Donald Trump is at Walter Reed hospital with the coronavirus. It was the October surprise that really shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. I guess I just assumed that the secret service would protect him from the virus, just like they would protect him from other threats. The thought that something so small and so preventable could have brought our nation to this place makes me feel despondent. As I’ve prayed for him and for the country, I have felt so much grief.
I think living in a state of quasi-outrage has allowed me to keep the grief at bay. It’s harder to be angry at a man hospitalized with a potentially deadly illness. Without the protection of adrenaline fueled anger, I am forced to look around me at the devastation. There is so much hate and so much division and so much sickness and death. My heart breaks. I can’t keep the waves of disappointment and despair from flooding over me.
But the Master can and will rescue me. I will rise out of my depression to fight another day. I pray for civility. I pray for compassion. I pray for decency unfeigned. I pray for hearts turned to the common welfare and away from temporary pleasures. I pray for engaged citizens who study the issues and listen to dissenting voices; who seek to persuade rather than force their fellow citizens. I pray for leaders who humble themselves and obey the oaths they have sworn before God.
But the people are full of contention and pride. They will not repent even when the sword of God’s justice hangs over them. Masses of Trump’s supporters have gathered in places like Staten Island to show their loyalty. Most of them are partially masked or unmasked. Instead of learning from their leader’s folly, they cast the blame onto his enemies and then wage war against safety and reason.
The political left seems increasingly hostile to religious people and religion in general. They still seem unaware of their own role in the creation of Trump. That role was less obvious than the Republicans’ role, but the rise of populist demagogues is fueled by disaffected people. The left has done little to show that it is willing to see and hear these disaffected people once Trump is gone. I pray that Joe Biden, assuming he wins this election, will have the character and skill to build sufficient trust with the right to heal our divisions. The temptation to get revenge or to abuse power the way Trump has will be great on the left, especially if they win next month in a way that gives them large amounts of power. The polls are indicating that there is going to be an enormous political shift, not just on the federal level, but also on the state and local level. Trump’s illness is likely to greatly impact his ability to campaign in the weeks before the election, making a Biden victory nearly certain. Of course, he could also end up recovering miraculously, fueling a resurrection/miracle narrative that will propel him to another term.
My mind keeps returning to The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. We elected Jack, cruel and dictatorial, drawing people in with his promises of power and then enslaving them. We have neglected the fire of liberty and the Master who gave it to us to guard. We were supposed to guard the fire. Now we are watching the death of Piggy, our rationality and intellect. Ralph, symbolizing the last vestiges of civilization and democracy, is alone and exposed.
But there will be no rescue from the British Navy. If we are to be saved, we will have to save ourselves. We need to humble ourselves and turn to our values again. Instead of holding the flag and the bible as props in a self inflicted culture war, we must put down our weapons and do some introspection. What has brought us to this place? How can we fix broken things for our children and our grandchildren? They deserve better.
Those of us who love the constitution and seek to preserve it need to come together. We need to build bridges of trust between the factions of our political body if we are to be saved. That requires us all to humble ourselves. Even those of us who are the disciples of Christ need to realize that all of God’s children of all faiths are valuable to him, and that we have much to learn from every culture on the planet. Cultural and religious myopia blinds us to what God would have us learn and the bonds he would have us create.
It has been seven months since my son’s preschool closed. He starts this week. Hopefully I will be able to write more frequently than I have lately now that he will be in school again. I hope all of you are healthy and safe. If not, I pray you will return to full health soon. May the comforting power of Christ rest upon all of us at this chaotic moment!