So there’s a religious-right magazine called Trumpeters that talks, somewhat fittingly, of the rise of Trump. My mother read this magazine while she was in a waiting room, because she does her best to learn what motivates such a dangerous portion of the population. Trumpeters says that God is using Trump to bring about the End Times. That is, Trump is an instrument of God’s punishment to a world that, through liberal hypocrisy, has fallen away from the Truth.
Let’s shelve the dispute over whether liberals or conservatives are more hypocritical. Even if we could agree on a measuring stick, the data bends whichever way you squeeze it. So instead, let’s look at the spirit behind Trumpeters’ theology. First off, Trumpeters’ very name evokes the End Times. At best this shows that the magazine springs from a faithful stance. But that faith itself should point to the difference between accepting God’s will and accepting destruction. One thing that liberal and conservative Christians overlook is their agreement that people are supposed to love those who oppose them–to feed them, to heal them, to forgive them, and to grant them justice. Under no circumstance are we supposed to aid their destruction. In fact, we aren’t even supposed to turn away from it. If we cling too hard to the idea that the Trump era is the time when our enemies are going to get it, we adopt a mindset that grants the world permission to harm our enemies. That means that we have judged our enemies by leaving them to the harm that we’ve decided God has meant for them. And once we’ve reached this threshold, only semantic and degree distinguish our religion from ISIS.
ISIS has been hoping for the End Times, for years. They want us baddies to bring about annihilation, so we can have a big war, until Jesus (yes, Jesus) can rescue the true Muslims by brandishing a spear. Poor Jesus. Make way for the new Caliphate. Make way for the new City. Such stances are so exclusive and so identical—which is to say that they’re all so very tragic.
It would be reasonable to think that if the only thing two fanatics can agree on is the hope for destruction, then our chances of that destruction essentially double. But I suspect that the End Times will come only when they’re supposed to. Rushing them seems as fruitless as it seems self-righteous and selfish. It is a stance that hates the very world who, despite all, has held us like a womb. The mutual hope for the world’s end might not create the Apocalypse, but it can inflict enormous suffering. This progression from adulation of God, to adulation of ourselves, to condemnation of our enemy is the worst we have to guard against. It is the most dangerous thing. Because how sad—and how human—it would be for us to maim our world, but not kill it, so that we could all persist in a way even darker and farther fallen, for having decided that our enemies weren’t worth their place upon it.
(Originally posted December 20, 2016)