Friday, March 6, 2020

The Tao of Trump

These two words are not normally found together: Tao and Trump. You are much more likely to find the words Evangelical and Trump linked. But both the Donald and the Dao (the Pinyin spelling of Tao) have been on my mind for a while now.

The Tao has held an important place in my thinking since I first discovered the Chinese philosophical classic, the Tao Te Ching, back in college. At that time I took courses on both Chinese Philosophy and Chinese language, where we studied and had to translate portions of the Tao Te Ching.

The Tao Te Ching has continued to be a part of my spiritual life even after my conversion to Christianity and my commitment to Jesus Christ. I do not find the two contradictory but complementary. In recent years I have led a discussion group on the Tao Te Ching at our local Dragonfly Yoga Barn, I published my own Christian version of the Tao Te Ching entitled The Tao of Christ, and I started a podcast with the same name.

More recently I have begun listening to a new podcast entitled “A Christian Reads the Tao te Ching” by Corey Farr, who uses my translation among others. He has even invited me to do soundbites for his podcast. I highly recommend it. Finally the Methodist church in Moultonborough where I worship is holding a weekly study of the Tao Te Ching, using Diane Dreher’s book The Tao of Inner Peace as the text.

So the Tao and the Tao Te Ching have been on my mind a lot recently. Donald Trump has also been on my mind because of the Democratic primary and the looming presidential election in November. The question I face is how to bring these two seemingly contrary concerns into some type of harmony in my mind and heart.

I confess that my thoughts and feelings about the 45th president of the United States are not very Tao-like or Christian. I confess that I get angry. At such times I try to heed the admonition of scripture: “Be angry, but do not sin. And do not let the sun go down on your anger.” I do not always succeed. The same with Jesus’ commands to love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, and forgive 70 times 7 times. I went past number 490 long ago.

Here is where the Taoist concept of yin and yang helps. The world is full of good and evil, right and wrong, love and hate. The famous chapter of Ecclesiastes teaches the same thing from a Hebrew perspective: “For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Then comes its familiar list of opposites: “a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, ... a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

When I view Trump’s presidency in this context I can understand it as part of the natural balance of opposites in the universe and in human history. Then I can glimpse the higher unity and the deeper harmony that exists at all times. The oneness that is the essential nature of God and human beings shows its face to me.

Then the words of Christian mystic Julian of Norwich reassure me: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” This is the teaching of the Tao Te Ching and my Christian faith. This is the Sovereign God who “works all things together for good.” This is Tao that somehow includes Donald Trump in a higher purpose…. But I am still voting for the Democrat in November.