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BY REV. DONNA SCHAPER

October 8, 2020


Just Faith: Reclaiming Progressive Christianity, the new book by The Resistance Prays founder Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, is out now! Learn more here.
Though Trump daily gives us plenty of reasons to be angry with him, we cannot let that anger consume us.
Donald Trump has given us plenty more reasons to be angry and mistrust him with his COVID-19 diagnosis going public, followed by a trip to Walter Reed, then leaving the hospital on Monday, and yesterday touting a miracle "cure." Meanwhile, we learned that the virus has been spreading throughout the White House and its guests, including massive exposure at the announcement of Amy Coney Barrett's nomination. And, even after the president and others in his circle knew they were positive for the virus they traveled to the presidential debate and a fundraiser in New Jersey.

The New York Times reported on his video from Wednesday afternoon where he called his illness a "blessing from God."
We are consumed by your anger
    and terrified by your indignation.
 You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.
 All our days pass away under your wrath;
    we finish our years with a moan.
 Our days may come to seventy years,
    or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
 If only we knew the power of your anger!


-Psalm 90:7-11
Psalm 90 is not about now. While its rhetoric echoes in the swirl of anger now in the air; while it talks about the normalcy of death for people in their seventies; it is expressing God’s anger, not ours. Being consumed by God's anger brings our sins to the surface, laying them bare so we might face them and repent. Our own anger today? It leads us to schadenfreude, not revelation.
 
Schadenfreude is gladness at the misery of others. And nothing has brought it out quite like Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and behavior in the last two weeks. It feels wrong to be glad and yet many are. Why are they glad? Because Donald Trump causes incredible harm. My daughter in law lost her beloved aunt to COVID-19. When she broke down in her tears, she accused the President of murdering her aunt. She might be right. Second degree murder is still murder.
 
In addition to his careless and reckless response to the pandemic, the president also has caused great harm in the area of racial justice. His refusal to wear a mask has likely had the direct effect of causing more people to die. His refusal to hold police accountable for their violence against people of color or to condemn white supremacy has encouraged more violence against people of color.

There are sins of omission and sins of commission, as St. Paul says, “The good that I would do, I do not and the evil that I would not do, I do.” The President, on the other hand doesn’t seem to intend to do good and he does seem to intend to do evil. By omitting a thoughtful and lawful response to either the COVID-19 pandemic, or the pandemic of white supremacy, he commits grave sins. And people want a reckoning for those harms.

 
I used the word "they" when I spoke of people being glad. I am not glad. I am deeply sad and more scared than I can imagine being. I have innumerable questions about what will happen - about needing righteous leaders, responding to the pandemic responsibly, economic recover, how to help people recover from all the effects of this pandemic, whether our democracy will hold, the security of the election, the damage already done, and who will clean up all these messes. I may not find it ethical to hate the President enough to wish him misery. That doesn’t mean I want him around to continue to do damage to others.
 
My daughter was the one who woke me up early in the morning to tell me the President was sick. At 35, she runs an organization that helps people from being evicted under the circumstance of COVID. She was giddy with joy. She is a practicing Jew, a person of deep faith and commitment, so I was shocked and appalled at this glee. She said, “If Hitler had been stopped early enough, lots of Jews would still have grandparents.”
 
Comparing Trump to Hitler is tricky business. Is Trump sinful? Mightily and consequentially. Is the issue Trump alone? No, it is not. He is simply a symptom of the ills our country needs to address. Just as Hitler was an ugly symptom of Germany's ills in the early 20th century. Similar to then, the United States likes to flirt with the idea of authoritarianism. There are deep rooted problems of race and white supremacy seen in our oppression of Black people and of immigrants of all shades of non-white (as judged by those who were and are "white") or those who are not Protestant Christians.
 
My daughter is a lesbian and a socialist. These are certainly labels that mark her as a target of the President and his followers. There are clear reasons for her and so many to be angry. And yet, we cannot let our anger turn our good intentions into bad actions, falling into schadenfreude, and letting it come out as hatred.
We need to refuse to accept the bait to demonize Trump who is himself a chief demonizer. I follow Jesus who refused to have an enemy. We must strive to follow him, even imperfectly, with our whole hearts.
 
Jesus also refused to befriend people who did harm intentionally. He challenged them to repent and change with a tough love founded on God's infinite grace. May we do the same.
I pray for the capacity to love people who do damage to others, including those of us who take joy in the pain of our enemies. I pray for a great reckoning and opening of hearts. I know I don’t have the energy to do all this alone. And I know that God’s grace will carry us through. Amen
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