Mar 242019 4 Responses

Why You Should Celebrate Trump Not Being Indicted

After two years of investigation (and with many investigations still continuing), Robert Mueller submitted his findings of possible Russian collusion and obstruction of justice by the Trump Administration regarding the 2016 election. The report neither concluded the President committed a crime nor did it exonerate him of illegal activities. Mueller presented his findings and left Attorney General Bill Barr the decision of what to do with those findings. In his initial letter to Congress, Attorney General Barr concluded no indictments should be made.

The country is divided primarily into three groups: those on the left who greatly oppose Trump and his policies, those on the right who generally support Trump, and those on the right who might support some policies but greatly oppose the President himself (i.e. his womanizing, lying, mocking of veterans, etc). While Trump supporters might celebrate the AG’s conclusions, those who oppose Trump could be tempted to be disappointed. Here is why they shouldn’t be. (See: Character Trumps Party)

While many questions still remain, a basic truth seems evident–the worst case scenario didn’t happen. The President didn’t knowingly collude with a foreign enemy in order to win the election. Time will tell what did happen and many investigations still remain–some justified and some just the result of our political climate. But at least Trump isn’t as bad as he could have been.

This should cause all Americans to rejoice.

The C.S. Lewis Test

In his classic book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:

“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.”

This quote defines not just our political climate, but our personal interactions as well. We believe the worst about others. And when the worst isn’t proven, we feel disappointed and still assume that the story is true. Every story, whether true or not, simply makes us further dehumanize and hate those we disagree with. Rather than finding common ground and placing our differences within the context of a larger story of our shared humanity, we fixate on differences and allow every difference to be proof the other person is evil and not like us.

Consider, when was the last time you thought someone had done something, found out they didn’t, and responded with relief that at least they aren’t as bad as you thought they were? Instead, many of us just assume the person has likely done other things we don’t know about which are far worse than anything we have heard. Even news which exonerates a person, convicts them in our eyes. Lewis warns the end result of this process is complete evil.

Our Politics Are Making Us Lonely

When even the circumstances or conditions which should draw us together, push us further apart we are destined for isolation. The path we are currently on will end with us being alone. When we dehumanize and demonize those around us, we miss out on that which we need most–relationships with others.

Differences should not divide. We should expect them, desire them, and recognize the necessity of differing perspectives and opinions. Yet we should not allow opposing opinions about issues to erode our belief in the basic humanity of others. When we allow differences to cause us to think other people are evil (rather than just wrong), we dehumanize them. This empowers us to stop listening, stop loving, and stop relating to them. The result is division and ultimately isolation.

Start Local

Our politics should be primarily local. As we agree and disagree with our neighbors on issues, we learn to love others even when we have opposing opinions. How we differ is viewed as secondary to what we have in common. These close relationships should impact how we interpret national and global politics. My love for my neighbor with whom I disagree empowers me to humanize a national figure who might hold an opposing viewpoint from me. Yet, sadly, we are reversing the process. Instead of letting local relationships influence national perspectives, we often allow national perceptions to influence local feelings. So if my neighbor dares to hold a view similar to someone on a national level which I dislike, I begin to dislike my neighbor.

The church has the ability to show a different way. As Tim Keller has wisely pointed out, neither major political party in America has a monopoly on faith. Both parties have aspects which mimic Christianity and ideas which are contrary to faith. A healthy church will have people from every political spectrum as a part of their congregation. As we love one another and learn from each other, it should empower us to better deal with differences and appreciate opposing perspectives.

One of the great gifts of being a pastor is that I pastor people across the political spectrum. I love them and they love me. When I’m tempted to buy into a caricature about someone who holds an opposing view from me, I’m quickly reminded of someone I love who holds that view. That relationship prevents me from making sweeping generalizations, arrogant simplifications, or petty pronouncements. When an idea feels obviously wrong and even evil, I’m more prone to assume I simply don’t understand the position more than believing my friends have been deeply deceived. The local relationships positively influence my national perspectives. This approach leads to connection and community.

The Report

As I write, there is still much which is unknown about the Mueller report. Political disagreement is written into the fabric of American society so much debate can be guaranteed.

But at a minimum, the report should have two basic outcomes.

For those who support the President, the lack of exoneration should prove the investigation was necessary. At least those calling for the investigation weren’t just making things up. In this case, those opposing the President aren’t as bad as you thought they might be.

For those who have problems with the President, the lack of clear charges and indictments should be a relief. At least, in this case, the President isn’t as bad as some thought he might be.

photo credit: James Ledbetter

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