We are suffering through the meanest, angriest, and most profane presidential campaign season in decades – maybe in the history of the United States. As the granddaughter of a state senator who also served as lieutenant governor, I was raised in the insanity of political campaigning. (See my earlier post on The Care and Feeding of a Political Junkie.) Watching nominating conventions and keeping up with delegate counts was as exciting to our family as the March Madness of the college basketball tournament is to basketball junkies.
This year Donald Trump has treated us to name calling, women-bashing, racist comments, ugly speech and ugly behavior, and, worst of all, lies and non-answers to questions. And yet a large segment of the American people is gobbling this up as if it were gospel. Trump is defended because he “speaks the truth” and “tells it like it is.” Supposedly American voters wish they could voice their anger like he does. When did we become defenders of the lowest instincts of human nature? When did truth-telling involve avoiding facts and depend on vainglorious statements and evasive, non responsive answers. Is this what America wants in a president? Really?
During the recent Holy Week remembrances, I was thinking about the contrast of the leadership style of Jesus and of Donald Trump. Here is how Kayla McClurg recently described Christ’s Palm Sunday “parade.”
“When the grand entrance comes, everyone has a part to play. Humble Jesus, legs dangling, sitting atop a colt—what a sight! Colorful cloaks spread hodgepodge across the road, the peasant version of red carpet splendor. Laughing, crying out, the crowd erupts, their eyes and hearts suddenly opened. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! (in Season and Scripture: Luke, Palm Sunday C, posted on the Inward Outward website)
Can you imagine how Donald Trump would have handled this occasion and the other events of Holy Week? Ride an animal in a parade? Allow Judas to betray him? Stand silent before his accusers? Accept an unfair court decision? Take part willingly in his own execution?
In his three years of ministry, Jesus had contact with the highest religious leadership of the Jewish people and the highest representatives of the ruling Roman government. He was endlessly polite and endlessly honest and endlessly humble. His vision of leadership was the same vision he left for us: the first will be last and the last will be first. A brief comparison of the leadership styles of Jesus and Mr. Trump is instructive, especially for Christians:
- Jesus brings calm to the chaos; Trump creates (with great delight) the chaos.
- Jesus is inclusive; he invites everyone into his kingdom. Trump is exclusive, shutting out any “other” that doesn’t meet his standards.
- Jesus elevates the status of women. Trump objectifies women as sexual objects.
- Jesus is encouraging and speaks words of hope. Trump is disparaging and speaks the language of insults and denigration.
- Jesus treats everyone with love and kindness to all individuals – even those who didn’t agree with him. Trump is mean, insulting, and rude to everyone – and vindictive to those who disagree with him.
- Jesus speaks about forgiveness and reconciliation. Trump speaks about revenge and threatens legal action when he doesn’t get his way.
- Jesus is the Truth and speaks the Truth. Trump keeps the fact-checkers busy 24 hours a day. He is evasive and inconsistent and his word cannot be trusted.
- Jesus is authentic; his inner “self” matches his actions and words; Trump is a game player.
- Jesus came to bring light and hope to his fellow countrymen – and to all mankind. Trump promotes cynicism, dissatisfaction, and despair all under the guise of making America great again.
- Jesus was generous and eager to share everything he knew and had. Trump is greedy and always out for his own advantage.
The spiritual tradition I follow taught me that Christians belong in the mix of the world. C.S. Lewis taught me that I live in “enemy-occupied territory” and that it is up to Christians like me to battle the enemy’s influence. Chuck Colson taught me that fame (even gotten illegally) can be turned to glorious work for the kingdom and that cynicism can be transformed to authentic spirituality – even in politics. Dallas Willard taught me that we live in an available and coming kingdom. You and I are to follow our Master into every arena available in the kingdom on earth – even into the realm of dirty politics. We need to oppose the “leadership” of Donald Trump.
For more discussion of what Jesus teaches about leadership (as explained by Laurie Beth Jones in Jesus CEO) see the Chewing section in an earlier Going Deeper with God blog. (In case the link breaks, here is the address: www. livingasapprentices.com/2015/05/30/going-deeper-with-god-matthew-4-1-11/