthy of the name is from the work of a living God, and we can never afford to forget that.
Repentance is not a philosophical abstraction. For followers of Christ, acknowledging our inclination to sin and deception should frame our lives and keep our eyes where they belong — on the true and the eternal.
Our salvation is never in fire or gold, power, or weapons. And it can never be found in the programs of a political system or in the words of a charismatic leader.
Every tree bears its fruit, some good, some toxic. I hope more and more people can recognize the toxic fruit we have been given. The good fruit, the enduring Good News, still waits for us.
More people are making the distinction. The deceptively sweet and intoxicating swill of empty promises and vain threats have worn off.
Truth never comes easily, love is never a default setting, and the necessity of the gospel is never finished. Our faith is never static, and it grows as our eyes and hearts grow wider.
I have to thank Mr. Trump for breaking the spell.