The electors have cast their ballots. The long-shot “anyone but Trump” campaign has met its end. Barring catastrophe, Donald J. Trump will be the 45th president of the United States of America. As he steps into that role, he will have at his fingertips the largest and most powerful military arsenal in the history of the world. He will have at his disposal an intelligence network that can penetrate ever more deeply into the private lives of individuals domestically and abroad. He will have decades of relationships with the wealthy and powerful the world over, relationships that are unlikely to substantially change simply because Mr. Trump is moving his primary office to Pennsylvania Avenue. With Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, the power to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, and two-thirds of state governorships in Republican hands, Mr. Trump will likely face the weakest opposition in modern history. Between the political dynamics currently in force and the power of the executive branch at a peak due to policies pioneered by President Bush in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and expanded by President Obama, Mr. Trump may well be the most powerful president in history, a fact likely to be exhilarating or disturbing depending on your perspective.
But Mr. Trump can bring neither salvation nor judgment to the earth.
Oh, he can kill. He can destroy. He can oppress. He can divide. I don’t want to minimize the very real suffering that many will face if Mr. Trump governs – or reigns, to use his word – as he campaigned, with pettiness, brutishness and the ever-present threat of violence. Open corruption, political persecution and racist aggression are very real possibilities, and indeed are already taking place.
But as the time the world calls Christmas nears, I want to encourage you to look past Mr. Trump’s displays of power to the Power on which all of creation relies. Look beyond Mr. Trump’s pussy-grabbing ways to the Savior born of a woman to restore all of creation. Look beyond Mr. Trump’s mockery of the disabled to the Healer who came to make all whole. Look beyond Mr. Trump’s scorn for the “losers” of the world to the Victor who triumphed over death itself and only shares that triumph with those who are willing to become like little children – teachable, innocent, dependent.
The potential for violence, for chaos, for the crumbling of American hegemony and the bitter end of our great experiment is very real – but God is still more real. The powers of earthly government can kill the body, but there is One who has the power of salvation or destruction over body and soul. So rather than simply lamenting the risks to life and freedom that so many around the country and the world face, let us join with Mary in singing praise to God for his grace in sending us a life-giving liberator – and then let us wait on the Holy Spirit to teach us how to live into that holy life and sacred liberty year-round.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.