(RNS) — Donald Trump is a contagious man — perhaps no longer for the coronavirus, but for the dark side of America. He is the superspreader of the worst of this nation.
Speaking morally, and even theologically, Tuesday’s election (Nov. 3) is one of “spiritual warfare,” to use the Apostle Paul’s language in the New Testament, a war between our “better angels” and “worst demons” of which this nation clearly has both.
The King James version of the Bible says in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” That is the spirituality of politics at this critical crossroads moment in American history.
Human beings are neither fully good nor fully bad. We are indeed both, as our history demonstrates; and the choices between good and evil, which divide every human heart and every nation over time, make all the difference.
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Those moral choices determine the qualities of our personal and family lives, the safety and good of our communities and both the promises and dangers for our societies. In modern times these moral choices portend the possibilities for or against democracy and the common good.
Trump has long normalized America’s darkness, our founding origins in brutal and racialized slavery and the genocide of Indigenous people and our many persistent inequities.
Trump didn’t create this dark side, but he keeps bringing us back to it. He is not the cause of the worst of America but a symptom that is exacerbating it. At the most theological level, Trump reflects our country’s most debasing sins and our most sinful selves, which we really don’t want to look at.
Most presidential candidates at least say they aspire to unify the nation and “build a more perfect Union.” But Trump deliberately divides the country based in particular on race and culture. Failing to condemn white supremacy and calling on violent white supremacists to “stand by” for the election is as dark as things have gotten in a long time.
Instead of just “spinning” and sometimes not telling the whole truth (as most presidents are guilty of), Trump doesn’t even try to distinguish between truth and lies — indeed his whole life has been a lie. Directly opposite to Jesus’ claim that “the truth will set us free,” Trump seeks to lead us into bondage by destroying our capacity to discern the truth.
He ignores reason and science day after day in favor of fantasy and conspiracy and treats running the country like a reality TV show instead of confronting the reality of things like the pandemic. The Bible has more than three hundred texts telling us not to be afraid — but Trump campaigns primarily on fear.
All of us are greatly impacted by the environments in which we live. No matter our education or influence, we are affected by the norms being set all around us. Our environments shape what we see as acceptable and unacceptable.
The most frequently uttered word during Trump’s presidency is “unprecedented.” But things that feel shocking or unpresidential become less surprising over time. Trump has normalized the unprecedented.
This election is about us and who we want to be in the United States of America. Elections are always more imperfect than light over darkness, but they do open the doors to one or the other. This election is about our theology and spirituality — not just our politics. May God help us make the right choice.
(The Rev. Jim Wallis is the founder of Sojourners and a co-convener of lawyersandcollars.org. He is also the author, most recently, of “Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus.” The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)