For three years now I have been fighting two battles, one physical and one spiritual. The physical battle is against two diseases at war against my body: multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable blood cell cancer which destroys the good blood cells in my body, and diabetes, a chronic condition that affects the way my body processes blood sugar (glucose). I continue to fight the battle being waged in my body. Chemotherapy will hold off the cancer cells for an unknown period of time. Insulin injected four times a day will help counteract the damage of spiraling blood sugar.
My spiritual battle has intensified as Donald Trump has forced his way onto the American political scene. That battle, also fought by my fellow spiritual formation sojourners, has been to try to see Donald Trump as one of us, a child of God who often goes astray and needs the prayers of God’s people to turn to and listen to his “better angels.” I often fought to see the damaged child in our president and to find compassion for the way he is coping with his inner struggles. This battle I have decided to stop fighting.
The Bible is very clear about the battle between the powers of Good and Evil. If we are at all self-aware we see that battle in ourselves every day. Henri Nouwen explains it clearly:
“When we look critically at the many thoughts and feelings that fill our minds and hearts, we may come to the horrifying discovery that we often choose death instead of life, curse instead of blessing. Jealousy, envy, anger, resentment, greed, lust, vindictiveness, revenge, hatred … they all float in that large reservoir of our inner life. Often we take them for granted and allow them to be there and do their destructive work” (Bread for the Journey).
Nouwen goes on to say that “it requires a great attentiveness to the death-forces within us and a great commitment to let the forces of life come to dominate our thoughts and feelings.”
I have come to believe that our president and his many accomplices have given in to the death-forces within them and are aligned with the Evil One. My battle is to no longer try to summon up the compassion to pray for Donald Trump to change, but instead to pray that I become attentive to the “death forces” within me. Then I can do battle with the death-forces without that seem to control our government and our politics. This action can be the chemotherapy and insulin for my spiritual battle.
I believe we all face this battle. How we fight depends, I suppose, on the level of influence we wield in our own worlds. Those who hold national office have a responsibility to speak out and legislate against government by lies and diversion and the politics of self-interest and revenge. Their responsibility is not to their own electability, but to the American people and the national values that have withstood the testing of nearly 250 years.
The rest of us have the responsibility of constantly searching for the truth – drilling down more than ever to find the facts in the fiery rhetoric. We have the responsibility to avoid being sucked into or fueled by Trump’s calculated nastiness or being motivated by his life-chilling (and sometime life-taking) policies. We must do battle against this self-centered presidency and its racist impulses and actions.
In short, we must see the political war of 2018 as a war between good and evil, not simply as a virulent partisan dust-up. Jon Meacham has described this growing conflagration as a battle for the “soul of America.” I believe God is calling me to be a soldier in that battle. Where do you stand?