Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Finding Trump in My Mirror

Last Sunday I preached at a small seasonal chapel, attended mostly by summer folk. I chose as my text the primary message of Jesus in the gospels: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” It was a basic three point sermon. I even threw in a little knowledge of Greek and Hebrew to reassure my listeners that I had done my homework.

After the service a man thanked me for my message. He remarked how he was tired of hearing preachers talk about politics and social issues, and it was good to hear a sermon about spiritual things. I am also tired of all the politics, violence and hate.

The endless scenes of violence on the evening news, as well as the self-righteous rants by politicians, trouble my soul. The recent mass shootings of innocent people by cowards with assault weapons horrify me. So does the cowardice of career politicians who won’t stand up to the NRA. The tweets of Trump repulse me. The suffering of Latin American refugees escaping oppression, only to be mistreated in our country, breaks my heart.

I am only experiencing these things secondhand through the media! Imagine the suffering of the victims and their loved ones – those who have been killed, wounded, caged and vilified. It must be too much for them to bear – especially the children involved.

When I am emotionally and spiritually wounded by the evil and suffering in the world, I go to Jesus, who knew a thing or two about evil and suffering. That is what the Cross is all about. I enter into prayer and meditation, going unarmed into the heart of Jesus. For me prayer is not an escape from reality. It is my attempt to go deeper into reality.

I go into prayer to experience the mind of God. That is something Scripture says we can do. It says that we have the mind of Christ; it instructs us to put on Christ. In Christian meditation I put my hand into the wounded side of Christ, like the apostle Thomas. I see things more clearly when I look through the compassionate eyes of Jesus.

In the spacious presence of God, I find wholeness. I view the universe more clearly. The problems of suffering, evil and injustice in the world are not solved. But they are put in perspective. Then I can address the pain and anger in my own soul.

I rediscover that what I hate the most in others – whether that is racism, xenophobia, arrogance, hardheartedness, ignorance, intolerance, bigotry, hypocrisy, the list goes on – can also be found in my own heart. I am not innocent. I am part of the problem.

I am what I hate. That is why I hate it so much. As anyone who has outgrown biblical literalism knows, the devil does not reside in hell but in the dark recesses of our own soul. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

When I look at myself, I see Trump in the mirror. (Boy, I need to find a better barber!) I hear in my words echoes of the rhetoric that I despise. The evils outside are also within. That is why they bother me so much. That is why I oppose them so much. My righteous crusade is partly an attempt to purify my own soul.

When we believe that we are righteous and our enemies are evil – that is when we are in the most spiritual danger. That is spiritual blindness. That is what true believers of both the Right and the Left think. Beware righteous indignation. When we are convinced we are right, we are capable of thinking, saying and doing all sorts of evil in the name of righteousness.

That is the danger of the Trump Personality Cult (formerly known as the Republican Party) as well as the Democratic Party. When Democrats self-righteously vilify Trump, they are doing the same thing that Trump does to his enemies. Both major parties are so filled with self-righteousness that they cannot see the evil in their own souls.

So I took a break from politics and social crises last Sunday to get back to the Center. In my sermon I focused on the Kingdom of God, and proclaimed, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” It was a message I needed to hear, which is why I preached it. As every preacher knows, every sermon (blog, tweet, Facebook post, etc.) is preached primarily to ourselves.

I will continue to oppose bigotry and violence just as vigorously, but I will do it with the awareness that my opponents are my neighbors. They are not demons but children of God, and I am called by Christ to love them as myself. For they are the same as I. That is why Jesus taught us to love our enemies. It is the process by which we are redeemed.


Betsy Leiper said...

Brought beautifully said..thank you

Janina said...

Well said. Thank you.