That of God in Donald Trump
January 2, 2017 § 9 Comments
In every aspect of his being but one, Donald Trump assaults the sensibilities of liberal Quakers. His decadent moral character, his coarse, bullying personality, his utterly self-absorbed psychology, his willful and dangerous ignorance and lack of identifiable personal or political philosophy, his divisive and demeaning political tactics, his racism, xenophobia, and misogyny—all these things would make it really hard for a meeting to welcome him into membership.
But some Friend would inevitably pipe up and say, but there is that of God in Donald Trump.
Is there? The one thing left of Donald Trump’s humanity is his divinity?
How would we know if this is true? On what basis would we make this claim? Well, there is that of God in everyone, we would say; even him. This is the central article of liberal Quaker faith.
Okay. I do not know this experientially myself. To say that there is that of God in everyone looks to me more like a nice but very speculative metaphysical notion about human nature. But let’s say it’s true. Certainly, I do agree that anyone can commune directly with the Divine, whatever the metaphysics involved. (Though just because they can commune directly with the Divine doesn’t mean that they do.)
So there’s that of God in Donald Trump, whatever that means. What then? How do we answer that of God in Donald Trump?
The famous passage that Friends quote from George Fox’s Journal to say that there is that of God in everyone is a pastoral letter admonishing ministers to do their own inner work so that they may minister to others in theirs:
Bring all into the worship of God. Plough up the fallow ground. Thresh and get out the corn; that the seed, the wheat, may be gathered into the barn: that to the beginning all people may come; to Christ, who was before the world was made. For the chaff is come upon the wheat by transgression. He that treads it out is out of transgression, fathoms transgression, puts a difference between the precious and the vile, can pick out the wheat from the tares, and gather into the garner; so brings to the lively hope the immortal soul, into God out of which it came. None worship God but who come to the principle of God, which they have transgressed. None are ploughed up but he who comes to the principle of God in him, that he hath transgressed. Then he doth service to God; then is the planting, watering, and increase from God. So the ministers of the spirit must minister to the spirit that is in prison, which hath been in captivity in every one; that with the spirit of Christ people may be led out of captivity up to God, the Father of spirits, to serve him, and have unity with him, with the scriptures, and one with another. This is the word of the Lord God to you all, a charge to you all in the presence of the living God; be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your life and conduct may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one; whereby in them ye may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you: then to the Lord God you shall be a sweet savour, and a blessing.
The minister who has done the “threshing” inwardly themselves “can pick out the wheat from the tares, and gather into the garner. . . . Then you will come to walk cheerfully” (in a way that brings blessing, not in a lighthearted mood) over a “world” that could not comprehend the light that was coming into the world in Christ (John 1:5, 9, 10)”. Do your own inner work, then you can answer that of God in others.
So. Assuming that Donald Trump has that “principle of God in him” (Fox), we must thresh out that chaff in our own hearts and souls before we can answer whatever that principle is in him. This means prophetic speech that has no hate in it or even disrespect, but only the power, the Spirit, of Love and Truth.
Hard to do. I find this very hard to do. I have come to think of Donald Trump as Jabba the Hutt, a toadish head of a criminal organization who yearns to lick the captive, scantily-clad princess with his oversized tongue. So I have some inner work to do.
But unlike Princess Leia, our princess must strangle him with the Word, not with a rope—not with counter-violence. We must embrace the third way, and choke Trump’s hatred with our love, not with counter-hatred. We must choke his lies with the Truth. We must protect the least of us from his assaults with ideas that lift everyone up, not just the rich. We must deny the worship of Mammon, for whom Trump is prophet, with Jesus’ proclamation of good news for the poor (Luke 4:18). And we must try for some measure of faith that the Truth will, in fact, prevail.
Then we can walk cheerfully over the world. But I don’t expect to be very cheerful while while waging this new Lamb’s War, or even afterwards. It will be a grim four years.