How did it come to this? There are so many reasons. But ultimately, it seems to me, many Americans just wanted to rebel: Against a political system they perceive as corrupt. Against a radical leftist ideology that has increasingly alienated people of “traditional” values and chastised (even penalized) them for holding such values in the first place. Against an administration that has downplayed threats to security (real or imagined) that many Americans believe face their nation. Against the elite, educated political class who lord it over the common masses.
Some of those concerns may have been justified. When you have nuns who have devoted their lives to helping the poor standing in court arguing that the government is infringing on their religious rights, something is wrong. When the government takes Lutherans to court, arguing that they—the government—should dictate to the church who counts as a “minister” and who does not, something is wrong.
But much of the rage has been fed by darker sources. White supremacy and a host of other “alt-right” positions have come out into the open during this election in a way not seen in generations. To be sure, not all—I pray not even many—Americans voted for Trump because they hold such radical beliefs. But those who hold such beliefs have nevertheless arisen to new prominence during his campaign, and that is cause for grave concern.
In the end, many Americans just wanted to smash the whole thing. And who better to break it up than Trump, a man I once described in an article for First Things as a madman? Make no mistake: he is that—a divisive, erratic, ball of rage. But he is now also President Elect of the United States. So what now?
Scripture tells us that God created governing authorities for the preservation of peace and the restraint of wrongdoers (Romans 13:1-7). That means God has a specific calling and purpose for rulers—the protection of the people. Should rulers abuse that power and help, not hinder, evil, they shall ultimately face God’s judgment for that sin. No ruler—and no citizen with the right to vote—should take that warning lightly.
In the meantime, St. Paul tells us, Christians are called to obey the governing authorities. These words were not written in some idealistic golden age of the Church either; Christians were under increasing pressure from the Roman Empire at the time. St. Paul himself would soon be arrested, imprisoned, and ultimately executed for his faith in Christ.
No, rulers are to be obeyed—but only insofar as they do not force us to participate in sin, whether actively or complicity. For, as Martin Luther says, “It is no one’s duty to do wrong; we must obey God, who desires the right, rather than men.” Those concerned about the recent election should hold these two truths in mind—the duty of respect for duly appointed authorities but always in light of the more important, binding duty to obey God.
Those concerned about the recent election should hold these two truths in mind—the duty of respect for duly appointed authorities but always in light of the more important, binding duty to obey God.
Let the Church turn to God in prayer at this time. Scripture commands us to offer prayers on behalf of “kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2). And if there is anything that the people of the United States need in this time, it is a return to peaceful and quiet life.
O God, be merciful to the people of the United States. Guide their president to speak and act in ways that foster peace and quell the bitter, antagonistic spirit that broods heavily over their land. Lead him to use his office as you intend all governing offices to be used: as an opportunity to be God’s servant for the good of the people (Romans 13:4). Appoint wise advisors to serve alongside him, and grant peaceful relations with the rest of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.