Donald Trump and the Blessing of Deconstruction

I remember the story of a church building that was slowly sinking. The church's members noticed this historic 100 plus-year-old building seemed to be slowly descending into the ground as one corner of its foundation sunk. They called the experts in to assess and were shocked to find out that their beloved building was built on top of an underground river that had slowly been taking more of the ground above it. They were literally on ground that wasn't able to support the structure.

The members began to discuss what the next step was. "Can we shore up the sinking foundation with more block?" "Could we put something underneath the current foundation to prop it up and support it?" Their final grasp at saving this construct that had meant so much to them came through an emotional plea with the building expert to move the building from that location to another. He sadly informed them that the damage from this crumbling foundation had its effects on all of the building. It wasn't salvageable. As painful as it was, they had to tear down the building and find better ground to build on. This ground wasn't meant to hold them. 

Here is the thing, whether they initially knew it or not, that corner of the foundation that slowly descended into the Earth was actually a blessing. Because of that foundational flaw, they found that there was an even bigger problem. In fact, the geological experts enlisted by the foreman revealed that if they had not moved, it was almost certain that at some time that building would have been swallowed up by a giant sink hole.

As Christians in America I feel we are in a similar situation. The current presidential election cycle has so many of us distraught and anxious. We see candidates like Donald Trump that seem to be gaining popularity and power and it worries us that our foundation is sinking. We can politicize away, as we often do,  the differences we see in the ethics of these candidates and the ethic of Jesus. However we can't plant a bush big enough to hide it...the foundation is sinking.

So many of us are recognizing now thatsomething is seriously wrong. We see the broken system, and we recognize that these elections have a real effect in our country and in our world, so we struggle to prop up the foundation; we can't let it sink any longer. We put more effort into the political process, trying to convince our friends and family that the future is at stake, that this election holds the keys to success or opens the door to societal decay. If we can get the right person in place, if we can elect the right people, we can save the building, we can stop the sinking.

What if the sinking corner of the foundation is actually a blessing? What if Donald Trump is exactly what we need to see clearly what we couldn't see before? What if his candidacy is helping us to see that we have put our building on ground that was never meant to hold it?

The church has had a complicated relationship with worldly powers since its inception. The first few centuries it was mostly a movement on the fringes, reaching the poorest of the poor, the disenfranchised and the least of the least, but it grew tremendously. Eventually, it grew to the point of catching the eye of the political powers of the time. Out of fear and political posturing the powers that be began to persecute and push down this growing movement, even to the point of putting to death many that called themselves Jesus followers. Yet even in the face of persecution and death, they understood that to follow Jesus was more about serving than ruling, more about humility than power and that true power, the power that truly changes things, came through love.

It wasn't until Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and announced the Edict of Milan, providing freedom for Christians to worship without the threat of persecution, that Christians began to put stock in having the governmental powers on their side. This began a temptation among our brethren to place emphasis on the protection of our rights, and supporting government officials and political philosophy that kept those rights. Prominent theologians like St. Augustine with his "Two Cities" teaching and Martin Luther with his "Two Kingdom" theology furthered these thoughts into an accepted way of thinking. It had become normal to believe that God's priority for us as Christians was to have political protection and influence, even seeing government and its resources as central to furthering his purposes.  

And so, for hundreds of years now we have fought hard to protect our political freedoms, to advance or political philosophies, and to guard our rights as citizens of earthly kingdoms, forgetting the words Jesus spoke to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36) 

The blessing of Donald Trump in his willingness to say out loud what many politicians haven't been willing to, exposing an ethic that stands in clear contrast to the savior we follow. The sinking foundation is exposed. The problem is we have bought so heavily into our participation in the governments of this world, we are often willing to overlook the obvious sinking blocks. We can't ignore Donald Trump, and there is the blessing. We are immediately faced with the recognition that the sinking foundation is just a symptom, of a deeper problem. We have built our house on sinking ground.

Our challenge is not to shore up the sinking foundation, rather our call is to deconstruct and rebuild on solid ground. We need to detox from the addictive effects of worldly power and remember again who it is we follow. We follow the Jesus of Nazareth that didn't come to change the systems of the world through their means, but by overthrowing them with love, service, and humility. Donald Trump is a blessing...a blessing that reveals we have been putting our faith in the wrong things and reminds us of who our faith should be in.

 

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Benjamin Thomas

Husband and father of 4. Founding and Lead Pastor of Nehemiah Project Church in Avon Indiana. Academic Chaplain at Indiana Wesleyan University. Adjunct Professor of Spiritual Formation at Wesley Biblical Seminary.