Religion

Serenity That Doesn’t Come from a President

Protesters storm the U.S. Capitol during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 presidential election results at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C, January 6, 2021. (Ahmed Gaber/Reuters)
Remember, with the Founders, that there is more to life than politics.

On the morning of January 5, a popular Christian bestselling author posted a picture of the Egyptian Coptic martyrs who were beheaded on a beach in Libya. Above the photo he asked, “What price are you willing to pay for what you believe in?” That’s an excellent question I ask myself often. I’d like to think I would have the courage to die for Christ. But Donald Trump? Because that was certainly how people who saw this author’s Tweet interpreted it, given what was happening that day, and his recent declaration that he was “willing to die in this fight,” and the “stop the steal” type tweets around it.

January 5, of course, was the day before Congress was set to certify the Electoral College vote for the next president. The men who were beheaded six years earlier died for Jesus Christ. They trusted God so much that they knew that by refusing to convert to Islam at the point of a sword, they would be fine, they would go home to God for eternity. There’s such serenity in that story, which is not from centuries ago but from February 2015. An amazing detail is that one man among the 21 was not a Christian but, on being given a choice, between life in a world of ISIS terrorists and this peace of Christ that his fellow laborers clearly had, he wanted Christ.

Later, on the fifth day of this year, at a rally on the Ellipse near the White House, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, declared to the media: “These people are not going to take it any longer, they’re not going to take it any longer.” In retrospect, that should have set off an alarm for more security in the Capitol building, where the enemy of the hour for Trump and the people he incited were doing their constitutional duty rather than trying to figure out a way to make the country pay for electing Joe Biden president.

I know it’s a big complicated world full of evil and corruption, but the Trump administration did not make a convincing case that there was election-flipping evidence of fraud. I understand how frustrating politics and life can be, and as a person who opposes abortion and treasures religious liberty, I’m very worried about a Biden-Harris administration. But I also still believe that the U.S. Founding Fathers were on to something that is the best there is for respecting the human person and his freedom — flaws and all. And if we can’t rally around the Constitution, we are in trouble.

At the rally, there were Christian symbols — a cross and signs that “Jesus saves” would eventually make it into the Capitol with the criminals who stormed. And yet there was nothing like serenity there. These “patriots,” as Trump described them, were attacking the very concept of ordered liberty. And their chant was “Fight for Trump.” They have made an idol of Donald Trump.

And that idolatry is a bipartisan problem. As Barack Obama said, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” No. All of human history hasn’t been waiting for any political candidate. God provides, and He knows what He is about. Sometimes he allows things because we need some work. This moment in history requires universal humility and an examination of conscience.

I had a sick feeling as I watched the president’s rally on television. One of the defenses Trump supporters would make in the hours after Congress was cleared of danger is that the president didn’t say anything he hadn’t already said, that it was a typical rally. And there is truth to that. But this, of course, was the one rally that was the end of the line for a presidency he wouldn’t let go of.

“We will never give up. We will never concede.”

“Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore, and that is what this is all about.”

If I believed that the election was stolen and that clearly no one could be trusted, I might have stormed the Capitol, too.

What on earth have we been tolerating all this time? This didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t just one rally. And many if not most of us need to take a breath and have humility — save for some of my friends, Jonah Goldberg, David French, and Jay Nordlinger chief among them, who have been sounding alarms and standing athwart Donald Trump for years, thanklessly, subject to endless insults for their insistence that this was a dangerous road we were on. (As I am frequently reminded on social media, NR did invent “Never Trump.” Still, I feel remorse for trying to encourage the good in the administration even when it frequently seemed clear that the president didn’t have a servant’s heart.)

And we still are on that road. There are reasonable people who believe, perhaps because Trump has insisted it is so, that the election was stolen. There are reasonable people who believe that we are on the edge of socialism. There are reasonable people who worry that we have not learned the lessons of the last century. People on all political sides and on none are scared and despairing.

And rioting.

When a protest becomes a mob, we are in different territory. We did see this over the summer when protests of racism turned into the looting of Best Buy and many other stores. With the Trump rioters, we had the ransacking of the United States Capitol. Can’t we all collectively say this has gone way too far? Mike Pence didn’t want this to happen. But when Trump presented himself as the savior of Christianity — and prominent Christians assented, and more — of course this happened.

As Trump said: People are frustrated. They are fed up. He didn’t start that fire, he kindled the flames. If Joe Biden is going to succeed in his presidency beyond hitting us over the head with abortion and LGBT matters, he’s going to have to respect this frustration — though certainly not the violence. I wasn’t there, but from reports and experience, I think that the vast majority of the people at that Trump rally were peaceful. Many were locals. President-elect Biden must make a pitch to be their president too. I fear what’s to come if he doesn’t.

We need to remember, with the Founders, that there is more than our temporal reality. There’s more to life and even our nation than who the president is. Remember the humility of the martyrs — we Americans have some in our own history. They certainly were not dying for Donald Trump or Joe Biden or any politician or mere mortal.

This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.