The recent Washington Capital riot and our national response has sent me to a quiet place to reflect and contemplate where we went wrong. Pursuit of power by any means became evident. “Too often, even in our own Catholic tradition, we have aligned our power with the power of the state, with the power of money, with the power of control, with the power of authority, or with the power of ambition, and as a result, we have distorted and even avoided the true meaning of spiritual power.”[i] We have become immune to the arrows of God.
This a.m. the movement of power and shift of power orientation exemplified by Christ came to light. John the Baptist, the voice crying in the wilderness preparing Christ’s way[ii] and John the Evangelist were both at the baptism of Jesus. John the Baptist was practicing asceticism and cleansing baptisms in the desert. John the Evangelist was a disciple of John the Baptist. The first John prepared the way for Jesus Christ and the second would witness and document Christ’s life (3 Letter of John, the Gospel of John, and perhaps the book of Revelation (theological debate).
Between the two of them and many others the definitions of power were upended forever as witnesses and Disciples of Christ. One of today’s readings from John the evangelist, 1 Jn 5:1-9[iii], describes how the baptism and sacrifice of Jesus Christ transformed our understanding of power to how we could overcome the world by living in Christ. That is when our faith shifted out alignment with political or religious authority to a higher power.
“In Truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever rears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”[iv] This was presumably written by St. Luke the Evangelist (fifth book of the new testament). We have mutual accountability in every nation and individually here as well as in the United States.
In essence, Jesus came into the world as religious and political leaders were thriving on abuse of power and lay people were aligning themselves with these institutions and their leaders in both practice and identity. Both were used by the power of brute force and use of rhetorical persuasion to justify unjustifiable living. He was the unsuspected answer to scripture of the old testament.
Today, whether Democrat or Republican by political party, Christians answer to a higher power. We still vote and participate in the world that we live in as Christ had John baptize him when there was no need. Whether as a nation, or as individuals, we must “act rightly.”
It is evident to all that any Christian has no viable justification for supporting Donald Trump other than seeking alignment for affiliation with being considered powerful, increasing authority, gaining wealth, or pure ambition. Alignment with Trump can be explained in no other way. Note political alignment with the two American parties is not the issue – the issue is aligning with the actions of Trumpism, the lies, and the abuse of power that has killed many and harmed thousands by fiat.
This idolization of Donald Trump by many Americans and even some religious institutions has demonstrated our loss of individual responsibility is a collective societal failure.
It is evident that Trump supporters have become radicalized. They are “advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs.” They base their knowledge on radical and false information. They are fueled by a megalomaniac president in chief with a following from America’s historical extremist white supremist groups. Enough politicians and American Republicans who know better abdicated their responsibility and voice for their own personal gain. They let Trump and his rabid supporters do their dirty work as they silently, or not so silently, played along. They now are turning on each other and vilifying the few who have finally broken with the cult of Trump.
Their own top party representatives have acknowledged the falsehoods and abuse of power that has occurred by both the President and the republicans that objected to the election results. They have also acknowledged the President incited the violence that occurred at the capitol and aided and abbetted the actions by a) delaying the National Guard and b) not acting quickly to engage the mob in stopping the violence.
Today, in my a.m. readings and prayer, the vision that emerged was a man walking proudly armed with political rhetoric and justification for a political ideology as arrow after arrow silently rips into their body and they walk until they can walk no more.
The arrows were the arrows of truth, the arrows of consequences, the arrows of God. These arrows pierced me as well this a.m. I am not free of the pride and self-righteousness that makes me all too human.
I like to believe that my intention is “my calling” when defending and advocating Democratic party ideals that align with my faith. It is well developed by education, history, spiritual discernment, and love for humanity acknowledging at the same time the party is not without error. However, I am still prone to be subjugated by anger and righteousness in the face of radicalized forces that harm or threaten to harm our democracy and the poor among us.
Some of us will not feel those piercing arrows of truth. Our intelligence and soul are walled off from God’s word as we march with an ideological bubble that cannot stand on its own. We become the opposite of what we hold to be true and good – attached to a fixed human belief impenetrable to obvious truths. Any threat to that belief is treated with passionate and powerful rebuttal, even hatred and violence, and desperate acts at self-preservation. If the fixed belief fails, we fail, and that cannot be.
Intelligent and bright evil individuals have been taking advantage of people living in ideological bubbles for centuries to usurp wealth, power, and control. They use the blind allegiance to their advantage for as long as it is useful, and when not, discard them to the trash heap of fools. These fools sell their souls unknowingly, or with an inkling of knowledge, or perhaps full knowledge of the façade of lies. The ideology has promised them something that they desire to have or maintain having and the means justify the ends.
In each of us is a fool in waiting – all we need is a weak moment and an intelligent and bright individual crafty enough to play on our desires and needs. Is it no wonder the start of Jesus Christ’s ministry he goes off to face the devil in the desert to be tempted three times.
If you are a Christian Trump supporter, how many arrows of truth have you ignored these last four years? How is your spiritual alignment standing up today to your faith’s calling? Who or what is your real master?
The one gift we do have if we are Christians, is redemption. Turn over a new leaf and search out radical Christianity (not radical religiosity). It is a hard road laden with muddy waters and unsure steps. All of a sudden no political/religious ideology or charismatic leader does the work for you to “act right.” Memes, social media post, fake news, restating talking points, raising voices, listening only to one-sided viewpoints, and countless other habits are suddenly the enemy of truth. You may become responsible for even becoming the devil’s advocate against your own positions and come to know the other sides position better than they do.
Who represents John the Baptist or John the Evangelist today? Who represents the disciples willing to put truth first? Possessing knowledge of both sides you will find yourself able to discern truth in manner that has no reflection on you – it is not yours to decide or a measure of your self-worth. It will simply be what is and perhaps what should be measured against the faith taught to us by Jesus Christ (or for the secularist, by the highest moral standards available to you). It is ego free – imagine a political discourse that is ego free and truly aimed at the greater good. It is truly the greatest freedom when you get outside your self-interest and are evaluating life on God’s terms rather than your own.
[i] Richard Rohr, Yes and Daily Meditations, Good Power, Page 29.
[ii] Matthew 3:3: “The voice of the one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his path straight.”
[iii] 1 Jn 5:1-9:
[iv] Acts 10:34-38