A little more than three weeks out from the presidential election, and the anti-Trump riots have subsided, at least for now. This might be the calm before the proverbial storm, if some predictions are correct. In any case, extreme negative responses on the left continue, as do exuberant responses on the right. Such strong reactions among Christians are especially dismaying—suggesting that there is an inordinate hope and trust in political power for human flourishing in this country. We need to heed Augustine’s important reminder that there is only one reasonable Kingdom hope, and that is in the Kingdom to come where Christ is king. Of course, this does not mean we should be apathetic or unengaged in civil matters and political work. But it does mean that we should not be distraught or desperate when those we vote or campaign for do not win elections.
In 2008 many felt a sense of doom when Obama was elected. They expressed the same sort of desperation and distress that some on the left have been experiencing lately (though I don’t recall any rioting as a consequence of this). Well, those eight years passed, and we’re all still here. Will we survive the next four years under a Trump administration? I think its safe to say that we will, that is unless the populous reacts in severe and destructive ways, which certainly seems possible if anti-Trump sentiments continue to grow.
Often in politics the response to a negative situation can be more dangerous than the negative situation itself—like an allergic reaction to a relatively minor health issue can prompt a serious, even fatal condition. As a nation, we need to avoid such a deadly “allergic” response to the Trump presidency. Many of these responses, by the way, seem to be aggravated by media exacerbation of Trump’s vices, which are numerous, for sure, but hardly out of step with those of past presidents—including the severe racism of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson and the womanizing of JFK and Bill Clinton. I didn’t vote for Trump and am disappointed that he is poised to be our next President (though I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton and think she would have been an even worse choice). But I do think we owe Trump a chance to govern and we should apply the principle of charity when it comes to interpreting many of his comments. Just as many conservatives gave Obama a fair chance and responded peacefully while critiquing his policy decisions along the way, liberals should likewise give the Trump administration a fair chance, and this includes responding peacefully even while offering well-reasoned and respectful critiques.