Friday, February 26, 2016

‘Great again’ for Whom?

In Wednesday’s post, I questioned Donald Trumps idea of ‘winning’. This led me to think more deeply about his tagline, ‘Make America great again’. I addressed his misuse of the word ‘America’, unless he does mean to improve conditions for the 30+ countries that comprise North and South America. However, today I am thinking about his phrase: ‘great again’.

Before going further, let me reiterate: as a pastor, I am apolitical because I serve God, and God loves every person. In order to effectively serve God, I do not wish to intentionally alienate people through a political affiliation. Now, back to ‘great again’.

‘Great again’ is a wonderful thought prompt for Christians. I will return to this idea in just a moment. First, let us consider Mr. Trump.

Donald Trump says that he wishes to make the United States of America ‘great again’ but he neither defines ‘great’ nor the time period to which ‘again’ refers. On the one hand, what does ‘great’ mean? Profitable? Equality for all people? Higher life expectancy? Fewer deaths due to gun violence? No more mass shootings? What? What does ‘great’ look like? And, great for whom? Does he mean better treatment of immigrants (Exodus 23:9)? Great for women (Mark 7:25-30)? Great for other oppressed groups?

On the other hand, ‘again’ refers to a past time period. Does he mean the 1990s? The period ended with a U.S. Federal government surplus and hallmarks of improved quality of life. Does he mean the 1980s? The decade ended with the conclusion of the Cold War. What about the 1970s? 1960s? What about the early 1800s? The Louisiana Purchase greatly expanded the land mass of the United States.

Yet (this is a big YET), each period was also marked with bad news—the kind of bad news that no one would want to repeat. The 1990s ended with the dot-com bubble, increasing greed and income disparity, and some U.S. policies contributed to the difficulties of the 2000s. The 1980s were marked by moving backward in environmental protection, social safety nets, and racial equality. In the 1800s, women could not vote and the U.S. had slavery. I doubt there would be much public support for moving back to the ‘good ole days’ of the early 1800s.

As a thought prompt for Christians, ‘great again’ could mean following in Jesus’ footsteps. It could mean seeking to live out his command in Matthew 5:43-48 (‘love your enemies’). ‘Great again’ could mean following the apostle Paul and living by the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23, “There is no law against such things.”

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