It’s election year in United States, and the other day I was having a conversation with my spiritual mentor about the current state of politics in our country. Quite frankly, it’s difficult for me to listen to any of the candidates talk because nobody seems to be interested in talking about any policies or worldviews that are not short cited, or too simplistic and nationalistic solutions to complex into related problems. I don’t feel like anyone speaks for me or to me., And that’s just the reality. Parentheses on a more positive note, I was listening to a the Ted Radio Hour recently that advocated looking at the municipal level-mayors, council people, etc.-to see a place where politics is still working in United States. If you’re interested check it out Ted Radio Hour).
Donald Trump is a decidedly disturbing presidential candidate to me. To be quite honest, with his nationalistic and practically fascist statements he reminds me of the rise of Hitler. However, I was thinking recently about his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and it struck me how odd the slogan is. It’s easy to say “let’s make America great again”, but it’s also just as easy to ask, when was America great? Were we great in the 1950s and 60s when we were oppressing people of color in our country? Were we great in the 1980s, when we were struggling to keep up with the environmental damage done by unregulated factories? I’m not saying our country isn’t great. I love the United States, and still cry profusely whenever I sing the national anthem. I am blessed and grateful to have grown up here. But life isn’t about making America great. Life is about simply being the best citizens we can be and trying to make this world a better place. But there’s something at stake that’s even more significant, and that is the question of where we put our ultimate trust. America doesn’t need to be great for me to have a great life. My trust is placed somewhere else. This is not a new thing.
In Paul’s firsts letter to the church at Thessaloniki, he makes a decided dig against the nationalistic leanings of the Roman empire. He makes a remark about people claiming peace and safety when there is none and then a change will come instantly. Though it’s easy to assume that this is somehow about the end of times, it’s enlightening to realize that peace and security was actually a political slogan of the Roman empire, and what Paul is actually doing here is confronting people with the question of where they put their faith. If you decide to put your faith in the Roman empire (or the United States) you will be decidedly shocked and disappointed when that empire is incapable of really protecting you. The only Kingdom where we have actual security is the Kingdom of God. Granted, that security isn’t always tangible or evident, but ultimately God is calling us to a deeper security, based in eternity. Regardless, it’s a great reminder that neither our trust nor our security comes from any earthly “greatness”. America can be great (if it decides to take care of the least of these and the outcasts) or it can be not great. Either way, I am called to live my life wisely, to do my best to provide for my family, but most of all to place my trust in a King and Lord whose name is not Cesar nor Trump nor Mr. President.