As the sun slowly rises on a country where president-elect Donald Trump now waits to receive his crown, I am thinking about the nation of Israel in the Bible. For many years the Israelites were ruled by God and directed by His prophets. A man named Samuel was God’s main voice to the nation for many years. But, as he aged he put his sons in charge and, “(t)hey turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice” (1 Sam. 8:3). In reaction to this apparent injustice, the nation of Israel asked for a king like the other nations had (1 Sam. 8:5).
As the idea that Trump could win slowly washed over newscasters last night, it was fascinating to watch their reaction. More than one commented how every county Trump won was a vote against the established government (and media). Their vote represented anger about the present political system and fear for the future. Just like the Israelites, Trump supporters made a strong statement that they are not ok with how the government is being run. Unlike Israel, America didn’t ask God for a king directly- but both were looking for a strong hand to lead them and to get their country “back on track.”
God was sad Israel had asked for a king, but I love that He listened to them, and was even willing to give them what they wanted. But, first he asked Samuel to warn them about the consequences of their choice. He warned them that this king would lead them to war, make them his servants, and force them to pay taxes (1 Sam. 8:11-17). But, the people refused to listen and wanted a king!
Donald Trump is often described as virulent, vindictive, thin-skinned, reactive, and often emotionally immature human being. The country knows he could easily get in a tweet-war with leaders from other countries and have his feelings hurt. America understands that Trump could hurt the soul of democracy in this country. But, we’re responding in anger to feelings of unfairness and fear and want a strong leader, regardless of any baggage or backlash.
The Lord chose a man named Saul to be their king. Now Saul was extremely good-looking and a head taller than everyone in Israel (1 Sam. 9:2). Although the Bible doesn’t say why Saul was chosen, I believe he was a representation of what the Israelites thought they wanted. He was a personification of their idealized king and so God gave them exactly what they wanted.
I believe it’s the same for Donald Trump. If America is scared and angry and sick of politics as usual, and hopes someone will blow up the system, then Trump is that man. He is the incarnation and in some ways an extreme caricature of all our fears. He is the president America thinks it wants. We want to be strong and powerful. We’re tired of being pushed around and marginalized. We want to make a statement externally to the world, and internally to the political landscape that we will not be weak anymore. Like the Israelites, voting Americans were looking for a powerful king and didn’t care about the potential consequences. America, like the Israelites is getting what we wanted.
But, I think something even deeper was revealed about America in the choosing of Donald Trump as president. Donald Trump is a reflection of present-day America. In this way, I feel like he’s a prophetic icon, holding up a mirror to our country saying, “This is who you are.” It’s like a person who’s been working out for a while and feels pretty good about themselves—that is until they get on the scale. And then a number is reflected back to them, revealing the truth that they are far worse off than they thought. Donald Trump is our scale.
As a country we assume we are growing in unity and human decency. We believe we’ve come so far in the fight against explicit and systematic racism, for women’s rights, and for the respect and equal treatment of those with a disability. But, then we walked in the voting booth on Nov. 8th, 2016 and like a bathroom scale it was revealed that there is still so much work to be done. A mirror has been held up to us and we do not like what we see. We are not the person we thought we were. We are faced with the uncomfortable truth that, as a country, we are Donald Trump. I have to come to grips with the uncomfortable fact that I am Donald Trump.
This truth applies to those who voted and for him and those who did not. Maybe we have assumed our moral fortitude or even superiority amongst the nations. We’ve been proud of our unity and strength and decency. But, as the scales have fallen from our eyes we realize it was all merely a façade, our moral superiority was a castle of sand, blown away by a sudden wind.
As Donald Trump is the chosen representative of our country we must come to grips with certain uncomfortable truths about ourselves. I’ll share these in the first person, because honestly assessing ourselves is the only place healing and growth can begin. There is a good chance I am not as tolerant of people’s differences as I thought I was. Maybe I’m not as kind or humble; maybe I have an anger deep inside me, a feeling that life is somehow unfair that I want to express in some way. Maybe I’m more entitled or spoiled than I ever realized. Overall, maybe I’m not as good of a person as I thought.
Of course, there’s this part of me that wants to distance myself from Donald Trump and say, “No, I’m different—that’s not me—he doesn’t represent me—he represents those people.” But, that’s not true. This election has only revealed that we are more divided and each of us have more prejudice than we realized. I don’t like this fact and want to continue wearing my everything is ok and getting better with time sunglasses. But, as a prophetic icon Donald Trump is forcing us to take a look at ourselves as a country and see that everything is not ok. But, more than that, we are not ok. We have some work to do, both in our hearts and in our country.
Donald Trump is like King Saul. Like the Israelites, we begged for a leader like him and I believe God has allowed it. But, we should all pay attention to him as a prophetic icon to our country. He will stand tall for all to see, a living reflection of our proud but secretly perverse and prejudice American hearts. Whether you or I voted for him or not, it is important to remember that God is our true hope and the best place for any change to happen is within our hearts. We each need to face whatever feelings he brings out in us, whether anger, superiority, self-righteousness, prejudice, or fear.
In the same way Paul found the law good in that it revealed the insidious sin deep within, Donald Trump brings to surface each of our deepest longings and fears. These we must acknowledge and accept as part of us, and then honestly bring them to God who “knows how we are made” (Ps. 103:14). As Jesus did not come for the healthy, but for the sick, I think this election only reveals how much America could use a doctor for our souls right now (Mark 2:17).