President Donald John Trump: Now What?

By now, we’ve all heard the surprising results of the election: Republican Donald John Trump will be the forty-fifth United States President. With all of the dissatisfaction and controversy, who would have thought that he would win the presidency? Yet, call it what you will—rural v. urban, nationalist v. populist, or whatever—here we are.

Sizing Up the Situation

In the history of our republic, we’ve only had five other presidents with no previous electoral experience: Zachary Taylor (1849-50), Ulysses S. Grant (1869-77), William Howard Taft (1909-13), Herbert Hoover (1929-33), and Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-61).[1]

In all likelihood, this election means that cultural, civic conservatism is lessening, and populism increasing, in the Republican Party. Already, comparisons to Brexit and similar international developments are being made. For good or ill, President Trump likely represents a new type of Republican Party emerging. Precisely how he’ll govern, or where he’ll fall on issues, is an outstanding question. Time will tell.

In the coming years, we’re going to see increased attention on the role of the federal government. Likely President Trump will deregulate education, economic policies, industry, and so forth. Likely he’ll defend economic policies that encourage more capitalistic, free market systems rather than socialistic, governmental interference.

We’re going to see more discussion on moral and social issues, such as abortion and LGBT rights, from both sides of the aisle. The ever-important topic of religious liberty will continue to be a hot topic.

With Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat vacant in the Supreme Court, President Trump is likely to fill his seat. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age eighty-three), Anthony Kennedy (age eighty), or even Stephen Breyer (age seventy-eight), though advanced in years, could conceivably be replaced, though it’s probable that they’ll try to hang on in the hopes that a Democrat is elected in four years. Often the most enduring legacy that a president leaves is the justices he or she appoints to the Court, since justices hold a lifetime tenure assuming good behavior.[2]

To gain a broader understanding of the sorts of policies that he says he support, his official positions may be found here, and his party’s official positions may be found here. In addition, the Republicans have a majority in the House and Senate. This represents a unique reality in recent political history. Now what?

Responding with Faithfulness

Some Christians voted for Trump, some for Clinton, some for a third party, and some not at all. Likely people’s emotions and thoughts are all over the place. Certainly our hope is in the steadfast belief that God is sovereign. With respect to our place in the public square, though, we mustn’t forget our callings as American citizens.

(1) Pray and Obey: Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Titus 3:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-17

First, the Bible commands us to pray for our civic leaders. If Paul and Peter can call on the Christians of their day to pray for leaders of the Roman state, then we really have no excuse not to. Their leaders didn’t simply make Christians’ lives difficult; they literally persecuted and killed them.

Whether we like our leaders or agree with them—even if we disagree with them bitterly—we should pray for them, genuinely and consistently. This means that we should pray for President Trump. It means we should pray for those in the Congress, as well as those in the judiciary.

By extension, we shouldn’t speak of our leaders with derision and mockery and apparent hate. It is not a good witness. And it does more than tear them down; it can have the effect of tearing down their office.

Second, the Bible also commands us to obey the government, unless it requires something of us that would result in disobedience toward God. The reason we don’t want to diminish certain ruling offices is because God has established governing authorities in the first place, notwithstanding what the people who occupy those offices do with that authority (Rom. 13:1).

God has given us public ministers or servants specifically to encourage good behavior and to discourage bad behavior (Rom. 13:3-4). So long as a government is carrying out this God-ordained function, we should, with a godly attitude, obey our governments—national, state, and local. This kind of obedience is a public witness to an unbelieving society. “For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Pt. 2:15).

However, our obedience can only extend so far. Above and beyond our obedience to fallen earthly rulers is our loyalty to our holy heavenly God. Like the Hebrew midwives disobeying the orders of the Egyptian pharaoh to kill all of the Hebrew baby boys, or Daniel disobeying Darius the Mede’s injunction not to pray to any other god, or Peter and the apostles disobeying the Jewish Council’s edict not to teach in Jesus’ name, we can’t obey earthly governments when they conflict with God’s clear instruction to us. Should this ever occur, we should do so with a Christian spirit of conviction and prayer and not at the drop of a hat.

Although we pray against it, should our society ever pressure us to weaken our views on the ethical teachings of Scripture on issues of life, marriage, or religious liberty; should it ever threaten to remove tax-exemption from us if we don’t bow to the new morality; should it ever pressure us to privatize our faith against the express instructions of Scripture that our faith has public, cultural, and civic implications—should our society, whether through cultural norms or government incentives, ever pressure us to accept such scenarios, we must unequivocally decline to obey them.[3]

(2) Love God and Love People: Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:4-6

In addition, we should continue in steadfast obedience in our respective vocations. Our love for God has vast horizontal implications. But they need not overwhelm us. The world is changed one person at a time, as we interact with those in our families, churches, jobs, and communities.

Who are your neighbors in these spheres? Build relationships with those at your work. Get to know those neighbors in your apartment complex, on your block, in your subdivision, in your neck of the woods. Organize community events in which you share the love of Christ somehow. Share produce from your garden. There’re a thousand things you can do. But whatever you do, love them, and serve them. Practice sacrificial hospitality. As God has given of Himself sacrificially to us, so we should give of ourselves sacrificially to others.

(3) Remember That You’re an American Citizen

With respect to our civil vocations, whether elections go as we would hope or not, God’s call for us to steward our citizenship has not changed. Insofar as God has instructed us to go forth as lights into a dark world, and insofar as political involvement and processes open the door for light to shine forth, then we must rise to the occasion and prospect it offers. Some Christian authors have argued that other Christians have made an idol out of politics. While this argument may or may not be true in certain circumstances, it doesn’t thereby mean that politics is without legitimate purpose and value. God has used and still uses the civil realm to carry forth His will.

In various times with different people and in different political structures and governing orders, God has worked through His people, as well as unbelievers, to influence domestic, economic, international, and moral policies: Joseph and the Egyptian government; Daniel and the Babylonian and Persian governments; and Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah in the Persian government.

Just as He used these men and women, God can also use us to influence laws and policies. Perhaps this is through direct influences. But more than likely it’s by doing our best to elect leaders who will influence proper laws and policies. In comparison to the United States, the governments of Egypt, Babylon, and Persia didn’t provide nearly as much opportunity for its subjects to influence its inner workings. And yet God worked through people to impact those governments. How much more of an opportunity do we have! How far greater a shame when we squander it away.

In the United States, this means that we care both for national and local politics. Investing in local politics can be hard. Everything in our national experience points us toward national politics, especially with the presidential election in our rearview mirror, and the types of stories that major news stations tend to run. While training ourselves to think locally will require more discipline in some ways, it’s something we must do if we’re going to obey this vocational call fully.

To some extent, a given society’s laws and policies is a reflection of its majority, assuming that they participate in its governance. Thus if we want to change the laws and policies of our societies, one of the things we can do is, in God’s power, to change its people—again, one person at a time. This means reaching people for Christ, resulting in radical changes of their beliefs and behaviors. As people change, localities change. As localities change, states change. As states change, a nation can change. And as a nation changes, a world can change.[4]

Conclusion

Donald John Trump is the next President of the United States. How do we respond? We do what God expects of us. We pray for him, as well as our other national and state leaders. We obey our government as far as we Biblically can. We love God, and we love people in our various vocations. We don’t forget the small things. We remember our vocation as American citizens, which has broad implications for how we engage the public square, local and national. In all the spheres in which we find ourselves living life, may we let our light shine forth with integrity and compassion.

____________________

[1] Some might also place George Washington (1789-97) in this category

[2] U.S. Constitution, art. 3, §1. For example, John Adams, president from 1797-1801, was the last federalist president. And yet, in his Midnight Judges Act of 1801, he appointed Chief Justice John Marshall to the Supreme Court, who remained on it until 1835, the longest a single chief justice has ever stayed on the Court. Marshall, a federalist, carried on the federalist agenda, imbedding it into the fabric of American jurisprudence, far after the party occupied the presidency, or even existed.

[3] Some question whether the church should have ever received tax exemption in the first place. The answer is yes, because historically the policy instrument of tax exemption has been used to encourage good behavior and good practices in society. We, as individuals and as churches, would do well to reflect on when we can Biblically obey earthly governments and when we can’t.

[4] Kentucky State Treasurer, Allison Balls, says, “Christians need to understand the huge influence they can have if they actually vote, and if they actually get involved. When you start looking at the numbers, you see that it doesn’t take much to perpetuate change, especially on the local level” (Allison Ball, “Transformational Leadership, Books, and Politics: An Interview with Allison Ball,” Interview by Frank Thornsbury, Helwys Society Forum, October 17, 2016; http://www.helwyssocietyforum.com/?p=6671; accessed November 4, 2016; Internet). See also Phillip Morgan, “The Local Option: How Local Governments Are Our Best Hope,” Helwys Society Forum, October 24, 2016; http://www.helwyssocietyforum.com/?p=6680; accessed November 4, 2016; Internet.

Author: Matthew Steven Bracey

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2 Comments

  1. Trump scares me. He’s obviously led by a huge ego and will do and say anything to keep himself in the spotlight. It’s all about him.

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    • Thanks for the comment. I don’t care personally to bash or defend Trump, but whether his presidency will truly be all about him remains, I believe, yet to be determined. Whatever sort of leader President-elect Trump makes, though, and time will tell, we should pray for him, as well as resolve to remain diligent in our callings as Christians and as a church to be salt and light to a society that is often tasteless and dark.

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