By JIM SMITH
At a recent open house, I had an interesting exchange with a professed Christian woman and Trump supporter. I asked her if she was concerned about the anti-democratic and fascist actions and statements coming from the Trump wing of the Republican Party.
She replied that she was not concerned because “God is in control. It will all turn out fine.”
Really? Is Jesus’ hand on the wheel, and he’ll keep us from crashing and dying? (Oops, I forgot — our afterlife with Jesus will be better, so why worry about dying?)
But let’s say we don’t want us, our country, or democracy to die. Can we really count on being saved by divine intervention? I don’t think so, and my answer is, like hers, rooted in my Christian and spiritual training. It has to do with “free will.”
I was taught that God may forgive us for our sins, but he gave us free will to commit them. Jesus certainly didn’t have his hand on the wheel when Hitler implemented the “final solution” of exterminating all Jews.
I believe, for example, that God charged us with stewardship of the our planet, but we are free to destroy it. And therefore I believe that those fighting to address pollution and climate change are the ones doing “God’s work,” as he commanded us to do.
When asked by the wife of Philadelphia’s mayor at the time of the constitutional convention whether we have a republic or a monarchy, Benjamin Franklin famously replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” The mayor’s wife, Elizabeth Powel, shot back, “And why not keep it?” to which Franklin replied, “Because the people, on tasting the dish, are always disposed to eat more of it than does them good.”
Social media have supercharged that “over-eating” because it allows and encourages our God-given free will to spread lies that destroy trust in government, blur or purposely distort facts, and, when combined with the current misinterpretation of the 2nd Amendment, embolden the kind of armed insurrection we saw on January 6th and likely will see again.
Karl Marx famously called religion “the opium of the people,” and there is no better manifestation of that dictum than the Christian right and “Christian nationalism.” As with opium, they can’t be talked out of their addiction.
To quote the headline of my May 28, 2020, “Talking Turkey” column, “Forgiveness is an important trait, and Trump supporters get to practice it a lot.” They have forgiven Trump, I wrote, for failing to criticize the Charlottesville demonstrators who chanted “Jews will not replace us.” They forgave him for the Access Hollywood tape and having his fixer pay off a porn star with whom he committed adultery. And that was just the beginning of his trespasses for which he never attended church to confess his sins — only losers would do that! — and seek God’s forgiveness.
But it does no good to criticize the man. We need to focus on those who propagate his insanity, like Steve Bannon, or who, as elected officials, refuse to disavow Trump’s Big Lie because they fear retribution if they acknowledge the facts as they know them.
We have countless Republican candidates running for election and re-election who are committed to the Big Lie, and committed to lying about the next election if they lose. I recall that shortly after the 2020 election, when Donald Trump began asserting the election was stolen, one astute TV commentator said that what he feared most was that Trump would run again in four years, lose again, and say again that the election was stolen.
We have always trusted our electoral system — until one president with a cult-like following said it could not be trusted. Enough people believed his lie that a statistically significant percentage of the population no longer trusts our electoral system. And those people are armed to the teeth with assault weapons! We “trusters” haven’t seen the need for assault weapons, so we are at their mercy if they assert the next election was stolen and choose to stage a coup.
God may save the King, but only we can save ourselves. When the “other side” controls the courts (they already control the Supreme Court) and get elected to the positions responsible for certifying elections, we are all screwed. They’ll call it God’s will. Yes, because it will be man exercising the free will with which God endowed them.
Click here to read comments on this column from my own minister and from a retired Lutheran pastor who read this column prior to publication. Your comments are welcome too!