Who would have thought it?
It’s the biggest surprise of the political season.
He has defied all logic and every law of gravity. Every rule in the book has been brazenly broken without consequence except for greater support.
Donald Trump has amazed and amused us for the past four months. For political observers, it has been a summer of fascinating fun. While the press has had a field day, gorging itself on Trump interviews, twitters and outlandish personal attacks, the rest of us have sat back and enjoyed the show.
Pundits have long predicted The Donald’s demise but the most recent polls have him riding higher than ever, actually leading office-holding rivals in their own home states.
The American people – including most evangelical Christians – are frustrated and angry with politics and politicians. They overwhelmingly believe this nation is headed in the wrong direction and they are convinced that Washington is not the answer – it’s the problem.
This has created the perfect storm that is Donald Trump.
The audacious billionaire, with all his braggadocio and exaggeration, comes across as a strong, forthright and independent leader who will bow to no one including, apparently, God. He infamously answered one questioner by saying that he’d seek God’s forgiveness – if he ever needed it.
Many Christians support Trump – polls show him more than holding his own with evangelicals.
While this unorthodox candidate made his unique case in his unique style, the Pope came to America. No leader could be as far apart from Trump in temperament and manner as Pope Francis. He met with the President at the White House, and then became the first religious leader in history to address Congress. He spoke about the need to be compassionate and inclusive and caring. He urged unity on immigration and climate change, arguing for a wise stewardship of the planet. He words were kind and careful. The Pope spoke softly and deliberately in broken English.
He took no sides, offered no policies and ruffled no feathers.
Pope Francis, wildly popular everywhere, was well-received of course. Though some in the Congress listening to the Pope’s speech may have felt a bit like Mrs. McCready after Sunday mass in Boston.
“T ‘was a fine sermon the Father delivered on marriage”, her friend remarked. “T ‘was indeed,” replied the mother of eight. “I only wish I knew as little about the subject as he does.”
The Pope has been criticized for not knowing enough about the topics upon which he “pontificates”. The Pope may speak for God “on matters of faith and morals,” editorialized The Wall Street Journal, but “his infallibility does not extend to economics or environmentalism.”
We look to leaders and institutions more than we should. We place more faith in the “strong man” than we ought to.
Christian voters love their country and are anguished by its moral waywardness. We seek wise and courageous leaders. We believe if we can just find them, if we can convince ourselves that they hold the key to national renewal; and if we can elect them we are sure they will do the right thing and all will be well.
We want to believe. We want to trust.
The candidates know this.
They know how anxious to believe we really are. What else could explain the worldly, thrice-married and arrogant Donald Trump brandishing his childhood Bible before an audience of Christian activists?
When I was a young idealist entering public service, my wise friend Jack reminded me, more than once, that I was placing too much faith in politics. He told me that only God could do what politics could never do: change the individual human heart. It took me a few years and a lot of bumps and bruises to fully realize how right Jack was.
As we embark upon yet another presidential election season – one in which we will choose a new president – we would do well to remember the limitations of politics and the failures and fallibility of mere mortals.
We need to disillusion ourselves about politics. That is, we need to set aside our illusion about what it promises and what it can deliver.
We need to be spiritually realistic.
We must set our expectations of politics – and even of revered global religious leaders -intentionally low.
The political machinations and energies of our government – even of our powerful military – cannot, in the end, be the resting place of our ultimate trust.
“Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory – for all its strength it cannot save you” (Psalm 33: 17, NLT).
Only God can do that. We must have very high expectations of our Sovereign Creator and the Ruler of all nations.
Our expectations of God must be sky high.
“Whom have I in heaven but you?” (Psalm 73:25, KJV).
When you listen and watch and consider the candidates and their promises:
“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help …Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146: 3-15, KJV).
Politics is important and even entertaining but it will never save us.
May God bless you and your family.
In God alone let us trust.